Where Was I . . .

Janice Palko

Where Was I . . . Irish and More 

If you’ve been reading this column, you know that last August I visited Ireland. It was everything I had hoped it to be and more. Since we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this month, I thought I’d share some of the “more” that I discovered during my trip.  

In Ireland, they don’t speak Gaelic; they speak Irish. Gaelic is a language with branches, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx, which is spoken on the Isle of Man, the small island in the Irish sea between Ireland and Great Britain. 

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, spent his boyhood in Macroom, Ireland at Macroom Castle. It was also in Macroom where Penn converted to become a Quaker, which was against English law, and landed Penn a stint in jail. King Charles II was indebted to the Penns and to settle the debt, the king gave William Penn land in the new world where the Quaker would be free to practice his religion.  

The Irish have one of the highest incidences of Celiac disease, an intolerance for gluten, in the world. The Ireland Coeliac Society (they spell differently in the Emerald Isle) estimates 1 out of every 100 Irish citizens is gluten intolerant. They are not sure why the disease is so common among the Irish, but if you have Irish ancestry and have digestive disorders, you may want to check to see if you have Celiac disease.  

If you are Irish, you also may have Viking blood coursing through your veins. The first Viking raiders attacked the east coast of Ireland around 795 and created the settlements of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford The Vikings were defeated in 1014 at the Battle of Clontarf, but when they weren’t pillaging, the Vikings did marry into Irish families. Today, in Dublin you can visit Dublinia, a museum devoted to the Viking history in Ireland. You can also take a Viking Splash tour, the city’s version of Just Ducky Tours, where passengers wear horned Viking helmets and roar at pedestrians. 

The west of Ireland is mostly unspoiled. The Viking penetration there was very limited, and the Romans never invaded. As such, there are archeological sites all over. It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 castles and castle ruins alone. There are prehistoric sites that are over 6,000 years old and predate the Pyramids in Egypt. On our way to Slea Head, the western most part of Ireland and Europe, our tour guide asked if we wanted to stop at the house of his friend, Gerry, to see a ring fort. Gerry met us on a sloped hill side near his farm house and lead us to a prehistoric site in his backyard. He told us that the stone fort had a souterrain, a passage into the hillside where these early inhabitants of the island would retreat when attacked. Gerry also told us humans were also sacrificed on the site. 

The Irish take leprechauns and fairies seriously. We may scoff at that, but Gerry said something that made me think. He told us to imagine it’s the year 300 A.D., and you’re living in Ireland. Your crops fail, the cattle are ailing and your baby dies. There is no medicine or science to explain it, so it doesn’t seem that far fetched to blame your misfortune on “little people.” Especially when you have a stone settlement in your back yard that no one knows how it got there and which has a small doorway leading into the earth.  

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 


Ah, Romance!

Since February is the month in which we celebrate love with a holiday—St. Valentine’s Day—that got me to thinking about romance. As many of you know, in my spare time I write romantic comedy and romantic suspense novels. According to the Romance Writers of America’s statistics, romance fiction sells more than other fiction genre, amassing more the $1 billion in sales annually. The next genre, Crime and Thriller, garners approximately $782 million in sales.


Clearly, we have an appetite for romance, and though I write them, even I when I asked myself what is romance? I wasn’t quite sure. Romance is one of those enigmatic you know it when you see it” type of thing. One dictionary definition defined romance as a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life.”
My great-grandmother, Cornelia Ledergerber, whom we called Grandma Leder, died in 1975. I was only a 15 then, but I helped my mom and grandmother to clean out grandma’s belongings. Among her things, we found a stack of postcards tied with a ribbon. They were the correspondence sent from my great-grandfather to grandma before they married. In the early 1900s when they were dating, there was no phone, no email, no text messaging, no Instagram or Snapchat. They both lived in what was Allegheny City, and they sent each other messages through the mail. The gist of the post cards was what you would expect from two people dating, but what wasn’t expected was a little note at the end of the card that said: P.S. Look under the stamp.
When you peeled up the stamp, which was easy to do because grandma had done it nearly 60 years before us, was a message which either said something like: I love you! Miss you, darling. Two days more until I see you. Or simply the whole squares were covered in X’s and O’s. A far cry from today’s sexting!
Grandma Leder died at the age of 78; she married grandpap when she was 20. That she kept those post cards all those years—nearly 20 years after his death—indicated how much their romance meant to them. An ordinary postcard carried the mystery and excitement of love and made their everyday life special. This Valentine’s Day, I hope you know that type of romance and love.