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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.

Lughnasa - Celebrating the Harvest
by Bridget Haggerty

Traditionally, August marked the beginning of the Harvest season and it was a time of great celebration in rural Ireland.

The season began on the first of the month with the festival of Lughnasa, the Irish word for August. Since it was impractical to take farm folk away from their work during the week, it was generally celebrated on the first or second weekend. The weather was usually fine and it was traditional for entire communities to gather at a chosen meeting place in the hills, by a river or lake, or perhaps at a holy well. Of the four great Celtic festivals - Imbolc, Beltane and Samhaine, Lugnasa was the most joyeous because, after 'Hungry July', when stores were being rapidly depleted, farm folk could look forward to the fruits of all their hard work during the previous months.


Puck Fair - one of Ireland’s oldest festivals
by Bridget Haggerty

While at one time it was notorious for drinking, with the pubs open round-the-clock for three days and nights, nowadays, Puck Fair is famous for meeting up with old friends, forging new friendships and putting the cares of everyday living on hold. But how did it all get started? Nobody knows the exact origins, but it ‘s said to date to medieval times - or perhaps even before then.

King Puck
The most widely mentioned story relating to the origin of King Puck, associates him with the English Ironside Leader Oliver Cromwell. It is said that while the Roundheads were pillaging the countryside at the foot of the McGillycuddy Reeks, they routed a herd of goats grazing on the upland. The animals took flight before the raiders, and the he-goat or "Puck" broke away on his own and lost contact with the herd. While the others headed for the mountains he went towards Cill Orglain (Killorglin) on the banks of the Laune. His arrival there in a state of semi exhaustion alerted the inhabitants of the approaching danger and they immediately set about protecting themselves and their stock. It is said that in recognition of the service rendered by the goat, the people decided to institute a special festival in his honour and this festival has been held ever since.


The Connemara Pony

by Bridget Haggerty

Connemara, in the west of Ireland, is famous for its rugged landscape of mist-shrouded mountains, desolate moors and bogs, and seemingly endless strands pounded by the waves of the stormy Atlantic ocean. It's in this often-inhospitable and unforgiving terrain that the Connemara Pony developed the qualities essential to survival - hardiness, agility and an extraordinary jumping ability.

The only breed unique to Ireland, the origins go back some 2,500 years to when Celtic warriors brought their dun-colored ponies onto the island and used them to draw war chariots and carts along the beaches and river plains. While the history is obscure, folklore tells us that the tribes of western Ireland were mounted in battle and used horses in everyday life. One legend says that in the 16th century, when the Spanish Armada sank off the Galway coast, the horses swam to shore and bred with the ponies running wild in the mountains. They learned to thrive on the sparse vegetation and to survive the hardships of their habitat. Here, one false step could be fatal.


He Came To Mock - But Stayed to Pray
by Bridget Haggerty

The title for this article is an old Irish saying about "The Reek" - Croagh Patrick. It was once known as Crochan Aigh, the mount of the eagle, before it became associated with Ireland's best-loved saint.

According to legend, St. Patrick retired to the summit of Croagh Patrick for contemplation, fasting and prayer. He remained there for forty days and forty nights during which he was tormented by demons who assumed the form of black birds. He rang his bell so loudly that the men of Ireland heard it; finally he threw the bell at the demons so hard that it broke and the blackbirds departed. Patrick wept and an angel came to console him. As the story goes, he asked the angel to intercede on behalf of the Irish people and secure special dispensations for them.


The Rose of Tralee Festival
Edited and adapted by Bridget Haggerty

This annual event takes its inspiration from a nineteenth century ballad of the same name about a woman called Mary. The words of the song are credited to C. (or E.) Mordaunt Spencer and the music to Charles William Glover, but a story circulated in connection with the festival claims that the song was written by William Pembroke Mulchinock, a wealthy Protestant, out of love for Mary O'Connor, a poor Catholic maid in service to his parents.*

How the festival began
The festival has its origins in a local pageant called the Carnival Queen which fell by the wayside after the second world war when many Irish people were leaving ireland to look for work. The idea for a Rose of Tralee festival came about when a group of local business people met in Harty's bar in Tralee to brainstorm about how to bring more tourists to the town during the horse racing meeting and to encourage ex-pats back home for a visit. In 1957, the Race Week Carnival was resurrected and it featured a Carnival Queen. In the meantime, Dan Nolan, then managing director of The Kerryman newspaper, headed up a group who came up with the idea of a festival named after the famous ballad. The newly named event competition started in 1959 on a budget of just £750.


