Interview with Barry Moloney

Always a hit in Kinsale, now Barry covers the whole of Ireland.

Barry Moloney is as Irish as a four leaf clover. For many years, he's led half-day local tours of his hometown, Kinsale, for our Best of Ireland tour groups (to rave reviews).  A few summers back, Rick gave Barry a shot at leading his first 14-day Ireland tours andhe's been a grand success, and one of our most-loved guides ever since. Here's Barry's take on how it feels to go from leading tours of his city to tours of his country.

You live in the very southern part of Ireland in the lovely town of Kinsale. What makes it different from other Irish towns?

Kinsale is a bright, exciting harbor town where food, sailing and history are kings. I live up river from the town so it's nice to have the balance between the vibrant, multicultural town and the rolling green fields and beaches of the countryside. I grew up on a farm with lots of hard work. This background gives me plenty to talk about as my groups and I pass through the countryside. I love giving insights on what it is like to have grown up in Ireland.

Kinsale has changed loads in my lifetime. When I was young, unemployment and emigration were huge problems. Nowadays Rick Steves tours stay here two nights! Oh yes, and there are also those three major employers; tourism, farming and multinational firms. (The Eli-Lilly pharmaceutical company has a base here, manufacturing most of the world's supply of Prozac. I often joke to tourists that, without knowing it, they have stumbled into Happy Valley!)

What has it been like making the transition from being a local guide to leading Best of Ireland tours?

From the moment I began guiding with Rick Steves I've felt part of an amazing team. From hotel staff to local guides to everyone in Edmonds, I've felt everybody is on my side. To prepare, I firstly went along on three Best of Ireland tours as an assistant guide, which gave me a flavor of different guiding styles. And on my first two tours as a lead guide I had an assistant guide to help me with any task. I have never heard of another company doing that — talk about support!

What surprised me about the Best of Ireland tour is how well it covers modern history and the peace process in Northern Ireland. Listening to the other Rick Steves guides whom I trained with, I had some spine tingling moments connecting me deeply with my own history, especially the Potato Famine. The diversity of my home island — the accents, landscape, laughter, traditional music styles and literature — has been a joy to experience myself and to reveal to visitors. Especially to such open, grounded and responsive people as those who travel on Rick Steves tours. I have also learned much from my tour members — about their expectations on the tour and the kinds of information they crave most. I have had to work hard just to keep up with their questions!

Do you really give language lessons to your tour members?

Some of the funniest differences between Americans and the Irish are in our use of English. Here are some examples of "Irish" English:

  • "Cute" in Ireland means to be sly or cunning: "He is as cute as a fox!"
  • "Craic" means fun: "Did you have good craic last night?"
  • "Savage" can mean very good: "We had a savage night out last night" is a good thing!
  • "Gas" means funny: "He's a gas man!"
  • "Cat" means bad: "The weather was cat last winter."

I have great fun teaching my tour members Irish slang and phrases — and learning some American slang too. For example, I've learned that in America a "scheme" is something dodgy. But here in Ireland the government proudly funds many of them: "drainage schemes," "road schemes" and even "saving schemes"!

Tour members tell us you are a passionate surfer. In the freezing North Sea? Are you crazy?

Refreshing is the more positive word for it! We get some amazing waves here though I need a thick wetsuit to enjoy the wild winter swells. There is nothing like it — surfing in a breathtaking natural landscape followed by the warm glow of great food, music and conversation! The best surf in Ireland is on the west and north coasts, as offshore winds prevail there.

You were recently married. Can you tell us a little about getting married in Ireland?

My favorite place in Ireland is Dingle because that's where I proposed to Satoko, mywife — and she said Yes! So that was the first step.

We had a traditional "white wedding" in a beautiful small church in West Cork, attended by close family and friends. Satoko is from Japan, so we combined Eastern and Western traditions (she wore a kimono for the evening celebrations). In the evening we had a meal in a local hotel near the sea, followed by music, dance and celebrations into the night. There were hundreds of people at the evening celebrations, as I have 45 first cousins! I'm the last to get married from a family of 7 so we had plenty of wedding advisers.

Most people in Ireland have a church wedding, christening and burial even though church attendance is now at an all-time low. Traditions have a very strong hold on Irish people as we are very spiritual and superstitious. My Mum baked a rich fruit and whiskey wedding cake and all my family had a turn in stirring the mix with a wooden spoon to give us luck. On the night before the wedding we put a statue of the Infant of Prague in the garden to ensure that the weather would be fine on the wedding day (although here we say it's good fortune if it rains on your wedding day — so it's a win-win situation really)!

What Barry won't tell you — here's how his tour alums rave about him:

"Barry is very well organized, very intelligent, conveys all his stories with great confidence and wit, always has a smile and is ever so thoughtful to everyone...and his enthusiasm and energy are fantastic. Aren't you lucky to have him! Rated: A+!"

— Eldrid in Santa Ana, CA — Best of Ireland in 14 Days, Sept. 2010