On the Fly™ - Editorial Commentary by Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

June 2007:  Tip O'Neill's' Walking Hat' and Where to Get One!
--by Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

Beyond the joyous memories that are created during your travels and memorialized in your photos, there may be souvenirs that endure. My favorite souvenirs are those permanently and prominently displayed in my home, such as sculptures, antiques, art work, home décor items and tableware that remind me of wonderful places I've visited and the people associated with the destinations related to the items purchased. Another favorite souvenir category is unique clothing that wraps me in the spirit of the destinations where the items were purchased bringing me back to the memories of a particular trip every time an item is worn.

Such is the saga of Tip O'Neill's walking hat that I learned about from John Hanna, owner of Hanna Hats in Donegal City, County Donegal, Ireland. Hanna Hats, founded in 1924 as a tailoring business by David Hanna, Sr., John's father, began specializing in handcrafted hats and caps in 1964. The company's products are known worldwide for their quality and craftsmanship as well as for the wonderful classic and trendy tweeds, colors, and styles available for men and women. Hanna Hats are made today exactly as they were made in the past and are 100% handcrafted by skilled millinery creators in Donegal. A visit to Donegal is not complete without a visit to Hanna Hats where, assuredly, you will leave looking sharp and feeling dapper with your new head gear.

Such was the case with Tip O'Neill, former US Speaker of the House and frequent visitor to Ireland, often credited as one of the “Four Horsemen” responsible for setting the foundation, along with Bill Clinton, for creating a lasting solution to the unrest in Northern Ireland,( the others being Hugh Carey, Daniel Moynahan, and Ted Kennedy). O'Neill's visit to Hanna Hats concluded with his leaving as the proud owner of the garment he dubbed his ‘walking hat.'

While having lunch one day in Washington, DC, with the Ambassador to the US from Spain who admired O'Neill's hat, Tip offered to pick one up for the ambassador on his next visit to Donegal. True to his word, the next time he had lunch with the ambassador, he delivered a hat to the diplomat.

Delighted with his new hat, the ambassador tried it on in front of a mirror and smiled with self-satisfaction at this new possession before placing it on a chair adjacent to the dining table. That was O'Neill's cue to explain to the ambassador how his ‘walking hat' got its name. “I promise you that if you leave that hat on that chair it will take a walk, as my Hanna Hats have done in the past when I've taken my eye off them!” The ambassador promptly checked his hat in the coatroom to avoid losing it before he had a chance to enjoy it for even a day.

Now, I know this story to be more than a legend and I know that the concept of the Hanna Walking Hat is more than a myth because, on a recent visit to Donegal to participate in the inaugural festivities related to the new transatlantic Flyglobespan (www.flyglobespan.com) air service between Boston's Logan and NY's JFK Airports to Ireland West Airport Knock, about 90 minutes drive from Donegal. I took the time to drop in and visit Hanna Hats. It was impossible to resist leaving without a colorful tweed patchwork pattern cap for me and a Hanna Walking Hat for my husband. We left Donegal after touring places I had never visited before in the North West and West of Ireland and headed to Dublin to fly to Athens, being careful to carry the Hanna Walking Hat in its own tissue-lined shopping bag.

True to its name and history, my husband's Walking Hat took a walk somewhere along the route. You just can't take your eyes off such a dapper creation which is clearly a desirable commodity! The good news is that there's a full catalog of hats at www.hannahats.com and an email contact at sales@hannahats.com, making it easy to get the wheels of progress in motion to send another hat along. But since I'll be flying into Ireland West Airport Knock in July to visit the West and Northwest regions that will give me an opportunity to drop by Hanna Hats of Donegal again to visit with John Hanna and buy another Walking Hat for my husband! I'm thinking about asking John to sew a wristband and string to the hat, something like the “idiot strings” that mothers attach to mittens and gloves to be sure children don't lose them. In fact, that should be standard equipment on every Hanna Hat! On the other hand, it might make interesting reading to follow the history of the many lives and owners of a Hanna Walking Hat . . . something like following the musical instrument through centuries in the film, “The Red Violin!” I'll give that some thought when I'm out sporting my patchwork tweed cap walking around the lake this fall!


Related Links:
April 2007: "Big Changes in Policy and Politics for Northern Ireland". more>>

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