This is the first post from the archives of author Claire Fullerton whose book Dancing to an Irish Reel is set in Ireland, where she has family links… In Ireland we do things a little differently when it comes to strangers. We welcome them and engage with them. Everyone has a story to tell and being a land of storytellers, the more that are told the merrier. In this post Claire shares a delightful example of this.
On an Irish Bus (2015) by Claire Fullerton.
He would have stood out anywhere, and standing in front of the entrance to a boutique hotel in Spiddal, wielding a black walking cane with an ivory handle two paces before made him glaringly incongruous to everything I’d come to know about the western coast of Ireland. He wore a three piece suit on his gentle frame: black, with gray stripes the width of angel’s hair, with a fitted vest, tailored trousers, complementary cravat, and a black Fedora angled just so.
I looked out from my window seat on the bus from Carraroe to Galway. It was one of those old kinds that looked as if it once had a life as an elementary school bus now put out to pasture. With aluminum rails on the seats before, the bus would take off noisily, gravel scattering beneath its wheels before I had a chance to sit down. The bus driver greeted me in awkward English. It took a few rounds of greeting me in Irish before he finally realized I am an American, and his guttural salutation now came out sounding like something a little to the left of “Hiya.”
The bus rolled to its customary stop on the coast road that runs through the heart of Spiddal. There is no sign there; the stop is force of habit because years of driving this rolling route through Connemara told the driver where travelers would be standing shielded from the vagaries of Irish weather.
Heads turned as the dapper, elderly man mounted the bus. He steadied his gait with his cane and favored his right foot up the three steps then halted beside the bus driver to beam his greeting. Out of the corner of my eye, trying not to stare, I saw the man tip his hat repeatedly to the right and left as he made his way down the aisle to the vacant seat beside me.
“Nice day,” he said to me as he took off his hat and placed it on his lap. “Going into town, is it? Where you go every day?”
“Yes,” I said caught by surprise and thinking nothing gets by anybody around here.
“Kearney’s the name, Seamus Kearney,” he offered himself. “You’re an American, yah?” he asked in that way the Irish have of answering their own question.
“Yes,” I answered.
“From the South, is it?” he continued.
“That’s a good ear you have. Yes, I’m from Memphis, Tennessee, but I spent the last five years living in Los Angeles,” I clarified.
“God helps us all,” he said with a wink. “And what is your name, then?” he prodded.
“Claire Fullerton.” I shook his offered hand.
“And your middle name then? Have you Irish connections?”
“Yes, I have Irish connections on both sides. My middle name is Ford,” I said.
“Ford,” he considered, wrinkling his brow. “That’s an odd middle name for a girl.”
“Yes, perhaps,” I said. “But I’m not an odd girl; I promise.”
“Now the Fords, they’re from around these parts. They’re old as the hills and Irish as the soil. Many are up the road in that old graveyard by The Centra,” Seamus Kearney said. “So they called you here, they did,” he said in more of a statement than a question.
“No, actually it was a whim that brought me here. I never knew any of my Ford relatives. Most of them died before I was born.”
Seamus drew in his breath in that audible sigh the Irish do, when they’re getting ready to say something poignant. It is a sound with a world of understanding contained: one part camaraderie, the other commiseration. “So, they called you here, they did,” he reiterated patiently. His white eyebrows raised encouragingly, as if leading a child along the road to good reason.
“Yes, definitely,” I complied.
“Ah then, there it is, so. We in Connemara don’t see the need in being parted by a little thing like death,” he said.
I couldn’t wait a second longer; I couldn’t help but ask, “Do you always dress like this?”
“Like what?” he asked genuinely unaware, which made me wonder if I’d put my foot in my mouth.
“You look so nice; I was only thinking that,” I said, the heat rising to my face.
“Pride of person’s not an unpardonable sin,” he said. “Now let me ask you what it is you do in town.”
The next thing I knew, I was explaining everything I did at my job in Galway, while Seamus gave me his rapt attention, with a pleased look on his face. Had I still been living in Los Angeles, a conversation like the one I had with Seamus Kearney would never have taken place. One simply did not divulge personal information to a stranger in Los Angeles without thinking it would come back to haunt in some unexpected way. But this was Connemara, and the Irish have a way of exchanging pleasantries in a manner that is somewhere between an exploration of and commentary on this business of living. It is an art so subtle you have to narrow your eyes or you’ll miss it; it comes creeping softly wearing white cotton socks and sensible shoes.
The bus rolled to a stop at the Spanish Arch, down by the quays in Galway. I stood up to disembark. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Kearney,” I said.
“Call me Seamus, please,” he returned. “I live just by the church there in Spiddal. I’d love for you to call out any time for a cup of tea,” he said, with his blue eyes smiling.
“Thank you so much, I will,” I returned, and as I got off the bus to head over the River Corrib’s bridge, I turned to wave to Seamus Kearney and knew without question I would.
©Claire Fullerton 2015
Books by Claire Fullerton
One of the recent reviews for Mourning Dove
MOURNING DOVE by Claire Fullerton is a compelling and thought-provoking story of family, culture and the true meaning of home. Set in the 1970s in Memphis, Tennessee, young sister and brother, Millie and Finley, struggle to fit in to the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing. Thrust into their new home in the South when their mother divorces their father and leaves him behind in Minnesota, they soon learn that all is not as it seems and in Memphis’ elite society, appearances are everything. Finley appears to adapt more easily than Millie, but there may be more to Finley’s charming and easy-going nature than meets the eye. Millie relies on her close relationship with Finley to keep her grounded in her new world. The writing is beautiful and the multi-layered story kept me engaged from beginning to end. The descriptions of Memphis during this age were so vivid, I felt like I had taken a trip back in time to this colorful city, not just to the homes of the wealthy socialites, but also to the seedy bars where the music scene was beginning to flourish. There are parts of the story that are hard to read, but there are also moments where the strength of the emotional bonds between the members of this dysfunctional family is portrayed with understanding and compassion. I enjoyed this moving book and highly recommend it.
Buy the books and audio editions: https://www.amazon.com/Claire-Fullerton/e/B00HRJEUJ4
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Claire-Fullerton/e/B00HRJEUJ4
Read other reviews and follow Claire on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7388895.Claire_Fullerton
About Claire Fullerton
Claire Fullerton grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of contemporary fiction, “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Review Awards, and a 2016 Readers’ Favorite. Claire is the author of “A Portal in Time,” a paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods, set on California’s hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of Claire’s novels are published by Vinspire Publishing.
Her third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern family saga, published in June, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. She is one of four contributors to the book, Southern Seasons, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, to be published in November 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency.
Connect to Claire
My thanks to Claire for letting me loose in her archives and I hope you will head over and enjoy reading through them as much as I have… Thanks Sally.