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- Ballygally Castle in County Antrim, currently a hotel owned by a major chain, is allegedly one of the most haunted places in the country. Lady Isobel Shaw, whose husband built the castle in 1625, is said to knock on doors at night and then disappear. While alive, Ms. Shaw was locked in her room by her husband and starved, until she leapt to her death from a window.
- Ireland's top star in the sport of hurling is Sean Og O'Hailpin, who was born to an Irish father and Fijian mother on the tiny island of Rotuma, an isolated atoll about 400 miles north of Fiji. O'Hailpin, whose very Pacific appearance is a bit of an anomoly in Irish sports, has been declared "Hurler of the Year" and "Sports Personality of the Year" by RTE. He plays for the Cork County
- A village known as "Dun Bleisce" recently won the right to change it's name back to an old-time local favorite. The town will now be called "Fort of the Harlot," as it was in the distant past. After a variety of names were used to describe the town over the years, the government christened it "An Dun," which translates simply into "The Fort," in 2003. But a recent petition by
townspeople has prompted officials to put "the Harlot" back into the name. The historical harlot involved here may have simply been a powerful woman, and not a harlot in the modern sense of the word.
- Late Show host David Letterman once described the uilleann pipes as "a sofa cushion hooked up to a stick."
- On April 15th, Mike Morgan of County Donegal was crowned Irish National Surfing Champion after a two-day competition in the brutally cold waters off Easkey, County Sligo.
- The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, in County Galway.
- An odd Irish birthday tradition is to lift the birthday child upside down and give his head a few gentle bumps on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps should allegedly correspond to the child’s age plus one.
So long paddy wacker. Wooden truncheons, which have been carried by Irish police since the 1800s, will finally be phased out this year, and replaced by lightweight retractable batons. The truncheons, with notches, fancy carvings and names cut into them, were often passed down generations of gardai.
- The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on it's property, at a perpetual rate of 45 Irish pounds per year.
- IRELAND FACT: A ROUGH HANGOVER CURE...I’ll just take the hangover, thanks: One traditional Irish cure for a hangover was to be buried up to the neck in moist river sand.
- The island of Montserrat is sometimes called "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean," and has a shamrock carved above the door of the governor's home, areas called Cork and Kinsale, and people with names like O'Garra and Riley. This is because the island was originally settled in 1633 by Irish-Catholics, who came from the nearby island of St. Kitts. (After a major volcanic eruption from
1995 - 2003, Montserrat is now partially open to tourism again.)
- IRELAND FACTS: HANDMADE GOLF COURSE...County Mayo's Carne Golf Links, which was built between 1987 and 1993, was constructed mainly by farmers using hand spades and rakes. Read "Carne, A Northwestern Gem"
Celtic rock group the Pogues were originally called "Pogue Mahone," which translates into "kiss my a**" in Gaelic.
- The "Oscar" statuette handed out at the Academy Awards was designed by Cedric Gibbons, who was born in Dublin in 1823. Gibbons emigrated to the US, and was considered MGM’s top set designer from the twenties right on through the fifties, working on over 1,500 films. Besides designing the coveted prize, Mr. Gibbons managed to win a dozen of them himself.
- The Irish Academy of Engineers has recommended that a tunnel be built under the sea linking Ireland and Wales. The IAE has offered a futuristic vision of trains running at speeds of 150 mph between Rosslare and Fishguard, Wales. Currently, there is no financial backer for such a project.
- Couples in Ireland could marry legally on St. Brigid's Day (February 1st) in Teltown, County Meath, as recently as the 1920’s by simply walking towards each other. If the marriage failed, they could "divorce'" by walking away from each other at the same spot, on St. Brigid’s day the following year. The custom was a holdover from old Irish Brehon laws, which allowed temporary marriage
- One of the most popular radio shows in rural Ireland is still the weekly broadcast of local obituaries.
- An old legend says that, while Christ will judge all nations on judgment day, St. Patrick will be the judge of the Irish.
- The last witch in Ireland was supposedly Dame Alice Kytler, born in Kilkenny in 1280. All four of her husbands died, and she was accused of poisioning them. Today you can dine at Kytler's Inn in Kilkenny, which operates in her old home.
- The word quiz was allegedly invented in the 1830’s by a Dublin theater owner named Richard Daly, who made a bet that he could make a nonsense word known throughout the city in just 48 hours. Legend says that Daly gave his employees cards with the word “quiz” written on them, and told them to write it on walls all over the city. Some historians argue that the word was already in
use at this time, but most agree that it did not acquire it’s current definition – "to question or interrogate" – until sometime in the 19th century.
Facts About Old Ireland
- Catherine Kelly, who died in 1785, was allegedly the smallest Irish woman ever. With a total height of just 34 inches and a weight of 8 pounds, she was known as “The Irish Fairy.”
The first Irish Constitution was signed at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. The Shelbourne, a favorite spot for sophisticated travelers to stay or dine, is currently about to reopen after a major facelift.
- According to one rather obscure Irish legend, a ringing in your ears means a deceased friend stuck in Purgatory is ringing a bell to ask for you to pray for him/her.
