By Jim Remington – -

I lived for over a decade just outside of the small southern New England town of Narragansett. The town was named after the Algonquian Native American tribe that had inhabited that area when the colonists first settled there. The town is at the mouth of Narragansett Bay with a beautiful setting on the ocean and smooth white sand beaches. A great place to surf and generally frolic in the ocean. Across the bay is the more famous Newport, Rhode Island. But in the 1920s and 30s, Narragansett rivaled Newport as the mansion capital and home to the rich and famous. Many spectacular mansions dotted the shoreline north and south of Narragansett. It was the heyday of the “Gatsby” era and life was lived large and rich. Sadly, most of those mansions have disappeared. Hurricanes, fires, age and demolition have taken their toll. But the legacy exists up to the present and the few great mansions that are left keep those distant memories alive. And those memories are also kept alive in the minds of those who lived that life and the connections that continue to the present. And this is where my story really begins.
I was traveling in the west of Ireland in the Connemara Gaeltacht area of County Galway. I had settled into a B&B set just back from the ocean on a small country road with stone walls bordering each side and blooming fuchsia hanging profusely over the tops. It was a beautiful area and reminded me a bit of my home in southern New England. After dinner, I decided to take a walk down the lane and do a little exploring. Maybe find a pub with some music or just wander and soak it all up. There was still plenty of daylight so time wasn’t a factor. As I poked along I passed several dairy farms and was greeted warmly by the few locals I passed. Mostly farmers finishing up with chores. As I passed the gate leading to one farm a Border collie came out to give me an obligatory bark. I own Border collies so I recognized the “hello” nature of the bark. Just then a soft, tiny voice said “Don’t worry, he won’t bite”. There stood, just behind the low fence, a women well into her 90s with the sweetest smile and flood of totally white hair a bit out of kilter. The dog was immediately by her side and calm. I liked this woman at once and knew I wanted to talk with her. I greeted her with a “hello” and mentioned that I had a couple of Border collies back home. We formed the “Border collie bond” and talked the pros (too smart) and cons (too smart) of the wonderful breed. The conversation opened up from there and she asked me where I was from. I told her the states, with no more particulars. I noticed a somewhat sad, distant look come over her face. She then explained that she had lived in the states for several years but had to return to Ireland because of a sudden death in the family. She said that her time in the states was the most enjoyable time of her life and she wished she could have returned but it never happened. Continuing the conversation I asked where she had lived in America and what she had done. “Narragansett, Rhode Island” was her immediate reply. Yes, you could have knocked me over with a feather. “I live in Narragansett!” I replied. Tears welled in her eyes. It was like she was seeing a ghost and I suppose in her mind I was. I didn’t have to wait for her story. She had left Ireland in her late teens with a great excitement of living in America and escaping the poverty of rural Ireland in the 1920s. An aunt living in America had arranged a job as a maid in one of the Narragansett mansions. She loved the job and the people she worked with. The ocean reminded her of the best part of the Ireland she had left behind. She had met a young man (also from Ireland) and they had hoped to get married. Meanwhile, I felt like I was talking to the woman in the “Titanic movie” who created and communicated a vision of the past from her memory. She escorted me into a time and life I knew a little bit about but not the personal details. And what a wonderful “movie” she narrated. She told me about the splendid mansions and the incredibly extravagant parties, the amazing food and spirits, the music and the flapper dancing of the 20s. She told me of walks on the beach at Narragansett Pier with her beau and their dreams of a life in America. Tears trickled from her eyes as she talked. I believe the tears were part pleasure to remember the past and part sadness at the loss of her dreams. I was there to listen. I now would know and think of Narragansett in a very different way.
Eventually her story slowly came to an end and I knew it was time for me to head back to my B&B. Over an hour had passed and I had been transported to another time and another life. How wonderful was that. She opened the gate to hug and say goodbye and of course I gave the Border collie some well – deserved attention. What a wonderful and tender evening it had been. And another magical serendipitous moment in Ireland.

Jim Remington is a teacher and director at the Lakewood School of Music in Lakewood, CO. and lives with his wife, 2 horses and 2 dogs in the Wet Mountain Valley near Westcliffe, CO. Jim can be reached at: [email protected]

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