Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The River Shannon

Legend has it that Rowan trees once dropped bright red berries into a well where they were eaten by silver fish, earning them great wisdom.  Irish fishermen would catch the fish, hoping to share in this wisdom, but women were banned from the well.  One day, a rebel woman named Sionan fished in the well and caught a silver fish.  Suddenly, a great floodburst carried her west to the sea.  The body of water became known as the Shannon, after the woman.

The River Shannon, Irelands longest river, provides a natural barrier between Northern Ireland and Ireland.  The river spans 200 miles before it pours into the Atlantic Ocean.  Along its banks sit historic towns, castles and monasteries.  Key military battles have taken place along its shores.  Its floodplain contains marshy grasslands and bogs ideal for birds.

While the silver fish, or Atlantic salmon, still swim in the Shannon, attracting anglers to the area.  In the fall, the adult salmon swim upstream from the ocean into the river to spawn, capable of leaping a ten foot waterfall.  The following spring, the baby salmon are born.  As they grow older, they acquire vertical bars, silver in colour.  Some Atlantic salmon spawn for multiple years unlike the Pacific salmon which die after spawning.  Once tens of thousands of fish used to return each year, but now only a few thousand do.




Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Molly Malone Statue

"In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheel barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"



For Dublin's millennium celebration, a statue of Molly Malone, a beautiful bosomy belle, was unveiled in 1988.  The fictional character, featured in the song "Cockles and Mussels", was a fishmonger by day and a prostitute by night. Molly sold cockles and mussels out of her wheelbarrow.  Sadly, one day Molly, suffering from a high fever, succumbed to a bout of cholera and passed away.  Supposedly, her ghosts haunts the streets of Dublin now.  The song was first published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1876.  

Molly's statue, which sat at the bottom of Grafton Street, was temporarily removed to make way for a new track.  Plans are underway to return it to its original location in 2017.  It is known colloquially as "The Tart with the Cart" or "The Trollop with the Scallop(s)".  Supposedly, a Mary (for which Molly is a nickname) Malone passed away on June 13, 1699, the date designated for Molly Malone Day.





Image result for molly malone statue







Monday, 27 March 2017

Ireland's Shamrock Business: It All Started with a Workshop

"So a few of us got together and formed a company to license the technology that came from University College Dublin -- and the rest is history." (James O'Leary)



Twenty years ago, a group of Irish farmers attended a workshop on how to grow shamrocks in gel and the modern shamrock business was born.  For decades, the shamrock, a three-leafed plant  used by St. Patrick to demonstrate the Trinity, had grown in muddy glens. When they were pulled out of the soil, their roots were lost, thereby limiting their life.  However, the workshop taught the farmers how to grow shamrocks in a hydroponic gel, thereby leaving the root intact and lengthening the life of the plant.

The shamrocks sell for about 10 Euros per plant or 45 Euros for a skillet full.  Irish Plant International produces over 130,000 shamrock plants annually. While 4/5 of Ireland's shamrock plants stay on the Emerald Isle, the other 1/5 is shipped all over the world for St. Patrick's Day including places as far flung as Texas, Chile and Argentina.  Shamrock lapels are worn for weddings and other special occasions.  In a nod to his Irish roots, former president Barack Obama was given a vase of Shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day this year.

For more information about the St. Patrick and the shamrock, visit http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2017/03/st-patrick-kidnapped-by-pirates.html.




skillet




Sunday, 26 March 2017

When Erin First Rose

"When Erin first rose from the dark swelling flood,
God bless'd the green island and saw it was good;
The emerald of Europe, it sparkled and shone
In the ring of the world the most precious stone.
In her sun, in her soil, in her station thrice blest,
With her back towards Britain, her face to the West,
Erin stands proudly insular, on her steep shore,
And strikes her high harp 'mid the ocean's deep roar."



It was poet, physician and political radical, William Brennan who coined the term "Emerald Isle" in his poem dedicated to Ireland called When Erin First Rose written in 1795.  Its verdure does not come from its deep forests for they were removed in the massive clearing efforts of the 1600's.  The deep green shade comes from Ireland's lush green grass thanks to its wet climate.  While Ireland is on the latitude of Newfoundland, which receives plenty of snow in the winter, Ireland benefits from the North Atlantic Drift which pushes the warm gulf stream towards the isle, keeping the temperature above freezing. Annual rainfall along the west coast can exceed 120 inches.  The abundance of lush grass is a perfect place for livestock to graze.  In fact, Ireland's eight million sheep and seven million cows outnumber its four and a half million people. (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/where-is-the-emerald-isle)  





Saturday, 25 March 2017

Maeve Binchy's Writing Career Started on a Kibbutz


Five year old Maeve Binchy with sister Joan and cousin Dan circa 1944 courtesy http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/maeve-binchy-my-thoughts-on-ireland-crpdx5tpdcz.