- Ireland’s Saint Fiacre, born in the sixth century, is the patron saint of gardeners.
The original seven “Celtic Nations” are: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany (in France) and Galicia (in Spain).
- Montgomery Street in Dublin was once the largest red light district in all of Europe, with over 1600 prostitutes plying their trade. An old Irish song called “Take Me Up To The Monto” memorializes this era.
- According to some historians, over 40% of all American presidents have had some Irish ancestry.
- Saint Brendan is said to have discovered America 1,000 years before Columbus.
The Newgrange passage tomb in County Meath was constructed around 3200 BC, making it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge.
“Cemetery Sunday” is a lesser-known tradition still practiced around Ireland, although it seems to take place on whatever date is most convenient for local church leaders. A mass is celebrated for families of those buried in the local church graveyard, after which an effort is made over several days to clean up the churchyard. Special attention is traditionally given to the graves of
those who have no one left among the living to remember them.
- In olden days, a pig was often allowed to live in the house with the family on an Irish farm. He (or she) was commonly referred to as "the gentleman who pays the rent."
- A single day of good weather that pops up in a long stretch of bad days is known in Ireland as a "pet day."
"11th Night" is a celebration still widely observed by Protestant groups in northern Ireland, who build huge bonfires across the country on the night of July 11th. The fires are lit on the night before the July 12th commemoration of William of Orange’s defeat of King James, a Catholic, in 1690 in the Battle of the Boyne. The battle took place near Drogheda, north of Dublin.
- IRELAND FACT: CRYING AT FUNERALS..."Keening" is the Irish version of loud crying at wakes practiced in several European cultures (Italy in particular). It involves wailing and expressing endearments in Gaelic to the deceased. At some wakes, the Keening goes on for hours, with many participants.
- Famous wit Oscar Wilde was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde in Dublin in 1854.
Bram Stoker was working as a civil servant in Dublin when he wrote “Dracula” in 1897.
- In 1859, Irish scientist John Tyndall was the first to correctly explain why the sky is blue. The explanation may surprise you. The sun puts out a full spectrum of light colors – but your eyes are most sensitive to blue and red/purple colors. Molecules in the air scatter the sun’s blue light faster than they scatter its red light. A day-time sky without clouds looks blue because the
sun is close to you, and relatively little of the blue light has been scattered. You see red and orange colors at sunset because the light must travel a greater distance to you, and all the blue light has been refracted away from your line of sight by the time the sun’s light hits you – not because of dust or other particles in the air as is widely believed.
Dublin was originally called "Dubh Linn," which means "Black Pool." The name refers to an ancient treacle lake in the city, which is now part of a penguin enclosure at the Dublin City Zoo.
- A small number of devotees still go to holy wells in Ireland to "pay rounds," by circling a well three times and making a sign of the cross over it with a pebble. All ceremonies at holy wells were once frowned upon by The Church, which saw them as holdovers from Ireland’s pagan era.
The Vikings founded Dublin in 988.
The lyrics to "Danny Boy" were allegedly written by an English barrister named Fred Weatherly, while he was riding on a commuter train.
The first three days of April are called the "Borrowed Days" and are traditionally associated with bad weather. This derives from an old legend where a mythical cow boasted about March being unable to kill her. The result was that March borrowed three days of terrible weather from April to try and finish the cow off.
Even Saint Patrick liked a tipple. It was once popular in Ireland to pin sprigs of shamrocks on your coat on Saint Patrick's day in remembrance of his using shamrock leaves to illustrate the idea of the holy trinity. At the end of the day, one would "drown the shamrock" by putting a few shamrocks into a glass and covering them with whiskey.
The very first St. Patrick's Day parade in America was hosted by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1737.
- Historians believe St. Patrick’s real name was "Maewyn Succat."
- “Gulliver’s Travels” writer Jonathan Swift is buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
- In 1800, the population of Ireland was almost twice as large as that of the United States. By 2000, America’s population was about 60 times that of Ireland
- IRELAND FACT: THE REAL FIRST SAINT OF EIRE...Ireland’s first saint was not Saint Patrick. He was Saint Abban, who went to preach in England during the 2nd century.
- St. Patrick introduced the Roman alphabet and Latin literature into Ireland. After his death, Irish monasteries became Europe’s leading intellectual centers.
- The national symbol of Ireland is the Celtic harp, not the shamrock.
- St. Patrick had a very limited education, and is said to have been self-conscious about his weak writing skills.
- In the days of sailing ships, Irish sea captains often carried pebbles from Scattery Island, the home of the Saint Cannera, the patron saint of sailors.
- There are seven huge stone forts on the Aran Islands: Dun Aonghasa, Dun Ducathair, Dun Eoghanachta and Dun Eochla on Inishmore; Dun Chonchuir and Dun Fearbhai on Inishmaan, and Dun Formna on Inisheer. The preface "Dun" means "fort of a chieftain."
- Ireland was once densely forested, but was practically denuded of tree cover in the 17th century.
