I feel lucky to have grown up in a city steeped in so much history and culture. I think I was acutely aware of Limerick’s history from a young age, and knew it was not normal to see an ancient Norman castle as we crossed the bridge over the Shannon every day.
Places like Glin Castle, Adare Manor and St Mary’s Cathedral are an everyday reminder of our ancient history where Ptolemy’s map of Ireland shows Limerick as early as 150 AD.
The longest river in Ireland pulses through the city and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean is felt all the time, not just through weekend trips to Kilkee or the burst of rain that hits us so suddenly without warning but because of the swell of the tides in winter and news from the rowing clubs as they race up and down to Bunratty. Spending the last decade living in the United Arab Emirates makes me appreciate the beauty and history of my city so much more now.
Limerick to me is a city that lives through sport. Legends like Paul O’Connell, Andy Lee, Sam Lynch, Ciaran Carey and Steve Finnan have represented Limerick across various sports on the international stage. Munster Rugby is part and parcel of every day life and Thomond Park has stood as the epicentre of clubs like Young Munster, Garryowen and Shannon. Growing up in Limerick you can’t help but be engulfed in sport, hockey in the Catholic Institute, hurling in Na Piarsaigh, basketball in Colm’s, rowing in St Michaels, golf and handball to name but a few. Major sporting events like the Pig and Porter Tag Rugby, the JP Mc Manus Pro Am, International Rugby fixtures, regattas and county finals in the Gaelic Grounds fill the annual calendar.
When I look back at my childhood I recall Easter egg hunts in Lough Gur, afternoons swimming at the lake in Killaloe, horseriding in Clonshire, childrens mass in the Redemptorists Church, plays at the Bell Table Theatre, trips to the Hunt Museum, pantos in the University Concert Hall, walks in the Ballyhoura Mountains and Saturday mornings at the Milk Market.
Stories of Limerick were exciting and left us in awe, tales of Che Guevara in Hanratty’s hotel in the ‘60’s, of the Knights of Glin, Sean South and Con Colbert,the journeys of Lady Mary Heath, sightings of Richard Harris at the latest Munster match, accounts of Aubrey de Vere at Curraghchase House, the Limerick of Frank Mc Court, Eamonn de Valera and Kate O’Brien and the Limerick that bore people like Lola Montez, Dolores O’Riordan, Michael D Higgins and Terry Wogan fostered a sense of wonder and admiration. It’s a city where it’s normal to have Willie O’Dea , Dessie O’Malley or Peter Power in your kitchen having tea, talking about changes that need to be made and things that need to be done.
Limerick to Limerick people is a creamy pint of guiness in the Curraghgower or South’s or Charlie Malones, it’s Brown Thomas at Christmas time, it’s out to Glenstal Abbey for the most amazing gregorian chants or to Bulgaden Castle for a bit of grub. Limerick to me was feeding the ducks, being woken in the middle of the night by passing merchant ships, afternoons in The Granary Library studying for exams, playing games in the Bishops Palace, a game of tennis with friends at LLTC, getting a lift out the county to play a match, picking up pastries in Ivan’s for the tea, a night at the dogs with the whole family or going to the point-to-point out the county.
To so many, Limerick is the Hunt Ball, the races on Stephens’ Day, a wedding in Dunraven, afternoon tea at Pery’s Square with the girls, Nancy Blakes with the lads, a round of golf in Ballyneety, popping in to the Augustinians to light a candle for someone, cocktails in The Savoy, going to an art exhibition in town, up to The White house for a poetry recital or Dolan’s to check out the latest band.
Limerick draws in young people from all over the province and indeed the country to study in the University of Limerick, LIT, Mary I and Limerick School of Art and Design. Some of the country’s best engineers, artists, teachers, designers, musicians, sports scientists and solictors have come out of Limerick. In Laurel Hill Colaiste, Ard Scoil, Glenstal Abbey, Villiers and many others we have some of the best second level schools in the country.
We are city people and we are country people all in one. My Limerick grandmother lives a mile from the Kerry border, a friend of mine lives a few minutes from the Clare Glens and some of us share the Golden Vale with Tipperary. We are the heart of the Midwest.
We love to laugh, especially at ourselves-you only need to look at the D’Unbelievables or the Rubberbandits to understand that much.
The Limerick you read about…….I don’t know that Limerick at all.