Category Archives: Facts About Ireland

Less-known facts and trivia about Ireland and the Irish

Finally – A Positive Headline About Ireland – From Facebook

The news from Ireland these days is all about economics and just about all gloomy. One small bright spot, however, is a comment from fast-growing Facebook that the company is actually planning to boost its number of employees there next year. Facebook has about 200 Irish folk in its Dublin office, which serves as headquarters for Europe and the Middle East. Apparently, it’s planning to add another 100 or so staffers in the coming year.

According to Facebook’s top exec in Ireland, John Herlihy, the two reasons Ireland remains atractive are it’s great talent pool and rock-bottom corporate tax rate of 12.5% (America’s corporate tax rate, by comparison, is about 40%). All of this would seem to back up the Irish government’s decision to keep that rate low in spite of other belt-tightening measures in the wake to the recent massive bailout from the EU. More on Facebook and other tech giants staying in Ireland on this Forbes blog.

Is Ireland Melting? Quotes From The Financial Front

Ireland certainly doesn’t need a publicity agent to get itself in the news these days. Unfortunately, most of the mentions aren’t too good. Here are some interesting quotations caught this week about the old sod’s massive economic problems:

“This year the eve of All Saints passed in a deathly hush…with nothing to be seen in the skies save, in the murky distance but approaching ever nearer, the Four Horsemen of our particular Apocalypse: the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, Brussels and the Iron Chancellor, Angela Merkel.”
– John Banville, “The Debtor of the Western World,” New York Times 11/19/2010

“It’s possible that the bailout of Ireland could turn into a backdoor method of helping German banks and other foreign banks that have mismanaged their exposure to Ireland’s banking system.”
– Nathan Vardi, “Is Ireland Europe’s AIG?,” November 2010

“Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture, but now we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.”
– Christopher Caldwell

“The yoke of the European Union is lighter than the yoke of the British Empire, but Ireland has returned to a kind of vassal status all the same.”
– Russ Douthat, “Ireland’s Paradise Lost,” New York Times 11/22/2010

Stay tuned, and let’s hope things get better over there rather than get worse!

It Hurts So Bad: Ireland’s Real Estate Bust

Here’s a very in-depth video from the Wall Street Journal network about the depth of Ireland’s economic problems. 30,000 people left the country last year to pursue jobs abroad, and there seems to be little hope that the trend will change soon. A sobering portrait of Eire in 2010:
See Ireland Video

Irish Easter Traditions

Easter is certainly the most important holiday on the Roman Catholic calendar. Ireland has a long list of traditions around it, some of which relate to Christ’s return to life and some of which have grown out of old Celtic practices that have more to do with the agricultural calendar than with religion.

Easter comes in springtime, at about the same time as the Vernal Equinox, which ancient Celts associated with fertility rites. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting when many eat no meat, and some give up additional things like smoking or alcohol. Here are some of Ireland’s Easter traditions, a few of which are a bit strange:

On Good Friday:
– A complete “spring cleaning” of the home.
– Doing no work with tools, in order to avoid spilling any blood from an accident.
– Mark one of the eggs laid on the farm on Good Friday to be eaten with the celebration meal on Sunday.
– If you die on this Good Friday, you go directly to heaven.
– Gather food on the shore, but do not go out fishing in a boat.

On Easter Saturday:
– Go to church and drink a few sips of holy water, then sprinkle a bit on the family and even the farm animals for good luck.
– Turn off all lights in church at 11 pm and light a Paschal Candle as a symbol of Christ rising from the tomb.

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On Easter Sunday:
– Get up at sunrise and do a celebration dance.
– A mock funeral is conducted by the town butchers with a dead herring. The poor fish is a symbol of the end of Lent, when some Irish folk once ate lots of herring, because it was the only available alternative to meat.
– Gather for a contest called a “cake dance,” where the winner gets the cake

Happy Easter!

Funky facts about St. Patrick’s Day

Did you know that:
New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the biggest non-military parade on the planet, with over 150,000 people actually marching.

New York used to have wide variety of smaller parades on St. Pat’s Day, but they were merged into a single grand event in 1850.