Kilkenny-born architect James Hoban designed the original White House in Washington after winning a competition sponsored by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in 1792. It's said that Jefferson submitted his own design under a pseudonym but failed to take top prize. When the White House was burned by the British during the war of 1812, Hoban was called
in to oversee a three-year-long restoration of the building.
- Grace O'Malley, known as the "Queen of the Pirates," commanded a ship with a crew of over 200 men off the west coast of Ireland the 1500's. Read "Queen of the Pirates"
- The tune of the "Star Spangled Banner" was composed by the great blind harper Turlough O’Carolan, who died about 35 years before the American revolution.
- Medieval laws in Ireland allowed a man to divorce his wife if she damaged his honor through infidelity, thieving or “making a mess of everything.”
- “Tallaght” in Dublin is an old name that means “The Plague cemetery.”
- Killyleagh Castle, in County Down, Northern Ireland, is the oldest occupied castle in Ireland. Built in the 13th century, it is still in use as a private home.
- Temple Bar district in Dublin got its name from Sir William Temple, whose home and gardens were located there in the 17th century ("bar" happens to be a common Anglo-Saxon name for a gatehouse).
- According to tradition, a wedding party should always take the longest road home from church.
Ernest Shackleton, famed for his participation in the 1901-1904 Antarctic expedition across the Ross Ice Shelf, was born in Kilkea, County Kildare.
The first American general to die in The Revolution was Richard Montgomery, who was born in Donegal.
- Aran Island sweaters have a variety of "family weaves." These were developed because when a fisherman drowned, his sweater would often be the only thing washed up on shore. The distinctive weave would tell a family their loved one had been lost. **For lots more offbeat, current facts and updates about
Ireland's culture from all over the web, visit our Ireland Blog**
Odd Irish Facts
Achill Island is the largest island off Ireland’s coast. It’s 56 miles square, with dramatic landscape featuring wild cliffs and moors.
- The northern Spanish town of
Santiago de Compostela is known as "el Dingle de Santiago" in memory of a journey that Irish religious pilgrims made there in medieval times.
- Killary Bay, on the Mayo-Galway border, is the only true fjord in Ireland. A fjord is a long, narrow inlet from the sea between high slopes.
- Ireland’s 15 principal railway stations
are named after the leaders of the 1916 uprising.
- An “An Fáinne” is a lapel pin, worn by some fluent Irish speakers to invite others to speak to them in the traditional language.
- Director John Huston filmed the New Bedford, Massachusetts scenes in his 1956 movie "Moby Dick" in Youghal, County Cork.
- Famed Hollywood movie director John Ford was born Sean O’Feeney in 1894, in Spiddal, County Galway.
- The scenic “Wicklow Way” is the oldest and most popular hiking route in Ireland. Stretching from the Dublin suburb of Rathfarnham in a south-westerly direction toward the village of Clonegal, in County Carlow, the 25 year old public
walking route is traversed by over 20,000 people each year.
- James Joyce once called Guinness stout "the wine of Ireland."
- Ireland has virtually no coal deposits, even though it’s just 60 miles from Wales, one of the world’s richest coal fields.
Muhammad Ali has some Irish
heritage. His great grandfather was born in Ennis, County Clare, and emigrated to Kentucky in the 1860s. There, he married an African-American woman. A son born to this couple also married and African-American woman, who gave birth to Ali's mother, Odessa Grady. She married a man named Cassius Clay, and the two moved to Louisville, where the future champ was born.
Baileys Irish Cream which was launched in Ireland in the early seventies, is now the most popular liqueur in the world.
- Louth is the smallest county in Ireland; Cork is the largest.
About 30% of the people in Australia are of Irish descent.
Ireland is the world’s only country
with a musical instrument for a national symbol: the harp.
- It’s not the custom in Ireland to wear green ties, hats or other green clothes on St. Patrick's Day. A sprig of shamrock in the coat lapel is the preferred display.
- One old Irish superstition holds that May is an unlucky month to get married in, because of its
association with the Virgin Mary. This superstition seems to have lost its power, however, since May is now one of the most popular wedding months for Irish people.
- The Irish tricolor flag, created in 1848, was designed to reflect the country's political realities. Orange stands for Irish Protestants, green for Irish Catholics and the white stripe for the hope
that peace might eventually be reached between them.
- The tallest identical twins ever born were the Knipe Brothers from Magherafelt in County Derry who were 7ft 2in. They were born in 1761.
Actor Kenneth Branagh hails from Belfast.
The red kite, an almost extinct species, will be
reintroduced in County Wicklow Ireland in the fall of 2007. The red kite is a raptor that has been supported by special breeding and release programs in England. It has not been seen in Ireland since the 19th century.
Ireland’s highest mountain is Carrantouhill, in County Kerry (3,445 feet).
- Trinity College in Dublin, which
happens to be Ireland's oldest university, has famous alumni including Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.
- Pop singer Christina Aguilera’s mother is Irish-American.
Belleek Pottery will celebrate it’s 150th anniversary by reissuing 15 items from deep within it’s archives, including a 19th century Round Tower centerpiece.
- President Barack Obama’s maternal great, great, great grandfather Fulmuth Kearney came from Moneygall, in County Offaly. Mr. Kearney came to America in 1850.
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