Traditions, folklore, history and more. If it's Irish, it's here. Or will be!
"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors."
Library: Books, Movies, Music
Prints & Photos
Bunús na Gaeilge
Circle of Prayer
Did You Know?
Write to Us
Links/Link to Us
Advertise with us
Awards & Testimonials
Although these are often humorous they are distinct from our Wit & Humor page. The reason is simply the absence of a direct quote.
Wit & Humor
Proverbs & Sayings
Note: We often have difficulty validating a quote source. If you catch an error or you have a source for the, all too common, anonymous, let us know. Please, though, give us an authoritative source or, at least, corroboration. Otherwise, we just have dozens of contradictory opinions.
Click to send us an E-mail.
• In memory of Con Houlihan, RIP
Born December 6, 1925, died August 4, 2012
He was unparalleled in capturing the feeling of a big sports occasion. Such was his influence, that a participant in a Gaelic Games forum wrote "I am reminded of the story when a man returning from a game was once asked what he thought of the match - "Sure, how would I know until I read what Con has to say about it" was the reply.
Photo Credit & Related Story: Sunday World
• "Is it made from Liffey water?"
Said by Prince Philip during his visit with Queen Elizabeth II to the Gravity Bar on top of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. The visit took place on Day One of the Queen's historic trip to Ireland, May 16th 2011. The royal couple declined to try their perfectly poured pints.
Photo Credit: Pints waiting for a top off at the Gravity Bar/Connor Turner
A new parish priest told the people to cease dancing, but they would not listen to him. 'When we get a new parish priest we don't want a new God', they said. 'The old God who allowed dancing is good enough for us.'
From the Children of the Dead End by Patrick MacGill
In 1902, Maude Gonne organised a children's excursion to Tara. In a letter to W.B. Yeats in August of that year, she wrote: "Our children's excursion was a great success, and everybody enjoyed the day immensely. Briscoe had prepared an enormous bonfire to be lighted in honour of the King of England's coronation. We felt it would serve a better purpose if burnt in honour of an independent Ireland so lighted it and sang A Nation Once Again. The constabulary didn't like it at all and danced and jumped with rage - they added greatly to the fun."
After the Easter rebellion of 1916, De Valera was sentenced to penal servitude. Enroute to prison, he took out his pipe and was about to light it when he stopped suddenly and said "I will not let them deprive me of this pleasure in jail!" He immediately threw away his pipe and from that day, never smoked again.
A switchboard operator at a small hotel in Co. Galway was making her morning alarm calls. At six o'clock she rang room 206, but, as a sleepy voice answered, she glanced at her list again and saw that the call for room 206 was down for eight o'clock. She said as sweetly as she could, "Good morning, Sir! You have two more hours to sleep."
In a literature class in Dublin some years back, students were given an assignment to write a short story involving all the important literary ingredients Nobility, Emotion, Sex, Religion and Mystery. The winner was:"My God! cried the Duchess. Im pregnant. Who did it?"
Eileen Finney was so enamored of Sean O'Faolaín's literary works that she wrote him a letter: "I hear that your writing yields you a retail price of $1.00 per word. I enclose $1.00, for which please send me a sample." Much amused, the witty O'Faolaín kept the dollar and sent along one word: "Thanks." But O'Faolaín had no monopoly on Irish wit. Shortly afterward, he received another letter from Miss Finney: "Sold the 'Thanks' anecdote for $2.00. Enclosed please find 75 cents in stamps, being half the profit on the transaction, less postage and handling."
To be a fully paid-up member of Dublin 4*, you have to eat polenta, send your children to fee-paying schools, have a superior attitude to rural Ireland, criticise the Catholic Church and the traditional political set-up, take holidays in Tuscany or Provence, own a cottage in the west of ireland, think nationalism frightfully old-hat, and regard Mary Robinson, the progressive-mind former President of Ireland, as a divine creature a cut or two above the Virgin Mary. To belong to Dublin 4, you also have to regard the whole existence of Dublin 4 as a myth dreamt up by the resentful masses who eat bacon and cabbage rather than polenta, send their children to state schools, can't afford to take a holiday, and when asked 'Have you read Marx?' reply 'Only where I sit down'.
From The Truth about the Irish by Terry Eagleton.
*a phrase used to refer to a certain intellectual elite in the city.
At Trinity Law School, the professor asked a student if he knew what the Roe vs. Wade decision was. He sat quietly, pondering this profound question. Finally, after giving it a lot of thought, he sighed and said, "I believe, sir, this was the decision George Washington made prior to crossing the Delaware."
