Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mrs. Farrell's Corner House

I first went to Dingle in 1990 with my husband Ron and 14-year-old son, Dan. We arrived late in the day and looked for Mrs. Farrell's, a B&B mentioned in my guidebook. Unable to find it, we were about to give up when I noticed a small worn sign: "Corner House."

“I think that’s it,” I said, remembering the name from the book. I knocked tentatively on the door.

A woman’s face appeared. Fair skinned with grey hair and a small, pointed nose, she wore a hair net and held her hands clasped at her waist. “Hello,” I said. “We wonder if you might have a room for the three of us.”

She looked us over. “Indeed I do. A couple came by not an hour ago wantin’ my last room, but I said ‘I don’t think so, I have a feeling a family will come.’ And sure enough, here you are.” Mrs. Farrell bustled us in and showed us to a room on the second floor just made for three. As if that weren't enough, the next morning she asked if we weren’t sick of full Irish breakfasts and would we like something else for a change? Perfect.

We stayed four days, and on the third, she took me aside. Hands clasped, hair net still on, she leaned forward and whispered, “Can I ask ya a question?”

“Sure,” I said.

“How is it your son is so civilized, being an American child?”

* * *

We returned to Dingle this year and learned that Mrs. Farrell had closed her B&B. The town and Slea Head Drive were as lovely as ever, but our visit wasn't the same.

Two weeks later we found ourselves in Dublin. Ron spent an afternoon at the National Library researching his family’s history, while I went looking for a couple of classic pubs. One of them, Long Hall, was decorated in Victorian style, unchanged for over a hundred years.

I went in and ordered a pint, sat down and started talking with the gent sitting beside me. He said his name was Paul and he grew up in Dingle, so I told him about my recent visit and mentioned Mrs. Farrell.

“Oh, Mrs. Farrell, is she still with us?” he asked, worried. I said she was, but she had retired the year before. "Someone told us she’s fine," I said. "Well turned out for church on Sundays." I related our time with her 17 years before, and the question she had asked about my son.

His eyes opened wide, and he couldn’t keep from laughing. “Were you offended, then?” he asked.

“No, I took it as a compliment. And you know what?” I continued. “When I called Dan the other day and told him we’d been to Dingle, the first thing he said was “Did you see Mrs. Farrell?”

“Ah, he remembers, after all these years.” Then Paul told his own Mrs. Farrell story.

Many years ago, his uncle and cousin went to visit Paul’s family, but their house was too small to hold them. The men inquired at Mrs. Farrell’s B&B. But as soon as she heard a Dublin accent, she said, “Oh no, I’m sorry, we’re full.”

The uncle, suspecting what had put her off, said, “Thank you anyway,” and started to leave. But he turned around before she closed the door.

“Can you tell me, then, when mass is tomorrow mornin’? We’ll be wantin’ to....” He didn’t get a chance to finish.

“It’s 9:00 a.m. sharp,” she replied. “And wait just a minute, let me check my book....” She had a room for them after all.


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