A Visit to the Community

Ransom Patterson Queen’s University Belfast, N. Ireland


February 16, 2016

I spent the past weekend visiting a family in Trim, County Meath, Republic of Ireland. Located around 45 minutes from Dublin, Trim is most known for Trim Castle, first built in 1173 C.E. by Hugh de Lacy.

At least, this is what Arcadia’s orientation packet said. Driving into Trim for the first time, none of that was on my mind. I was more interested in getting a bite to eat and having done with moving vehicles. The journey to Trim turned out to be quite a bit more...eventful than expected.

Indeed, a theme of my study abroad experience so far seems to be arriving late because of forces beyond my control. First, my flight to Belfast was delayed for several days by the “snowpocalypse” that hit so much of the U.S.

Then, in the most recent episode, my supposed 2.5 hour coach ride to Dublin (from which we were supposed to take a bus to Trim), turned into a 5 hour crawl due to a wreck on the M1 (got a lot of reading done, though).

Finally arriving in Trim was quite the relief, needless to say. After meeting up with Jenny and John (my hosts) and Emily (a Maynooth student staying with the same family), I discovered that Irish hospitality lives up to its reputation. We ate a delicious dinner and talked late into the night.

Awaking at a bohemian hour the following morning, Emily and I were treated to a traditional Irish breakfast. Let’s just say it did not disappoint. We also met John and Jenny’s friend Michaela and her son. Indeed, a theme of the weekend was constantly meeting Jenny and John’s various friends and relations. Trim is a close­-knit community indeed.

A traditional Irish breakfast of soda bread, eggs, sausage,
bacon, tomato, baked beans, and black and white pudding.

Following our breakfast, we paid a visit to Trim Castle. Despite the battering wind and driving rain, I managed to get a few photos of the castle in all its glory. According to John, it was only in the past twenty years or so that the castle has become a national landmark. Before that, it was owned privately and largely left alone, though John does recall playing tag on top of the castle walls when he was a kid.

Trim Castle from the outside.

Though the castle technically dates to 1173, it existed then only as a wooden structure. It wasn’t until Hugh de Lacy’s son, Walter de Lacy, took over the castle that the structure as it now (mostly) stands was constructed. Over the years, the castle was expanded and added to, as the models below show.

Of course, most visitors don’t care about any of that. The main reason for visiting Trim Castle, apparently, is that parts of the Mel Gibson’s Braveheart were filmed there. In fact, Jenny recalled that when they were filming the movie there was a casting call in Trim for redheaded women (because apparently everyone had red hair back then). Specifically, the iconic defenestration scene was filmed at the castle. We got to stand in the room used in this shot, though thankfully the window is now covered with a screen. The whole tour was worth it to get this photo from the top. Gorgeous, even on a rainy day.

The city of Trim as seen from the top of the castle.

And of course, we couldn’t leave without getting a picture with the cannon that stands in front of the castle.


Emily and I with Trim Castle’s iconic cannon.

After hurrying back to the warmth of John and Jenny’s car, we spent the afternoon having tea with Jenny and John’s friend Margaret. She regaled us with tales of her travels to everywhere from Vietnam to Hong Kong, and her son Robert told us about his upcoming road trip in the United States.

For that night’s dinner, Jenny and John treated us to an Irish classic: fish and chips. Now, I thought I was fairly experienced with fish and chips, having had them several times in England when I was there in 2007. John and Jenny informed me, however, that Irish fish and chips were far superior. After eating them, I have to agree. When they say fish and chips, they mean FISH and chips. It was an entire fillet with a generous portion of fried potatoey goodness. The photo speaks for itself:


The Irish know how to do fish and chips!

Margaret also insisted that we try a “chip butty,” which is apparently a favorite in her native city of Liverpool, England. You take a piece of bread, saturate it with butter, dump a fistful of chips in the midst of it, and then fold it into a sandwich. I have to admit, it was delicious (I was too busy eating it to take a photo).

So after stuffing ourselves with fish, chips, and a butty or two (not to mention dessert), we settled down for a lively discussion of everything from the American tipping system (much reviled by Irish travelers) to gun control to the current Irish elections (Jenny is helping to manage a local political campaign). My knowledge of American politics was pushed to its limits, no doubt.

But more than what we talked about, what I’ll most remember is the general joy of sitting around and talking all evening. Trim is just one town in Ireland, of course, but I think that John, Jenny, and their friends and family have the right idea about how to live. They spend their weekends visiting and dining with those closest to them. It’s a slower, more peaceful pace of life. Work is important, but it didn’t consume as much of the conversation as it tends to in America. There’s an interconnectedness in the community that is unlike any I’ve witnessed. Most tellingly, when someone dies in Trim, everyone attends the funeral, even if they didn’t really know the person (though according to Jenny that’s in part because people will talk if you don’t).

All in all, a delightful and restful weekend. Jenny and John, if you’re reading this, a hearty thanks once again to you and all your family friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome to Ireland.