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Memorial Day Tribute

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In tribute to the Irish soldiers who fell during the American Civil War* and in memory of all members of the military the world over who paid the ultimate price.

*Memorial day in the USA was first established to honor and remember the soldiers lost during the American Civil War. At first, it was called 'Decoration Day'.

Garden GateFáilte
Welcome to Irish Culture and Customs, a labor of love we began several years ago. What started as a surprise milestone birthday trip to Ireland became the beginning of a journey through time. A 2,000-year voyage on a quest to learn as much as we can about everything Irish. So here's where we are so far - more than 700 pages that range from Irish poetry, superstitions , Kids Stories and recipes to specific Irish calendar celebrations such as St. Patrick's Day , Beltane, Samhain and the Feast of St. Brigid. Whether it's an Irish symbol such as the shillelagh, the Shamrock and the Book of Kells or an Irish craft like Aran Isle knitting, you'll discover a wide range of topics in our index. We hope you find the little bit of Ireland you may be looking for and we encourage you to share what you discover with your loved ones on your family website, blog, or social network.

Today's Irish headlines
We comb the newspapers and web sites to find news to start your day with a positive spin. In this section you will also find links to stories from the past two weeks as well as links to the major Irish newspapers, the current time in Ireland and a link to the weather forecast.

The Irish Soldiers in the American Civil War
by Bridget Haggerty

“His cavalry is numerous but can’t ride and his infantry, except the Irish, can’t fight.” Confederate Col. E. P. Alexander commenting on the Union forces.

It is estimated that approximately 360,000 Union soldiers died as a direct result of the war. The Confederacy lost 133,000 dead. Many more soldiers were wounded; some maimed for life. One source has said that one in nine who served were either Irish born, or of Irish descent. Based on these numbers, nearly 50,000 Irish soldiers gave their lives in battle, and countless others were injured.

About 190,000 Irishmen contributed to both sides of the cause. It is estimated that 150,000 served on the side of the Union and that about 40,000 served the Confederacy. After the conflict was over, more than 130 Irish soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor.


The Irish Soldiers in WWI
by Bridget Haggerty

My dad fought in Africa during WWI. I know very little of his experience as he preferred not to talk about it. What I do know is that he lied about his age in order to enlist, that his boots rotted off his feet in the trenches and that he contracted malaria - a condition which was to afflict him for the rest of his life.

It's possible that he was reluctant to discuss his role as an Irish soldier in the British army because he was from Galway and on his return home, he may have been treated as a traitor. In my own time, I remember how returning vets who fought in Vietnam were vilified by protesters. In any event, I'll never know how my father fared, but it's interesting to note that just a few years after the war, he left Ireland and never went back.


It's a long way to Tipperary
by Bridget Haggerty

The Daily Mail correspondent, George Curnock, first heard the tune in Boulogne in August, 1914 - "a company of the 2nd* Battalion Connaught Rangers passed us singing, with a note of strange pathos in their rich Irish voices, a song I had never heard before…"

It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go,
It's a long way to Tipperary,
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye Piccadilly! Farewell Leicester Square!
It's a long, long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there!

One of the most popular songs among the British, German and Russian armies during World War I, it sold a million copies in 1914 and was later recorded by John McCormack. But what of its origins?


Danny Boy
by Jaye Lewis

It was Veteran's Day, 1968.
My Dad, not an easy man to live with on a good day, had been restless and morose all day, toying with the piano, playing snatches of familiar tunes, and he'd finally settled on "Danny Boy". My Mom gave him a look, shrugging her shoulders.
Thinking to mollify him, I walked over to the piano, and I asked Dad if he would like me to sing along. "Only if you can sing it in the key it was written in," he said, "and you hit the notes strong and true." I nodded and I began to sing, with all my heart.


Poetry Corner: Francis Ledwidge (b. Aug. 19, 1887 - d. July 31, 1917)

...has been characterized as a war poet. An example is this brief biography, in that it was found on a very rich web site devoted to World War 1.

"Nationalist and poet, Francis Ledwidge was born in Slane the son of a poor labourer.
Leaving school at the age of 14 he worked in various manual labour positions while developing a love for and honing his own poetical talents.
It was in 1911 that Ledwidge first received notable recognition for his poetry.  Having sent a collection of his poems to well-known author Lord Dunsany he received a favourable response, Dunsany assuming the role of mentor to Ledwidge, introducing him to the Dublin literary scene.
Though a strong nationalist, he enlisted in Dunsany’s regiment, the 10th (Irish) Division, Inniskilling Fusiliers in October 1914 - to serve in France and Flanders during World War One.
Despite his initial reluctance to enlist he nevertheless argued that his service with the British during World War One was in no way incompatible with his nationalist views: rather, he believed he was furthering the cause of Irish independence from Britain.
Dunsany quoted Ledwidge: "I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy of civilisation and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing but pass resolutions".
After the leaders of the Easter Rebellion were executed during his home leave, May 1916 he became depressed saying: "if someone were to tell me now that the Germans were coming in over our back wall, I wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them. They could come!"
Nevertheless, he returned to the front, partly due to bad treatment from those who considered his enlistment treasonous to the cause of Irish freedom.

