IN THIS ISSUE
~~~~~ Keep us Free!
~~~~~ New Free resources at the site
~~~~~ News Snaps from Ireland
~~~~~ Irish Film Review: The General by Dawn Hayden
~~~~~ Irish Quotations of the Month
~~~~~ Beltane Bonfires and Nettle Soup by Bridget Haggerty
~~~~~ Gaelic Phrases of the Month
~~~~~ Shamrock Site of the Month: irishweddingday.com
~~~~~ Searcher Site of the Month: familyweb.org
~~~~~ Monthly free competition result
We have an excellent article from Bridget Haggerty in this
month's issue which outlines the traditions and customs
associated with the dawning of the Summer season in Ireland.
We have also finally started our Irish Recipes resource,
I am glad to report that the threat posed by Foot and Mouth
Disease seems to be finally declining despite the fact that
the epidemic is still prevalent in England.
Thanks again to Dawn Hayden for her film reviews. This
month 'The General' is examined. Got an Irish film review
you would like to submit? Send it in!
BEST WISHES FROM IRELAND!
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NEW IRISH RECIPES ARCHIVE
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
FOOT AND MOUTH FEARS RECEDE
The foot and mouth epidemic continues in England but so
far there has only been one recorded case in Southern
Ireland and since that was well over a month ago the
Government has been able to lift many of the restrictions
that had been imposed.
The tourist industry are particularly happy that the
countryside is again open for business and that the many
castles, parks, gardens and heritage sites can be availed
of by visitors.
A big promotional campaign offering cheaper flights and
accommodation deals is expected to be mounted by tourism
chiefs in the next few months. The message is clear:
'COME TO IRELAND' - you may even find a bargain!
IRELAND HAS THE HIGHEST BIRTH RATE IN THE EU
The Irish birth rate of 14.6 births per 1000 is still the
highest in the European Union but this rate is expected to
decline over the next 2 decades. There is now a trend for
women to first give birth whilst in their early 30's
whereas before the most frequent age for initial
childbirth was when a woman was in her late 20's.
One of the main reasons for the impending expected decline
and the current advancement of the age of new mothers is
the cost of childcare. Government initiatives to encourage
parents to continue working have failed to tackle the
prohibitive cost of placing young children in Creches and
Montessori Schools which is partially responsible for the
reduction in the birth rate. Some lower-paid civil servants
are paying between 60% and 80% of their wages in childcare
costs. Placing a child in a creche in Ireland for 5 working
days can cost IR£120 per child per week (approx US$140).
A survey of 140 countries has placed Ireland 18th in terms
of providing health and education to girls. The 'Save the
Children' report indicated that Finland, Sweden and the UK
were the best of the surveyed countries with the poorer
African nations faring worst. The life expectancy ratio of
a population is critically linked to the health and
education of young girls, the report found.
REAL IRA AND CONTINUITY IRA ARE BANNED BY USA
The US Government has outlawed the 'Real IRA' and the
'Continuity IRA', designating them as terrorist
organisations. Representatives of these groups will be
denied visas to enter the US and will thus be restricted
in their ability to raise funds.
It is estimated that the Real IRA has a current membership
of approximately 170 members while the Continuity IRA has
about 50 members.
The forthcoming General Election in the UK and Northern
Ireland is expected to be a make or break time for the peace
process. Ulster Unionist leader David Thrimble has put his
reputation on the line again by declaring that there must be
decommissioning of IRA weaponry or else he will resign from
the Northern Executive. It is possible therefore that the
Northern Assembly may be again suspended in an attempt to
save the 'Good Friday' agreement.
SLOWDOWN IN HOUSE PRICE INCREASE CONTINUES
The boom in the price of Irish property is continuing albeit
at a slower rate than before. The cost of a new home in 1996
was IR£63,000 but today, five years later, it has doubled to
The 12-month price increase in house prices fell in April to
18.4% from 19.1% the previous month. House prices have risen
by 4% in the first 4 months of this year, compared to 6.6% in
the same period in 2000. These figures are deceptive though
because there is now real evidence that there are some
bargains to be picked up, especially in rural areas. A two
acre site with a good quality bungalow is now available for
IR£150,000 and that is less than 1 hours drive from Dublin.
