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Saturday, January 4, 2014

With Both Feet

by Ron Bateman

“Better pass boldly into that other world in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

It seems wholly appropriate to start this adventure with a James Joyce quote that has lingered with me for more than two decades. It also feels appropriate that jumping in with both feet has left my pants, soaked to mid-shin, drying in the bathroom. The light rain that had greeted us as we left the hotel after class quickly turned into a steady downpour, prompting our little group to retreat earlier than we had planned. It’s more than all right though, as it has given me time to reflect on last night’s adventure to Peadar O’Donnell’s Pub, just outside the city walls.

Taidhge, Ron, and Michael
Our visit was enlightening in many regards, but none more than meeting Taidhge and Michael – friends for more than two decades. One is Protestant and the other Catholic; one is from Derry and the other Dublin; one spent the better part of a decade studying to be a priest and the other a busy family man. The differences, however, aren’t what define these two, but rather the genuine affection they have for each other and the absolute willingness to share that with us. Woven into their stories was a nearly incessant teasing that I wondered and worried might go too far. They both assured me that would never happen.

Michael took a great deal of time to describe a picture hanging in an obscure corner of the pub, taken in the summer of 1996. Michael was with the photographer that day and is just out of frame. The black and white photograph shows a sea of people in front of Peadar O’Donnell’s Pub.  They have gathered after the death of a man the day prior and Martin McGuinness is speaking to the crowd.  There are no smiles and there is a gravity to the picture that seems deeply incongruent to the lively, upbeat bar.

When the lights in the bar flashed, abruptly alerting patrons to last call, I was sad to see the night come to an end.  Talking with each of these men was a genuine pleasure and the perfect beginning to this class.  In truth, jumping in with both feet felt more than shin deep.

1 comment:

  1. Great story Ron! Glad you experienced Peadar's early in your stay. I met a lot of people there with similar stories. The Rocking Chair is another great pub and it was there that I met a man named Pat McGill that took me on a walking tour of the Creggan and Long Tower. He is also the one that introduced me to the Irish word "craic" which is pronounced "crack" and means "fun". I didn't know what to say when he kept asking me if I had "had any craic in Derry".
    Have craic,
    Charlie Murray