He died in Belgium with the British Army, killed by a shell while laying road in preparation for attack on Ypres, 31 July, at Boesinghe, near Ypres. He was buried in the Artillery Wood cemetery nearby.
The first stanza of his elegy for Thomas MacDonagh (see below) was carved on a memorial plaque to be set in a parapet of Slane Bridge and is now affixed to Ledwidge’s Cottage.

The Call to Ireland
by Francis Ledwidge

We have fought so much for the nation
In the tents we helped to divide;
Shall the cause of our common fathers
On our earthstones lie denied?
For the price of a field we have wrangled
While the weather rusted the plow,
' twas yours and 'twas mine and 'tis ours yet
And it's time to be fencing it now.

This World War 1 site points out "...of the two hundred plus poems that he wrote only nine actually discussed the Great War to any extent."
Note: This is a very well crafted Site, we recommend it -


Whitsuntide in old Ireland
by Bridget Haggerty

In contrast to Easter Sunday, which was considered a very lucky day, Whit Sunday was quite the opposite. All precautions were taken against accident or ill-fortune and very few people would set out on a journey or risk doing anything dangerous - particularly if it involved water.

Water was completely avoided, for it was thought that the danger of drowning was very great. People didn't bathe or go swimming; the fishing and sailing boats were left idle; and it was considered very foolish to even walk along the edge of the sea, river or lake. The reason for this was based on an old superstition that all of those who had perished in that water rose up on Whit Sunday to try and persuade or force the living to join them. If that gives you goose bumps, it gets even grimmer.


The irish Kitchen: Aunt Hettie's War Cake
contributed by Hartson Dowd

To those from Northern Ireland - and Belfast in particular, a "War Cake" usually means one that doesn't have any eggs. Perhaps the hens got nervous and forgot to lay, or maybe the chicken farmers got nervous and dropped the eggs? No, of course the real reason was rationing during war time.  "No matter", Auntie says, "it's fast, easy to make, and easy to double in the event of a larger war."


Basic Irish: Summertime

'Tis the season for fun in the sun! In this lesson, you'll find a slew of words and phrases related to everyone's favorite season - summertime!

Word: Summertime
Irish: ráithe an tSamhraidh
raw-hyeh on thow-ree


Kids' Ireland: St. Brendan's Adventures
by Grainne Rowland

Many people think that St. Brendan, an Irish monk, discovered America nearly 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus. The story of St. Brendan's travels is full of strange adventures.

St. Brendan lived from the year 489 to about 580. One day, a friend told him about the Promised Land of the Saints. On this island day never ends. The rocks are jewels.
Every tree had fruit which was good to eat.

Every plant had flowers with wonderful smells. The air was always warm. St. Brendan set out to find this wonderful island.

First he and some of his monks built a boat.


Music Review: The Wolfe Tones: A Celtic Symphony of Unity, Still “Singing Out for Ireland”
by William Ramoutar

Well... to say the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were a hotbed for Irish folk groups and singers in Dublin has to be one of the biggest understatements of all time. In those days, young lads went away to camp and on outings to the mountains and campfire sing songs were the last thing you did before your weary head hit the sleeping bag. Many a career was started from the dreams and visions of those fledgling performers, not least of all, one of the longest running and biggest promoters of the Irish struggle, The Wolfe Tones.


We receive many lovely letters from visitors to our web site and subscribers to our newsletter. As we’re fond of saying, your feedback helps to make all of the time and effort worth while. While we have a Readers Write Page where we post comments from time to time, we’ve decided to also select a Letter - one that, for whatever reason, tickled our fancy.

This past spring I went to Ireland with my son and his wife & her family. What a wonderful experience - way too short a time. I would have loved to sit and plan my days in a much more leisurely fashion but what we saw was all too wonderful This was my first time there - did a bit of checking on my grandmother's birth place: Roscommon. I would so love to return.

Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of your wonderful home page. Thank you, too, for "Irish Culture & Customs" - it gives us the chance to know more about Ireland and its people.