If you fancy a 'fixer-upper' then you can pick up a derelict
cottage in the tax-advantageous Counties of Leitrim, Cavan
and Sligo for as little as IR£15,000. Estimated rebuilding
costs of about IR£75,000 provide you with a country retreat
for £90,000. Pretty good!
CRACKDOWN ON PUBS WHO SELL ALCOHOL TO TEENAGERS CONTINUES
Fifteen pubs have so far been closed as part of a Garda
crackdown on the sale of drink to teenagers. The new law has
forced guilty premises to close for periods of up to 2 weeks
and further infractions will see even greater closures. Three
convictions will result in revocation of the licence. 30 more
court cases are pending.
The national Age Card scheme is seeing over 200 applications
being made daily from young people who are over the 18 year
limit. 25,000 cards have been issued so far in the seven
months that the voluntary initiative has been in place.
QUIET MAN POSTER SELLS FOR IR£3300 AT AUCTION
Northern Ireland publican Billy McNeill is obviously a big
John Wayne fan, or maybe it is the buxom image of Maureen
O'Hara that attracted him to the original 1950 poster for
the movie 'The Quiet Man' that was auctioned in Sothebys
A fierce bidding war ensued for the original promotional
poster that was expected to fetch around IR£1000 but
earned more than treble that amount.
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IRISH MOVIE REVIEW: THE GENERAL by Dawn Hayden
The John Boorman film ' The General' is based on the life
of Dublin gangland leader Martin Cahill who was killed by
the IRA because of his involvement in the drugs trade and
because of his willingness to associate in crime with the
enemies of the IRA.
The always excellent Brendan Gleeson plays the lead as the
slobbish, unkempt and yet ruthless Cahill who defied
authority from an early age to establish the foremost
criminal Dublin gang of its time.
He robs banks at will, visits a country manor and robs the
artwork, trades in drugs extensively and even nails one of
his own men that he suspects of cheating him to a billiard
John Voight plays the aging detective out to get Cahill.
Frustrated at every turn by his criminal prey he thinks that
he finally has his man only to find that the courts let him
down. The portrayal of the uptight policeman is in stark
contrast to the feckless criminal Cahill who eventually
reminds him that he has brought him down to his level.
This is a typical cops and robbers film. It treats the bad
guy as the hero and the good guys as the inept fools. But
once you get past this stereotyping this is very enjoyable
viewing not least because it depicts a view of Dublin life
that may be hidden, or ignored, by those not native to that
Unemployment, poverty, abuse, inner city bravado and the all
pervasive plague that is the drugs epidemic that has swept
Dublin in the last 20 years are a grim backdrop to this tale
of depravity that can only end in destruction.
'The General' is filmed in black in white which adds greatly
to the atmosphere of danger. It is well worth viewing if
only to gain an insight into the machinations of inner
city Dublin lowlife, but it is not for the faint hearted.
IRISH QUOTATIONS OF THE MONTH
The Rain drove us into the church - our refuge,
our strength, our only dry place ... Limerick gained
a reputation for piety, but we knew it was only
Frank McCourt, Anggela's Ashes, 1996
He'd ... settle into a life of Guinness, sarcasm and
late late nights, the kind of life that American
academics think real Dubliners lead.
Joseph O'Connor, Cowboys and Indians, 1991
I feel at times as if I was among a people as
mysterious as the Chinese, a people who have taken
hold of the English language and moulded it to their
Conor Cruise O'Brien, speaking about Cork in 1994.
BELTANE BONFIRES AND NETTLE SOUP by Bridget Haggerty
Happy first day of the Celtic summer! Oh, to have been in
Ireland a few hundred years ago at this time. The most
dramatic part of the Beltane celebration was the community
bonfire. People would gather around it, often bringing
chairs or stools in order to 'sit out the wake of winter'.
