Ireland Trip: 1–Visit with Sinéad and Fergal

Shortly before we’d left for Ireland I messaged Sinéad to let her know we’d be “in her backyard” for a few days and to see if she’d be interested in meeting in person. The reply was an enthusiastic “yes” and, so, we made plans to meet with her and Fergal the second day we were in Dublin.

Sinéad offered to meet us at our hotel, noting that she’d always wondered what the inside of the grand old place we were staying at looked like. Having visited her blog many times over the past few years I also had the feeling that her kind nature was showing through and that she was also making it a bit easier for us visitors.

Bewley's Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin. It used to be the Masonic Orphanage. Decent prices, nice rooms and good food. I recommend the place.

Bewley’s Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin. It used to be the Masonic Orphanage. Decent prices, nice rooms and good food. I recommend the place.

We were to meet at 12:30 and then walk down to meet her husband more-or-less halfway and then have lunch together. I, being the type who likes to be early decided to go out to the lobby at 11:30 and, since the hotel WiFi was not great in the hotel room, spend the time just mucking around on the web for a while.

It needs to be pointed out that we’d never met in person before; instead, our friendship was, up to that point, confined to exchanges on our blogs.

In a simplistic kind of way you can classify those you “encounter” on WordPress into two groups. Group one consists of those whose goal it is to rack up as many views as possible. They generally do this by “liking” or “following” the blogs of others, in the hopes that they’ll get a follow back. Now, there’s nothing wrong in this—after all one of the two main reasons why we write is to have others read our stuff and, maybe, make a living off it. That said, I’ve noticed a distinct thread of disingenuity from some members of that group: they don’t actually read any of the stuff they like or follow. It’s easy to spot if you have a blog like mine; one with limited readership. If you get a follow or like from someone from that group just note the country of origin and then check your stats to see if you’ve had recent views from that country. Chances are you won’t. But I digress.

Then there’s group two, which consists primarily of those who blog because of the second main reason people write: to express themselves. They are the real gems of the blogging community. Their posts are interesting to read, they respond to your comments and, when you post something of interest they’ll take the time to read it too.

Of course, for any given person, group two cannot become all that large. In my case it’s confined to a dozen or so blogs I look forward to.  Sinéad belongs to that group and there was no way I was going to visit Ireland and pass up the chance at meeting her in person.

The Backpack. It goes where Sinéad goes.

The Backpack. It goes where Sinéad goes.

She was already there, her backpack by her side and sitting in a comfy chair beside the same coffee table I’d intended to use. I stopped by the table and grinned at her.  She grinned back. Josephine and Lesley joined us shortly after and we spent some time there in the lobby, just chatting. At around 12:30 we left to walk down further into Ballsbridge to meet Fergal and have lunch together. “Now, don’t mind me, I walk kind of slow,” Sinéad said. “Fergal, who’s 6’2” walks pretty fast but not me.”

We set out, heading toward the city centre. Along the way she pointed out items of interest and offer up much more background than I could have possibly found any other way. The walk was around 1.5 km and I estimated that her “slow” walking speed was just barely at sub-light speed. Given what she said, Fergal must therefore leave a warp signature I his wake…

It turns out that there is a Ball's Bridge. This thing is around 225 years old. Our hotel is just up the street.

It turns out that there is a Ball’s Bridge. This thing is around 225 years old. Our hotel is up the street.

We arrived at the Old Schoolhouse hotel. Fergal was already there and we shook hands and all went inside. Fergal is quiet, thoughtful, sincere. There’s something quite statesmanlike in the way he carries himself and you are left knowing he’d be equally comfortable running a courtroom or a server cluster. It turned out we’d quite a few common interests and found ourselves turning to those from time to time.

After lunch we walked through Merrion Square and saw Fergal back to work for the afternoon.  On the way Fergal stopped by the statue of Oscar Wilde and pointed out the house where he’d grown up. It turned out that Sinéad had kindly giver over her whole day to us—a gift we were happy to accept—so, for the remainder of the afternoon she was our guide.

Me and Oscar hanging out.

Me and Oscar, hanging out.

First, a stroll through Trinity College. “Would you like to go to see the book of Kells while we’re here?” A quick glance at the long lineup than extended through the entrance-way, “No!” Too bad. Had it not been the height of tourist season, the opportunity to just stand in the shadow of a couple of volumes of that great work of art would have been truly awesome. Not today, though.  Enduring a long lineup for just a quick glance was just not worth the effort. Dublin had other attractions.

Lesley with the Pomodoro sculpture in Trinity College

Lesley with the Pomodoro sculpture in Trinity College

Next, Grafton street: throngs of tourists, shoppers and street artists, all attesting to the vibrant, outgoing nature of the city of Dublin. Everywhere I looked—groups of people chatting away in all sorts of languages.

