Irish Postal Service Wins Wager, Costs St. Charles Woman a Plate of Pastries

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Carndonagh, Ireland — part of the Republic of Ireland, but from the nation's far northern tip. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/GREG CLARKE
  • Photo courtesy of Flickr/Greg Clarke
  • Carndonagh, Ireland — part of the Republic of Ireland, but from the nation's far northern tip.

Bridget Griffin of St. Charles, Missouri, and John Collins of Carndonagh, Ireland, were having a friendly conversation about the Irish postal service, An Post. He insisted that it could deliver mail to its intended recipient, no matter how vaguely addressed. She (more accustomed to the U.S. Postal Service, perhaps?) expressed skepticism. A bet was made. 

The terms were simple. She'd mail ten postcards to various people in Carndonagh using only their first name, the town and the city. If they reached their destination, she'd owe An Post a tray of pastries.

Griffin made good on that bet this week — after the Irish service managed to deliver postcards to not only "Albert," who was actually Doherty, a prominent local politician, but also a local pub, some of Collins' neighbors, and "Veronica" at the community school. Griffin had even mailed a postcard to a family whose garden she admired during her trip to Carndonagh last July, noting only its cross streets. "The Grants' fancy garden between Clonmany and Ballyliffin, Ireland," the address line read.

"Thank you for your beautiful fancy garden," Griffin wrote. "It is nice to see when passing. Just wanted to say thank you!" The message was delivered to the right family — all the way from St. Louis.

grantpostcard.jpg

The roots of Griffin's friendship with Collins, as well as their bet, go back to the Sister Cities organization. Griffin got involved with the program and serves as the treasurer of the St. Charles chapter — and, in that capacity, traveled to Carndonagh for 17 days this past summer. "We met with school officials and city officials to try to get them excited about the program," says Griffin, who works by day as an administrative assistant to an investment fund in St. Louis. "We invited them to visit St. Charles next year."

On that trip, Griffin became friendly with Collins, the school librarian and webmaster in Carndonagh, which is in the rural north of the Inishowen Peninsula in the Republic of Ireland and a sister city to St. Charles. One friendly conversation led to another, and before Griffin and Collins could even settle on what he'd owe her if the postcards didn't make it, they'd arrived.

The RFT wrote about the postcard to Albert Doherty earlier this week after hearing from his son, Conor Doherty. Then, since we'd pleaded for the other side of the story, Griffin contacted us to solve the mystery — a friend here in the Sister Cities program had apparently spotted the story on our website.

Bridget Griffin (back row, second from left) and Albert Doherty (far left in the front row) met last summer when Griffin traveled to Ireland with a delegation from St. Charles Sister Cities. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIDGET GRIFFIN
  • Photo courtesy of Bridget Griffin
  • Bridget Griffin (back row, second from left) and Albert Doherty (far left in the front row) met last summer when Griffin traveled to Ireland with a delegation from St. Charles Sister Cities.

As for Conor Doherty, he had initially contacted us because was he impressed by An Post's performance: "It is pretty extraordinary that he got a letter that was missing a surname, a street, house number, county and province — yet he still got it," he emailed us.

Ireland only got a ZIP code-based system this summer, at a cost of 27 million pounds. As the Irish Times noted in July, "The Republic has long been the only developed country on the planet without an effective means of identifying a postal address, but Monday’s official roll out of the new Eircode system means we can now put some delivery distance between ourselves and the likes of Tuvalu, Djibouti, the Cook Islands and North Korea as we proudly enter the 21st Century." 

But who needs a "system" when you have a neighborhood postman who actually knows every nook, cranny and fancy garden of his territory? That's the part of the story that sticks with Griffin. She's struck by what the friendly wager revealed about rural Ireland, marveling at "how involved they are with each other — how everybody knows everybody."  

She says, "I don't know my neighbor two houses down, much less talk to them. But there they all know each other. It's a community. That's so appealing. It's so refreshing to realize there are relationships like that out there."

And it's not just knowing each other — it's being involved with each other. When Griffin called Claire the Bakers in Carndonagh to make good on her bet, ordering a tray for An Post, the baker refused payment. "They said, 'Call it a measure of good will," Griffin reports.

Speaking of good will, we also heard from Albert Doherty himself, who says he's "surprised and delighted" by the entire experience. He wanted to give credit to the local postman — "Mr. Colm Doherty," the politician notes. That Doherty is no relation, at least not a close one (the name Doherty is "very numerous and popular" in Carndonagh, Albert Doherty tells us). But in this small world Griffin so admires, he's on a first-name basis with his customers.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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