Pride of Place


A wonderful place for children

It is often said how fortunate an upbringing the children of the island have and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.  I grew up in a small community, but there is something about island living that makes it much more unique an experience than that of my own.

In my high school civics class, community referred primarily to the geographical proximity of people. Other times it was used to describe relationships based on shared values and principles–like a religious or political group.

Island community

What defines our island community to me is how the residents have been able to accept and transcend the differences among its members (social, spiritual, educational, economic, political, ethnic, etc.) to support one another and work together toward goals whether for the good of a few or of many.  There is a mutual respect and understanding on the island that, at one point or another, we are all serving as well as being served by each other.  Public or private sector, seasonal or year round staff, self-employed or unemployed, yes, even the children serve often and in many areas.  Wealth and age are not considerations in the giving and receiving of service to one another.  And status is really unheard of.  People are happy to serve, and generous with their time, skills, knowledge, and support.  It’s delivered from the heart and most often without consideration of what or when they shall see a return on it.

We live in a world in which we are dependent on others; we cannot expect to fulfill our goals while disregarding others’ needs.”   Dalai Lama

Sometimes the best way to appreciate something is to be without it

Earlier this week I took my five children to Galway and was reminded about this service from the heart, reminded of this advantage to living and raising my children here.

Going to the city is something my children don’t do but a few times in a year, for the youngest even less.  It’s a big deal for them.  We had a great day–movie, munchies, shopping, walking, playing–all in the warm company of the recently elusive sun.

The reminder came when we went to a national chain toy store.  My eight year old decided on a €3.99 purchase, much for him to part with.  The cashier took his money and as he stood waiting for his change she told him she didn’t have the one cent.  He looked at me confused.  I asked her why.  ‘They are being phased out’ was her reply. ‘Ok, but your prices don’t reflect that.’  She was visibly annoyed, obviously not understanding the value of a cent found by a child in the park grass, the shop floor, or on the street.  And this was not even found money, rather money he had earned from appreciative tourists by playing his feadóg (tin whistle) while busking on the island.

It’s a matter of principle

‘Tell me please, if he didn’t have the cent to give you, would you let him have the item?’  Without hesitation or expression she said ‘No.’

‘Would another register have the cent to give him?’  Probably, but we would have to wait as ‘others are waiting to cash out.’  ‘But our transaction isn’t complete’ so she offered him five cents, but with a just go away attitude, which he rejected sensing it wasn’t right.  I seized the moment, and between he and I we gave her four cents, took the five cents from her, and left straight away.

The six of us talked briefly afterwards on how it wasn’t about the one cent as much as it was about her attitude and responsibility to the customer, the importance of good communication and a caring attitude (sometimes it isn’t what you say, but how you say it), and how that would never have happened on the island, ever.

Another reminder and inspiration

I always say the best part about leaving the island is returning home after being away.  So here we were on the ferry heading in that direction.  The same child asked could he go buy a snack.  As I observed him choosing and paying, I recalled the evening before as I worked at the Hotel, serving the fellow who was now joyfully serving my son.  This prompted me to look around at everyone on the ferry and consider their role serving and being served.  So inspired was I that I mentioned my observation to a nearby passenger to which she agreed.  That same inspiration kept me thinking, feeling a wonderful sense of pride of place, and prompted this post.

We are so often caught up on our destination that we forget to appreciate the journey, especially the goodness of the people we meet on the way. Appreciation is a wonderful feeling, don’t over look it.”   Unknown source

 Receiving and giving

The bus driver from the ferry to the city gave the children a handful of coins from his pocket to spend and they decided to give them to buskers.20150715_110257


Great fun chasing giant bubbles


From this…


…to this in three hours


Very impressive percussion



An all around brilliant day. Melissa Xx

p.s. Here’s a wonderfully articulate article that a young twenty-something wrote about her own experience growing up on Inis Mor.


  1. Meabh Neary says:

    I love your posts. There is something incredibly special about island life and, I suspect, you and yours aswell. The ability to see and appreciate how special this life is, in itself, a gift you all possess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! That was one of the day’s highlights! I definitely ran after more than my share of bubbles and finally stopped so the littles could have them to themselves. So simple it was–two mop handles, a long piece of string tied between them in a ‘D’ shape and a bucket of soapy water. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Melissa, I saw the sand carver creating his dog with puppies when we were in Galway last Friday! Sorry to have missed you on Monday, but when I didn’t hear from you and the weather was less than pleasant I decided a trip to the Aran Islands wasn’t in the cards for this year.
    Lovely post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, did you message me?! I remember you saying you were coming this way but I can’t believe I missed you!!! The weather was miserable, err, I mean as you said ‘less than pleasant’, on the island, but I could have come to you. So sorry I missed the opportunity 😦


