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-Edmund Burke

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Garden Gate
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.
Just want entertaining facts about Ireland? Please click here for Did you Know?

John McCormack - An Irish legend, then and now
by Hartson Dowd

Surely no one has ever found his way into the heart of the old Irish melodies as the great Irish tenor, John Francis McCormack, who was born on June 14, 1884 in Athlone, Ireland and died in Dublin on September 16, 1945.

One of the supreme vocal artists of the century, his career as a professional singer extended from 1904 to 1944. No one has brought to us more beautifully the message of songs like "I Hear You Calling Me."  These were the songs that made him famous and filled the world's greatest concert halls with those who clamored to hear him.


Season of the Corn

by Bridget Haggerty

While we were surfing the net, we came across a fascinating story about a group of Donegal farmers who stepped back in time and used the old ways to raise and harvest the crops. Here, in the first two paragraphs, they describe what they do. At the end, there is information on how to order a videotape.

We are a group of five farmers from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, Ireland, who have come up with a novel way to raise funds to provide a local facility for mentally challenged adults."


"Spakes from Wicklow"
by Mattie Lennon

Look what we've done to the old mother tongue
It's a crime the way we've misused it
It's been totally disgobbled
Pulverised and gollywobbled,
We've strangled, mangled, fandangled
And abused it.

So the song says. But did we do it any damage? John Dryden said that a thing well said will be wit in all languages. In my part of Wicklow the transposition of vowels seemed to be almost as popular a pastime as locking referees in car boots. And did it do any damage? No..I'm not asking about depriving the GAA arbitrator of his liberty on a winter's day in Rathnew, I'm referring to a bit of re-adjustment of the A, E, I, O and U's.


Celebrating St. Michael's Day in Old Ireland

by Bridget Haggerty

Throughout the Celtic lands, Michaelmas - September 29, marked the end of the harvest. This was the time that farm folk calculated how many animals they could afford to feed over the winter and how many would have to be sold or slaughtered and salted down in order to preserve the meat.
In addition to livestock fairs, rural folk attended hiring fairs which were especially important for farm laborers looking for winter employment after the harvest.

Michaelmas was also one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts; often, since this was also the time of the "geese harvest", many a farmer paid off his accounts with a brace or more of plump birds from the flock hatched in the spring. Traditionally, on St. Michael's Day, Irish families sat down to a roast goose dinner.


Making a Match in Lisdoonvarna

Matchmaking is one of Ireland's oldest traditions and, for the last couple of hundred years, a good deal of it has taken place in Lisdoonvarna during September and early October.
The name Lisdoonvarna comes from 'Lios Duin Bhearna', which means the lios or enclosure of the fort in the gap. The town developed into a tourist centre as early as the middle of the 18th-century when a top Limerick surgeon discovered the beneficial effects of its mineral waters. People travelled from near and far to bathe in, and drink, the mineral waters. Rich in iron, sulphur and magnesium, the waters gave relief from the symptoms of certain diseases including rheumatism and glandular fever.


Putting out the hare, putting on the harvest knots

by Bridget Haggerty

Small animals retreated from advancing harvesters by hiding in the remaining crop, and in the old days, every farmer went to great lengths to ensure that his last field would be harvested before a next door neighbor or other man in the village. Thus the call..."Have you put the hare out yet?"

How it worked was that a small portion of the crop - usually enough to make one sheaf - was left standing while the rest of the last field was finished. Before the final piece was cut, the workers raised a shout or made a noise to "put out the hare." If a farm nearby still had a standing crop, the workers would then say : "we sent you the hare."


A Taste of Ireland: Guinness - For Strength!
by Bridget Haggerty

Peter O’ Toole was once asked what was his favorite Irish food: “My number one choice is Guinness. My number two choice would be Guinness. My number three choice would have to be Guinness.” While there are other stouts brewed in Ireland, including Beamish and Murphys, Mr. O’Toole’s choice is shared by seven out of ten Irish drinkers — and probably an equivalent ratio of stout drinkers throughout the world.


