Kathy and I just returned from a trip to Ireland. We felt real excitement about our trip because we had been waiting for it for nearly a year. You see, the trip was arranged by our son, Brady, as a gift to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. But, because of our visitations for Lions Clubs International, we had to wait until we had an open week. With a break between before our board meeting in Hawaii, this was the week and we were ready!
During our stay, we enjoyed the sights: visiting a little fishing village named Dowth a short 30-minute train ride from Dublin;
touring Trinity College where one of the highlights of our trip was seeing the Book of Kells;
walking through the grounds at Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Christ Church;
touring and tasting at the Guinness Brewery;
taking the hop-on hop-off bus tour around Dublin;
and taking a day trip to Glendalough to experience an ancient monastery and Kilkenny to tour a renovated castle that exhibited Anglo-Saxon and Norman architecture. We ate well and enjoyed the local musicians that were everywhere.
While the trip was a holiday for us, Kathy and I had the privilege to participate in “one of the largest service projects undertaken by Lions in Europe, if not the world.” The Irish Lions Holiday Week was first developed by Lion Cecil Vard (deceased) who took 1,500 “old and/or lonely” citizens north of Dublin to the Mosney Holiday Centre for a full week’s holiday to enjoy themselves.
According the Lions of 105i website: “For the week itself, the Lions and helpers arrange quizzes, bingo, talent competitions, various novelty competitions, and other activities to supplement the normal Trabolgan entertainments. Lions minibuses are on duty from 8:00 am to 1:00 am to transport guests to and from their chalets, a communications centre is operated for messages to and from guests, and a full medical team (with 2 ambulances) is always on standby to deal with illnesses.
Approximately 130 Lions or Helpers give up a week of their own to look after their guests in Trabolgan. In the spirit of Lionism, the Holiday provides these Lions and helpers with an opportunity to renew old friendships and to make new friends from all parts of the country.”
Since 2002, the Holiday has been held at Trabolgan Resort in Cork and the project has been a wonderful success each year. To date, over 24,000 deserving persons have been provided with a holiday at a total cost of well over €2,000,000! According to the Lion organizers, some of the guests start packing for the Holiday months in advance because it means so much to them to receive this gift.
With the suggestion from District Governor Pat O’Brien that we visit on Tuesday, we started our trip to Cork when Howth Lions Club President Colin Maynard picked us up at our hotel and escorted us to the tram line that would take us to the train station. He had all of our tickets and had been instructed to make sure we were comfortable. We certainly were!
The train trip went quickly as Colin told us about the Lions project we were going to visit, as well as engaged us in a lively conversation that spanned a wide range of topics. His knowledge of the U.S. and world events was impressive.
When we arrived in Cork, District Governor Pat met us with a smile, an Irish greeting, and what we learned was a true Irish sense of humor. After a short 30-minute trip, we arrived at the gates of Trabolgan where we were welcomed by some of the guests and a group of Past District Governors, current Lion officers, and an Elvis impersonator (who was a Lion himself!).
Photographers posed Kathy and me in many group shots, particularly wearing the Trabolgan cap. The Lions of 105i are so proud of their project and throughout our visit they were very informative in telling us about its origin, history, and plans for the future.
We had quite a spread for our noon meal and both Kathy and I addressed the group of nearly 40 Lions.
I spoke about the way Lions show their love to others through their supportive words, how they spend quality time, the gifts they give, the service they provide, and how they touch the lives of those in need. Certainly, Trabolgan was an example of all of these signs of what it means to be a Lion. Kathy told those present about her Irish heritage and how much it meant for her to come to Ireland and visit the project. We gave many of my ID banners and pins to those present and they reciprocated with shirts, hats, and even an Irish Lions tie.
DG Pat put a full schedule together and we were ushered efficiently from place to place to get a real sense of the project and those involved—both Lions and their guests—as well as the impact of the project on the participants who were mostly elderly and those in need although the Lions treated everyone like Kings and Queens.
Every iconic image one has of Irish seascapes became reality as we looked out over the rolling hills of Trabolgan. We were taken around the 18 hole golf course on a buggy and it was quite a ride on some fairly steep slopes as we looked out over the ocean.
The day was gorgeous—sunny and warm—and we enjoyed a band of local musicians, a “fancy hat” contest, and some singing. One of the lead soloists sang, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen,” in honor of Kathy and she took a dance.
The time went quickly and before we knew it, we were whisked away to see Cork Harbor—the second largest natural harbor in the world. We learned that the Titanic left from Cork on its maiden voyage. Ironically, now we have visited the start of the fateful voyage and the place where they brought the survivors after the Titanic sank—Halifax, Nova Scotia.
We returned to Trabolgan for supper, where I was asked to lead the 700 people in the singing of “Happy Birthday” to Lions Clubs International. Then, our time was up and we were taken back to the train station for the train ride back to Dublin. According to DG Pat, “It was a splendid and brilliant day.”
As our anniversary trip came to an end, Kathy and I agreed that it was hard to think that we had seen so much in such a short time. The trip was wonderful and we will never forget it. Thank you, Brady. We promised ourselves that we’d return to the Emerald Isle again someday to renew our Lion friendships and enjoy more of what Ireland has to offer. In the meantime, we will be watching for our Irish friends in Honolulu at the International Convention next week.
We wish our Irish friends the very best, and in the words they taught us, “slange ne waliya.”
–ID Lion Robert Littlefield