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We’ve had explorers and navigators zig zagging across the globe for thousands of years. They were just going to have a look around and had no intention of conquering places (unlike some of our European neighbours!).
One of the first forays overseas was trying to return St Patrick to where he came from. Ireland and the Irish people had been happily pagan for thousands of years – this young lad arrived and started talking about God – he was told that we had plenty Gods already, thank you very much, but he wouldn’t listen and made Shamrock an endangered species..
They put him on top of a mountain minding sheep but could hear him singing hymns all night long – the sheep were restless and it was decided that he had to go – it was agreed that he was a bit of a pain the hole but a bit harmless at the same time - it was considered unlucky to murder eejits and then someone said “Wouldn’t it be great gas if we brought him back over to the Brits and he could drive them mad with this God stuff!”
He was bundled into a boat and brought across to Wales – “Plenty sheep here for you a mhac” he was told.
The bloody Welsh brought him back after he messed up a pagan sacrifice at an Eistedfodd! We later tried to sneak him into England, the Isle of Man and Scotland but none of them could listen to the incessant preaching.
He was shipped back to Ireland and the people came up with an ingenious plan that involved him fasting on the summits of mountains all over the place. The periods of fasting lasted 40 days and he was obliged to remain silent while doing so.
Saint Brendan was known as the Navigator – he liked a jaunt away from his Kerry home – the challenge of sailing to Irish places wasn’t enough for him and he sailed to Scotland, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in Canada.
His strong Kerry accent was a bit of a hindrance to civilized conversation and he couldn’t get the natives interested in Gaelic Football so he returned to Ireland and to his own people.
One of our most famous explorers was never recognised as being Irish – Mark O’Polo was a young man from Wexford who was bitten by the travel bug at a young age. He sailed to France, Spain and into the Mediterranean – he got a job with an Italian shipping company who wanted to expand eastwards.
He travelled to China and established trade routes that lasted for centuries – the Italians adopted him as one of their own and changed his name to Marco Polo.
Other famous explorers were never acknowledged as being Irish – the Portuguese changed Fred McGillen to Ferdinand Magellan. Christy Columb became Christopher Columbus.
Travel became more commonplace in later years – our occupiers offered opportunities to travel to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We were offered exciting chances in the 1840s when Coffin Ship Roulette was invented – you could stay in Ireland and take your chances with starvation and plague or you could have a go crossing the Atlantic on vessels that were barely seaworthy.
And now in the 21st Century we have Ryanair!
Check out our website www.galwaybaygifts.com if you have an interest in Ireland but are unable to get here!