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There’s No Place Like Gnome

by Megan Venner

Ireland is known as the land of the leprechauns.  While I joked with my children about finding the pot of gold on my trip there, I never expected to be exploring the Emerald Isle with a leprechaun of my very own.

This is Thomas (pronounced Toe-mas in the traditional Irish manner).  He was christened by a travelling Irish musician we met over breakfast our first morning there. More a garden gnome than an actual leprechaun, his presence was the result of mischievous friends who insisted he would have to be a substitute for their inability to act as travelling companions.

Megan Venner brought Thomas the Gnome to Ireland as a joke ... and the joke was on her as Thomas proved to be great at making friends everywhere she went!I’m not sure they actually expected us to take the gnome on our travels.  Used to exchanging comical gifts, I’m sure Thomas was intended as a laugh and expected to be left behind.  My husband had other ideas.  Insisting there was room in his suitcase, Thomas was duly packed and we prepared to haul him out for a few touristy photos.  We both expected him to lay mostly forgotten in the trunk of the rental car but we were prepared to go along with the joke.

The joke was, I think, to be on us.  Thomas proved to be the most social and entertaining travel companion we could find.  The Irish have a reputation for open and friendly manners but when presented with our silly plastic leprechaun they opened their hearts and, in some cases, even their wallets. Local and fellow tourist alike, Thomas made friends wherever he went.  His first foray out of the suitcase soon became a permanent one after the warm reception he garnered.

We learned details about and differing descriptions of the Irish leprechaun from the locals and that Europeans are not familiar with the American cultural icon of the Travelocity Travelling Gnome, instead they have almost all, universally, seen the movie Amelie, where the heroine steal’s her father’s garden gnome in order to encourage him to travel.

Megan Venner brought Thomas the Gnome to Ireland as a joke ... and the joke was on her as Thomas proved to be great at making friends everywhere she went!Thomas made himself, and therefore my husband and me, friends with buxom serving wenches at a medieval feast and joined the musicians at an impromptu cèilì.  He had a little too much to drink at the Original Durty Nellie’s in County Clare and at the Guinness plant in Dublin he received at free drink, only a half pint due to his diminutive size (one of many drinks he was bought and that we, my husband and I, reluctantly consumed for him).  He even met his own crowd of friends at one bed and breakfast and spent a night conversing with his own kind while my husband and I sought a little privacy.

Thomas is prominently featured in the vacation photos of friendly tourists from at least three continents and now resides on my back deck, where I swore I would never place a garden gnome.  This little friend, however, makes me smile each time I see him.  He started as what I thought was a silly, and somewhat embarrassing, gift and turned into my own Irish blessing.

Photos courtesy Scott Beeston.