Canadian writer and photographer KIMBERLY DICKSON is proud of being from Nova Scotia. But there is a special place in her heart for Ireland and the Irish
According to the Ancestry DNA test, I have 20 per cent Irish heritage. At least on the latest update. There is also genealogical evidence to suggest a fourth great grandfather on my paternal grandmother’s side, Robert Dickson, was born along the Antrim coast and became a sea captain who found his way to the shores of Newfoundland.
On my mother’s side there is also lots of Irish heritage as her maiden name was Malloy.
She clearly had an Irish look. She also had what I think of as Irish charm — authentic and fun; a sparkle and a love of life that was demonstrated in her openly affectionate manner; her loving, freely given compliments, her generosity. And she was a heck of a dancer.
It is strange how one’s ethnicity can sometimes show through. Is this nature or nurture, a longing and a belonging — or a combination of all four?
Other parts of my DNA reveal ancestors connected to England, Wales and Scotland — a dead heat with the Irish. And then there is a smattering of Norse and Spanish.
Despite being from a province called New Scotland (Nova Scotia), a town called New Glasgow, a background in Highland dancing, and a good dose of Scottish ancestors in my family tree, when I visited Scotland on several occasions- I repeatedly got the same response: “You look Irish!” My dark almost black hair with pale skin and hazel brown eyes were the reason.
Clearly an influence of the people of Irish descent who are believed to be descendants of the Spanish Armada, which sailed in the 16th century.
When my husband, son and I visited Ireland, I did feel a compelling connection with the raging sea and the emerald green rolling hills, with the people and with the culture.
We booked our trip to include Dublin, Belfast, the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway and Killarney. How eerie that after we arrived, I discovered that one of the ancestors mentioned above was born very near one of the areas we were visiting. It was as if we had been directed there.
And there was something about the people that felt so familiar. Perhaps it was because of my mother’s ways. The Irish we met were so proud of their homeland, content with themselves and as my grandmother would say, their “lot” in life, identified themselves by who they are, not by what job they had and took time to rejoice.
They had time to chat and they say they are “grand” or will be grand no matter what stress, hardship or burden they may have to bear. I call that the power of hope and resilience. They were witty, friendly and welcoming, making you feel like you were just given a big hug.
The wonders of the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway took our breath away; we were enthralled with the raging Wild Atlantic Way, we marvelled at the emerald hills and pristine lakes of Killarney, were dazzled by the streets of Galway & Dublin and in awe of the architectural beauty and Titanic story of Belfast. And of course we were bewitched by the ancient natural beauty and power of the Ring of Kerry, with views fit for a queen.
We also knew there was so much more beauty to be experienced.
As it happens I am a teetotaller, but that didn’t matter. A visit over a cup of tea or a quick conversation on the corner or in the driveway is valued every bit as much as a sit down in a pub.
My impression of the people we tended to meet was that they didn’t like to be rushed. Also, despite their revelry I detected a certain reserve. There is a great passion in Ireland that is hard not to admire — this passion, this love of life seems to send a signal to seize the day.
I love the essence, the warmth, the spirit, the banter, spunkiness and capacity of the people to put out their energy and passion for all to see.
It is a fascinating culture too. How can one not be lured by the haunting sounds of Ireland’s national symbol — the harp, be drawn to the promise of a three leaf clover aka the shamrock, imagine the thought of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, the beauty of an Irish harmony and the intricacy of Irish dance, be transformed even for a moment by the fanciful folklore stories of myths, leprechauns and fairies, and be moved by the indomitable spirit of its people?
At the end of the day, I am proudly Canadian and so grateful for all the diversity and geographical beauty that our nation embodies while embracing all of my heritages yet very interested in and respectful of others.
But Ireland has garnered a certain place in my heart. I know I will return some day.
All photos courtesy of Kim Dickson