My ancestors came here from Ireland during the potato famine. They weren’t alone. Millions like them fanned across the country, replicating their spirit and traditions in places like Cincinnati, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Boston.
And of course, Chicago.
Tucked in their hearts, they carried Irish stories and music. Wrapped them together to remind them of home and help them get through difficult days. And they are still writing them. Written in 1987, Ireland’s favorite Christmas carol, Fairytale of New York, is such a song.
The Lyrics to Fairytale of New York and the Story behind Fairytale of New York do not resemble a traditional Christmas carol. In the Pogues Original Fairytale of New York video, a very young Matt Dillon, dressed as a New York City policeman, throws the lead singer in jail. In Fairytale of New York by Walk off the Earth, the song is sung by a duet on a New York City rooftop in winter.
Listen to them both and you’ll understand why I chose Ireland as my Christmas post.
Matt is a father and grandfather who lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is a guide and tour bus driver. I met him through neighbors who had Matt as a guide and driver while in Ireland. I’m told he charmed them with endless stories.
My Conversation with Matt
I’m told “Fairytale of New York” is Ireland’s favorite Christmas song. What is yours?
The above is a very big favorite alright. Very closely followed for me by David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s Little Drummer Boy.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
The trip to the grandparent’s house is an old Irish tradition on Christmas morning. Most family’s still keep it.
Will you be attending midnight mass?
Not me. Never got into midnight mass for some reason.
What will you be eating on Christmas day?
Dinner will be roast turkey, baked ham, stuffing, roast veggies, potatoes and gravy, and/or cranberry sauce. Dessert most likely will be a trifle.
Look out a window and tell me what you see?
I live in a housing estate. Looking out the window I see up the road past houses to a small park at the crossroads and on past more houses to the back gates of two national (grade) schools.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Tea, toast, and cereal.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is nothing normal as a tour driver/guide. All groups and tours are different. The day would begin by leaving your hotel after breakfast and touring through various different attractions before finishing up at the new hotel for dinner, bed, and breakfast.
What would you like Americans to know about Ireland?
Don’t believe any negative stories. Ireland is as the tour books describe and then some. Yes its pretty, yes the people are very friendly.
What myths about Irish life would you like to dispel?
We don’t all work on farms, we are not all “A bit stupid” and very few of us are drunks.
What is your opinion of America?
America is a great big melting pot of cultures and races combined to form the Big Brother the rest of the world turns to when we are in trouble.
What is your opinion of Chicago?
Chicago. I enjoyed my time there. I stayed out in the burbs (Evanston). I liked the city but was disappointed to see the wonderful monument to your fallen heroes — Soldiers Field — having a giant wok dropped into the centre of it to play football, I would like to have seen the Bears have a purpose built stadium out near the Bulls Arena.
What is your greatest fear?
I never want to have to bury any of my children. I have eight.
What or who gives you hope?
My family are all the hope I need in my life. To see my family in age and number. Grandchild number eight on the way, three of my kids engaged at the moment. So the promise of more.
Who inspires you?
Who inspires me? Me, I think. I want to get myself out there to work and be able to spoil my grandkids. So maybe them.
What do you do to relax?
I like most TV sports and various other TV. I like to take photos, fish, and play golf. Pool and darts.
Please share a favorite quote.
You are here for a good time, not a long time, so smile while you still have teeth.
What do you miss most about Ireland when you are away from it?
It is a very beautiful country and while I have travelled to many other countries, I always look forward to coming home to “Gods Country.”
Tags: ballads, Baltimore, Bing Crosby, Blarney Castle, Boston, Buffalo, Bulls, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbian Exposition, County Clare, County Cork, David Bowie, Dublin, Evanston, Fairytale of New York, Galway Arms Pub, Givens Castle, Ireland, Irish, Killarney, Matt Dillon, Mrs. O'Leary, music, Pittsburgh, Pogues, potato famine, Soldiers Field, stories, Walk Off the Earth