How to handle all of those holiday invitations from people you really don't like or don't even know that well? Take a leaf out of GBS's book:
He once received an invitation from a celebrity hound:
Lady Tillingham-Swarthmore will be at home Thursday between four and six. GBS returned the card. Underneath her message, he had scrawled: Mr. George Bernard Shaw likewise.
The weather and the cab drivers in Dublin haven't changed much. According to Wakeman's Guide to Ireland (1890), a tourist asked a cab driver what the three statues on the top of the GPO represented. He was told the 12 apostles. When he inquired about the other nine he was informed, "With weather like this they only come out three at a time, takin' their turns regular."
Wicklow Councillor objecting to a proposal to boost tourism by putting gondolas on Blessington Lake: 'The idea is well and good in theory, but tell me this, who is going to feed them?'
Heard in a hardware shop in Limavady:
Farmer John: "Give us a lump o'rope."
Shopkeeper: "How much would you be wanting, John? We sell it by the metre or by the yard."
John: "Which is cheaper?"
Shopkeeper: "Well, it works out the same, a metre is a bit longer than a yard."
John: "Right then, I'll have me lump in metres."
Your little brother came home from school yesterday crying. All the boys at his school got new suits, but we can't afford to buy him one. Instead we're going to buy him a new hat and just let him look out the window.
(Excerpted from an Irish mother's letter to her son)
Photo Credit: FilmSquish
It was cold and rainy in Ballynahinch where I was spending my summer holiday, but I finally bundled up and went down to the beach. There I saw a man in a bathing suit, lying on a large beach blanket. I walked up to him and asked why he was punishing himself that way. "I've been waiting all year for this holiday so I could get some colour," he said. "And I'm going to get it - even if it's blue."
From a reader - thank you!
When my older brother was very young, he always walked up to the church altar with my mother when she took communion. On one occasion, he tugged at her arm and asked, "What does the priest say when he gives you the bread?" Mom whispered something in his ear. Imagine his shock many years later when he learned that the priest doesn't say, "Be quiet until you get to your seat."
Father Michael O'Connor tells of the Sunday after Mass when he was approached by one of his elderly parishioners."Oh Father, says she, "you'll never know what your homily meant to me. It was just like water to a drowning man!"
Shaw was in a second-hand bookstore, poring over volumes which had been considerably marked down, when he came across a book containing his own plays. It was inscribed, moreover, to a friend, beneath whose name on the flyleaf, GBS saw the following, written in his own hand: "With the compliments of George Bernard Shaw." He promptly bought the book. That afternoon, he sent the volume back to the early recipient with his updated inscription: "With renewed compliments, GBS."
Not only our countrymen utter Irish bulls. Samuel Goldwyn gained such notoriety for this type of blunder that it rivaled his reputation as a Hollywood filmmaker. He said of one of his stars, "We're overpaying him, but he's worth it." To someone who annoyed him, he remarked, "I never liked you, and I always will." More recently, Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankees catcher, demonstrated a particular genius for statements that contain an element of sprung logic. "It ain't over 'till it's over," is, perhaps, his most famous remark. But he also uttered these priceless gems: "Sometimes you can observe a lot by watching." He is also credited with saying that "Ninety-nine percent of this game is half mental" and "Half the lies they tell me aren't true." One day someone asked him, "What time is it?" and Berra replied, "You mean right now?"
Typical of a conversation you might yet hear in Ireland. Says he " I'm fifty years a Pioneer." (member of a temperance movement). Replies his friend: "Please God you'll live to break it."
I said "It is most extraordinary weather for this time of year." He replied, "Ah, it isn't this time of year at all."
from 'It isn't this time of year at all' by Oliver St. John Gogarty
Michael Collins arrives at the ceremony to take down the British flag.
British officer: You're seven minutes late, Mr. Collins.
Michael Collins: You've kept us waiting 700 years. You can have your seven minutes.
And, as the British flag comes down:
Michael Collins: So that's what all the bother was about.
An American tourist was visiting the Ulster Museum in Belfast and asked the age of a particular fossil. The attendant told him it was 3 million years and 9 months old. "How on earth can they be so accurate?" asked the visitor. The attendant replied "Well sir, when I started work here they told me it was 3 million years old, and I'm here 9 months".
