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Celebrating A Name Day in Old Ireland
by Bridget Haggerty

Yes, it's me. According to my mother, on the day I was born, my dad cradled me in his arms and said "My little Bridget." And so, that is the blessing - and the burden - I've carried all of my life.

The burden was being given a very different first name from what was popular in England during the late 1940s or early 1950s. Elizabeth or Margaret, after one of the princesses, would have been great. I think every school mate was one or the other. Mary might have been ordinary, but for a child, that wouldn't have been so terrible. The worst part was marrying the first name to the last - Bridget O'Flaherty. No matter what - I stuck out. And it was the last name that did it. My parents could have given me any first name they wanted to - but, joined with O'Flaherty, it wouldn't have mattered. I was Irish.

By the time my folks had settled down in England, I do believe that, except for major holidays such as Easter and Christmas, they'd decided to assimilate into the new culture and forget about the customs of the old country. I don' t recall anything special about February 1st - the feast of St. Bridget. It was my name day, but in the house of my childhood, it was ignored. It wasn't always so.

In the old days, the name given to a baby was thought to contribute to the child's identity, especially if the name was selected as that of a favored relative or saint, and in some countries, it used to be customary to observe name days instead of birthdays. It was also traditional to begin the celebration on the night before - perhaps with a decade of the Rosary to ask Our Lady and the child's patron for his or her needs, and, if possible, a prayer in the child's own words. It was also thought that the deep sleep of a child is profoundly influenced by the hours that precede it, which is why the celebration begins on the eve. But, without doubt, a child's excitement about his or her special day began on the morning of the day itself. Whether celebrated as a secular or spiritual holiday, there was often a gathering of family and friends for a special dinner - and "afters"! I love this poem by Helen McLoughlin:

There! It is finished, the cake for your name day.
Brown, with red raisins, pink icing and candles,
Frilly fine paper with pudgy gilt puppies
To ribbon the rim like a wrist with its bangles.

Tomorrow your quick little heart will start pounding,
Your quick little laugh tinkle over the table.
As yet you're too young to suspect love abounding
Went to that baking - later on you'll be able.

They'll heap you with names in the dear Irish fashion:
"Paistin," "little thrush," "peteen-o," and "heart's treasure,"
Kind love will float round you, a pool of hushed passion;
You, dear little soul, you'll be loved without measure.

Beginning the third of the years you are with us
The Father fulfil you, the Christ and the Spirit;
The Mother of Jesus be vigilant for us
Nunc et in hora...and keep you, and cherish you.

There's a part of me that yearns for a name day cake; it's a dream that's lovely to dwell on once in a while: imagining my dear mother, climbing to the highest star in the heavens to draw down the dream, just for me, on my name day.

Notes: "I have been looking for a baby name book that actually has pronuncations of the Celtic names for quite some time. I can not believe how many baby name books list names without pronunciations. I mean, how are you supposed to know?"
Amazon Reviewer

Here is what they were looking for - Celtic Baby Names.


Thu, Apr 20, 2017

Fungie, the Dolphin of Dingle Bay

The dolphin is one of Ireland’s most fascinating mammals and Fungie is the most famous. He is a fully- grown bottlenose who is 13 feet (4 meteres) long and weighs about 500 lbs or around one-quarter tonne.
Fungie was first noticed in 1984 when Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, began watching a lone wild dolphin escort the town's fishing boats to and from port. 
Later that year, it became officially recorded that Fungie was a permanent resident of the entrance channel to Dingle and the self-appointed “pilot” of the fleet. 
Over the years Fungie has developed from a timid but inquisitive observer of the human visitors into a playful, though mischievous, companion.  From observation of marks on his body, it seems that he does 'interact' with other whales, dolphins or porpoises, proving perhaps he is neither hermit nor outcast from his own kind, but rather that he is simply content to spend most of his time in and around Dingle Bay.

Click for More Culture Corner.

The Book of Irish Names:
First, Family and Place

by Ronan Coghlan, Ida Grehan, P. W. Joyce

Good source of frequently used first names in both Irish and English and their meanings. Lists of the most prominent Irish family names with crest and short history. Final section lists some Irish place names and meaning of words. Amazon Review
Click here for The Book of Irish names.


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