Soham Grammarians: Visit to Ireland, Easter 1967

From the Soham Grammarian Summer 1967 - If you can add anecdotes or photos about this trip, please contact the editor.

After seven hours of train travel and four hours on a boat, punctuated by one or two hours of tedium in British Rail buffets or on draughty platforms, our first sight of Ireland was greeted with mixed reactions. Bush, Gilbert and King seemed most excited. They rushed below deck to break the news to the other members of the party, where they were told that Ireland had been discovered and colonised some time ago, and could they please have some peace and quiet. Not to be discouraged, they returned to the deck and watched the greeny-grey hills loom up out of the mist, in the true fashion of Columbus and Vespucci.

The cold, grey dawn changed into a cold, grey day, overcast and drizzling. However, when we finally disembarked at Dun Laoghaire (which is the outport for Dublin, for those whose geography isn't too good) we were too tired to notice the weather and the rather suspicious glances of the inhabitants. After all, we were foreigners. I mean, dash it all sir, they threw out the British.

Forty hours without sleep tends to take the edge off ones senses, and, consequently, my recollection of the first day of our visit is rather hazy. I remember breakfast in the station hotel, the train journey down the coast to Greystones, and, of course, the constant loading and unloading of kit. Here the more hardy, or was it foolish, amongst us took a dip in the sea. Here also we were supposed to collect our means of conveyance - one brewers dray, complete with horse, harness and a supply of oats. Because in Ireland, all but the most pressing business is postponed until the next day, our cart was a day late being delivered.

The next afternoon, a bright warm Saturday, we set off on our 100 mile circular tour of County Wicklow. Needless to say, everything couldn't go smoothly. Our optimism proved to be without foundation, and, almost inevitably, the horse (who remained nameless) was at the centre of the trouble. At first we thought the steep, dusty roads and heavy load were too much for the poor animal, and we were all too willing to lend a hand. Indeed, during the next five days we did more work than the horse. It took us this long to realize that we had acquired the laziest horse in Ireland. Because the brake on the dray had broken, we were obliged to push it up one side of the hills and hold it back on the other. This problem was solved when we realized that if we could persuade the horse to trot on the down hill sections the dray would not roll forward onto its hind legs. The horse complied with our wishes.

We learnt enough to write a book on equine psychology. Besides being lazy, temperamental and occasionally vicious, it apparently had a claustrophobic fear of gateways. On one occasion, when we were about to camp near Glendabugh [sic - Glendalough?], the horse bolted through the gate of a field, uprooting the gatepost, and dragged Mr. Cornell, with Edmunds seated on top of him, for a good 100 yards, before it could be stopped. Besides this show of high spirits each time we went through a gate, it was continually breaking various parts of the harness or getting ropes caught in its shoes. It had the habit of pulling up our tent pegs during the night, and of pushing its head into the tent as soon as it got light in the mornings. As I said, it had quite a temper when roused, and quite a kick too. Saul and Pennick were lucky to escape without a few bruises (or worse), when they ventured too near its hind legs.

However, enough of our equine friend. This trip was so packed with incidents that it would be impossible to relate them all. There was the time Mr. Cornell invited three girl hitch-hickers to lunch, "in the interests of good Anglo-Irish relations". Then there was the story of Capt. Oates, played by Goodfellow, who risked life and limb in his quest for our green toilet-tent, which, alas, we never saw again. Then again there was the occasion we all stood up for "God save the Queen" and disappeared quickly before the Sinn Fein got to hear of it. But to finish on a serious note, I would like to say how much we all enjoyed our journey through the Wicklow Mts. and up the beautiful coastline, and I would like to thank Mr. Cornell, on behalf of everyone, for a most enjoyable and eventful trip.