On the last official day of my Hofstra Study Abroad program in Ireland, July 22nd, I packed my bags and left Gleann Cholm Cille behind, ready for the 5-hour-long drive back to Shannon. With nothing to do, I just enjoyed the scenery and after a while I took a long nap to pass the time. Around noon, I wanted to stop by a local restaurant to have lunch and Richard t4ook the time to stop at a restaurant called, Morans The Weir. The name of the restaurant immediately reminded me of the first play that I read for my IRE 123 20th Century Anglo-Irish Drama course. The Weir by Conor McPherson. The Weir is a play about a conversation, in a small rural bar, between all five of its characters. The play, also, focuses on the role of the weir, a dam, in the lives of the people of the town that can either be Northwest Leitrim or Sligo. The role of the weir, in the play, is to function as a metaphor for the constant flux that goes on in an individual’s life and the struggle that one has to cope with it which, in the Irish experience, becomes the condition of being stuck: not being able to go forward in life and always looking back to the past.
Coming back to Morans The Weir, I requested a table inside, despite the beautiful view outside…it was windy. I promptly ordered my lunch which was a salmon steak with chips (french fries) and my parents, among many other things, ordered a plate of oysters. It was a great lunch. After eating, I asked the waitress who was serving me, if she could tell about the history of the restaurant, because I notice that the buildings cottages with roofs made out of thatch. These types of cottages are the typical houses that remain of Ireland’s rural past, that unfortunately because of abandonment and mainly because thatching roof tops is very expensive they are disappearing. The waitress said that she’d better get the owner to talk and meet with me. In my conversation with Sheila Moran, she explained to me that the business of the restaurant is now in the hands of her daughter, Catherine Moran, the 7th generation of the family. The story of the restaurant, as Sheila outlined it to me, goes back more than 300 years. The Morans were a notable fishing family and the roots of the family business started out with the keeping of a pub that only served whiskey and Guinness, in the 1800’s. Up until the 5th generation the family business had been passed down to the first-born son, but the first-born of the six generation, Sheila’s brother-in-law, died unexpectedly. Then, her husband Willie took over and his mother, Kathleen Moran, affectionately called, Kitty, brought new life into the pub that is now a restaurant by adding a signature recipe for Irish brown bread to the menu, and to this day, the upper floor of the cottage is a bakery. Thanks to the recipe for Irish brown bread, the restaurant increased its popularity, and as of twenty years ago, the dining room where customers are now served was added onto the original cottage. In addition to the history of the restaurant, Sheila also told me that the food is mostly self-sufficiently produced and that the oysters that my parent ate were locally-grown, Galway Bay oysters which are the restaurant’s specialty. Above all, the restaurant is acclaimed for having been owned by William and he and his son, Michael Moran, held the title of International and World Title in Oyster Opening competitions. The opening laminated page of the menu gives a synopsis of the restaurant’s history and ends with the remark, “When was the last time you had lunch served by a world champion!” After telling me the history of the restaurant, Sheila asked me what I was doing in Ireland and why I was there in her restaurant. I answered that I was with Hofstra University in a Study Abroad Program and that I was in the restaurant because I was heading back to Shannon and Richard had thought that for lunch this restaurant might be a place that would interest me. She also asked me, what I was studying, and I said that I’m an English major. At this point, Sheila engaged with me in a conversation about the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney and she thought it was fitting to tell me about the restaurant’s connection to him. Sheila took this opportunity to share with me that Heaney had come to the restaurant ten days before his heart surgery and death to have a coffee. For them, this moment is precious because it represents Heaney’s last good-byes to Ireland. As a remnant of his connection to the Morans The Weir, Heaney some years before gave the owners a copy of his poem, “Oysters” that was in part inspired by the restaurant. To make it more authentic, Heaney copied out this poem in his own handwriting and now this copy can be seen framed and hanging on the wall. I thought that Morans The Weir was a fitting place to end my Irish historical and literary adventure. To my surprise, this journey ended with a “poet to poet meeting across time.”
Leaving behind Morans The Weir, I continued on my way back to Shannon and soon I was at the Park Inn by Radisson. From Gleann Cholm Cille to Shannon Airport, I had traveled a total of 333 kilometers, according to Richard’s odometer. It was a good ride! Now it was time to say our Irish goodbyes… I’m grateful to all the people that have made my trip to Ireland possible and to the people that I worked with and met during my time there. As far I’m concerned, my Irish adventure officially ended at the Park Inn, but my Irish challenges weren’t over… My room was not reserved for accessibility, and of course with a non-accessible room comes a non-accessible bathroom. Trying to solve the situation, my parents asked for a bathroom bench, but the Inn didn’t have one. On instinct, my parents asked for any type of chair that would fit in the bathtub and/or shower… There were none. After some time, my father asked if he could see the rooms and see what bathroom might be most practical for me. He came back and we opted to take a room with a shower where he was able to fit the wooden desk chair in the room, through the top of the shower, (because the door of the shower was too narrow). With the shower chair in place, I got in for what I thought would be a relaxing respite after five hours on the road. Yet, this shower turned out to be a “rocky” one. It was difficult to put me in, there was only about an inch of space between my legs and the shower’s wall. On top of that when I tried to lean back in the chair, the wooden seat was only supported by three legs, since the other leg was wobbling on the uneven shower floor. So, I was sitting on the chair, my mother was showering me, and my father was kneeling to hold the wobbling chair leg to prevent an accident— My time at the Park Inn was great despite the inconvenience of not having an accessible room. I went down to the Inn’s restaurant for dinner and afterwards turned-in for the night and got rested for the next morning when I was going to head back to Shannon Airport to go back home to New York.