And buskers—everywhere, along with other…attractions.

Some of the "Irish"  Leprechauns really come from Newfoundland.

Some of the “Irish” leprechauns really come from Newfoundland.

Still, mostly too expensive for my station. Having read so much about the outlandish prices one often finds in the Dublin tourist areas I certainly had my doubts about the place. In all fairness it was not quite as bad as I expected, though.

Me and Phil, hanging out. Sinéad, is that your clock in the background?

Me and Phil, hanging out. Sinéad, is that your clock in the background?

At the head of the street we found the entrance to St. Stephan’s Green. Sinéad pointed out that the entrance was, in fact, a war memorial.

Fulisiers Arch, at the entrance to St. Stephens Green. In memory of those who served in the Boer War. Could not get my Grando served in the Great War) after passing under it.

fusiliers’ Arch, at the entrance to St. Stephens Green. In memory of those who served in the Boer War. Could not stop thinking about my Grando, who served in the Great War, after passing under it. Tomorrow we’d be going to visit the old house…it had been almost 40 years since I’d last been there.

Quietly we walked through the park.

It was coffee time.

We had considered something other than coffee, of course. :-)

We had considered something other than coffee, of course. 🙂  Maybe later.

The day was coming to a close. Fergal and Sinéad had taken the van in to town that morning and soon it would be time to go home. Sinéad—still looking out for her charges—wanted to walk us back to Merrion Road so we could easily find our way back. We weren’t done with Grafton Street, though, at that point so we elected to stay and explore some more.

We hugged and Sinéad and her backpack were on their way back to Merrion Square.

We explored and shopped some more until we decided we were done.

Maybe a bit of shopping. I confess I spent more time here than in the stores.

Maybe a bit of shopping. I confess I spent more time here than in the stores.

By that time I’d pretty much lost my sense of direction but discovered that Lesley had not. She led the way and soon we were back at the Hotel.

I had Guinness stew that night. No, I would not be drinking the stout as my fondness for the locally brewed Irish Pale Ales trumped both (1) the incessant marketing as well as (2) the fact that my Grando had worked at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin for all his adult life after being discharged from the army.

And that backpack? I’d wondered a bit about it. It’s not unusual to see a person carrying a tote of some sort, of course. We all have some stuff that we just can’t be without. Backpacks are fairly rare, though. I later discovered that it contained a draft of ”Emmeline,” one of Sinéad’s major WIPs at the moment. She’d, in fact, spent the morning going through it before we met up. Had I known that it would have been difficult for me to not beg for at least a peek at some of it.

I’ll have to wait for it to be published now.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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24 Responses to Ireland Trip: 1–Visit with Sinéad and Fergal

  1. M. Hatzel says:

    On Twitter you had set me up for a great story, and your post measures up! What a lovely day. I am going to be grinning through another rainy afternoon thinking of Oscar Wilde, manuscripts in backpacks, the enjoyments of exploration, and the delights of meeting WordPress bloggers in other parts of the world. 🙂

  2. tw says:

    Ah, Dublin… And Trinity College. I went there out of tourist season about 12 years ago and managed to see the Book of Kells, no waiting. It was winter and the snow fell in thick, wet flakes which made the Irish hospitality and the odd pint even more welcome 🙂 Have a wonderful time in the Emerald Isle Maurice.

    • Thanks! I should have put a timeline in the post. It turns out that it’s all over for now. We went there from July 30-Aug 11 and enjoyed every single day. I’m hoping to get back again so maybe there’ll be time for a better look around the campus next time.

  3. elkement says:

    Seems you had a great time in Ireland – and that you like some combination of “planning” and serendipity in your trips! I can relate a lot!

    As for the backpack – I admit I also carry one most of the time … I don’t have the smallest laptop and prefer to always have my mobile office with me, incl. all my latest data, simulations etc. 🙂 Similar to the manuscript probably!

    • Yes, a bit of both is what works best. There’s always a nice balance between the two that keeps in interesting. Now that you mention it, I, too have a backpack which follows me just about everywhere. The laptop, camera and, of course, an umbrella 🙂

  4. What a good day. Dublin is a fine city. Is it not nice to meet other bloggers too and realise that rapport works in real life?

    My blogging falls into group two without a doubt. Fine people all of them, and what I like, as with my current post is that they all chat happily together. I like it when people feel able to do that. So much more meaningful than 80 ‘great post’s.

    Hope you are having/had a brill time. Thought you had fallen off the edge and then remembered your hol so pleased this post appeared on the ever unreliable reader.

