St. Paddy’s Day

Sam Laughlin Swansea University, Wales


March 22, 2018

1850 Pennsylvania Cenus of Gpa Laughlin

On April 11, 1843, Samual MacLaughlin and his family set out for America from County Down, Ireland in hopes of a better life. On St. Patrick’s Day 2018, I returned to the island of my forefathers to embrace a culture rooted in my ancestry.

I couldn’t help but think about my great great great great grandfather when I arrived in Dublin and how much had changed--- and remained the same. By all the accounts I had heard about the country, I was in for a real treat. 

After staying the night in a traditional Irish home in Bray, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities began on the train ride in to Dublin. At every stop in each small town more and more people boarded the train covered in green and shamrocks. Despite the weather being below freezing, everyone still came out in throngs.

All was well until we were stopped about 25 minutes outside of Dublin when we were notified that flooding had terminated train services to Dublin for the time being. Not ideal. 

So then the means of travel was moved to a double-decker bus which made the journey into town an hour and a half; but no worry because once we arrived outside the city center the Paddy’s Day parade was in full swing. 

People had climbed on top of buildings, fences, light posts, and each other all to get a view of the world famous parade. Marching bands, floats, and performers flowed through the center of the city just adding to the unique energy of the scene. The sounds of traditional Irish music and tributes to the past almost made me forget that I lost feeling in my toes. 

As the parade ended an excited, anticipatory mood fell on the city. That’s because Ireland was playing for the Six Nations rugby title against England in just a few minutes. The thousands of people all began filing into the pubs that ran along the streets and lines began to form to get to the nearest television. Thankfully, my party and I were able to find a comfortable spot to watch the game with a pint of Guinness.

My knowledge of rugby is very basic but luckily the lively locals around us were kind enough to let us know when to celebrate and when to yell in disgust. It was those people who also made the occasion so passionate and enthralling from start until an Irish victory; the perfect ending to a game on St. Patrick’s day. 

The festivities continued all throughout the night and well into the morning, as did the snow. In fact, the snow even continued until mid-day Sunday once again cancelling almost all travel into Dublin from Bray. Although the 20 pounds I had spent on the Guinness store house tour had gone to waste since I was snowed in, something about the full Irish dinner in front of the living room stove made it less of a bummer.

The next adventure of travel was the next morning when it was time to get to the Dublin airport and head home. And by morning I mean 3:45 a.m.

We had to wake up that early because we had to walk 10 minutes to a bus stop where we hoped an airport shuttle would arrive to take us to the airport in enough time for our flight. Luckily enough, all the walking and standing in the 19 degree wind chill was worth it as the shuttle did eventually show up only 5 minutes later than when we were expecting.

For all the changes and mishaps in travel, the once-in-a-lifetime experience of going back to my roots during such an event like St. Patrick’s Day was not overshadowed in the slightest. In fact, it taught me that sometimes the journey itself teaches more lessons than the final destination.

There were many points on this trip where I had no idea how I was going to get from point A to point B but it was an oddly freeing experience. Sometimes we don’t embrace that aspect of life enough and tend to get too focused on making sure everything runs smoothly. I know very well that the process of picking up and leaving home is not a comfortable situation but is sometimes necessary. 

No one might be able to attest to that better than my ancestors. Records say that on the way from Ireland to New York their ship, the Agitator, had gotten lost at sea and arrived later than expected.

So maybe my travel problems were pretty minuscule in the grand scheme of things.