People in Ireland don’t wear green to celebrate the day. Amazingly, green is actually considered an unlucky color in Ireland.

The City of Chicago has been pouring dye into the Chicago River to turn it green every St. Patrick’s Day since 1962.

St. Patrick’s Day was, for many years, a much bigger holiday in America than in Ireland. The day was made a public holiday in Ireland in 1903, and the first parade on St. Pat’s Day in 1931, long after New York’s parade had become a massive annual event. The Irish government has now decided that the holiday is a great way to promote Irish culture, and has held a “St. Patrick’s Festival” in Dublin since 1995, which attracts over 400,000 participants.

The very first parade on this holiday was staged in Boston in 1737.

The world’s longest-running St. Patrick’s Day parade is actually in Montreal, Canada, where it has been put on every year since 1824.

There are now annual St. Patrick’s Day parades in Malaysia, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and even Moscow.

More on the history of St. Patrick and his day here

Author interview: A 30-year search for an Irish family’s history

This week I came across an intersting story from Maureen Wlodarczyk, author of a new book called “Past-Forward – A three-decade and three-thousand-mile journey home.” It chronicles a search for her Irish family history that took her thirty years of work to complete. Ms. Wlodarczyk whote the book in tribute to her grandmother, who celebrated her Irishness, but knew very little of her ancestors who came to the U.S. from County Sligo in the potato famine years of the 19th century. I talked with Maureen about her huge genealogy project and what got her going on it. (Her book is available here.)

irish genealogy bookWhat made you embark on your 30-year search for your Irish family background?

From my early childhood, I was very close to my maternal grandmother Kate who was the daughter of first-generation Irish-American parents, as I am the only daughter of her only daughter. Over the years as I was growing up, I heard bits and pieces about her “difficult” childhood, the loss of her mother when she was nine and her father’s drinking and inability (or unwillingness) to keep the family together after her mother’s premature death from tuberculosis in 1913. The knowledge that she had endured so much but yet went on to marry at 16, a marriage of over 50 years, becoming a wonderful mother to five sons and a daughter, and a devoted grandmother and great-grandmother made me so proud of her….and so sad to know that while she was the essence of family to us, she knew next-to-nothing about her own family and had no meaningful good or positive memories of the family members she had known as a child. I became very curious to know more about her childhood and thought that if I could discover her Irish family history, I could dilute those bad memories with a broader generational story of our Irish roots, hopefully replacing disappointment and shame with some amount of pride in knowing “who we were”.

Did you find out exactly when your relatives came over from Sligo (your grandmother was born in the U.S., right?)

Yes, she was born in Jersey City, NJ. It took over thirty years of off-and-on searching and the advent of the internet and genealogy resources like and the Heritage Centres in Ireland, but I did confirm my great-great-grandfather John J. Flannelly’s birth in Skreen Parish, County Sligo in 1841 and his parents’ (William and Mary Lang Flannelly) marriage there in 1832. That led me to find that William & Mary and their 6 children (including my great-great-grandfather John) arrived in New York City on November 28, 1846 on the packet ship “Marmion”. They left their home to escape the Great Famine.

What did you find out about your family history that surprised you?

I discovered, just a few years ago, that my immigrant great-great-grandfather John Flannelly served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was hospitalized in Williamsburg, VA after the Battle of Williamsburg in May 1862. Although I was born and raised in New Jersey, I have always been drawn to Williamsburg VA, having vacationed there many times over the past 30 years, and have been a part-time resident of that city for the last ten years (long before I discovered my great-great-grandfather had been there as a soldier). I consider myself a person of very strong intuitive sensibility and suspect that drew me to Williamsburg to walk on the very streets where my great-great-grandfather had walked more than a century before.

Are you the only one in your family interested in this kind of information?

I am not the only one who has shown interest but my level of interest and need to search are well beyond any other family member’s. But, I do have a genealogy “buddy” who is always game for an outing….even a day of “cemetery-hopping”: my mother’s cousin Dorothy. She is in her mid-80s, the daughter of my grandmother’s sister, and has the energy and enthusiasm of a person half her age.