Maeve Binchy, the Irish author of 16 novels about small town life in Ireland, started her career as a teacher of French and Latin.  One summer, the parents of a student gave her a free trip to Israel.  She spent her days picking oranges and tugging chickens on a kibbutz, and her evening writing letters home to her parents.  Her father thought the letters were so eloquently written that he cut off the salutation and sent them to the newspaper where they were published.  These letters sparked Binchy's career as a journalist.


 
                                             This lady, and recently deceased Irish novelist Maeve Binchy


             Michele Bachmann worked on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1960's just like Maeve Binchy                        courtesy http://cdn.timesofisrael.com/uploads/2012/08/downloadedfile_0.jpeg/



Binchy's first novel, Light a Penny Candle, based on a London girl who is evacuated during the Blitz to Ireland and strikes of a friendship with an Irish girl which endures for twenty years.  Binchy called the five rejections she received for the manuscript "a slap in the face...It's like if you don't go to a dance you can never be rejected but you'll never get to dance either."  The novel's publication in 1982 came at the right time as the author was two months behind on her mortgage.





Binchy went on to write a total of 24 books, 16 of which are novels.  Most of her novels dealt with the contrast between rural and urban life, between England and Ireland and between World War II Ireland versus today's Ireland.  Ironically, the author ended up marrying an Englishman, Gordon Snell, who was a BBC producer in London.  They lived in England for a time and later moved to Binchy's beloved Ireland where Snell became a children's author.



Gordon Snell & Maeve Binchy walk along the sea jetty courtesy http://www.gettyimages.ca/photos/gordon-snell.












Friday, 24 March 2017

The Irish Cottage

In 1840, 40% of Irish families lived in one room thatched cottages.  Here are ten things you may not know about the Irish cottage.

1.  A fireplace or hearth, built of stone, was located in the middle of the house, often with a bedroom on either end.

2.  Roofs were usually constructed of coupled rafters stuffed with turf for insulation and thatched to prevent leaking water.

3.  A primary source of timber was wood washed ashore from wrecked ships.

4.  For those with more money, there was the thatched mansion, a two story cottage.  The Old Farm Cottage in Kilkenny is one example.

5.  The half door had three purposes:  it kept the children in and the animals out; it permitted light and air to circulate in the damp and dusty cottage; it served as a prop to lean on while smoking a pipe.

6.  The Irish cottage was filled with a couple, their six or seven children, a pig and a dresser of hens or chickens.

7.  Irish cottages often had two doors, one entrance for the mother in law, the other for the daughter in law.

8.  Irish cottages usually had small windows, limited in number.  The size was to keep the heat in, the number to prevent being taxed for having more than six windows, a law enforced between 1799 and 1851.

9.  Water was supplied by a well, located by a local diviner with a divining rod.

10.  The "good room" sometimes added on to cottages at a later date, was the parlour, reserved for guests like priests or teachers.



Irish Thatch Roof Cottage

Thursday, 23 March 2017

No Irish Need Apply

The Potato Famine of the 1840's drove thousands of Irish farmers out of the country.  Many immigrated to England, Australia and North America with the hope of starting over.  However, when they looked for work in their new country, they were often greeted by a window sign saying:  "Irish Need Not Apply".

The phrase turned up 29 times in the New York Times on November 10, 1854.  A variation, Irish Need Not Apply" appeared 7 times.  Other ads specified interest in Americans or Protestants, appearing several times on May 1, 1855, which effectively eliminated Irish Catholics.

A song "No Irish Need Apply", written by Kathleen O'Neil, was inspired by a young Irish woman searching for work as a maid in London.  She spots a sign in a window which reads:  "A small active girl to do the general housework of a large family, one who can cook, clean and get up fine linen, preferred.  No Irish Need Apply."
(The London Times, February, 1862)

Nineteenth Century British writer Anthony Trollope explained the pervading sentiment at the time:

"Often depicted as monstrous beings or apes in satirical cartoons, the Irish were not seen as welcome members to English society.  Irish immigrants were seen as lazy, drunk, anarchistic criminals whose sole purpose in life was to steal the jobs of English workers.  It comes as no surprise, then, that English employers were not very welcoming of Irish workers."(https://apps.cndls.georgetown.edu/projects/borders/items/show/86)

The city of Boston, Massachusetts was a common destination for the Irish.  In one year, the Eastern Seaboard city swelled from 30,000 to 100,000 Irish.  Boston shop windows often displayed the trademark "No Irish Need apply" signs, relegating the Irish to the most menial jobs.  In fact, in the mid-1800's, 70% of Boston's servants were Irish.  But they got their foot in the door.

The influence of Irish Catholics slowly grew when the Irish accepted jobs in the police force and in politics.  John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, father of the future Rose Kennedy, became mayor of Boston in 1906.  Joseph P. Kennedy rose to be the American Ambassador to Britain during the Second world War.  His son, John F. Kennedy, of course, became the 35th President of the United States in 1961, the first Catholic to be elected to the position.

Today, No Irish Need Apply signs are proudly mounted in the suburban Boston homes of third, fourth and fifth generation Irish. (http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2006/05/no-irish-need-apply/)




NINA sign circa 1916 courtesy Fulton Street Sign Co.