Many believe the “Luck of the Irish” is more like bad luck. That apparently was the case for a group of Canyon Lakers who traveled to the Emerald Isle in May 2002, losing one of their members to death and experiencing repeated delays in their efforts to get home.
This month, The Friday Flyer invited readers to share stories about living in or traveling to Ireland. Charlotte Peterson responded by sending in a story about that fateful trip that appeared in the July 19, 2002 issue of The Friday Flyer. Here is a reprint of the article.
Extended Trip to Ireland
By Bonnie Irwin, Special to The Friday Flyer
Twenty-five travelers left for Ireland on May 22 with a group mainly of Canyon Lakers and planned by Emmie Humphries of Canyon Lake Travel. We were planning on returning on May 31, but did not return until June 5. Here is why!
We flew Aer Lingus and had a nonstop trip to Dublin. We then flew to Shannon where we motored to Limerick for a three-night stay. We were supposed to tour the Cliffs of Moher the next day, but because of heavy rain we went to Galway instead.
The evening was spent at Bunratty Castle enjoying a medieval dinner and entertainment. We, of course, took advantage of the pub next door called Durty Nellie’s. We had a great time.
Because this was initially flagged as a “golf tournament,” we were scheduled to play golf the next day at La Hinch Golf Course. Those not playing golf were entertained by the tour guide, Tom.
The day turned out to be very wet again, but because we had already paid for the golf, we decided we would give it a try. The women only endured the rain for nine holes and then decided to call it quits. As Charlotte Peterson, Emmie Humphries and I were walking off the course, we waved to Rich Humphries, Rich Moline and Fran Pothier on hole 10.
As were were sitting on the second floor of the clubhouse, Fran brought the tragic news that Rich Humphries had passed away on the 12th hole after aggressive CPR efforts by his fellow golfers.
As you can imagine, the remainder of the day was very traumatic. We shed many tears, shared many hugs and prayed for Rich and his family. Because we were in a foreign country, many details had to be worked out between the embassies to transport Rich back to the United States.
I must say, the Irish people were extremely helpful in making these plans. Our tour guide was also very helpful, even though he had never had something like this happen with a group before. Emmie returned home the next morning, along with two of our fellow travelers as escorts, Barbara Horrigan and Donna Nunes.
It was decided that the remainder of us would continue our trip as scheduled. We now had a really strong bond between us, having laughed together, suffered a great loss, shed tears together and prayed together.
We were scheduled to play golf together again the next day at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club (which Rich had seen on the Fishing Channel at home and had really wanted to play). One of the courses was closed because of excessive rain and water, so we played the course across the street called Lackabane Course. Again, we were rained out.
The next two days took us to Dingle Peninsula, The Ring of Kerry, Killarney and the Lakes of Killarney, the Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone, and then on to Dublin for a supposedly two-night stay and then home! It also rained both of these days. I must point out that, in spite of the rain, the country is beautiful and very green! And we were enjoying ourselves.
When we got to Dublin, we were informed that Aer Lingus had locked out their pilots because the pilots were demanding more “rest time” between flights. Because Aer Lingus is government-owned, they were in control. We were supposed to fly home on May 31.
At this point, Are Lingus could not be reached by phone because they were not flying and not answering any calls. There were approximately 40,000 people stranded in Dublin and planning to go somewhere. The World Cup was going on, the Queen’s Jubilee was scheduled in England, and there also were 6,000 women in town for a marathon. All these people were in Dublin the same weekend.
Finally, Aer Lingus was scheduled to fly us out on June 3, an absolute confirmed reservation. They went on strike on May 30 and we had been scheduled to fly out on May 31, so we would be next in line. Right? No.
That flight was again cancelled. We all decided to personally be responsible for the bus and the driver until we were at the airport and on the way home. Luckily, the hotel was able to accommodate all 21 of us and we were able to stay together.
Then, we worked with Canyon Lake Travel and were scheduled on a chartered flight to New York, spend the night there, and then fly home (paying our own way) from New York to LAX.
In the meantime, Aer Lingus settled and we were back on a flight leaving June 5 (absolutely confirmed, with a booking number and all) at our same scheduled time. We packed three times for the trip home and had several late night meetings in the hotel lobby.
We, however, did not sit in the hotel. We went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Irish National Stud Farm. Many of us attended local church services on Sunday, and we visited Russborough, the Guinness Brewery and the Glendolough monastic settlement dating from the 1700s.
On June 4, after breakfast, we were all reading the paper and it was true, Aer Lingus was resuming all flights – except to Los Angeles!! That’s because they didn’t have any pilots in LAX to do the return flight.
In the middle of the night, Aer Lingus came through with a fax. We were scheduled on a flight to London and then our group was to be split into three groups: one on British Airways, one on American and one on United. However, they did schedule us about an hour apart in departure times so we would be able to arrive in LAX within a reasonable time of each other to catch our bus back to Canyon Lake.
Our tour guide and driver stayed with us until we had our plane tickets in hand. In spite of all these delays, we continued to take advantage of the sights in and around Dublin as we still had our driver and bus.
We were a very.happy group when we landed at LAX. We were very happy to be back in America – the wonderful country we live in. There were 21 very happy people arriving back at the Lodge about 6 p.m. on June 5, after being on the move for almost 24 hours.
There was a welcoming party there with a motor home and a massive “Welcome Home” sign, refreshments, husbands, friends, dogs and happy greetings. We truly thank all these people who came to greet us even though we were all pretty much space cases by that time!
Even though we had a traumatic trip, we will have a lasting bond between us. We extend our prayers and condolences to Emmie and her family as they grieve for Rich. He will be truly missed in Canyon Lake as he loved to fish and play golf.
He did make a hole-in-one several weeks before in a Canyon Lake golf tournament. He was a wonderful Christian and we know he is with our Lord and, hopefully, will be able to replay his most awesome golf holes in Heaven.
Several members of this original group, many of them golfers, still live in Canyon Lake and were able to make it to the Country Club Monday to take a new picture. They talked about the horror and sadness of Rich’s death, the daily rain that plagued most of their trip, the beauty of Ireland, and the extra sights they got to see during their extended stay.
Fran mentioned that Aer Lingus later refunded each person for their extra hotel costs. Emmie has since moved to Texas. And none of them have gone back to Ireland.
Charlotte still has memorabilia from the trip, including an issue of the Ireland Independent newspaper that talked about the Aer Lingus strike, and the “rooming list” for the trip. Here are the names of those who went: Richard and Darlene Moline, Dick and Vicki Fusco, Francis and Albine Pothier, Rich and Emmie Humphries, Harry and Bonnie Harlow, Al and Lorrie Cobb, Gordon and Peggy Westby, Vernon and Rose Marie Hand, Bob and Ellie Clow, Barbara Horrigan, Donna Nunes, Bonnie Irwin, Charlotte Peterson and three people who weren’t from Canyon Lake.