As related in our last two newsletters, Cabot Yerxa traveled in 1925 from California to Europe via a steamer ship. After initial stops in the Panama Canal, he reached the United Kingdom. The following edited excerpts from his journal pick up the story in Ireland — the land of shamrocks, leprechauns, Celtic music, and pubs. Particularly in these days where we feel the stresses of a global pandemic, we might take heart in the resilience not only of the pioneering Cabot Yerxa, but also of the people he encountered in his travels. May you also find comfort and joy in small things.
Went out to Dalkey, a small town on the seacoast, then walked for several miles to castle grounds of Killiney, built in 1748 by rich man to give employment to starving Irish of Dublin. They built miles of roads and high stone fences around a big, hilly promontory jutting out in the sea. The view from the very top is rated as one of the finest in Ireland and was well worth the climb. I had tea and egg and jam in a small, round defense tower. Cooking was done over a fire in the stone wall.
Good thing I came over here still young, because I had to walk several miles to get a train back to Dublin. Sightseeing is a chance to walk miles every day. The whole country is divided by stone fences into small fields of one to three acres of different shapes. Every stone cottage has its field of potatoes.
Over here in Ireland, if it is not actually raining they say, “It’s a splendid day, and it is a fine summer we are havin’.” I asked one Irishman if the sun didn’t ever shine over here. “Well, yes,” he said, “it did last year. I think it was on a Wednesday.”
Walked back from the depot through slums to my home, and I cannot understand how people live to laugh and be happy in such surroundings. …
At nine a.m. Sunday, June 28, 1925, left Dublin for Belfast, Ireland. My first experience with the side-door trains. Once an hour they stopped the train so people could drink a cup of tea. Never see coffee over here. The trip was through rolling green country past small villages and a few small cities. All bridges are of stone, track laid in stone, farmhouses of stone. In three hours did not see any wooden building, and only two autos. People, walk, ride bicycles or these Irish pony carts of two or three different styles.
My home in Belfast was with a typical, hardworking Irish family. The old man had a funny little collar with round corners and a big green necktie. His derby hat was at least 20 years old. Boy of 17 working in machine shop for 2.50 a week. Two grown girls, red hair in curl papers, slippers off because their feet hurt, joking about everything. Old lady always moving ’round with kettle of tea. Grandfather clock in room but not running. Religious pictures on walls. Black iron pots ’round the fire. Only one small window. Oilcloth on table. Towels all black. Dishes cracked. … He was a very large man, and his shoes were the largest I ever saw outside of a circus giant. His hands very large and made to fit a wheelbarrow’s handles. The girls smoked cigarettes and spoke careless slang when he was not around. … Poor people, their opportunities in life seem very restricted, yet they are happy over the small things that happen.