Bonnie Hirschler
Photo Caption: This is Bonnie and her son Michael Hirschler at the Cliffs of Moher.

ED. NOTE: When we asked Bonnie to send us a photo, she very kindly sent us two. We choose the one of her and her son at the Cliffs of Moher because it is such an iconic image of Ireland and one that is immediately recognizable. Standing more than 500 feet at the highest point and ranging for for nerly five miles over the Atlantic Ocean, on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. The cliffs take their name from a ruined promontory fort “Mothar” which was demolished during the Napoleonic wars to make room for a signal tower

Live Music from Mayo

A link to the internet service from Midwest Radio out of Mayo. Broadcasting from their state of the art studios; Midwest Irish Radio plays nothing but the best Irish music. No matter where you are in the world, you are never too far from Ireland when you listen in.
Click here for: Irish Midwest radio.

Shop for the best of Irish products from the comfort of your home

We combed the internet to find reliable resources for the most popular Irish products: Aran Isle sweaters, Guinness glasses, Waterford Crystal, genuine blackthorn walking sticks, the flag of the Republic and more. Some of these shops have become friends; others we trust from their reputations and some offer products that are completely unique. We hope you enjoy browsing through what's on offer and we are confident you will find gifts for any occasion or person, all with an Irish flair.


Did you get your Newsletter?

We try to send one out once or twice a month. If you aren't receiving it, something is wrong. Let us know and we'll try to solve the problem. Note: subscribers are automatically deleted from the data base if the newsletter bounces back multiple times. Full or disabled mailboxes will also cause a subscription to be cancelled. If you have any questions, please contact Bridget.


Mon, May 25, 2015

Glendalough - the glen of the two lakes

The location is spellbinding. It encompasses two clear water lakes situated beneath the sheer cliffs of a deep valley which was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age. The perfect spot for a serene monastic settlement.
Today, Glendalough is one of the most important sites of monastic ruins in Ireland. Fourteen centuries have passed since the death of its founder, St. Kevin, when the valley was part of Ireland's Golden Age.
The buildings which survive probably date from between the 8th and 12th centuries. The famous Round Tower is in near perfect condition even though it is almost 1,000 years old. To learn more, please click St.Kevin.
Photo Credit: Irish Corner.

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

A Blessing for Whitsuntide

May the warm promise of the rising sun
Flame all our hearts in Spirit's gracious fire
May God's invitation that we rise higher
Be confirmed in bright glory when day is done
May Pentecost faith burn like summer heat
That we speak with courage and prudent zeal
And the Gospel by word and deed reveal
Of Gods love to kith and kin and all we meet.
Fr. Andrew M. Greeley
Image Credit: Speaking in tongues at Whisuntide

Weekly Quote

A weary soldier fighting against Napoleon at Waterloo wrote in his diary: "When I [could] take some nourishment, I felt the most extraordinary desire for a glass of Guinness." Doctors wrote in to say that they found Guinness good for everything from "insomnia, neurasthenia, debility and constipation" to an "effective aid for nursing mothers."
Guinness tried to get stout admitted into the U.S. during Prohibition as a medicine, but the Treasury Department coldly said no.

Faces of Irish Civil War Soldiers:
Rare Photographs of Irish Soldiers
Who Fought for the North and South

Edited by Joanna M. McDonald

Thousands of Irishmen lined up at the recruiting stations and served in both the Confederate and Union armies - great names such as O'Rourke, Corcoran, Meagher, McIntosh, McGavock, and Tilghman. Unlike their English neighbors, who, for the most part, assimilated into the Union and Confederate ranks, many Irishmen organized their own, unique units made up of their fellows and included the adjective "Irish" within their regimental names. As their memories disappeared into history, they left their names, their songs and poems, their letters and battle accounts - and their photographs - to remind them of their passing and allow us to walk part of the way with them.
Publisher's Review
Click here for Faces of the Civil War.

They Shall Not Grow Old
Irish Soldiers Remember the Great War
by Myles Dungan

More than a quarter of a million Irishmen fought in the Great War. The publication in 1996 of Dungan's Irish Voices from the Great War contributed to the awareness of the injustice done to the Irishmen of the 1914-18 War. This companion volume uses the same type of material (letters, diaries, memoirs, personal interviews) to advance that process.
A companion volume to Irish Voices from the Great War, this book complements that anthology of tragedy with further stories of unromanticised life in the trenches, the experience of POWs, and an illuminating and critical look at the role of chaplains.
Danny Morrison, Sunday Tribune.
Click here for They Shall Not Grow Old.


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March 4, 2011
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