Family Affairs

Posted on July 22, 2011


Turns out my family is quite literate and artsy. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom telling us stories she used to make up, the Woodsy Owl series. How I wish she would write those down! My father used to keep us up into the wee hours reading things like Charge of the Light Brigade, and Gunga Din in his stentorian voice. When I was eight, we moved into a house that had a library bought from the Portsmouth Naval Prison, and I spent most of my indoor time in that room. My father used to use vacation days to catch up on his reading and pretty much reads full-time now.  How do  you not end up as a writer/editor after all of that? Educate your children in the arts!

Writing Bones

My sister is quite a writer in her own right, and I’m very remiss in not helping her get published more. I think she even has a degree in it, and has published her first book Franklin then and Now (hey, Beth, is that on your blog?). We do have a series of children’s books in the works and I have even been test-driving them on the little ones.

So, while I have not been working on my own blog much of late, I did help my sister set up a blog when I was home. We tried this before on Blogger and it was just too difficult. Welcome the genius of WordPress, she got set up in minutes and within two days had imported a bunch of content. She asked  me about three questions and  now has four times the content I do!  It’s called Dream New England, and it’s about all things Northeast. There is a primary seasonal focus and trips and such, but also reminiscences and she’s just really captured the feel of the  place, what being a Yankee is all about.  I just perused it for a second, and saw she also blogged about Bedtime Stories, something I covered in this post and one previous.  Man, I gotta catch up. She has a story about our great-grandmother’s stove I hope she posts soon if she hasn’t already.  Please visit the blog and subscribe!

Photographic Genes

My mother’s brother, Bill Finney, is an accomplished professional photographer and I only wish I had been more vocal about studying with him when I was younger. I have always looked at things as a photographer, even before the cameras were surgically attached. i credit him and my dad with this. I used to love going to his house and being immersed in the entire mysterious world of the art and science.

One of my favorite images is a daguerreotype of his that hangs in my kitchen of Dunguire Castle, with a boat in the foreground. First, because it’s a daguerreotype, a negative etched into a brass plate, then inked and printed, once the only way to mass produce a print. Second, because I took almost the same  picture – boat and all – when I was seventeen. (Where is that?)  Third, because that castle is the first  place I ever drank mead, something which has become rather significant in my life. In fact, after I lost my print in the fire, I bought my parents’ copy.

His focus is primarily Ireland (he and my mom both have their citizenship), although he did just recently publish a book on Diamond Cove in Maine where he lives, and he also does a lot of New Hampshire stuff. Whenever I’m in Portsmouth I still run across books he  published on Great Bay, the Isles of Shoals, and other places with Peter Randall. Holy cow, do they have a fantastic catalog, and they take submissions. Check them out.

Bill has a site, but not a blog. However he publishes a  new photo every Friday, with some text. I’ve decided to add them to my blog until he gets on  board with the whole thing. 😉 If you want to be included in his mailing list, please comment and I will forward you to him. It’s a nice way to get a little Irish in your day.

Part 2 of Nancy and Michael’s England and Dublin Vist

The next morning Sarah made us oatmeal which we enjoyed with pastries we picked up at a grocery store nearby, and then she saw us off on the tube. We found our way to Heathrow, which was at the end of the Picadilly line. We flew to Dublin, a short flight, and caught the bus from the airport to downtown Dublin. It was a bit bewildering with the crowds and chaos, but we eventually found our hotel, the Fleet Street Hotel in the Temple Bar area, a lively tourist section full of colorful pubs and shops, near the Liffey River. Our room was serviceable and clean, and the hotel was undergoing renovation, which could explain the good price we got. We dropped off the luggage and went exploring. We enjoyed a Cornish pasty (sorry, Jane!) on the river, and then found the Christ Church Cathedral (1030) and the Dublin Castle (ca. 1228), which included the Chester Beatty Library, which had a lovely exhibit of Henri Matisse art books. There were also wonderful gardens, which we enjoyed in sunshine and warmth, before wandering back towards Temple Bar. We found our first Irish pub, Temple Bar Pub, where Michael enjoyed his first Guinness, and I had a tasty Irish coffee. After napping we ventured out again and had a late dinner at Fitzgerald’s Pub – Michael had fish and chips and I had a tuna melt (with sweet corn). We hit one more very touristy pub – Oliver St. John Gogerty – full of American tourists, unfortunately. The first song we heard was John Denver’s “Country Roads take me home” and the last was “Mama Mia” by Abba – no thanks.

We looked forward to an entire day in Dublin on Wednesday. We ventured out on the busy streets, full of commuters, and found a small market near the river where could sit outside enjoying a cappuccino and pastries. Then we headed to Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells, and then to the National Library, which had some wonderful exhibits on the printed word in Ireland, which reflected the history. Across from the library was the National Museum of Ireland (archaeology  branch) which was quite busy with students and tourists. My favorite exhibits there were on Celtic art and also one about the Faddan More Psalter, an eighth-Century illuminated vellum manuscript that was found in a bog in County Tipperary in 2006.

We bought a sandwich and enjoyed it in Saint Stephen’s Green, a lovely park, before walking back to the hotel by way of Grafton Street, a busy pedestrian-only street, full of lovely shops and flower markets. We napped, and then headed out again – this time we found our favorite pub yet, the Auld Dubliner. A talented musician, Robin James Hunt was performing – ah, at least an authentic Irish musician! (i.e., no John Denver) We enjoyed his music so much we purchased a CD. I had a Bailey’s cheesecake, so was feeling very happy. We weren’t very hungry after that so for dinner just had a slice of pizza, sitting by the river.

Our final morning was lovely, with blue skies and big puffy clouds. This time we explored more of the area across the river, walking along the wide boulevard of O’Connell Street to the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial garden dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom.” It was located near the Dublin Writer’s Museum, which looked interesting, but our time was short, so we walked back to our hotel, gathered our bags, checked out, found our bus, and headed back to the airport. We had a good flight home, watching a couple of movies, enjoying a good lunch, and arrived in a drizzly overcast Boston. We caught our bus back to Portland, took a taxi to the ferry lines, did some grocery shopping, and to ease ourselves back into life back home gently, had dinner at RiRas, an Irish pub near the ferry terminal. As we exited the crowded restaurant I said to Michael, “I bet we are the only ones in that pub that woke up in Ireland this morning!” We caught the 9:30 ferry home, so it was a late night for us.

As I write this my heart is still back in England and Ireland, although my body is here. The trip was so good for us, giving us a lifetime of good memories, and broadening our minds. When I close my eyes I can pull up great images of sights we saw, along with delicious foods we ate, scents and smells of city and country, and sounds we experienced everywhere. We are truly thankful for the opportunity to visit with good friends, and see the wonderful sights of England and Ireland. I hope we can get back sooner than later.

Nancy Noble


Maine Historical Society

489 Congress St.

Portland, ME 04101

207-774-1822 x218

County Galway (Irish: Contae na Gaillimhe) is a former administrative county of Ireland. The area is now covered by two local administrative authorities, Galway County Council and Galway City Council, both part of the West Region. It is located in the province ofConnacht, and is named after the city of Galway. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county. The population of the county is 250,541 according to the 2011 census.[1]

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