I remember exactly when my longing to visit Prince Edward Island began. It was July
1990 and I was twelve years old. Mam, Dad and I waved my sister, Paula, off at Dublin
Airport. Along with 9 others from our dancing class, and accompanied by Gerard McQuaid
and Seamus & Anita McCluskey, she was off to spend a week or so touring and performing
all over PEI. I was green with envy.
The island had been alive in my imagination for a number of years already, thanks
to the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, but it had never actually seemed like a place
one could physically visit until that day at Dublin airport. This September, I was
finally able to satisfy that longing and take a long anticipated (and saved for!)
trip to Abegweit (the name the Natives have for the island).
Myself and two friends, Richard and Simon (also fans of the Anne of Green Gables
books), boarded a flight from London to Halifax on Sept 9th, and so began 10 of the
most fun, relaxing and idyllic days we have ever spent.
First off, the people of Prince Edward Island are really welcoming and the hospitality
is second to none. Everyone that we came into contact with was so friendly and helpful.
Second, it's a beautiful place. L.M. Montgomery described Prince Edward Island in
very fond detail in all of her books and the reality did not disappoint in any way,
from the white sands and little white lighthouses on the rugged sand dunes, to the
red soil and rolling green hills. And they are every bit as green as home! In many
ways, if you take out the red soil and wooden houses, the landscape of PEI is not
unlike parts of Monaghan. Driving around the district of Emyvale, at times I could
almost imagine that I was in Bragan. One striking difference worth mentioning is
the lack of litter anywhere on the island. Compared with Ireland, there were relatively
few litter bins, but it seems that the natives of and visitors to PEI, take their
rubbish away with them.
We met so many lovely people, some of whom are now friends. One person in particular
stood head and shoulders above the rest, and that was Mary Leah Trainor from Fort
Augustus. The late Willie McKenna and Cllr Sean Conlon had kindly passed on Mary's
phone number before I left and about halfway through the trip I contacted her. Mary
spent the next two and a half days driving us around Fort Augustus and Emyvale, showing
us all the places of special significance (for an Emyvale girl, at any rate), and
introducing us to a wide range of Monaghan descendants (a couple of whom will be
visiting Co Monaghan later this month). Nothing was too much trouble it seemed, and
the craic was 90!
It was an unexpected thrill to see signs for Emyvale as we drove along, and the beauty
of the place when we arrived was simply breathtaking. I was also able to keep my
promise to Seamus McCluskey by having my photo taken outside Emyvale Rec Centre,
where my sister and the group performed their first gig 24 years ago.
I was very touched by how fondly Mary, and everyone she introduced us to, spoke of
Willie. He was certainly a very popular man in that community, with many friends
and a deep and genuine affection for him was evident in everyone who knew him. He
will be sadly missed on PEI.
Now that I've been home for a couple of weeks, the trip already seems like a distant
dream. But I left a hefty chunk of my heart behind me on PEI and I intend to go back
and visit it again as soon as I can.
I would like to express our sincere thanks to all of you who were so kind and friendly
to us on PEI.
A stone for every county in Ireland - Edelle at the Monaghan stone.