You know how hard it is to leave Galway. You know all the people who come here to study nuclear physics and sums at the oooniversity and the OrTeeSee and who end up 20 years later in the city, bating five shades outa bodhran on Quay Street, glad that they have found themselves, earning just enough to pay for the hummus and a fresh piece of string for the dog every year, but as happy as the day is long.
Yes, you know how hard it is to leave Galway. The craic’s too good. No matter where you go in the world, you’ll feel that you’re not at the epicentre of your contentment like you are in Galway, so you’ll always make your way back here, knowing that whatever it is, you’ll work it out here in the last stop before Boston.
And so when you remember how hard it is to leave Galway, then you realise just how damned hard those bloody ferries worked to stay in the place. They were like bould childers in a supermarket or a playground. They didn’t want to leave. They’d had the craic and had plenty of porter spilt on them over the years as they ferried back and forth across to Aran, carrying all sort of carousers and sightseers. They enjoyed music to watch girls by. They topped up their colour in the summer sun, they refined their complexion in the soft rain.
They’d inhaled the butts of a thousand rollies dropped on them, they’d breathed in the fresh air of the Atlantic, had bathed in seaweed, had listened to the fiddlers playing ‘the cat on the gate,’ had spent their nights gentling bobbling in the waters off the Connemara coast. This was their life and this is the life they wanted to keep.
But then their world turned upside down, just like it did for so many of us. When the recession hit, they found themselves facing emigration, being taken away from the place they loved, the people who loved them. They knew that the place they were being brought to might be more exotic, but they also knew it’d never be Galway.
And so they called on the spirit of Granuaile to help them stay. She blew up a wind that put the first ship on the rocks, she rocked them gently enough to make them slip from the slings at the docks, their splash akin to the swish of a whale’s tail.
With the three lads up on it, like the kids on the cock of hay in the Saw Doctors Hay Wrap, it fell into the water, and alerted the rest of us that these were two boats that just didn’t want to leave Galway.
Their third foiling of the plan was more bureaucratic, but it merely delayed their departure by days, and yesterday, one was tightly secured and hoisted aboard the ship that will take them from this place. The other will follow suit this morning and so later they will sail from the docks, from the bay and on to warmer climes.
When they sail out of sight around the corner of the bay today, tis unlikely they will ever sail in our waters again. They’re going to a new life, in a new world, victims of the recession just like so many of us. So maybe today we should take a stroll down by the docks and wave goodbye to them. Maybe we should recruit the Volvo 4am crowd who welcomed in the boats two years ago, only this time we’re saying goodbye. These boats are symbols of the life in Galway. They love the place, they don’t want to leave, but the changing economic times dictate they do. Farewell ferries and thank you for the entertainment of the past few weeks and for taking our minds off the mess we’re in.