The Rose of Tralee
How The Ballad Came To Be

One of Ireland's most popular songs was written by William Pembroke Mulchinock who fell in love with one Mary O'Connor, a maid in service to his parents. Fact or fiction, the following account, which was compiled from various sources, tells of an unrequited romance between a wealthy Protestant lad and a poor Catholic colleen.

At 17, Mary was a dark-haired beauty with large, lustrous eyes. When William's sister took him to see her children in the nursery, he saw Mary for the first time - and was totally smitten. From then on, he sought out every opportunity to be with her and eventually, they fell in love. She was especially taken by the lovely poem he had written, just for her:


Fraughan Fool with Sweet Biscuits

In her book The Festive Food of Ireland, Darina Allen explains that fraughans, herts or billberries are the names used in different parts of Ireland for wild blueberries which grow on the acid hilltop soil. They were traditionally picked on the first Sunday of August - during Lúgnasa - and eaten mashed with sugar or in pies. If there was an abundance, they would also be made into jams.


Basic Irish: Golf

Ever played golf in Ireland? It's no idle boast that the Emerald Isle has some of the most picturesque courses in the world. And they're challenging as well. Which is why movie stars like Mike Douglas fly in from the states just to play a round. In this week's lesson, Aideen offers words and phrases related to what one wag described as the greatest excuse for a walk. We especially like the phrase for Golf Club - as in the one you might belong to - sounds suspiciously close to Come and Golf!


Kids' Ireland: The Young King
By Oscar Wilde
Edited and adapted by Bridget Haggerty*

Note: Why did we edit it? Oscar, as we all know, was a master of the language and had an enormous vocabulary. To help the parents reading this story to their children we felt it was necessary to simplify some of Oscar's writing.
This avoids the need to run for the dictionary every few minutes (also, it's pretty scary as Oscar did it).

It was the night before the day of his coronation, and the young King was sitting alone in his beautiful chamber. His courtiers had all taken their leave of him. The lad - for he was only a lad, being but twelve years of age - was not sorry at their departure, and had flung himself back with a deep sigh of relief on the soft cushions of his embroidered couch, lying there, wild-eyed like a brown woodland Faun, or some young animal of the woodlands newly snared by the hunters.


Music Review: RUNA - a tradition in the making
by William Ramoutar

The mandolin has never been my thing. There – I’ve said it. I know I’ll probably get chastised for this. But Dave Curley has changed my mind about it somewhat. He is one of the members of the Philadelphia-based band, Runa. He plays mandolin, banjo, and sings, and until recently I was quite unaware of his superb talents. In fact, Runa were a bit of an unknown entity to me. I had received their latest cd, ironically called “Current Affairs,” from the marvelous Patrick Garrett of Real Good Music, a promoter who works hard to get the word out about many new and upcoming bands and artists and who thankfully sees fit to inform me of his latest stable of artists. A chance meeting on Facebook with their effervescent percussionist Cheryl Prashker, born and raised in Montreal Canada, led me to the one decent listening room in Jacksonville – the Mudville, hosted by the ever faithful to the music, Ray Lewis. What a discovery this band are!


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 Bridget.

Authentic Irish clothing from Aran Sweaters Direct

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Mon, Aug 1, 2016

O’Sullivan’s Cascade, Killarney

According to legend the waterfall once ran with whiskey. The Chieftain of the Fianna, Fionn MacCumhal, resided above the Cascade on Tomies Mountain. It was here that he kept his personal supply of the finest uisgebeatha. O'Sullivan of Tomies was lucky enough to share this delightful drop, being the only man bold enough to stand up to Fionn. Sadly, when the Sassenagh invaded Ireland, O'Sullivan's Cascade changed into water.
Photo credit: Synergise

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

Blessing for a Journey

O Brigit, bless our road,
that calamity may not overtake us as we travel;
O veiled one from the laden Liffey
may we reach home safely by your intercession.
Source: Blessings & Good Wishes

Weekly Quote

"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster"
Jonathan Swift
Photo Credit: Ireland Logue

Shown, a navy Trinity College Crew Neck Sweatshirt - just one of many new products added to the already wonderful array you will find at Irish Shop. To see what's on offer, please click Irish Shop

This wonderful video produced by National Geographic traces the history of the horse in Ireland and the love of horses shared by Irish people. Breathtaking scenery and a soundtrack by the Chieftains makes this one a memorable feast for the eyes and ears.
Click here for The Ballad of The Irish Horse


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March 4, 2011
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This Web Site Bashed, Kicked & Glued together by Russ Haggerty.