A Special Event!

Hello all! Hope you’re enjoying the beginning of your week; that Monday is treating you well, and you get out to some sunshine soon.

I just wanted to take this moment to thank you all for following us – and to introduce the special event kicking off tomorrow: the launching of the brand new, exclusive Wild West Atlantic Way Tour!

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Yep – you heard it here first (or possibly second; if you follow us elsewhere), folks – we’re gearing up to do something truly unique. Embracing our spontaneity and flexibility; we are putting out a new experience – Wild West Irish Tours had this to say regarding the launch:

Wild West Irish Tours is proud to announce a brand new tour for 2018, and we have brought in the 2017 Mayo Rose, Ms. Sandra Ganley, of the 58th Annual Rose of Tralee International Festival, to introduce you to some of the stunning places we will be exploring as well as people you might meet along the way. The Wild West Atlantic Way Tour is essentially “the best of” of places we have been visiting for years on our other 4 adventures. (the hidden, seldom seen, mystical and some well known) Enjoy the premiere of our stunning new video!

Wild West Irish Tours are proud sponsors of Mayo Rose, Sandra Ganley and are delighted that she is part of this new video and tour.

The adventure begins tomorrow with the unveiling of a truly spectacular video – being behind the scenes, I got to peek behind the curtain, and let me tell you, folks, it’s one of the most gorgeous things you’ll see all year. It embodies the Wild West of Ireland to a T – and reveals some of the dazzling places you can go on the upcoming tour(s)!

What’re you waiting for?! Please come join us tonight,  here on our website

Because there’s some special prizes in store for those who do! In spring-boarding this event with us, you could walk away with something memorable and unique…

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Come with us – dare to be wild in the Land of Heart’s Desire!

– This has been your very excited Wild West Irish Tours scribe, Sam Fishkind, signing off.

Establishing an Irish Connection

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening!

First and foremost, if you haven’t heard our big news – please give it a gander here! We have some BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS and upcoming events – some wherein you might even win a prize!

To parallel our previous post – it never hurts to have a little Irish in you when visiting Ireland, either. A genetic connection can sometimes be the springboard into a grand adventure, pursuing familial ties and exploring clan histories! It’s certainly a part of why Wild West Irish Tours does what it does – we do, after all, have roots in both Ireland and America.

Many people choose to visit their ancestral homes – former President Barack Obama himself celebrated his Irish lineage by visiting the town of Moneygall, where his great-great-great grandfather came from. The entire town of Moneygall was abuzz for years to come – and it’s no small wonder as to why.

Presidents, actors, and many others have come to Ireland seeking connections to their pasts – and Ireland is as welcoming to those with heritage there as to those without. Either way, you wind up treated like family.

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Ann and Steve DesRoches in the Wild West of Ireland

One such visitor to Ireland was Ann E. Desroches; the Cape Cod Colorful Artist. Hailing all the way from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, she went to Ireland in pursuit of something bittersweet: closure, following the passing of her mother, Betty Smith (a descendant of the O’Shaughnessy clan).

“I wanted closure with my mother’s death,” says Ann. “I needed to go over there to see where her parents (my grandparents) came from. To investigate the O’Shaughnessy’s and the Doherty’s. I got plenty on the prior – I might have to go back to learn more about the Doherty clan.” Ann grew up with a mother who celebrated Irish culture in a relatively quiet way – wearing Irish sweaters, surrounding herself with green, and tending the earth: Betty Smith had a prolific garden.

The only UNquiet thing about her was her enthusiastic love of Irish music – something Ann, surprisingly, grew up detesting!

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Ann, Steve, and the Wild Westies!

“I hated it!” Ann laughs. “My mother would play that darn music every Saturday – they had it on the radio.” There is a pause; her tone softening: “But…with time, as I grew up, it became more important – I really began to embrace my Irish heritage as an adult. Ireland was so much of her. You could’ve planted her there and she would’ve fit right in.”

 

And she would’ve had plenty of space to do so – Ann discovered the breadth and width of the O’Shaughnessy clan was far grander than she could’ve possibly imagined.

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“It’s one of the largest clans in Ireland!” Ann exclaims. “I got to hold the O’Shaughnessy banner – it was awesome! The O’Shaugnessy tour of the family castle, which Michael Waugh graciously set up for us, was one of the highlights of my life. [Michael] went out of his way to make sure I had that experience – and Rory, the tour guide there, told me all about the O’Shaugnessy clan being the BIGGEST clan in Ireland! He also mentioned that New York would have more of them than Ireland, now, after the famine.” There is a breath; wistful. “You learn so much.”

