Connellsville native's images capture the 'Emerald Isle'
Melissa Galik didn't witness St. Patrick's Day's “Wearin' ‘o the Green” when she visited Ireland, but she sure reveled in “seein' ‘o the green.”
The Emerald Isle was almost — but not quite — in full bloom when Galik traveled there in May 2009, but she saw plenty shades of green. Galik, who describes herself as “three-fourths” Irish, had longed to visit Ireland ever since she was a small girl growing up in Connellsville. Her grandfather, the late Mark Hanlon (who was a Dunbar Township tax collector for many years), enthralled Melissa and her brother about the Hanlon family's Irish roots.
Galik's mother, Rose Marie Galik (who lives on Ridge Boulevard, Dunbar Township), visited Ireland several years ago. Emerald green with envy, Melissa decided an overseas visit was long overdue.
Melissa has lived in Florida (near Tampa) for more than 10 years. Her father, Jack Galik, and stepmother, Geraldine (Cuddihy) Galik, live near her. Melissa traveled to Ireland with Geraldine to visit Geraldine's relatives.
10-day venture to County Clare
Galik and her stepmom stayed in southern Ireland in Maurice Mills, County Clare, with the Cuddihy and Howley families, during their 10-day jaunt — long enough to have a close look at daily Irish living. “The nuclear family unit there is still strongly intact,” Galik emphasized. “Homes are much smaller and space is used efficiently.”
She was equally impressed with Ireland's lush landscapes, which were the perfect backdrop for photographs. She snapped more than 1,500 photos — including many of Spring Gentian, a purplish flower that grows only in southern Ireland. “I couldn't get enough pictures!” Galik exclaimed.
After she returned home, her mother was so impressed by the images that she suggested Galik sell some of the photos at ArtWorks Connellsville. So far, several 8 by 10s have been purchased and others remain available at the West Crawford Avenue gallery.
Enjoyed seeing ancient with new
“I couldn't believe how ancient buildings, including castles, were mixed in with newer buildings. You can walk right up to them and go inside. Some of them go all the way back to Medieval times,” said Galik. “You don't see vandalism and graffiti the way you do in the United States. Irish people preserve their culture and respect their heritage.”
Her tour guide was a teenager nearing high school graduation, after which she planned to enter Ireland's police force, which is called The Guard. “Their education system focuses on careers at a very early age.”
The Connellsville native also saw Ireland's health care up close, as Geraldine's father was ill during their visit. “The doctor came right to their house and wrote prescriptions for medication and tests,” she explained. “People in Ireland don't run to the emergency room right away. I think physicians recommend a hospital stay. Their medical treatment seemed much more personal than ours.”
‘Bangers & Mash'? No, Thank you!
Galik said that Irish cuisine is blander than American food, but noted that it is high in quality and fresh, without preservatives. Her favorite meal was seafood chowder — seafood is most popular because Ireland is an island — brown bread and Hennessy cognac. She screwed up the courage to sample blood pudding (“It was good, actually”) but professed dislike for “bangers and mash” (sausages and potatoes). “There was an odd spice in them and they were too fatty.”
Coming from staunch Roman Catholic stock, Galik was particularly interested in Ireland's religious practices. “We were lucky enough to attend a First Holy Communion service and party. It was like a small wedding,” she said. “The number of extended family members was amazing. The children also have great respect for their family's religious beliefs.”
St. Patrick's Day wasn't even mentioned during Galik's “seein' ‘o the green.”
“I think Americans make a bigger deal about St. Patrick's Day than they do in Ireland,” said Galik, who vows she will make an encore visit to the Emerald Isle in June 2014. “I'm already making my plans.”
Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Poachers blamed for wounding bear that killed pets in Connellsville Twp.
- Washington Township daughter savors turkey farm tradition
- Dunbar flood victims thankful for help
- Christmas Cheer Club back to aid needy Mon Valley kids
- Saturday event to draw shoppers to small Fayette businesses
- Forbes: Family is key for the holidays
- Sharing the Harvest to help Connellsville programs for needy
- Man charged with impersonating doctor for free Nemacolin stay
- Canteen features Woodruff tribute
- Celebration of song welcomes season of giving in Connellsville
- Connellsville officers get bulletproof vests