My Irish Grandfather
St. Patrick’s Day with Pat Chessell Celtic Band at Blue Frog Studios really stirred up my Irish blood, and as happens every March 17th, I think about my Irish Grandfather.
This wee yarn isn’t as much about my Grandfather, as it is about where he was born. I didn’t get to know my maternal Grandfather, he passed away in Winnipeg, Manitoba shortly before I was born. His name was William John Wylie, and from all family accounts, he was a wonderful man who was proud of his Irish roots.
It was always my Mother’s wish to go to Ireland to find the birthplace of her Father, and she and my sister did just that a few years ago. They had a marvelous time traveling around the country, staying in B&B’s and meeting the people of Ireland. According to my sister, they came close to finding our Grandfather’s birthplace, but she wasn’t sure it was the exact location.
Doing the same kind of a trip had always been a bucket list item for me, so after consulting my wife, Jeri, the plane tickets were bought and off we went to the Emerald Isle.
We landed in Dublin, rented a car, checked in to a nearby hotel and decided to go to the pub off the lobby, because what’s Ireland without a visit to a pub for a pint of Guinness! There wasn’t a chair to be found, until one of the locals came up to us and said “You must be visitors? Let me find you a seat” He then proceeded to remove a couple of the patrons from their chairs, ushered us to them, sat down with us and started to chat, and that was our introduction to the amazing friendliness of the Irish people.
The next morning, we headed to Northern Ireland. We arrived in the village of Moy, stopped a man coming out of the cemetery at the church and explained what we were looking for. After a chat he called out to a friend, Ian, across the street and explained it to him. Ian said, “follow me”
We followed Ian down the main street of town and drove out into the Irish countryside. We arrived at Ian’s home, and he invited us in. He had called ahead to explain our situation to his wife. She was in the civil service, and her job was to transpose handwritten church records of births, deaths and marriages onto recipe cards, ready to be transferred to computers.
She started searching for my Grandfather’s name and birthplace and discovered that there were quite a few Wylies that lived in a town close by called Loughgall. Ian prepared tea and cookies for us, and placed a call to a friend in Loughgall, Mervyn Walker, who maintained the graveyard for the church. Off we went to see him. I explained the Grandpa Wylie situation and he gave us a tour of the graveyard. Judging by the number of Wylie headstones, he was right! He said he'd take down our information and look at the church records and get back to us. Our second encounter with the amazingly friendly people of Ireland!
We got back on the road and ended up in a little town called Tubbercurry and took a room at Murphy's Hotel/Bar/restaurant. I couldn’t resist sticking around for the entertainment at Murphy’s, a singer named Matt Dillon! He fancied himself as a country singer, but it was a little odd hearing a Johnny Cash song sung with an Irish accent. After a Guinness or two, I got over it.
Our journey continued to the usual tourist spots, Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher, Ennis, the Ring of Kerry, Cork, Kilkenny and ended up in Dublin. We saw the sights that included the Dublin jail, the Guinness brewery and the Temple Bar area. We also dropped into JK Stoutmans Pub, on James St. It was a two person operation, a cook, and a host/server. As we looked over the menu, Jeri asked “what’s in the chicken salad?” The server answered, “It's chicken and it’s salad.” I asked how the steak and Guinness pie was, and with a shrug he said “it’s steak and it’s Guinness!” We laughed! It was such an “Irish answer.”
Ireland was all I had imagined, it was old and magical and the people were oh so friendly! I guess If you accuse me of being biased I’d have to plead guilty. The countryside was greener than green, the Guinness as good as it gets, and the pubs were full of music, just as I had pictured.
My whole life I had heard tales of the Blarney Stone, and finally got to kiss it! I can’t wait to go back.
And as for my Grandfather’s birthplace? I felt we were close, especially in the Loughgall graveyard surrounded by my “Wylie” relatives.
I had walked the same streets that my Grandfather did so many years ago. The Grandfather I never got to know.
I’ll just bet his Irish eyes were smilin’.
Till next week...
🎵 The vintage Pat Chessell footage when Andrea Taylor jumped up on the tables for her fiddle solo.
1 // On Vol 4 (Jan. 23, 2023 issue) of The Word, we asked if it wasn’t time that Trooper was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Well, someone must’ve listened.
2 // Canadian Guitarists pick their favourite guitar riffs of all time.
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2