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The Luck Of The Irish

Article by Jessica Johnson, Senior Editor, Timber Processing November 2023

Earlier this fall, I had the privilege of heading to Ireland to see the sights, enjoy the scenes and…do a little work while I was at it. My second work trip to the Emerald Isle did not disappoint. The weather was perfect—damp, a little chilly and basically the exact opposite of my beloved Swampy South. It was a refreshing change. This visit allowed me a little more freedom to explore and upon arrival I found myself wandering through a quaint little seaside town and stumbled upon the ruins of a church and cemetery. I won’t pretend to be a history buff, but I did enjoy learning about St. Marnock’s ruins. I snapped a few photos, and I am honestly not sure it really captured the beauty of standing amongst the incredibly lush green grounds, with the Irish Sea in the distance, stormy cloud cover above and just an eerie quiet.

Fun fact alert! The city’s name derives from the Gaelic word port (meaning port) and St. Marnoch (Mernoc in some sources) who was said to have arrived in what is now known as Portmarnock in the Fifth Century AD. There’s even some documented lore that would indicate the well that still stands among the ruins and gravestones once had healing power and something about a tree branch growing near it that would bend and stand upright being part of the ritual. Apparently, fishing folk also believed this designated tree could predict storms. The smart-alecky side of me wants to say doesn’t it just always storm on this rock in the middle of the sea?

I am not sure I believe all of that—my mama raised me to be a good Catholic girl though, so I won’t question a saint. And I am all for the healing powers of trees, as I have seen with my own two eyes what a sawmill can do to reinvigorate in a community. It might not have “healed” anyone, but it sure did change things. Of all the things I’ve seen on sawmilling adventures, the ruins of a church and cemetery from the Fifth Century AD probably tops the list.

Then again, I would be remiss to mention that Portmarnock is also home to the Portmarnock Golf Club where, in 1960, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead brought home the Canada Cup. And it is where another generation of American greats, including Phil Mickelson and David Duval won a memorable Walker Cup in 1991. Plus a casual 19 stagings of the European Tour’s Irish Open Championship.

Golf and Catholic Saints: Is there anything more Irish than that? Maybe this Irish coffee I enjoyed from the café inside the Golf Club, overlooking the Irish Sea while it drizzled.

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