In the first class I ever taught I had a Scottish student named Peter Grant (God bless him). One day I told him that I grew up with a family friend, an Englishman, who, when he got stubborn, my parents would call a “Johnny Bull.” I asked Peter Grant when got mad at the Irish what he called them. He responded without a hesitation, “Ah Perfessor, I reckon ‘Irish’ is baad enuf.” Peter and I are Scots, so we can have our day with the Irish, for surely they’ve had their day with us.
I love the Irish. I sometimes go to hear Dom Crossan at academic meetings just to listen to his gamey language. And so when I get a chance I read the Irish-American Thomas Lynch, a Michigan undertaker who writes poetry (which I haven’t read), essays (which I love), and now a bit of a memoir of his Irish family’s life, I do so. This book, Booking Passage, was good but not always. I fell in love with his beloved Nora, an ancient family member in Moveen in County Clare (near the Shannon in Ireland). His is the typical story of a life involving Ireland, priests, beer, and (what he brings to the table) a family of morticians.
He’s got some potent observations about priests and the Church which, like many other Irish, he can’t live with or without. Here’s a line that tells it all: “He [a relative who moved to Michigan] rests in death, as in life, as Irish men have often done, between the comforts and vexations of priest and the missus, far from the homes they left as youths.”
If you like well-written memoir about the Irish, this is a good one. So far as I know, he’s not made up a thing.