Basic Irish: Starters
Unless you can arrange to spend a year or so living in the Gaeltacht - an Irish speaking part of the country - learning the language will probably be nigh on impossible for most people. That said, in our basic Irish section, we have attempted to share with you simple words and phrases we think you will find both fun and useful.
Photo credit:


Kids' Ireland: Never Forget Ireland
by Grainne Rowland

Maire was terrified! The soldiers were dragging her mother out of the small thatched cottage. Mother was trying to stay in the cottage, and Father was trying to help Mother. One well-muscled soldier shoved a gun into Father's face.

"Get out of this house now," the soldier yelled. "You have not paid the rent. Your landlord needs this house for those who can pay."

"Then he'll wait a long time," said Father, "for no one can pay rent with this famine going on. We are all starving!"


The Irish Kitchen: TheWaterford Blaa
A blaa’ is a soft-crusted floury roll exclusive to Waterford City which is eaten mainly at breakfast time. According to tradition, the name comes from a word used by French Huguenots who settled in the the city in the 17th century. When asking for white flour, they used the French word for flour which is blé and over time, the natives attached the word to the roll. Whether or not that is really where the name comes from, blaas are available in most Waterford bakeries and the locals relish them with a ‘rasher’ of bacon at breakfast or with some ‘Red Lead’ (luncheon sausage) in the middle as a mid morning snack. Other popular fillers include cheese and onion crisps and sliced ham, which the locals pronounce 'hang'. It is common for locals to eat hang blaas on the side of the road before the big match.*


Music Review: Phil Coulter - A Master Class in Musical Landscapes
by William Ramoutar

He was born in 1942, in Derry, Northern Ireland to a Catholic policeman in the Royal Ulster Constabulary - a predominantly Protestant organization; that was probably hard enough in those days in the North. But to give up the piano because he hated both the instrument and the teacher was almost a losing stroke. Fortunately for the world, he came back to it and formed a musical partnership with Bill Martin, which lasted ten years and brought about a string of hit records with bands from many disparate genres.


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 nearly 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


Mon, Sep 22, 2014

The Ardagh Chalice

One of the finest specimens of Celtic art ever found, the cup combines classic beauty with exquisite Celtic ornamentation. It is composed of gold, silver, bronze, brass, copper, and lead and comprises 354 pieces, including 20 rivets. A band running round the outside of the bowl is engraved with the names of the twelve Apostles. Discovered near Ardagh in 1868, almost nothing is known of its history. It is believed to date from the 8th century and might be one of the cups stolen from Clonmacnois, in the year 1125.
The cup is on display at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and is part of the "National Treasures" collection which includes the Tara Brooch and the Cross of Cong.

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

Blessing for an Autumn wedding

May golden sunlight guide your way
and renew the joy of your wedding day.
May autumn warmth turn away the cold
and protect your love from
growing old.
And if our love should start to wain
May God grant you strength to
begin again.
Edited and Adapted from a blessing by
Fr. Andrew M Greeley
Photo Credit: The Old Vicarage.

More Blessings

Quote of the Week

"I live again the days and evenings of my long career. I dream at night of operas and concerts in which I have had my share of success. Now like the old Irish minstrel, I have hung up my harp because my songs are all sung. "
John McCormack - b June 14, 1884 - d September 16, 1945
Photo Credit: Boston College Library

More Quotes

Attention Maeve Binchy Fans
New book in September
Pre-order it now!
Please click Sister Caravaggio

Please vote in our latest poll

Image Credit: Bizarro Comics

Click through the link to view a comprehensive collection of the Poet Laureate's works. Please click Seamus Heaney.

Choose from personalized metal plaques, flags, door knockers, garden stones and more. Click Irish Shop

The Book: Potion, Pope & Perfidy
Now available in both Kindle & print editions!

A depressed detective, still in mourning for his murdered wife, stumbles into a money-laundering scheme when a book is sold to him by mistake at a library book sale. Written in Latin and Greek the book is a 14th century codex. Obviously a priceless antiquity, as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the book's value is more in its contents than its age. For more details, or to buy the book, please click Amazon.


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March 4, 2011
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