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  • I was on a solo road trip around Ireland when I discovered a small music store in the town of Dingle - and subsequently discovered the soul of my Irish roots.

    Dingle is most famous for being the westernmost point of Ireland and for being the setting of David Lean’s film, Ryan’s Daughter.

    Dingle, or in Gaelic, An Daingean (the name situation is a touchy subject for the locals), should be famous for a whole lot more reasons, luckily it isn’t - some things are best kept a bit of a secret...

    1. The town’s population is less than 2,000 and it’s size is less than one square mile, yet there are around 50 pubs.

    2. The resident Bottlenose Dolphin in the harbor, Fungi, prefers humans over fellow dolphins and a bronze statue of him on the pier celebrates the fact.

    3. The people welcome you like you are a long lost cousin, especially if your last name is Ryan.

    I was excited to find this particular music store, because I was looking for some Irish music to listen to on my journey and more importantly, I was looking for good recommendations. All I had found until this moment were huge corporate stores blasting the latest American pop music.

    Not long after crossing the threshold of Siopa Ceoil (the name of the store), I was offered a small glass of whiskey to sip on while I browsed. I asked the proprietor, Michael Herlihy, if he could recommend some Irish music to me.

    The first CD he pulled out was called The Poet & The Piper. It was a mix of poems written and read by Ireland’s poet laureate, Seamus Heaney and Irish piper music by prominent Irish musician, Liam O’Flynn. The really shocking thing about this first selection of his was that I had met Seamus Heaney less than a year before and I had learned of a poem he wrote called St. Kevin and the Blackbird that I loved and that happened to be on the CD.

    I told Michael about how serendipitous this situation was. I told him my name was Kevin and how that poem touched me in particular and how excited I was to hear the poem read by Seamus himself. He asked what my last name was.

    “Kevin Ryan,” he said, “what a strong Irish name!”

    He then pulled out another CD and said, “I have something for you...If you have any Irish blood in ya at all, this song will touch yer soul.” It was The Irish Tenors singing Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears.

    Michael popped the disk into his stereo and put the liner notes in my hand. “Read the lyrics as you listen,” he instructed. Within the first minute of the song, I was holding back tears - my emotions were too stubborn to be so vulnerable in front of a stranger.

    I explained to him how much I cherished the music and our encounter, thanked him and bought the two CDs.

    The remainder of my trip was enriched with tears. The tears felt like they came from another place and another time. It was as if I was feeling Irish rain from 1892 run down my cheeks. I felt my ancestor’s tears. I felt the toil, the courage it took to leave their home, in hope for a better life for their children, and their children, and their children...

    I felt thankful for those Irish tears.
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