Day 47: Saint Brendan

Fenit is a small village of around 400 inhabitants in County Kerry on the north side of Tralee Bay. Saint Brendan was born in this vicinity, and there is a bronze monument in the harbor area erected in his honor. According to a ninth century account written by an Irish monk, Brendan crossed the Atlantic Ocean to North America in a wood-framed, leather-covered boat called a coracle. This was, of course, several centuries before Columbus, giving the Irish a claim to have discovered the new world. The account has not been verified, but in the 1970s, a lad named Tim Severin proved that one could indeed cross the Atlantic in that kind of boat. Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day in honor of Saint Brendan.

It is said that St Brendan did sail
O’er the sea in a coracle frail
But unlike the Titanic
He crossed the Atlantic
And lived to return with the tale.

Day 48: Buff Stuff

With about 600 residents, Ballyduff is a village on the hills above Cashen Bay. The name comes from the Gaelic, An Baile Dubh, which translates as “black town or black village.” There are communities named Ballyduff in Counties Wexford and Waterford in addition to this one in Kerry. How these towns came to be designated “black” is not clear.

Near Ballyduff, at Rattoo, is a tenth century round tower. It’s the only complete round tower remaining in County Kerry, but it is not clear who built it. There are ruins of a fifteenth century priory church and abbey near there that were destroyed around A.D. 1600. Laetitia and her group visited the tower and ruins as well as the nearby museum and interpretive center.

During happy hour at the local pub, there was a large table of revelers who seemed to be celebrating the birthday of a young lady named Margaret. Their overheard conversations became the limerick of the day.

Young Margaret of Ballyduff
Was a lass that men wanted to stuff
With liquor and sweets
And with fancy nut meats
As they coaxed her to sport in the buff.

Day 46: Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose

Tralee is a city of about 23,000 people at the head of Tralee Bay. It is located at the end of an ancient road that leads over the Slieve Mish Mountains. Though the city is located on the bay, its port is a few miles away at the village of Fenit. The city is probably best known for the nineteenth century ballad called The Rose of Tralee and the 1942 film of the same name. Every August, there is a Rose of Tralee Festival that features a competition (i.e. a beauty contest) in which women from around the world vie for the title of “Rose of Tralee.”

There are numerous archeological sites in the area, including towers and ring forts. Laetitia and her group spent the morning and early afternoon visiting several of them. At the pub late that afternoon, Laetitia asked the bartender about the Rose of Tralee Festival. After a brief description of the festival in August, he told her about another “Rose of Tralee,” who was the subject of a tale his grandfather told him.

A man who his grandfather knew had been the manager and front man for a faith healer who traveled around the British Isles holding tent shows. When the faith healer died, the manager was left with no job and the tent. Soon after that, he fortuitously met a woman in a Dublin pub, who claimed her name was Aphrodite, and, after a few drinks, took him back to her flat and showed him the red rose tattooed on her lower belly, among other things.

There is a Greek legend that the rose was originally white, until Aphrodite pricked her finger with it and bled onto the blossoms. This Aphrodite was neither a Greek goddess nor from Tralee, but she became “Aphrodite, The Rose of Tralee,” in an itinerant tent strip show. The show mostly toured the fishing communities around the coast and did come to Tralee a few times. One drawback to the tent was that once all eyes were on the stage, it was easy to sneak in under the flaps. This story became Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

A stripper, “The Rose of Tralee,”
Would show her tattoo for a fee
And most boys went fishin’
To raise the admission
But some tried to sneak in for free.

Day 45: Bitchin’

Stradbally is a small County Kerry village in the midst of farm country. Like most places on the Dingle Peninsula, it has a nice beach nearby. When Laetitia and her group arrived, they walked on the beach first and later went to a sheep farm to watch border collies in action herding sheep. The border collie demonstration was an event arranged for tour groups, so there was a multitude of tourists there in addition to Laetitia’s group. A conversation between two local farmers gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.

A sheep farmer learned it was folly
To keep an unspayed border collie
Who, in heat, ran away
From the sheep flock to play
With the male dogs who lived in Stradbally.