We are now on day three or so of my self-flagellating tour of reminiscences about Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is killing me, people. But I am willing to do it because I love my readers!
When you think Northern Ireland, I'm betting the first thing that comes to mind is not "Tour the Tayto Factory."
Am I right?
Well, it wasn't the first thing for me, either. But it ran a close second to "Let's go see all the cool natural stuff like Giant's Causeway and the political stuff like the murals in Derry and Belfast."
Maybe that makes it third.
I love factory tours. I remember when I was growing up in Chicago, my Dad took my brother and me to the area near the steel mills where they pour the hot slag. It was really dark at night and the stuff dumping from the factory was like molten lava, bright and flaming. We never made it to Hawaii, but I can't imagine an erupting volcano being any more exciting.
Then there was the cigarette factory tour and the lumber mill tour and more recently, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour in DC (how many times do those guides have to hear "Got any free samples?" Poor schmucks!) and the Tillamook Cheese factory tour. Love those squeaky curds!
Back to Northern Ireland. I'd read in a family fun guide that County Armagh has a Tayto factory that kids can tour.
And it wasn't just a factory - it was a castle. Tandragee Castle, once owned by the Duke of Manchester. How cool is that?
Yes, I am the best mom ever. We had to take off anything that might fall into the potato processing line, so everything in our pockets, all jewelry, hair stuff, etc. went into bags which were locked in the vault. Then we got ultra-attractive plastic headgear and aprons. We looked like the people in this picture, which I found at the Transition Year Activities Page for Our Lady's Secondary School of Castleblayney. I am hoping the Sisters of Mercy won't mind me using it. Seeing all those smiling Irish eyes (Mr. Tayto has lots of extra eyes!) makes me miss Ireland even more.
Those blue aprons served a special purpose toward the end of our tour. We got to use the bottoms to hold a bunch of hot crisps (we Americans call them chips, but they call fries chips, so this gets a tad confusing) straight off the line.
As we were leaving, we got to choose a few bazillion free bags of crisps, and we were thus well stocked for the remainder of our year in Ireland. Amazing Girl Child loved the cheese and onion flavored ones and stank up the car as she worked her way through a bag. I liked the salt and vinegar and the smokey bacon flavours.
Okay, maybe this is getting boring. Let's move on to politics.
I am really sad to read the news that some eejits are interested in re-igniting the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I was glad to see that Sinn Féin condemned the violence.
We spent some time in Derry and were sobered by the Bloody Sunday Museum and the murals about the Troubles. We saw more murals in Belfast memorializing those who had died over the years. Here are a couple of the murals - photos by Professor X. The first one features Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, IRA members who died in an English prison whilst on hunger strike. The second features several others like Republican Volunteer Paul Marlowe who died while fighting.
Here's hoping that no more people die because of the Troubles.
That differences can be resolved peacefully.
That conflicts can be limited to trivial matters, like overly pungent potato chips consumed in closed cars, easily remedied by opening a window.
That would assure that my partly Irish eyes are smiling.