Tag Archives: Antigua

Twelfth Night or Women’s Christmas

It’s Twelfth Night in England, Nodlaig na mBan in Ireland and Epiphany elsewhere.

Nodlaig na mBan means Women’s Christmas – when, back in the day, the women put their feet up and the men did the housework. One way or the other, it marks the end of Christmas.  By tomorrow, the tree and the decorations must be down and normality restored. In the old days, the paper decorations – which, of course, you had made yourself out of brightly coloured  crepe paper –  all that is saved till Shrove Tuesday  and then used to make the fire on which the pancakes are cooked.

I’ve celebrated Nodlaig na mBan with women friends and family wherever I’ve been including the High Veldt in South Africa, the Opera Bar in Sydney, St. John’s on Antigua and, many many times, La Cave wine bar in Dublin, which is where I’ll be tonight.

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HItching a lift on a famous boat.

   I wanted to hitch a ride on a boat going from Antigua down southwards to Dominica. That meant hanging round the dock area of St John’s but after a few days, I drew lucky. Sheltering from a tropical storm under an overhanging roof, I shared the space with JoJo who thought he knew a boat going down.

“You know the name of the skipper,” I asked. “Or the owner?”

He didn’t. His mind was on other things.

“You takin a lover while you here,” he asked casually.


“No?” He seemed astounded.


“OK. Just askin’.”

“ That’s alright…so you don’t know about this boat?”

“You married?”

“Yes”. I resurrected Ian regularly on these occasions. “Are you?”

He was affronted. “I not married. Not ready yet…Why you not takin’ a lover?”

“Not ready yet,” I said. He’d walked into his own web.

“Anyway, this boat. You don’t know anything at all about it?”

” It take doors, windows, sheets of metal, that sort of thing.”

“Anything else?”

He shook his head: “Know its name just.”

“Oh, you do? What is it so?”

“The Danny Boy.”

“The Danny Boy?” This was my boat. It had my name on it.

“Yeah,” said JoJo. “It’s a famous song.”

“ I know,” I said. “I come from Ireland.”

JoJo looked puzzled. “What about Ireland?” he asked.

“Well, that’s what makes it famous.It’s an Irish song.”

JoJo shook his head.”Don’t know nothin’ about that. Danny Boy famous because Harry Belafonte sing it.”


From my book Journeys of a Lifetime. http://www.maryrussell.info

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Antigua, I’m comin’ through…



My Home is Your Home is getting around. This week, I set off for the small island of Antigua, in the eastern Caribbean. There’s a triple purpose to this visit: 1)  I will give a presentation about my travel book on  Syria at the Museum in the capital, St John’s.

Ive been invited to do this because, on my last visit, I gave a talk there about Ann Davison, the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic, making landfall at English Harbour. This time, my audience will include some of the 500 or so Syrians wh0 have made Antigua their home.


 The second reason is to do some research for my next book which is about the glory days of Cork when the great sailing ships cast off  loaded with delicious creamy butter bound mainly for – you’ve guessed it –  Antigua.

 This is also the subject of an RTE radio doc I’ll be making ( if the funding comes through) about this same butter and how it made the first part of its journey along the old butter roads of  Kerry and Cork. The doc will be called From Cahirciveen to the Caribbean.


And my third reason for visiting Antigua – the last but far from the least – is to visit family including my gorgeous grandaughter whom I haven’t seen for nearly three years. And you’re not to tell anyone because she doesn’t know I’m coming! I’m her birthday present –  one of them.

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