      • I did – but I was working on my phone and only had internet in the hotels (morning and night). After my guests returned on Sunday, I only had til Wed to visit with friends and family. I was going to come out to the Island (but I realized I didnt’ know which one!) on Monday, but since the weather didn’t cooperate, I guess it wasn’t meant to be on this trip. No worries, it isn’t as if I won’t be back to Ireland! And I am determined to visit the Aran Islands!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so lucky to live in an island community. I live in a big city and experience the attitude of that cashier in many different ways on a daily basis. I so often yearn to be able to escape to a place where people live amongst each other the way we did when I was a child–with kindness and respect. It sounds like an island is exactly that. Lucky you. It makes me feel happy that there are still places like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And thank you Hugh for taking the time to visit me. I have been thinking about you and seeing that the Blogger’s Bash is soon. Sounds like so much fun. Perhaps next year…
      I also have seen you’ve a three part short story that has me anxious for some time to pop over and actually read, not just see what I’m missing. Sorry that life has taken me from my writing and reading time, but must admit to loving working this summer out of the house. So appreciate you staying in contact and will find some extended sit down time soon. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      • No problem at all Melissa. It’s actually a four party story and I also published another new story this week (called “The Truth App”) but there is plenty of time to read them once the weather changes and we find ourselves all back inside the house for days on end.

        Yes, I’ve been busy helping organise the upcoming ‘Bloggers Bash’ in London. I’m looking forward to meeting many bloggers I know on here, for the very first time. Look out for the after party posts 🙂

        Enjoy the beautiful weather and the days out with your family. They are all very precious.

        See you soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Melissa, I’m so glad I check out your blog today I found this post, it’s so lovely. I’m living in a small city too, not small as an island, but small compared with the big cities I’ve been. And for sure it’s a much better place to grow up kids, the safety and the quality of life. Here in Canada we don’t have one cent any more, everything is round up or down to 5 cents. But before the cashiers had a small box saying, take a cent or leave a cent, so it was easy to make changes. Now our problem is with 5 cents. Your kids are lovely, have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We had those cups on the counters in the States as well. Once I dropped my coins in a cup and it ended up being the cashiers cup of coffee 😀 , Oops! We had a good laugh about it.
      I loved big city living in my twenties, but definitely prefer the island living at this point in my life. Really can’t see going back to city life as a permanent residence.
      Sorry to be so out of touch and thank you for still visiting me. I’ll have more sit down time once the summer job has come to an end, but for now, I am absolutely loving being busy out of the house. Enjoy your weekend Elizabeth. Xx


  5. What a wonderful day, Melissa! Your children are wonderful (just like mom). I believe you’re right, big city living does change certain people and not for the best. I’ve travelled away from the city to small towns and the difference in the people’s attitude and treatment of others is amazing. Loved the pictures and quotes, especially the last one. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are nice people everywhere, just more personal in a small town it seems to me. Perhaps people feel more accountable for their behaviour towards others, or maybe they are happier serving friends and neighbors, and have a greater understanding and appreciation for the ‘dollar’ spent and how it helps the local economy. Anyhoo, have pondered it more since writing and these are some fresh thoughts. Hope life is treating you well Vashti and my apologies for going M.I.A. Am about to request less hours so can tend to the neglected areas of life! Big hugs my friend. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m okay. I’m busy getting settled in my new house and preparing for my sister who’s coming down from NYC to stay with me for a while. I’m very excited about it. I hope the start to your week is great so far. Hugs&Kisses ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • So far so good, day one of sewing summer camp went off without a hitch.
          I miss my sisters so much–really happy to hear you are spending time with yours. fb is nice, but def not the same as real face time together. Enjoy every moment. And congrats on the new house. Xx

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you Melissa. I’m glad sewing camp is going well and you’re having fun. I have a brother and two sisters and Kathy is the only one that lives in another state. We’re pretty close. 😀 xx

            Liked by 1 person

  6. How wonderful it must be to live and be part of such a great community. I grew up in the big city and live quite rural now. I still have all the amenities near. You are right there is a different attitude. It is heartening to see how you are teaching your children values and empathy. Bravo, my friend. I love your style! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Melissa Shaw-Smith says:

    Nice piece! It’s a wonder they don’t give toy store employees a personality test before hiring. That sullen cow would never have passed. And on the subject of place–I met a young woman from Inisheer who’s spending the summer in our own small town of Warwick, New York. Hope the sun shines for you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had the same thought Melissa. Perhaps she was just having an off day? We’ll never know…but my children gained extra appreciation for their small island living.
      Wow, to meet up with someone from Inisheer must have been a small world moment alright!! I love those…once met someone from Portland, Maine while travelling in British Virgin Islands. I was quite excited!
      We just had a couple of sunny days, got a wee sunburn on my face even though it was only poking out between breezy, puffy, whipped cream clouds. Have sunblock in purse now for those moments 😉
      Hope you are well and enjoying summer. Sorry to be so absent from reading and writing. Not to wish time away, but truly looking forward to quiet days to be home and sitting. I may have overrated working out of the house 😉 !!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. TanGental says:

