Bad Catholics, Good Europeans

"Irish Americans are often disappointed when they come here," remarked the Scottish chatelaine of our pretty B&B on the Dingle Peninsula, as she served us our breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. "They expect to see thatched cottages with leprechauns popping out from shamrocks."

"Played by Barry Fitzgerald or Arthur Shields?"

"Yes, and girls who look just like Maureen O'Hara in the movie . . . "

"The Quiet Man?"

"Yes, The Quiet Man. Ireland's not like that, now. It's quite a pushing and modern place."

In any American discussion of Ireland, the talk turns inevitably to films and books, though it has been said that the Irish struggled hundreds of years to gain their independence, and when they got it, they were a peasant people who had no use for any literature that was not Christian and uplifting. Yeats told the Dublin audience that rabbled the cast of O'Casey's The Plow and the Stars that the Irish people had disgraced themselves again, but in rereading O'Casey (a childhood favorite of mine), I tend to side with the mob. We saw no thatched roofs on the Dingle Peninsula, but we counted over ten on the back roads we took, driving in two days from Tralee (where we saw, just to the north, the Ardfert Cathedral with its delicate pattern of white and dark stone giving the impression...

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