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Ireland 'Soldiering On' through Coronavirus Crisis

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Former Residents Provide First-Hand Account

  • Article Image Alt Text
    Virginia Giglio plays the timber flute.
  • Neal Dunnigan plays the fiddle.

[Ed. Note: Neal Dunnigan and Virginia Giglio are former Kingfisher residents who relocated in 2018 to County Cork, Ireland. They agreed to share their perspective of how their adopted country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.]

When Irish pubs are closing,

Tis a very serious thing...

When St. Patrick’s Day is cancelled,

You can still hear church bells ring...

When Irish hearts are challenged,

They soldier on ‘tis true,

And in ev’ry Irish window

A candle burns for you!


Hello, from County Cork, Ireland, where “soldiering on” is a national trait. It’s a joy to be among such brave people (for the most part.) There are some whiners (we call them Langers) everywhere, to be fair (as they say in Cork).


Now for the official word from Cork, so. (Ending sentences with “so” is very Corkonian.)


Our health leaders say that the end of March will reflect the impact of social distancing measures in Ireland. On Friday (20 Mar) Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said “Now is not the time for complacency. Every citizen who is practicing social distancing, who is taking precautions to limit the spread of this virus, is doing their country a service."


"This is the calm before the storm,” announced our Taoiseach (“leader” pronounced tea-shack) Leo Varadkar, who has been dealing straight tough news. Varadkar announced pub closings on St. Patrick’s Day, and all parades, Masses, church services, and public meetings across Ireland were cancelled.


It's as quiet as a snow day in Oklahoma.


On St. Paddy’s Day, Neal was supposed to march in the Cork parade and I had a gig in a pub with the Cork Light Orchestra but we ended up home, putting a candle in the window – an Irish tradition brought back everywhere during this crisis.


But the Pier Headers, our Traditional Music group (“Trad”), had some ideas for using What’s App for performing for each other, issuing a tune learning challenge, and some are even composing new tunes and collaborating creatively. Hopefully by the time we get back to playing at the Pier Head Tavern we will all be in tiptop form, so!


Neal's work as chaplain with two local homeless service groups has been partially suspended. One group (college students) have canceled but the other group is soldiering on, wrapping individual meals for safe distribution.

Neal's chaplain and theological studies continue via Zoom and Skype. Virginia’s work at St. Luke’s Home for the elderly has been suspended for now as protocols are in place to protect this vulnerable population from infection.


So what  is Virginia doing? Giving out letters of encouragement to the neighbours, practicing concert and traditional flute, making rolled paper beads, walking the stairs for exercise, writing plays for the grandchildren to perform via Skype, and a whole lot of praying.

"I've discovered a new devotion to the Rosary with its meditative in-the-moment prayers that leave your mind free to envision your loved ones or situations to pray for. Feeling the beads keeps your mind on the job of intercession, and the beads I used were my father’s and have that baked-in prayer feeling.”


We of course are drinking a lot of tea and Virginia even made Bailey’s French Toast. Virginia is washing all the money with hot water and soap, and has cleaned the mailbox and front door for the benefit of An Post (the postman). Neal has become a master hand at porridge, making it with fruits, seeds and nuts!


Across Ireland, people are staying in except for important doctor’s appointments, pharmacy visits, and of course, grocery shopping. Stores open for elders only from 9-11 each morning; some stores deliver, especially to those over 65. It's amazing how nice people are being to each other, reminiscent of the weeks after 9/11 in the US. When you thank someone for a favour right now, you are likely to hear “no bodders” (Corkonian for “no bother.”) 

Before the crisis, it was traditional to end all visits (whether to homes, shops, or especially pubs) with a wish of “slán” meaning “safe home.” Slán sounds very much like “so long” in Oklahoman. People are saying it to one another with more than the usual good will.


Slán! Safe home everyone!