Leprechaun tales, contrary to popular belief are not well known in Ireland and are perceived by many to be a caricature of a minor tale in the culture of Ireland. It is very popular overseas and this is probably the reason why it figurers in to a large degree in Irish Folklore.
According to the tales, a mischievous fairy type creature in emerald green clothing who when not playing tricks spend all their time busily making shoes, the Leprechaun is said to have a pot of gold hidden at the end of the rainbow, and if ever captured by a human it has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for release.
More acknowledged and respected in Ireland are the stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his followers, the Fianna, Legend has it he built the Giant's Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland, so as not to get his feet wet; he also once scooped up part of Ireland to fling it at a rival, but it missed and landed in the Irish Sea — the clump became the Isle of Man and the pebble became Rockall, the void became Lough Neagh.
Irish dancing or Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish social dances can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by four couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations (céilí) of two to sixteen people.
In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance. Irish social dance is a living tradition and variations in particular dances are found across the Irish dancing community; in some places, dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed.
Irish literature comprises writings in the Irish, Latin, Ulster Scots and English languages on the island of Ireland. For a comparatively small island, Ireland has made a disproportionately large contribution to world literature. The earliest recorded Irish writing dates from the seventh century, and was produced by monks writing in both Latin and Early Irish. In addition to scriptural writing, the monks of Ireland recorded both poetry and mythological tales. There is a large surviving body of Irish mythological writing, including tales such as The Táin and Mad King Sweeny. During the medieval period there was a strong Bardic culture, in which professional literati had high status as panegyrists, historians and poets.
The English language was introduced to Ireland in the thirteenth century, following the Norman Conquest of Ireland. The Irish language, however, remained the dominant language of Irish literature down to the nineteenth century, despite a slow decline which began in the seventeenth century with the expansion of English power. The nineteenth century saw a sudden and rapid replacement of Irish by English in the greater part of the country. At the end of the century, however, cultural nationalism displayed a new energy, marked by the Gaelic Revival (which encouraged a modern literature in Irish) and more generally by the Irish Literary Revival. For a comparatively small place, the island of Ireland has made a disproportionate contribution to world literature in all its branches, in both the Irish and English languages.
Irish poetry includes poetry in two languages, Irish and English. The complex interplay between these two traditions, and between both of them and other poetries in English, has produced a body of work that is both rich in variety and difficult to categorise.
The earliest surviving poems in Irish date back to the 6th century, while the first known poems in English from Ireland date to the 14th century. Although there has always been some cross-fertilization between the two language traditions, an English-language poetry that had absorbed themes and models from Irish did not finally emerge until the 19th century. This culminated in the work of the poets of the Irish Literary Revival in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Towards the last quarter of the 20th century, modern Irish poetry tended to a wide range of diversity, from the poets of the Northern school to writers influenced by the modernist tradition and those facing the new questions posed by an increasingly urban and cosmopolitan society.
Irish Music is music that has been created in various genres on the island of Ireland. The indigenous music of the island is termed Irish traditional music. It has remained vibrant through the 20th, and into the 21st century, despite globalizing cultural forces. In spite of emigration and a well-developed connection to music influences from Britain and the United States, Irish music has kept many of its traditional aspects and has itself influenced many forms of music, such as country and roots music in the USA, which in turn have had some influence on modern rock music. It has occasionally been fused with rock and roll, punk and rock and other genres. Some of these fusion artists have attained mainstream success, at home and abroad.
Irish (Gaeilge), also known as Irish Gaelic or Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language by an ever increasing minority of Irish people, and as a second language by a rather larger group. Irish enjoys constitutional status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland. It is an official language of the European Union .
Irish was the predominant language of the Irish people for most of their recorded history, and they brought it with them to other countries, notably Scotland and the Isle of Man, where it gave rise to Scottish Gaelic and Manx. It has the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe.
The fate of the language was influenced by the increasing power of the English state in Ireland. Elizabethan officials viewed the use of Irish un-favourably, as being a threat to all things English in Ireland. Its decline began under English rule in the seventeenth century. In the latter part of the nineteenth century there was a dramatic decrease in the number of speakers, beginning after the Great Famine of 1845–1852 (when Ireland lost 20–25% of its population either to emigration or death). Irish-speaking areas were hit especially hard. By the end of British rule, the language was spoken by less than 15% of the national population. Since then, Irish speakers have been in the minority except in areas collectively known as the Gaeltacht. Efforts have been made by the state, individuals and organisations to preserve, promote and revive the language, now showing very positive results.
Around the turn of the 21st century, estimates of native speakers ranged from 20,000 to 80,000 people. In the 2006 census for the Republic, 85,000 people reported using Irish as a daily language outside of the education system, and 1.2 million reported using it at least occasionally in or out of school. In the 2011 Census, these numbers had increased to 94,000 and 1.3 million, respectively. There are several thousand Irish speakers in Northern Ireland. It has been estimated that the active Irish-language scene probably comprises 5 to 10 per cent of Ireland's population.
