A Little Bit of Ireland

The Happy Hooker and The Roosevelt Hotel

October 25, 2020

By Radio & TV Broadcast Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

My radio, TV and podcast audiences know well that I’ve learned so very much in my travels, something I recommend to all, especially those who have been, and are now more than ever, home-schooling their children.  Classroom education lays the foundation for understanding but the world, a classroom without walls, is truly the best way to understand everything from geography to learning other languages, history, spirituality, culture of every sector from music to dance, fine arts, performing arts, literature, science, cuisine, fashion, and how people of different regions of the world attack and overcome, or don’t overcome,  the same challenges travelers face at home which often include overcoming natural obstacles and the obstacles of oppression, prejudice, bigotry, enslavement, and repression which have occurred all over the world, often in similar form. And in the area of use of language, you’ll find that words used in one language in different parts of the world have different meanings. Such is the situation in what I like to call, “The Case of the Happy Hooker” which came to mind at the intersection of The Closing of New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel and a town called Doolin and Doolin Ferry in County Clare, Ireland where I truly met a Happy Hooker.

The story opens in Doolin, a very musical where just about every pub has live music most of the time in this town that is 14 kms (about 9 miles) from the very popular Irish attraction, the Cliffs of Moher. In that town is a company called Doolin Ferry  where the personality of the founder, Bill O’Brien, is embedded into the experience of visitors and extended through his son, Liam, who grew up in the family business.  On one of our many, many trips to Ireland, Katherine Webster, who was for many years the executive director of the Visitors Centre at the Cliffs of Moher, on Ireland’s west coast, gave me her sage advice that, while we’d been many times to visit the Cliffs of Moher on land, we should really go out on a boat to get the view of the cliffs from the sea. It didn’t take much to determine that the company we should choose for that wee adventure was owned by Bill O’Brien. So, knowing when we are getting very good advice, we opted on a gorgeous sunny day, of which there are many more than local folklore will tell you, we went to Doolin to connect with Doolin Ferry and had the pleasure, after I introduced myself to the folks there, of meeting Bill O’Brien, an Irish charmer, of which there are so many in that enchanted isle.  And Bill, after loaning me his white sun hat for our  mini-voyage to one of the Aran Islands since this was impromptu and I hadn’t brought along a sun hat, escorted us aboard, of all names for a boat, The Happy Hooker.

As an American, the name had unique, and quite politically incorrect, meaning and I had to ask why in Heaven’s name would he have a boat named The Happy Hooker for what is clearly an attraction for multigenerational families to board for half a day or longer.  Bill O’Brien’s answer was one of many translations words from  English to American English that I have learned over lo these many trips to Ireland and the UK. In short, a “hooker” is a boat that is also known as a “Galway Hooker,” which was named for where it originated and was traditionally built to withstand the rough seas sailors would meet when sailing out of Galway Bay into the North Atlantic. Hookers were generally built of strong oak and designed to withstand the pounding of the waves expected by boatmen.  But the name, “The Happy Hooker,” was certain to get a response or at least a giggle from Americans who gave an entirely different interpretation to the name leaving them somewhere between amused and aghast until s they learned that the joke was on them and the gutter in which their minds were lying.

You’ll have to listen to Hour 3 of the podcast of the October 24, 2020 episode of Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams and do prepare yourself for a good giggle or two as I explain my thought pattern from hearing the words “Roosevelt Hotel” to thinking about hookers and the experience I had decades ago in the lobby of The Roosevelt Hotel in NYC which led me to think about The Happy Hooker in Doolin, County Clare Ireland where you can explore the cliffs and Aran Islands on Bill O’Brien’s Happy Hooker and prepare to laugh! You know, of course, if you’ve been keeping up with my radio shows over the 18+ years and/or following my websites and podcasts and archived audio and show notes, that, for me, no matter what road my story starts on, it ultimately takes me to Berkshire County, Massachusetts or to somewhere on the island that is Ireland. And mention of a “hooker” is no exception.

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