Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ireland: where memorable speech is an everyday occurence

Mary Beth and I traveled for the first time to Ireland where our daughter Bridget was married on April 12 in Westport, County Mayo. In my remarks as Father of the Bride I acknowledged the challenge of delivering a speech in a country where the regard for the spoken word is fairly high.

The statue of St Patrick watches over Westport in IrelandThe Irish gift for gab is no mere figment of the travel writer's imagination. Sure, much of the charm comes from the lilting quality of their speech, but even the most casual conversation heard on the street has a certain eloquence.

Nor do I think very many American parents have received a gift like the one our prospective in-laws sent us shortly after Bridget and Brendan announced their wedding plans. It was a boxed set of John McCormack recordings. The sad fact that Brendan's father died suddenly last fall only makes the gift that much more dear to us, especially the handwritten letter he enclosed.

"John McCormack's record sales were unsurpassed until the Beatles arrived on the scene," Brendan O'Malley, Sr., wrote in admiration of the great tenor. "He sang of many themes close to the Irish heart. He sang with great feeling and a little melancholy and tenderness but never without inspiring better life in the future. I suppose there was an echo of the old Negro spirituals and the haunting, hypnotic, uplifting voice of Martin Luther King."

In addition to his cultural awareness, Brendan Sr. also revealed a classic Irish wit: "There has been some delay (in posting this), but then there is here old time and new time, European time and all its subdivisions, Einstein's time, American time and of course Irish time which is a lot slower -- I am sure Bridget experienced it when she was here."

As we learned from our trip to Ireland, there is much to appreciate in the verbal skill of its people. Brendan O'Malley of Rosbeg, Westport, County Mayo exemplified the best of it.


Brendan Jnr said...


John said...

Kind words indeed.