…in which we do a pilgrimage of sorts to Barrington’s Hospital in Limerick.
In the summer of 1981, Claire spent the summer with her 2 sisters, brother and mother in Alexandria, Egypt, where she was born. They still had family there, so they wanted to spend some time with them. Dad, who was working, stayed back in Canada and was to go spend the last 3 weeks with them.
On August 3rd, her father took a British Airways flight from Montreal to London, where he was to connect to his next flight to Cairo. On the day of his arrival, Claire’s mom left to meet him at the airport, a 4-hour drive from Alexandria.
However, Dad did not get off the flight.
You see, her father had a heart attack over the Atlantic, on the flight to London; the crew called it in, and they were diverted to Shannon, Ireland, and from there he was transported to Barrington’s Hospital in Limerick, a short drive away.
Keep in mind this is 1981 – no cell phones, no texting, no social media; it takes a while until the news reaches her mother at the airport, so she returned to Alexandria without Dad.
Claire’s father spent 2 weeks at Barrington’s, recovering well (he’s 82, today). During his stay, he took walks along George’s Quay, strolling by the small canal that leads to River Shannon.
After 2 weeks, he finally made his way to rejoin his family in Egypt.
When Claire and I first talked about visiting Ireland, her dad told me the story; he had kept old newspaper clippings from the “Irish Independent” of August 4th, 1981, as well as his receipts from the hospital. I looked at Claire and said, “Well, we’ll just have to go down to Limerick – I have to take a picture of you in front of the hospital, so you’ll know where he was that summer when you worried about him.”
So today we did just that – we drove down to Limerick, about an hour and a half away; driving through County Clare, enjoying the rural scenery: gently rolling hills covered in green, with stone walls separating the land into sections everywhere.
We made it into Limerick, and I was able to get that picture of Claire in front of the hospital. I gave her my phone and said, “Here, call your Dad and tell him where you are, right now.” While she talked to him on my phone, I filmed her with her phone so we can show him later.
We strolled around the area, stopping by St. Mary’s Cathedral, a Norman cathedral dating back to 1168.
It begins to rain, so we stop in a local pub for a bite to eat, and then head back to Doolin.
The week is catching up to us, so we head back to the B&B to rest a bit; tonight we want to head to McGann’s Pub for our last supper here, and to catch some traditional Irish music.
Tomorrow, after breakfast, we head back to Dublin for a very short visit before our flight back on Thursday.