Alex Massie

An Irish Brigadoon

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Jaysus lads, Henry Farrell is correct to observe that this New York Times piece seems to have been inspired by Myles na Gopaleen's great Catechism of Cliche. It's all there: "land of saints and scholars", a "wellspring of poets and balladeers" replete with "ruddy-faced fishermen" and all the rest of it as the writer, an Irish-American making his first trip back to the oul' sod, waxes hyper-lyrical about the rise and fall of the Irish economic miracle. The real Ireland, of course, is a poor but jolly place, amply stocked with all the characters a visitor needs to imagine himself an extra in Ryan's Daughter or, god help us, The Quiet Man

No wonder another part of the na Gopaleen/O'Brien canon came to mind. The writer seems to be taking his cues from the great satire The Poor Mouth. One half expected him to declare, in deadly seriousness like, that this Ireland was once more a place where a mother might take "a bucket full of muck, mud, and ashes and hens' droppings from the roadside and spread it around the hearth, gladly in front of me. When everything was arranged, I moved over near the fire and for five hours I became a child in the ashes — a raw youngster rising up according to the old Gaelic tradition."

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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