In recent decades there has been a significant increase in the number of urban Irish speakers, particularly in Dublin. This community, described as disparate but large, well-educated and mostly middle-class, enjoys a lively cultural life, and has been linked to the growth of non-mainstream schools which teach through the medium of Irish. There are also many Irish speakers abroad, particularly in the United States and Canada. Irish was spoken until the early twentieth century on the island of Newfoundland, in a form known as Newfoundland Irish.
Ulster Scots or Ulster-Scots (Ulstèr-Scotch) generally refer to the dialects of Scots spoken in parts of Ulster in Ireland. Some definitions of Ulster Scots may also include Standard English spoken with an Ulster Scots accent. This is a situation like that of Lowland Scots and Scottish Standard English.] – Where words are pronounced using the Ulster Scots phonemes closest to those of Standard English. Ulster Scots has been influenced by Hiberno-English, particularly Mid Ulster English, and by Ulster Irish. Ulster Scots has also influenced Mid Ulster English, which is the dialect of most people in Ulster. As a result of the competing influences of English and Scots, varieties of Ulster Scots can be described as 'more English' or 'more Scots'.
The Scots language was brought to Ulster during the early 17th century, when large numbers of Scots speakers arrived from Scotland during the Hamilton and Montgomery Settlements and the Ulster Plantation. The earliest Scots writing in Ulster dates from that time, and until the late 20th century, written Scots from Ulster was almost identical with that of Scotland. However, since the revival of interest in the Ulster dialects of Scots in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, new orthographies have been created, which, according to Irish language activist Aodán Mac Póilin, seek "to be as different to English (and occasionally Scots) as possible.”
It has been claimed that the recent "Ulster-Scots language and heritage cause has been set rolling only out of a sense of cultural rivalry among some Protestants and unionists, keen to counter-balance the onward march of the Irish language movement."
Food and Drink
A pint of Guinness
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 100. Annual sales total 850 million liters (1.5 billion imperial or 1.8 billion US pints).
A feature of the product is the burnt flavour that is derived from roasted un-malted barley, although this is a relatively modern development, not becoming part of the grist until the mid-20th century. For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed beer to give a sharp lactic flavour. Although the Guinness palate still features a characteristic "tang", the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The draught beer's thick, creamy head comes from mixing the beer with nitrogen when poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad, and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001, is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually
Irish coffee (Irish: caifé Gaelach) is a cocktail consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar (some recipes specify that brown sugar should be used), stirred, and topped with thick cream. The coffee is drunk through the cream. The original recipe explicitly uses cream that has not been whipped, although drinks made with whipped cream are often sold as "Irish coffee".
There are many references to food and drink in early Irish literature. Honey seems to have been widely eaten and used in the making of mead. The old stories also contain many references to banquets, although these may well be greatly exaggerated and provide little insight into everyday diet. There are also many references to fulacht fia, which are archaeological sites commonly believed to have once been used for cooking venison. The fulacht fia have holes or troughs in the ground which can be filled with water. Meat can then be cooked by placing hot stones in the trough until the water boils. Many fulach fia sites have been identified across the island of Ireland, and some of them appear to have been in use up to the 17th century.
Excavations at the Viking settlement in the Wood Quay area of Dublin have produced a significant amount of information on the diet of the inhabitants of the town. The main animals eaten were cattle, sheep and pigs, with pigs being the most common. This popularity extended down to modern times in Ireland. Poultry and wild geese as well as fish and shellfish were also common, as were a wide range of native berries and nuts, especially hazel. The seeds of knotgrass and goosefoot were widely present and may have been used to make a porridge.
The potato in Ireland
The potato would appear to have been introduced into Ireland in the second half of the 16th century, initially as a garden crop. It eventually came to be the main food field crop of the tenant and labouring classes. As a food source, the potato is extremely efficient in terms of energy yielded per unit area of land. The potato is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C (especially when fresh). As a result, the typical 18th- and 19th-century Irish diet of potatoes and buttermilk was a contributing factor in the population explosion that occurred in Ireland at that time. However, due to the political rule of the time, the majority of Irish produce (root crops, cereals and animal produce) was exported to Britain, leaving few strains of potato as the sole food source for the Irish. This, along with the spread of potato blight led to shortages and famine, the most notable instance being the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), which more or less undid all the growth in population of the previous century. The cause of which was partially due to an adherence to lassie faire economic policies by the government which kept food exports at the pre famine level leading to disease and emigration.
In Ireland many sports, such as rugby union, Gaelic football and hurling, are organized in an all-island basis, with a single team representing the island of Ireland in international competitions. Other sports, such as soccer, have separate organising bodies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. At the Olympics, a person from Northern Ireland can choose to represent either the Great Britain team or the Ireland team. Also as Northern Ireland is a Home Nation of the United Kingdom it also sends a Northern Ireland Team to the Commonwealth Games every four years.
