My husband’s aunt visited San Antonio this past weekend from Wisconsin. Aunt Mary recently celebrated 60 years as a School Sister of St. Francis. She visited San Antonio to speak at St. Lawrence Catholic Church at 236 E. Petaluma Blvd to raise funds for the service programs operated by her congregation.
Aunt Mary’s great-great-grandfather immigrated to the United State in the 1850’s from the village of Milltown Malbay in County Clare, Ireland. Sister Mary and her siblings love to celebrate their Irish heritage. So Friday we set out to look for a little bit of Ireland in San Antonio.
Our first stop was the Alamo. The national flag of Ireland is on display in the Alamo chapel alongside flags of the home countries of other defenders. At the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, twelve of the Texas defenders were Irish-born, and David Crockett and 20 other American-born defenders traced their family heritage to Ireland. An Irish-American, Clara Driscoll, known as the “Savior of the Alamo” used her own money to save the mission when it was designated as a site for a future hotel in 1903. After reading recently about the in-fighting among the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (caretakers of the Alamo since 1905) I was expecting to see ladies arguing in the Alamo hallways. However, the grounds were tranquil and the tour guides and groundskeepers we encountered at the Alamo were all men. After admiring the trees and flowers on the Alamo grounds we cooled down in Alamo Plaza with a snow cone.
Friday evening we visited two Irish-themed establishments on the Riverwalk – Waxy O’Connor’s and Durty Nelly’s. We started with dinner at Waxy’s. The air conditioning wasn’t working inside so we sat outside on the Riverwalk patio which was warm but not unbearable (only 95 degrees). Traditional Irish food such as stew seems more suited to rainy, cold days so we orderd burgers, fish & chips and chicken pot pie. My husband enjoyed a cold glass of Guinness and I hugged my cold mug of ice tea in lieu of air conditioning. The large “McGrath” sign over the bar led to an interesting revelation that my husband is distantly related to that clan.
We should have stayed at Waxy’s to check out the live music but based on good memories of previous visits we walked down the Riverwalk to Durty Nelly’s to sing along with the piano player. We have been taking our Irish relatives to Durty Nelly’s, located at the bottom of the Hilton Palacio del Rio, for many years. The high point of our Durty Nelly visits was in 1999 when Aunt Mary and my husband’s then-94-year-old grandmother Veronica visited from Wisconsin. Veronica stood next to the piano player and sang “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” When she left the bar the patrons gave her a standing ovation.
Unfortunately “Danny Boy” was not to be heard on Friday evening. Since we last visited Durty Nelly’s the sing-a-long songsheets have disappeared along with our favorite waiter. Pop songs have replaced the Irish and German drinking songs. We sadly concluded that our happy times at Durty Nelly’s were in the past. Perhaps next time we can linger at Waxy’s and request some traditional Irish tunes.
I would also appreciate any suggestions of where we might be able to find Irish music in San Antonio on an ordinary (not Fiesta or St. Patrick’s Day) evening. I would love to try a new place next time my husband’s Irish relatives come to town.