A very old folktale from Longford tells of the two farmers who were in earnest discussion on the comparative usefulness of the sun and the moon. Translated loosely from the Irish, their conversation went as follows: Sure, and the sun is more useful, said one. It gives a stronger light. Yes, but the moon is more sensible, argued the other. Sensible? How so? Put your mind to it mana, and you'll agree with me. The sun comes out in broad daylight when even a one-eyed man can see without it. But the moon - ah - the moon shines at night when we really need it!
Political opponents of John F. Kennedy often said that his father was financing his son's political campaign. John always took the barbs with good humor. At a press conference, the future president quipped: "I have today received this telegram from my generous father: "Dear Jack, don't buy a single vote than is absolutely necessary. I'll be d*** if I'm going to pay for a landslide!"
Al Smith - may the good Lord give him an extra set of wings - was holding forth at a press conference, when Westbrook Pegler, the acid-tongued columnist, called out" "Tell us all you know, Al - it won't take but a minute." "I'll do better than that," retorted Al. "I'll tell all we both know, and it won't take a second longer!"
Richard Brinsley Sheridan was strolling along St. James Street one day when he happened to meet two scions of nobility. "I say, Sherry," commented one of them, "we have just been discussing which you were - a knave or a fool. What is your opinion?" Sheridan took each of them by the arm and replied: "You might say I am between the two!"
Brendan Behan told the story of how he got a job in London with a street repair gang. The first job he went to they were down in a hole singing Happy Birthday around the foreman. "Is it the foreman's birthday?" asked Brendan. "No, Brendan. It's the third anniversary of the hole."
Julio Iglesias was being interviewed by British TV host Anne Diamond when he used the word 'manyana'. Diamond asked him to explain what it meant. He said that the term means "maybe the job will be done to-morrow, maybe the next day, maybe the day after that. Perhaps next week, next month, next year. Who cares?" The host turned to Irishman Shay Brennan who was also on the show and asked him if there was an equivalent term in Irish. "No. In Ireland we don't have a word to describe that degree of urgency", replied Brennan.
Often, the best examples of Irish humor aren't jokes at all; the following are real excerpts from letters written by tenants to the landlord:
1. "The toilet is blocked and we cannot bathe the children until it is cleared."
2. "This is to let you know that there is a smell coming from the man next door."
3. "I request your permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen."
4. "Our lavatory seat is broken in half and is now in three pieces."
5. "Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink."
6. "Would you please send a man to repair my downspout. I am an old age pensioner and need it straight away."
This is a true story of the late Irish author Brendan Behan who one night collapsed in a diabetic coma in a Dublin street. It was at a time when he was at the height of his drunken notoriety and passers-by naturally thought he was dead drunk. They took him to the nearby surgery of one of Dublin's most fashionable and respected doctors. The doctor decided to take a cardiograph and, somewhat nervous of his patient, thought to humor him. He explained the workings of the cardiograph needle as it registered the faint heartbeats of the very sick and semiconscious Brendan.
"That needle there is writing down your pulses, Mr. Behan, and I suppose, in its own way, it is probably the most important thing you have ever written."
To which Behan replied: "Aye, and it's straight from me heart, too."
Often the true stories are more humorous than made-up jokes:
A young girl came to the late Father Healy of Cork, and sadly made her confession: "Father, I fear I've committed the sin of vanity," she announced. "What makes you think that?" asked her father-confessor. "Because every morning, when I look in the mirror, I cannot help but think how beautiful I am." "Never fear, colleen," was the reassuring reply. "That isn't a sin; it's only a mistake."
Sun, Apr 12, 2015
Called whin in the north and gorse in the east, furze was once a symbol of wealth and fertility of land as is emphasized by the saying: "gold under furze, silver under rushes and famine under heather."
As indigenous to the early summer landscape as rhododendrons, it is despised by farmers because of its invasive properties; but in the past, it had many good uses.
It ignites quickly, so it was used for starting the fire: it was also used for cleaning the chimney, tilling the soil, dyeing wool and fabric, and as a flavouring for whiskey (which may have improved its rating with the farmers!). It had medicinal powers and its magical powers were undisputed in preventing the good people from stealing the butter on May day. And, at mid-summer, blazing branches were carried round the herd to bring good health to the cows for the coming year.
Resources: Doon Mayo
and Farmers Journal
Click for More Culture Corner.
The Big Little Book of Irish Wit & Wisdom
Six separate, enchanting gift books have been remade into one hefty little volume. Collection includes classic Irish triads dating from the ninth century, 28 riddles of traditional Irish life, 32 prayers and blessings for all occasions, 50 proverbs, and the best of Ireland's toasts. 250 color illustrations. Edited from an Ingram review.
Click here for Irish Wit