    I love the thought provoking way you weave your story, Melissa. As a child in the 60s and 70s I lived in very rural communities pretty isolated and in many ways idyllic. We were one of three houses well over a mile away from the next, two from any village and five from any transport. We had a lot of support and rallying round but claustrophobia and in built expectations too that could be stifling. As a child it was lovely, as a teenager it stank – the restrictions it imposed because everyone knew everyone else and felt they had a piece of you, felt they knew you, pigeonholed you didn’t suit me. I moved to a city, Bristol at 18, moved to London at 22 and have been here 36 years. I doubt I will ever leave. In six million people there are going to be utterly numpties but my experience is that there are a lot of good people, too, the vast majority. So I’m delighted you put the cashier in her place, I love the way you have of showing your children the right way but I don’t see it as something that is linked to city living against island or community living as much as some people don’t make great choices. I holidayed on Uist last month and 99% percent of the people were helpful and kind. But still, one woman went out of her way to be snotty and thoughtless. It happens. People not places in my book.


    • Though ideal for young children, I always thought I would struggle at around that same teen age if I had grown up here. Some never leave the island, but many, many do, often returning, as we did, when older and ‘settled’ with a family of their own, having seen other parts of the world and happy to offer their own children a similar upbringing.

      Fortunately this life isn’t for everyone or all the islands would be over populated and there would be no small communities. Repeating what I said above to Vashti, there are nice people everywhere, just more personal in a small town. Perhaps people feel more accountable for their behaviour towards others, or maybe they are happier serving friends and neighbors, and have a greater understanding and appreciation for the ‘dollar’ spent and how it helps the local economy.

      That cashier could have been having an off day, or a personal problem, patience and compassion were important for her to feel from us, which we did offer. Doubtful she is robotic and uncaring always. I agree that it is the person, not the community, that chooses to be rude, but, in my experience, it is much more common in larger cities where it is easier to disconnect from those who one is serving and become anonymous, feeling unaccountable for all sorts of bad behaviour towards fellow humans, their feelings as well as their property. No it is not the majority, not even close, but these experiences make an impression that is very lasting, particularly on children who have never witnessed it before.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Thanks for the long reply; it is a shame when children have to come up against such behaviour, isn’t it? I just remain hopeful that even in somewhere as impersonal as a large city there are those many times when people’s natural humanity shines through. On Uist one of the things I thought was great as seeing the start of a line of hope for the indigenous inhabitants combining the sort of cottage industries (a loom in every garage or so it seemed) that have been a staple for a long time, with super fast broadband coming in to add opportunity to stay and earn never previously experienced.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. chef mimi says:

    Another lovely post from you. Your children are adorable! I think I saw that same sand sculptor when we were in old Galway! We also managed to photograph a flasher – made only more evident when I viewed my photos later! We just thought he liked following us around the Spanish arch! A great life lesson for you children – love it!


  10. Your stories and your photos are always amazing. It is incredible how you manage to do so much with your children and still write. You must never rest because the stories flow so smoothly as though you write constantly. Thank you so much for sharing.


  11. stephpep56 says:

    Ha Mellissa, yes indeed there is always a grumpy one lurking in the throngs, kind of you to say maybe she was having a bad day more like maybe she hated her job. Such behaviour puzzles children whom are open and friendly enthusiastic and fun loving. When mine were young we lived out in a rural area in Co Sligo, once a month we headed for sligo town (mainly to visit the library where a very grumpy librarian ruled the roost) It was our treat and such a big deal, We would make a ‘day out’ of it. looking at the shops, wowing over various items. Spending hours choosing our books. I loved the drive home though. One day in the town was enough. Interestingly now that my children are both grown up and have tried the city life , they have both chosen to once more live in the country (Co Wicklow) I Love galway city though, It still has that west of ireland appeal even if it is a city, you can (as you know) still hear irish been spoken in places like penneys and dunnes etc. My eldest daughter went to university there so it still holds a place also in her heart. Giving money to Buskers? yes! They bring colour , music and vibrancy to the streets, And sure there was always buskers, Its an ancient thing is it not? Your children will thrive on the wonderful upbringing you are giving them Mellissa, and as they get older they will hold it in their hearts FOREVER, P.S sorry I haven’t been reading your posts recently 😦 have been caught with other things 😦 Next week I’m heading west to camp and cycle and gather thoughts and material so i will also be away from the internet… so this rainy morning I am going to settle down and read your blog.
    Steph xxx



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