Ann also learned one of the family legends whilst over in Ireland – supposedly, there had been another O’Shaughnessy castle in the Wild West of Ireland – one wherein the men decided to go off to fight in “one of the wars – can’t remember which”, leaving the women and a few other men behind for protection. “They said they were going to attack,” Ann recalls, “and instead, they just started playing music to appease the attackers.” Needless to say…it didn’t work.

However, from history to modernity, the O’Shaughnessy clan has prevailed in size and longevity – as far back as 358 AD, in fact. “They have family reunions every May,” Ann says. “Another thing I learned while over there!” When asked if she’d return, Ann echoed Randy’s statement from our last post:

“In a heartbeat,” she says instantly. “I still have so much more I need to paint, too, as an artist –  I’ve never seen so many greens in my entire life. The beauty there amazed me.” She would reconnect with the O’Shaughnessy clan and her cousin, Kathy, who has lived in Ireland for the past 30 or so years.

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Ann’s work as the Cape Cod Colorful Artist – a scene in the Wild West of Ireland!

The fact of the matter is, genetic or not, Ireland does embrace all as family. The opportunities for connection and establishing lasting memories, finding closure, seeking peace – everything is valid when it comes to making the journey.

Any reason is welcome because you, visitor, are welcome.

Until next time,

Sam Fishkind

Chief Scribe of Wild West Irish Tours

(Our cover image this week is provided by Wild Westie Denise Foley of Irish Philadelphia, with our gratitude.)

 

 

Do You HAVE to be Irish (to Visit Ireland)?

Hello all! Hope you’re enjoying your July thus far. I know it’s early, but it never hurts to start the month off strong & positive.

As an Irish-American company; Wild West Irish Tours has roots in different places – Virginia, Ireland, and the many areas of the world our adventurers come from to join us on our quests (just this year we had Canadian, UK, and Australian visitors!). In celebrating a legacy of independence and immigration this past 4th of July, we thought it might be nice to discuss what the journey means to those who go to Ireland not out of lineage or genealogy, but from the perspective of an “outsider” – though nobody is really an outsider if they’re traveling with us.

Many of our visitors have come to Ireland to experience the history; folklore, traditions, culture, and beauty of the region. There really is no place like Ireland; and no people like Eire’s own. And, as we have highlighted before, the friendliness and openness of the Irish are but a few of their many positive traits – no one ends up feeling left out, and the welcoming atmosphere is pleasantly continuous.

 

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Randy & David Kurjan

Often, our guests leave a distinct impression on us – David and Randy Kurjan; Wild Westies from the South Carolina area, are but a few. Not necessarily Irish themselves; they possess a deep love and enthusiasm for Ireland that propelled them to explore it with us! Randy was kind enough to answer a few of our probing questions about her experience – from how her husband David got to see where his favorite film, The Quiet Man, took place, to Randy’s personal feelings regarding the overall journey.

“David and I never felt like outsiders when we were in Ireland!” exclaims Randy. “It was, in an odd way, like coming home. The closest we have ever come to that feeling was when we went to Israel (we are Jewish).” Many have described visiting Ireland as a “homecoming” feeling – but it seems even those without personal ties to Ireland in the familial sense can find that feeling as well.

“Even though we are not even the tiniest bit Irish (though we are ‘wannabes’ in terms of ancestry),” Randy says, “it just felt right. We  were beautifully cared for by so many kind people, from Michael [Waugh], to our hosts at the B&Bs, to shopkeepers why took the time to chat, to the lovely person at the farm market stand who went home to get an alarm clock for one of our group who had forgotten theirs back in the States, couldn’t find one in a local store and wanted to get up in time for Church!”

When asked about what she enjoyed most about her trip, Randy found it difficult to pinpoint the best parts of her journey.

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Photograph by David Kurjan.

“It’s hard to decide my favorite aspects,” says Randy. “The beauty of the country, the warmth of the people, the great music, lyrical poetry and the fascinating history and culture… From start to finish, our experience was like a dream.” On why they wanted to go to Ireland, Randy states,

“We went to Ireland for several reasons. It was definitely a ‘bucket list’ item for my husband, David – one of his all time favorite movies is The Quiet Man, and he wanted to see Ireland, especially the locations shown in the movie.” She adds, “I’m a romantic, so for me, it was seeing the land that inspired the beautiful, lyrical poetry of Yeats and John O’Donohue. David is a photographer, by avocation, and wanted to capture the beauty of the Emerald Isle.”

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Photograph by David Kurjan

There was also a lot of pleasantries exchanged between the others on the tour: “We got to know our trip-mates,” Randy says. “We really bonded. Though we were all different, we just clicked. From then on, one experience was even better than the one before. The countryside was beautiful…just as we imagined! Green rolling hills; so many sheep and flowers. We also really loved all of our accommodations. Our hosts were so warm and hospitable – so many stories! Delicious food! Elderberry cordial one night in the parlor, scones and oatmeal for breakfast…I think I ate my weight in salmon and wonderful tea! We had so many adventures.”

 

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Photograph by David Kurjan.

Some of those adventures included learning “so much about Ireland-history, culture, geography and architecture”. “There were terrific guides and speakers to inform our experiences,” Randy remarks. “Our boat ride was exhilarating, the music got our feet tapping and the poetry touched our heart…The people we met along the way were so warm! I could go on and on…”

 

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Photograph by David Kurjan

And that’s what we always set out to do – whether you’re redheaded and freckly with lineage through one of Ireland’s many clans, or just a visitor who’s interested in migrating to a foreign world of fantastical stories and rolling countryside, there is a place for you with us at Wild West Irish Tours, and a place for you in Ireland besides.

 

  In conclusion: no, you don’t have to have any direct ties to Ireland to seek her out. It’s as simple as enjoying her films; her poetry, her people, and majesty. It’s the pilgrim soul; the desire to travel, and the enthusiasm to get you there.

                In regards to whether or not she’d go back, Randy was quick to say “absolutely – in a heartbeat.”

                           Follow your hearts to a homecoming in Ireland – all are welcome without question.

Until next time, be well!

-Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours Chief Scribe

A Mayo Rose in the Gardens of the Wild West of Ireland

                Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, we invite you to take a break from your daily lives to stop and admire the Roses…

From when she was a wildflower in the rolling hills of Western Ireland, to her blossoming as the Mayo Rose; we at Wild West Irish Tours have enjoyed watching Sandra Ganley (and her sister Laura) grow. We are pleased to announce our sponsorship of Sandra’s journey to Tralee in the hopes she will take home the crown; as she quite possibly best exemplifies what it means to be the Rose of Tralee.

We are, as you might’ve guessed, huge supporters of Irish-Americanism, and thus we believe the Rose of Tralee competition [a staple in bringing people of Irish descent together across the world] is both traditional and an exceptional opportunity for young ladies looking to make a difference in a niche area: celebrating Irish heritage and promoting the cultural poise, elegance, and energy of Celtic upbringing – all things Sandra embodies tenfold.

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The gang’s all here – Sandra, Michael, Trish, and Laura!

It is our intention to endorse Sandra in her journey and help her accomplish her dreams. From when she was just a sprout (and our tours in but their second year), we had the privilege of watching Sandra and Laura perform their traditional dances to a house band at the Michael Coleman Center in Sligo. It was an absolute smash-hit with those on our tour – and us. We became friends with the family; best-described as the “dream family” of rural Ireland – from their friendliness to their simple greatness in their ability to forge connections with the community. Sandra has picked up on their teachings and has, in turn, given back to the community with charitable focus. She is also a dance instructor (with her own studio; Jiving Juniors!), primary school teacher, and a tremendous supporter of the Irish language.

 

Back to our connection: after performing for a few of our in-Ireland tour events, the Ganley sisters were asked to come to America by Wild West Irish Tours. They obliged; and flew in with their parents to fill our world with homage to Celtic tradition in the homiest of ways. Performances on the tour and conversations with the lively sisters sealed the deal: they became like family to us; as did their parents.

With this history between us in mind, we will be moving forward to ensure Sandra has all she needs in her successful future regarding the Rose of Tralee competition. We believe she has the gumption and the generous spirit to achieve whatever she sets her mind to – Sandra Ganley exudes beauty, inside and out, which is what this competition truly is about.

Sandra was kind enough to make time in her busy schedule to talk about her journey thus far!

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Sandra and Michael taking a stroll in the Wild West of Ireland

WWIT: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue the Rose competition(s)?