Gaelic football (Irish: Peil Ghaelach; short name Peil or Caid), commonly referred to as football or Gaelic, is an Irish team sport. It is a form of football derived from traditional Irish ball games. It is played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch. The objective of the sport is to score points by passing the ball through the other team's goals (3 points) or a set of two upright posts separated by a crossbar 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) above the ground (1 point).
Hurling (Irish: Iománaíocht/Iomáint) is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for over 3,000 years, and is considered to be the world's fastest gameplay sport. One of Ireland's native Gaelic games, it shares a number of features with Gaelic football, such as the field and goals, number of players, and much terminology. There is a similar game for women called camogie (camógaíocht). It shares a common Gaelic root with the sport of shinty (camanachd) which is played predominantly in Scotland.
Camogie (Irish: camógaíocht; formerly called camoguidheacht) is an Irish stick-and-ball team sport played by women; it is almost identical to the game of hurling played by men. Camogie is played by 100,000 women in Ireland and worldwide, largely among Irish communities. It is organised by the Dublin-based Camogie Association or An Cumann Camógaíochta.
Gaelic football is one of four sports (collectively referred to as the "Gaelic games") controlled by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the largest sporting organisation in Ireland. Along with hurling and camogie, Gaelic football is one of the few remaining strictly amateur sports in the world, with players, coaches, and managers prohibited from receiving any form of payment. Gaelic football is mainly played on the island of Ireland, although units of the Association exist in other areas such as Great Britain and North America.
Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of attendance, with the 2011 All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, held at Croke Park, Dublin, drawing an attendance of 82,300 people. Outside of Ireland, football is mainly played amongst members of the Irish diaspora. Gaelic Park in New York City is the largest purpose-built Gaelic sports venue outside of Ireland. Three major football competitions operate throughout the year: the National Football League and the All-Ireland Senior Championship are operated on a county basis, while the All-Ireland Club Championship is contested by individual clubs. The All-Ireland Senior Championship is run as a knock-out competition, with the top two counties meeting in the All-Ireland Football Final, considered the most prestigious event in Gaelic football.
Under the auspices of the GAA, Gaelic football is a male-only sport; however, the related sport of ladies' Gaelic football is governed by the Ladies' Gaelic Football Association. Similarities between Gaelic football and Australian rules football have allowed the development of international rules football, a hybrid sport, and a series of Test matches has been held regularly since 1998.
The Banshee is another well known piece of folklore. Taking its name from Gaeilge meaning woman of the fairies, the fairy woman. Folklore states that the cry of the Banshee can be heard prior to a death. Originally associated with the death of someone of influence within the community, it was believed that the Banshee followed certain families. Her wail, it was said, could be heard even before the death of a family member became known. More commonly the term could be used to describe an over crying youngster or overly pessimistic person.”You’re worse than the Banshee crying bad luck around us” The Banshee or similar sprit is found in a number of Celtic folklore.
It cannot be disputed but we Irish like our drink. No matter what you source you draw the statistics from, Ireland ranks high in the lists of alcohol consumption. It has become as much a part of our culture as our lifestyle. Visit any town or village in the country and undoubtedly one of the most prolific establishments that will be seen is the pub. The increase in the number of Off-licences may indicate a change in the trends of drinking though not a necessarily a change in attitudes. But whatever your opinion one thing is sure in that it is part of the Irish psyche and not a recent development at that. The Irish language has a saying for it, Galor gan náire, which means, A disease without shame.
A very famous piece of early Irish literature is The Book Of Armagh. Written in Latin in the early part of the 9th century the book was retained in the county by prominent families and was one of the symbols of the Archbishop of Armagh. It remained in this hereditary cycle within the county until the mid 1800’s when it was presented to Trinity College Dublin, where it remains. Although written mainly in Latin the book contains some of the earliest examples of old Irish. It was customary for Irish scribes to uses the margins to translate Irish into Latin. Almost the equivalent of ‘doodling’ on the page.
Brian Boru , Ard Rí High King is a famous figure in Irish history with links to Armagh. In the early 1000’s Brian stamped his authority on the island by attacking rival kings who did not accept his claim to Ard Rí. There are many stories relating to his battles and his struggle to consolidate his power. It is stated that he used the Catholic Church to this end. The church in those days was centred around powerful monasteries headed up by equally powerful abbots. Armagh was the location on one such monastery and according to The Book of Armagh, in 1005 Brian donated 22 ounces of gold to the monastery and declared that Armagh was the religious capital of Ireland. A title it holds today. However, his demise came at the Battle on Clontarf in 1014. His body was taken to Swords to be waked and from there to Armagh where his it is said that his tomb is located in the north wall of St.Patrick’s C of I Cathedral.