Day 4: Tess in a Mess

With a population of around 90,000, Limerick is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland. Located on the Shannon Estuary, it was once a Viking settlement. Most Americans know the City of Limerick for the verse form that bears its name, or from Frank McCourt, who wrote Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis. McCourt grew up in Limerick in poverty. When he was a young man, he moved to New York and taught writing in several high schools. Later he was joined in New York by several of his brothers, including Malachy, who was an owner of the bar “Bells of Hell” and a well-known raconteur. Late in life, Frank was urged by friends and former students to take up writing himself, and he did so with great success, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Angela’s Ashes. After a walkabout in Limerick, Laetitia presented the day’s limerick at dinner.

A Limerick lady named Tess
At a picnic, got into a mess
As she cooed like a dove
In the arms of her love
Naughty urchins ran off with her dress.

Day 3: Slinky Love

No tour that features limericks would be complete without a journey to County Limerick itself. Today Laetitia took her group to Adare, in County Limerick, which its residents claim is Ireland’s prettiest village. The original town of Adare on the River Maigue near Desmond Castle was a casualty of wars during the sixteenth century; the present town dates from the nineteenth century. The area features beautiful stone buildings, medieval monasteries and ruins, and a picturesque village park. Laetitia and her group went to a pub for lunch, where the day’s gossip was about two young lovers from the town whose enthusiasm got them into a predicament and made them the subject of the limerick of the day.

In their haste making love in Adare
Two young lovers fell out of a chair
Though both thought it kinky
To love like a slinky
Rolling end over end down the stair.

Day 2: St. Stephen’s Green Bidet

Once again, Laetitia met her tour group in Dublin, where they went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, a sixth-century illuminated manuscript attributed to St. Columba that is considered by some to be Ireland’s greatest national treasure. The book gets its name from the monastery at Kells in County Meath, where it was housed during the Middle Ages.

Leaving Trinity College, Laetitia and her group walked to St. Stephen’s Green, past the fountain statue of Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the United Irishmen in the revolt of 1798. As they approached the fountain, they heard raised voices. In the center of a crowd of onlookers, a French tourist, naked from the waist down, was having a noisy dispute with the police. After the police covered her with a raincoat and led her to their vehicle, a member of the French tour group she was traveling with said that the lady, whose name was Renee, had an obsession for personal hygiene that had led to the altercation. The event was the source of the day’s limerick.

At the Stephens Green fountain Renee
Cursed police as they led her away
And in French did in vain
Attempt to explain
That her hotel room had no bidet.

Day 1: Laetitia’s First Mind’s Eye Limerick Tour


On the day designated for her first tour, Laetitia walked down Raglan Road just before 7:00 a.m. She had received an envelope with a key, an address, and directions to the house where she was to work. It was a large Victorian-style house painted emerald green. From the peak of one of its turrets, a banner floated in the light breeze bearing the green, white, and orange colors of the Irish flag. On the neatly manicured front lawn was a sign that said “Tara” in brightly colored Celtic-style letters.

She used the key and let herself in, found the coffee pot, grinder, and beans, and started the pot brewing. While she waited, she wondered into the mahogany-paneled living room. On the wall was an Irish harp, flanked on either side by picture frames displaying poetry embroidered in crewel on Irish linen. On the left was Thomas Moore’s The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls, a bittersweet poem/song of the faded splendor of the legendary Fifth Century Irish kings who once lived and held court on the Hill of Tara. On the right were the words of Moore’s Sweet Innisfallen, about the lovely island in Muckross Lake with its ruined monastery. It was called by Moore a “fairy isle,” and was an image he took with him into exile.

With a fresh cup of coffee in her hand, she entered the library. It was a large room with ceiling-high shelves filled with books on a variety of subjects, but with an especially large travel-book section. She sat down in a comfortable overstuffed chair and scanned the room. On the coffee table were neat stacks of travel brochures. Next to one wall was an open old roll-top desk with its cubbyholes bristling with maps and a computer on its principal writing surface. On a side table was a compact disc player next to a tower filled with compact discs. She rummaged through them and found one by the Irish Tenors, entitled, In Belfast. She had decided that Ireland would be a good place for her first tour since she had already been there. She hit the play button and sat down to look at some brochures.

By the time the recording reached the track with “Molly Malone,” she found herself on Grafton Street in Dublin in front of the statue of Molly Malone pushing her cart. Not far away, the Irish Tenors were giving a rare street performance. As luck would have it, they were singing “Molly Malone,” a melancholy song about a young street vendor of seafood (cockles and mussels), who was presumably both poor and pretty and sadly died at a young age of a fever. It is not clear whether or not the Molly of the song is based on a real individual, but historians have concluded that street vending was often a day job for girls like Molly who offered “love for sale” by night. This has led Dublin tour guides to often refer to Molly’s statue as “the tart with the cart.”

Laetitia introduced herself to her tour group and told them about Dublin and Molly Malone as they walked down Grafton Street. It was then that she realized for the first time how much leading a tour is like herding cats. Leaders of real tours have to make frequent counts to ensure that someone hasn’t stopped to window shop or wandered off to take a picture and been left behind. Fortunately for Laetitia, Mind’s Eye Limerick Tour members come and go as they please, making such counts unnecessary.

Her instructions told her to keep the tours short, since most of those who would be likely to take Mind’s Eye Tours are busy people who are possibly snatching a few minutes break from work. Thus, she presented the limerick, dismissed the group and, back on Raglan Road, posted the vignette and limerick to the Mind’s Eye website.

Young Molly Malone, it is said
Made most of her living in bed
And cockles and mussels
But part of the hustles
That kept her poor family in bread.