I don’t know exactly why I fell in love with County Donegal.
Well, I don’t know why I fell in love with Ireland! I’m married to an Englishman, and during a considerable part of the recent Troubles we were living in Ireland, and both sides, using religion to cudgel each other, exasperated and irritated me. It all seemed so medieval to be battling—actually killing each other—over what brand of Christianity you preferred.
It wasn’t until much later that I came to Ireland and found that I loved the place. For one thing, it is so green. That’s what everyone says, but the amazing part is that it’s true. Look around you and a seemingly endless variety of greens are there. Bright, fresh new greens and weathered, comfortable greens that have been there for generations. And the people! Probably what you notice first is that they love to talk about anything—mainly in that most Irish of institutions, the pub. The pub is sort of the family room of Ireland. That’s where you go to meet your friends and family, from silent old geezers with bulbous noses testifying of years of cheerful drinking to families with young children who bounce around the pub meeting friends and chattering, the young mothers with babes in arms, young men and girls eyeing each other. All are welcome. The food is usually plain and good, served on thick pottery plates. Most memorable of all are the stories. If you look as if you have time, you’ll hear the stories. So sit down, pull up a chair or a stool, be at your ease, and wait for the stories to start.
My stories are set in various parts of Ireland, but my Christmas novella, Two Rings for Christmas, is set in Donegal, which I think now is my favorite bit of Ireland. It is the far northwest piece of the Republic. Donegal, which had always been part of Ulster, was not included with the six counties who chose to remain part of Great Britain, but its narrow connection to the Republic of Ireland is at one point only five miles wide, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and Northern Ireland to the east. Donegal is a beautiful stretch of Ireland, with a spectacular Atlantic coastline and stark mountains. The people make their lives in valleys with more peat bogs and hills than fertile ground. The people of Donegal are a tough and stubborn population who have lived in the country they’ve loved for generations, even if the land was never really suitable for growing much besides potatoes and oats and no great quantities of them. They don’t give up easily, and like many people who have lived on the edge of subsistence for generations, they have astounding generosity in sharing what they do have.
Jenny was soft and fragrant, so close to him. Fergus had known that fragrance before, but only distantly. Even that day when he had held her in his arms for the first time they stood on the quay it had not been like this. The smells of the sea and of the wet wood of the ship and the dock and the jumbled cargo being carried aboard had nearly masked the scent of Jenny, but he had known it was there. Now it was overpowering.
“What are we to do?” he asked.
She pulled away from him, slowly and reluctantly. “Things are as they are.”
“But this cannot be!”
“It is. We can share the blame alike. You did not write to me and I lost faith. So here we are. I am to be the wife of Daniel Beatty. It is as it is.”
They were standing separate now, facing each other. “What else can I do? I agreed. I took his ring.”
About the Author
Beppie’s books are on the warm and friendly side, although they deal with all the pain and anger that existed over the long centuries—almost a thousand years—when Ireland was ruled by England. But the people there, both the Irish and the English, had their moments of reaching across the gulf and being confronted with its reality. Beppie writes about those moments.
Other books by Beppie Harrison: