Little Egypt Return to Ireland: May/June 2001

Details of a successful and
enjoyable return trip to the
Republic of Ireland

Between 31 May and 3 June 2001,
the Morris Men of Little Egypt
made a second trip to Ireland
to sample the pleasures of a
beautiful country and to
demonstrate a little
of our own traditional dance.

This is a record of the trip.
It is presented as another
example of the enduring spirit
that is Little Egypt.

Details of Day Two are here.
Day Three as well. Day 4 is also on line.

Further photographic evidence will be added as they arrive back from the Chemist, and when suitable blackmail challenges have been offered and rejected.

A Strange Mixture

... and here is an early one

Thursday 31 May

On time ... for once

The immaculate organisation of our second visit to Ireland required that we caught the 0850 Ryanair flight from Stansted to Shannon.
This meant that the various carloads of anxious Morris men and partners and camp (and not so camp) followers had to be out of the village by 0600, a time not seen by most since May Day.
There were, therefore a number of sunken eyes to greet the long-suffering check in staff at the airport.
Among those to arrive earliest were the Tommos and Martin Cleverdon. Rumours that they had in fact camped out in the long stay car park proved unfounded, but the local milkman has never had such a challenge to his authority over the roads before.
The tone of the trip was set early by a blatant example of queue jumping by New New Fleming, who used the excuse that he was carrying the sticks, cunningly disguised as a set of golf clubs.

It was good to meet up again with Mark and Ann and Bethany, up from Semley for the trip, and even the news that Sir Jukes had tweaked his knee failed to dilute our optimism for the trip. He would perform in many other ways, we were sure.
We always look forward to his chat up lines.

Smoothly through check in, on to the magic train, and away to the boarding lounge, Little Egypt, totally out of character, were on time.

Which is more than can be said for Ryanair.

Ryanair would like to apologise

... but we can't

Quite how they managed to get us all through departures in time for the flight, only then to tell us that the plane would be an hour late, is difficult to understand. Especially as the delay stretched on and on.
Neville adopted a previously unseen managerial tone of polite but firm assertiveness, in endeavouring to find out the extent of the problem. With hands clasped firmly behind his back, he approached the unwitting boarding staff, to be told that the plane had not, in fact, left Shannon, and there would be further delay. Neville was non-plussed, so much so that, in looking for the Tie Shop, he mistook a glass barrier for the doorway, and turned straight into said barrier. Time for bifocals, Nev.

This further delay could mean only one thing.

I'll have a pint

For Little Egypt it meant that, at 8.40 a.m., John Proffitt and New New John Fleming were on to pints of Guinness. "He forced me," whined Proffo. Tommo, on the other hand, needed no such excuse for his pint of lager: it's what we've come to expect, being so tolerant of the immaturity of some people's taste buds.
The vanguard were soon joined by the likes of Hazel and Martin and Neville, and the Little Egypt alcoholometer was on the rise.

Evidence: this is before take off

Students of public transport will be intrigued to know that, after the 8.30 announcement of a delay, the next time the public address announcer decided to talk to us was at 5 to 10, with a projected departure of 10.30.
If this was a railway system, we'd already have been in for compensation, if not for a public enquiry headed by John Prescott.
Anyway, we were able to indulge in the next act of tour-bonding. This involved the taking of nominations for the title of "Fireballs Macnamara", an honorary and legendary title taken from the local heroes of Irish Myth. A name like that meant there could only be one candidate:
"Arise, Sir Jukes, Fireballs of the week."

that same morning.

Go West, (not so) Young Man

We took off at 11.17. Not bad, Ryanair, for an 0850 flight, was it?

At last, we board

But were we downhearted? Not a bit of it, because we knew that we had Fireballs' in-flight entertainment to look forward to. We discovered more about his mother's range of names than we thought possible. So did his (female) travelling companions, and the lady flight attendants; in fact, so did anyone who cared to listen and some who didn't.

Anyway, the flight was otherwise uneventful, and touchdown at Shannon was at 12.16, and we were assembled by the car hire booths at 12.57.

Another airport, another gig
I'll busk anywhere, me

At this point, Nev decided to deliver his now familiar Squirarchical Address to the assembled company. Saying it only once, he told us that there were some changes because of our late arrival, that we would assemble in May Kearney's Bar in Ennis at 3.00 p.m. and that it would now take 15 minutes to collect the cars.
We left Shannon at 1.36.

That afternoon.

Acclimatisation is so important

The pleasant country town of Ennis is but a short drive from Shannon, and we arrived quickly and without further incident.
Most of the party were to be staying at May Kearney's so we all met there to sample some Guinness (with lager for Tommo, of course) and some sandwiches which John Bangs had been kind enough to order in advance.
What? More Guinness?
Some despicable individuals - quite out of character - tried to swipe a second pint before others had received their first, but they were soon put in their place, and we sat back to admire Angie's bee sting.

Neville and Bangsy discuss the itinerary with Dick O'Connell

We met up here with Dick O'Connell who was to be our guide for the rest of the day, and, before we left, Neville escorted the small party who were to stay at Kelly's guest house, where we changed into Horkey gear, and prepared for our tour of County Clare. A minor blemish on Neville's record for the day was his second wrong turn of the day (see glass barrier, above) when he confidently tried to deliver us to the wrong guest house. We don't think anyone noticed.

Orientation has its moments

Having changed and reconvened at May Kearney's, we set out for our tour of the Burren. This spectacular tract of limestone karst landscape covers a wide area of West Clare and is wild.
Being overcome by the beautyTo plough the rocks of the Burren

Best seen in the gloom and wind that greeted us, it struck some people so much that they felt obliged to stay in the minibuses to avoid being overcome by the beauty of it all.
Isn't that right, Martin?

On our way to the Burren, Dick, the guide, showed us one of the many ancient ecclesiastical sites in the area: Diseart Tola (Dysert O'Dea). This place was so moving that some could take no more. You can have too much culture, after all.
Isn't that right, Martin?
The impressive Norman gateway An arty view through the window

That same evening.

Rest and Recreation

Dick's magical ride of the Burren ended eventually at the front door of the more-than-welcoming door of Vaughan's pub in Kilfenora. We could only guess what the evening had in store, although the first guess was, in most cases correct, in that Vaughan's sells Guinness.
The backroom boys had done their research exceptionally well. First of all we had a meal, which was enjoyed a great deal.

Tommo looks quite demure really

Then we moved back into the bar to enjoy some, er, Guinness and a few songs.

Another drink?
Then the evening took another spectacular turn with Dick O'Connell inviting us to join his group of set dancers in the barn next door for a very special session. A photograph cannot do justice to this session, but I hope this one conveys something of the atmosphere and the energy.
Real pleasure
After this brilliant session of simple enjoyment (and we did a couple of demonstration dances of our own) it was back to the pub for yet more ... go on, guess
Going ahead
... Guinness and song.
Let it be noted that we left Kilfenora sometime after midnight, so that most of us had been awake for more than 20 hours.
We Egyptians are made of strong stuff.
However, if any don't quite believe it, you can read Proffo's blow-by-blow, drink by drink account of life at May Keareny's here.
Well it was late

Day Two is now available. So is Day Three.
Day 4 is also on line

Steve Clarke November 2005 - Created: 03/06/2001