    • I took a long unscheduled break from social media and not for one reason. More like three. First, July was the best one on record, weather-wise. The average temp for the month was 25C and it frequently hit the thirties during the day. Given the long, cold winter and spring we’d been through, everyone in the province got out and around. Second, I started a new job in the learning commons and am very much enjoying it and, yes, the almost two weeks spent on vacation. I’ll probably post two more bits about the vacation over the next few weeks. We’ll see.

  5. Wow … a wonderful meeting of the minds! I had no idea that this had been in the works. Did Seonaid (Sinéad … which is correct? If the latter … I’ve been mistaken for more than a year and she has been too nice to point it out, yikes) not take you along on a visit to one of her secret places? Or did she, and you’re not telling? D

    • I never tell 🙂
      Yes, it was an excellent time and I’d love to be able to do it again. Perhaps we will if we can afford it!
      Sinéad is the correct version. In English, I think it’s closer to Janette than any other name.
      But now it’s back to work–have to pay for all that somehow. The academic year at MUN re-starts next week and I expect things will be quite busy. During the summer, there were only about half the number of students that will be around next week.

  6. SJ O'Hart says:

    Well, heck. You didn’t say we’d even make it into the *title* of your blog post… 😀 What a wonderful testament to our day together. Sorry, again, about my warp speed walking (the husband tells me I am a dwarf who walks at the pace of a snail, so I guess it’s all relative), but I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the actual Ball’s Bridge in Ballsbridge and that the craziness of Grafton Street didn’t put you off Dublin altogether. I’m also glad to know Lesley knew where she was going and managed to get you all ‘home’ safely! (I did worry, you know, that you’d be lost in the big city…) Thanks for all the kind words about us here, and thanks again for taking a day from your holiday to hang out. I’m so glad you all had fun. I’ll tell Oscar and Phil you were asking for them next time I’m in Dublin. 🙂 Hugs to you, Josephine and Lesley! x

    (P.S. The WiP in the backpack wasn’t ‘Emmeline’ – it was another book. So, don’t feel too cheated. :))

    • One of the nice things about doing that post was that I got to re-live the day. You and Fergal were great hosts and, who knows, maybe we’ll get to do it again. I am hoping that some time in the not-too-distant-future I’ll be able to drag along my three sons too…

      • SJ O'Hart says:

        Fergal was well impressed with the way you described him here, by the way. He’s been elder statesman-ing it around the house ever since. I’m expecting him to buy one of those big white wigs. 😀 We’d love to welcome you again someday.

  7. Mary says:

    Really enjoyed this posting – great you got to meet up with a fellow writer who generously became your tour guide for the day – always so wonderful to get an insiders view- sounds like the hospitality was grand. Taking a break from social media : – such a great idea while on vacation so you can truly ‘be in the moment’ of the place you are in – without outside distractions.
    Did you bring back any Beanos or Dandys for the boys:)
    Enjoyed following the journey back to Dublin in this posting and look forward to upcoming posts –

    • Indeed–it was an excellent time!
      On the Beano and dandy, although I did look I did not see either for sale in any of the places I looked. I wondered if it had gone out of print. It’s still very much alive, as evidenced from the website ( You can get it electronically and, so, maybe they are moving in that direction.
      The next post, which i hope to do before the weekend, will focus on the trip to Kilester.

  8. jennypellett says:

    How great to have a guided tour by a blogging pal. I’ve never visited Dublin, I’d love to see it someday so for now, I’ll enjoy your holiday posts. I’m off to check out Sinead’s blog now, always good to find another writer of stories 🙂

  9. Maurice I dream of meeting many of my blogging friends they have become like family. How wonderful. Thank you for reminding me of my stay in Dublin, love that city. You look like you had fun, I remember mostly the pubs, the lively bands and friendly people.

  10. Tiny says:

    After you mentioned that you & family were going to Ireland, I have been on the lookout for some news. What a wonderful day you guys had! So nice to meet a blogging friend (and I don’t mean the first group) in person! And have an “inside track” to the sights and secrets of Dublin. Loved the descriptions and the photos, particularly of you hanging out with the guys 🙂 I hope you tell some more later. And congrats on the new job!!

  11. Mjollnir says:

    Oscar’s the one on the rock right? 😀

  12. I missed the book of Kells for the same reason. Don’t you think that poor old Oscar has a very uncomfortable pose on that rock – it looks as though he is slipping off for sure!

  13. Martin says:

    Hey Maurice…great trip to Ireland. We were there two years ago, but just in the south. It made up our minds that we had to go back again some day. I loved reading part one of your trip. Will get to the other parts later today.
    Best wishes. Martin

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