Did your grandmother seem interested in knowing about her family history? Did she see herself as a person influenced by her Irish heritage?

My grandmother enjoyed being Irish. St. Patrick’s Day was a favorite holiday when she watched the NYC parade on television and also would watch the John Wayne movie “The Quiet Man”. When it came to her own family, for the reasons I mentioned before, she struggled with some level of shame or embarrassment about things that had happened between her parents and in the aftermath of her mother’s death. While I was able to get her to tell me some details about those years, she was somewhat reluctant to reveal things that had happened. It was the same with her sister. That’s why I say that “time can’t heal all wounds”. I know it didn’t for my grandmother.

What were the main roadblocks you ran into in getting the documents about your family, and how far back were you able to trace your genealogy in Ireland?

The main roadblocks were the fact that my grandmother only had limited family knowledge and that the records available in Ireland prior to the mid-nineteenth century are very limited in many locales. Also, before the last decade and the ever-expanding resources available on the internet, it was necessary to travel to access records or to write to vital statistics departments, waiting a very long time for a response and hoping that the person who handled your request did a thorough job….the kind of job one would do for themselves. So far, I have been able to trace my Irish roots back to the second half of the eighteenth century and my great-great-great-great-grandparents Owen and Mary Flannelly, who were born in the 1770s.

What did you find harder about this project – doing the research or writing the book?

The research was harder and much more protracted, having come in dribs and drabs over so many years. That’s not to say the writing was easy. I had a couple false starts and then, when I decided to write the story in the form of a letter to my grandmother, I found the vehicle for telling the story as I would have told it to her, had she lived.

What, if any, related tangents arose from the search for your family history?

In the last three years, I convinced a male family member to participate in a YDNA testing program under the auspices of a family clan organization in Dublin, Ireland. Those test results put me in touch with new DNA-discovered “cousins” in the US and in Ireland and they have become extended family. I am now an officer of that organization, the Flannery Clan, and help members by doing genealogical research, which has been very rewarding for me and very exciting for them. Not only did I finally solve the mystery of our Irish roots but, where during my grandmother’s childhood the family was broken apart in many ways, we are now (a century later) rediscovering and restoring family connections.

Review published of my book with author interview

I’m very excited to report that a fun and, I think, pretty accurate review of my book was just written here by Andrea Coventry
She also published a very full-length interview with me here on Associate Content. Thanks Andrea!

Coney Island’s Irish Origin

The inhabitants of Coney Island, off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland’s northwest, claim that the New York neighborhood famous for its amusement park was named for their little outpost. Coney Island, Ireland, which you can walk to from the mainland at low tide, has a population of six. Legend says that a Sligo sea captain gave its name to the Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1700’s. Others argue that the American Coney Island was once known as Konijnen Eiland, or “Rabbit Island” by Dutch settlers, and that the word “coney” is simply the English translation of “konijnen,” the dutch word for “rabbit.” For what it’s worth, the American Coney Island was once an actual island, but is now connected to the mainland of Brooklyn.

Dublin traffic enforcement losing money hand over boot

Having one of those police “boots” clamped onto your car wheel is a pretty severe punishment for parking illegally. But police in Dublin seem to be clamping themselves in the foot, in a manner of speaking. With over 60,000 vehicles being hit with a parking boot and an €80 fine every year, you would think the city government would be raking it in. Not so. It actually costs almost twice as much to put the blasted things on cars than the city gets back in fines. In fact, the city is now losing over €5 million a year on the program.

Ireland’s old marriage laws were a bit strange…

Under Brehon laws that governed Ireland as long ago as 600 AD, a man had the right to divorce his wife if she committed adultery, stole things from him or generally “made a mess of everything.” But rules of conduct in marriage were indeed complicated. Under some circumstances, it was legal for a man to hit his wife — as long as he did not leave a mark. If he did, his wife would be entitled to financial compensation from him for the blow. A woman could divorce her husband if he was either impotent or homosexual, and women had the right to own property independently within marriage. The power of Brehon laws rose and fell in Ireland for several centuries, competing the influence of both church and British laws. They governed parts of Ireland, however, all the way up until the 17th century.