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-Edmund Burke

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Garden GateFáilte
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?

Saint of 9/11: Fr. Mychal

A Compilation of Tributes & Memories
by Bridget Haggerty

He was administering the Last Rites to a fallen firefighter when he himself, was struck down. There was no priest available to give Fr. Mychal Judge the final sacrament of his faith. It was up to one of his own, a NYC firefighter, to give him a traditional Roman Catholic spiritual farewell.

Even before 9/11, many people considered Fr. Mychal a hero: the firefighters for whom he served as chaplain, the homeless to whom he gave winter coats, people with AIDS to whom he ministered. But after 9/11, his hero status became official, when Fr. Mychal became the first official recorded victim of the attacks on America that day. Also, according to all accounts of his life, he possessed that rare combination of qualities that are usually attributed to saints: nobility and humility.


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."


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.


Poetry Corner: Thomas Michael Kettle
(b. ?? 1880 - d. Sept. 9, 1916)

...born Co. Dublin; he was a nationalist, economist and poet. He was the first president of the Young Ireland Branch of United Irish League (Home Rule), associated with W. P. Ryan in the attempt to bring ‘a fresh greenness to the trunk of obstructionism’. He was elected Nationalist MP for East Tyrone, 25th Aug. 1906, increasing his majority in the second election, 1910. He joined the board of the Theatre of Ireland with Edward Martyn, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, and others.
He resigned from Parliament, 1910, for whole-time professorship, ‘to formulate an economic idea fitted to express the self-realisation of a nation which is resolute to realise itself’. He established and chaired the Peace Committee during the Lock-Out Strike of 1913, with Joseph Plunkett and Tom Dillon as co-secretaries.


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.


A Taste of Ireland: The Potato
by Bridget Haggerty

Ask anyone to name the one food they most associate with the Emerald Isle, and nine out of ten people will say the potato. Today, Ireland's inhabitants consume more potatoes per capita than any other country in Europe or the United States - more than three hundred pounds a year for each man, woman, and child. What may be surprising to many readers is that the potato didn't exist in Ireland until the end of the 16th century.

A perennial plant of the Nightshade family, its widely swollen underground stem or tuber is believed to have originally been used as a vegetable in the Andes Mountains of South America. After being introduced into Europe it was brought to North America and from there, it was taken to the British Isles by the English. Ironically, it is thought that the blight which caused the potato crops to fail and which ultimately led to the Great Famine, came from the United States.


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!"


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


Sun, Sep 14, 2014


Founded in 545 AD by St Ciaran, Clonmacnoise monastery became between the 7th and 12th centuries a religious, literature and arts center for monks all over Europe. They came to study and pray in the “Island of saints and scholars” when the rest of Europe was still in the Dark Ages. Clonmacnoise was totally devastated by fire as well as successive raids but the site retains its stunning features. The view captured in this image has remained relatively unchanged for 1500 years. Clonmacnoise lay in decay until the Office of Public Works began the arduous task of turning this sacred place into one of Ireland's most famous visitors' centres. Interestingly - and we have yet to find out why - for centuries, courting couples have stood on each side of the arch whispering their words of love to each other.

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

Blessing for Protection

Circle me Lord
Keep protection near
And danger afar
Circle me Lord
Keep hope within
Keep doubt without
Circle me Lord
Keep light near
And darkness afar
Circle me Lord
Keep peace within
Keep evil out.

Contributed by Gloria Woods who received it from SR Margaret McStay of Belfast.
Photo Credit: Mom 24/E-How

More Blessings

Quote of the Week

‘Lord. take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say;
Keep me out of your way.
Father Mychal Judge

More Quotes

9/11 - The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition

We watched this program when it was originally broadcast on CBS in March 2002. It is an extraordinarily powerful one-of-a-kind documentary that starts out as a portrait of a rookie firefighter in NYC. By the time filming was finished, the filmmakers had captured history in the making, including the only image of the first jetliner striking Tower 1, and the only footage from within the tower as it collapsed. With cameras rolling, the filmmakers followed NYC firefighters into the heart of what would be known as Ground Zero. What emerged is a stirring tribute to real-life heroes who, in their city's darkest hour, rose to extraordinary acts of courage and compassion.
Click here for 911 - The Filmakers Commemorative Edition.

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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