Sandra: I suppose growing up in Ireland; everyone watches it on television. Looking at these amazing women; every young girl loved it. There’s a picture of me when I was about eight; dressed as the Rose of Tralee. They dressed me up in a dress and made me a sash with Rose of Tralee on it. I was always aware of it. When I was 18/19; around here ,there’s a lot of local competitions. The same kind of layout as the Rose of Tralee, all the girls get up on stage and do their piece. Curry Castle, Coleman Queen. I was quite young – when I have my degree and am more established in the world, maybe I’d pursue it. Will I or won’t I? No, I will!

WWIT: How would you describe the experience so far?

Sandra: It’s been absolutely surreal. Mayo was a great day – there were 19 of us. I loved meeting all the girls. Since I was crowned [it’s been about two months] – it’s been crazy, it hasn’t hit me fully yet. It won’t till I get to Tralee, I think.

WWIT: Enjoying the journey so far?

Sandra: It’s brilliant – I get to visit so many places and do things I haven’t got to do before. Meeting the many Irish Roses is great. To actually be in the midst of it all is surreal and overwhelming (in a good way)! I get to visit the local primary schools; nursing homes to visit the older people…I’ve been supporting local charities – on a larger scale, I got to have afternoon tea in Ashford Castle with the Galway Rose. That was something special. I also get to visit other places in Mayo [quite a big county] that I haven’t visited before.

WWIT: Excellent! Also – you mentioned charity work?

Sandra: Yes! Two charities/organizations – the Celiac Society and Mayo Mental Health Association. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. Both are important to me, as mental health support needs more awareness and I myself am Celiac.

WWIT: Who or what would you say has been your biggest inspiration so far?:

Sandra: Maria Walsh Rose of Tralee winner – three years ago; the Philadelphia Rose from Mayo. She did so much for Mayo – and she was the first Rose who came out as gay. She was not stereotypical – she had tattoos; short hair. She’s been an inspiration to ALL the Roses. She is likewise a great ambassador. I hope I get to meet her over the next year – I think she’s brilliant in what she does! It’s also been lovely to connect with all the Roses this year. For example; we have the first Hong Kong Rose this year – and we have a group chat to know everybody’s county; area, state, & so on. We still have to remember what county they represent in Ireland – the Sydney Rose, for example, is from Kerry. There’s 65 escorts to remember and 170 in total to recall.

WWIT: It’s a little bit like exams, isn’t it.

Sandra: [Laughing] Yes, I suppose it is, yes.

WWIT: That’s awesome. Here’s the big question: would you do if you won?

Sandra: That IS a big question, goodness. I suppose continuing on with everything I’ve done so far, in terms of charity work, but on a bigger scale would be my focus. Not just local areas, but visiting all over Ireland and Irish communities abroad. I’d try to visit as many as possible. As you know, I’m quite big into Irish music and dance, so getting to spread that in other places would be a part of it. As for prize money: I think I’d start by giving a few bob back to mom & dad.

WWIT: You’re so thoughtful! Our final question: how would you describe your relationship with WWIT?

Sandra: Well, it’s been…five-ish years now; from the day Michael (and Trish) saw us dancing in Sligo, he straight away was so supportive of us. He was up talking to us right after we performed. For the first year or two he’d come to all our shows with his tours. He used to bring us presents from America. Then he offered to bring us over and we were so honored. We’ve now been [to America] three times! The support and publicity/gigs they’ve brought us is amazing. We got to dance with Cherish the Ladies, which was also so surreal. They’ve been so good to us (on behalf of myself and Laura). We’re always happy to promote them back. We’re filming a new promo with Michael [now filmed; stay tuned]! We like to help them as much as they help us. It’s been a great relationship. It’s still just worked out perfectly. And I’m delighted they’ve offered to sponsor me. The money will go toward dresses and to travel down to Tralee, which is majorly helpful. And I’m absolutely delighted to be a Wild Westie.

WWIT: Thanks Sandra!

 Please follow Sandra’s journey to Tralee here to show your support!

We have just one more surprise in store for all of you [Sandra included; perhaps]! We at Wild West Irish Tours will be launching a BRAND NEW Wild West Atlantic Way Tour as part of our Rose of Tralee initiative in Sandra’s honor – look out, County Mayo, we’re coming your way!

Until next time,

– Sam Fishkind