The best singers and musicians in the crowd would perform
and there was always joyous dancing, often until the wee
The fire was usually lit on May Eve - fed by whatever a
village could spare - and was kept going until sunset on
May 1st. In general, most people extinguished all fires in
their homes on May eve. And, it was considered incredibly
unlucky to even light a cigarette or candle and take it
beyond the front door. In keeping with the old ways, 'new
fire' had to be brought back to the house from the Beltane
As the Beltane fires burned brightly across the land, other
important events were taking place. May 1st was when many
hiring fairs were held. People looking for work came
carrying symbols of their skill - a spade, a hay fork, a
reaping hook, or a spancel, which said the bearer was an
Today was also known as 'gale day' - when a tenancy began
or ended and on which a half-year's rent must be paid. Signs
of the weather, the appearance of the sky and of the May
moon, the strength and direction of the wind, the amount of
rain, were all carefully noted, as indications of the coming
Summer weather. Rain was expected and welcomed. 'A wet and
windy May fills the barns with corn and hay'. A cold, east
wind was a bad sign, while frost meant hard times to come.
And, God forbid, there should still be snow on Slieve Snaght
in north Wexford! This was so evil an omen that the farmers
expected the landlord to forego the rent for the coming half
In different parts of the country, the custom was that one
should not dig, whitewash, bathe or sail on May Day. As with
many countries in western Europe, Ireland paid close heed to
avoiding anything where there might be magic afoot. The
fairies were on the move and the unexpected was always a
A procession of 'May Boys', dressed in white shirts adorned
with colorful ribbons tied in knots, led what was known as a
garland procession through the neighborhood. At the head of
the parade was an elected May King and Queen. At each stop,
they would ask for funds to help defray the cost of the May
Day party to be held later. Before 1820, there are records
of great May Pole celebrations in Dublin. In addition to
dancing and drinking, the pole was often greased and a prize
offered to anyone who could climb to the top. Other
revelries included a wide assortment of sporting events,
including foot races, hopping races, sack races, and
wrestling. Dance competitions were also held and very often,
the coveted prize was a cake.
Much attention was paid to the health of the family because
it was widely believed that any illness or injury on May Eve
or May Day was especially dangerous or difficult to cure. On
the other hand, this time of year was considered to be best
for gathering medicinal herbs.
The first May Day butter, that is, the first butter made
from the milk of May Day, was held to be the best of all
bases for salves and ointments. And, it was firmly believed
that any herb picked at random before sunrise on May Day
was a sure cure for warts. Also, if you wanted to keep the
rheumatics away for a year, the custom was to eat nettle
soup three times during the month, beginning on May 1st.
It was the responsibility of the children to go out and
gather young nettles and there are many written accounts of
youngsters making a game out of chasing each other with the
leaves. The nettles that survived the chase were made into a
soup or cooked like spinach. Another traditional dish in the
old days was stirabout or hasty pudding. Generally, the
first of May was the day when farm folk took inventory and
it was said to indicate a wife's great care and caution if
there was still enough corn or flour to create the pudding.
There are many superstitions associated with this magical
time so here is a brief list and possible precautions:
* Between sunset on May Eve and the dawn of May Day, one
should stay close to home and never sleep outdoors. If
you must be out and about, a piece of iron in the pocket
might give some protection, as will a spent cinder from
the hearth, or a sprig of mountain ash.
* Many people leave the fairies an offering of food and
drink either on their doorstep, or at a fort, lone bush
or other fairy dwelling.
* A favorite prank of the good folk is to cause people to
lose their way by bringing down a mist. One way to
protect against this is to wear your coat inside out.
This disguise will confuse them and might allow you to
* Care should be taken not to keep anything you find of
value on the roadway or anywhere. Best of all, don't pick
it up. But, if you wish to be neighborly, you should place
the article on a fence, gate or bush so that the rightful
owner can find it again.
* The first water taken from the well on May Day was
variously known as 'the top of the well' or 'the luck of
the well'. In evil hands this water could do great harm,
but in the hands of the rightful owner, it brought luck,
protection and healing.
* A child born on May Day has the gift of being able to see
the fairies - but it was believed the child would not live
a long life. Animals born on this day were also sure to be
* If a girl went out into the garden before sunrise on May
1st, she could find out the name of her future spouse by
taking up the first snail or slug she finds. This is put
on a plate sprinkled with flour. A cabbage leaf is
placed on top and left until after sunrise. Then,
according to the superstition, she will find the initials
of her lover traced in the flour.
* The call of the cuckoo is ominous - to hear it on your
right brings luck, on the left, ill fortune, from a church
yard meant a death in the family, and before breakfast,
a hungry year.
Bridget Haggerty is the author of 'The Traditional Irish
Wedding', visit here for more:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Tá grá agam duit!
PRONOUNCED: taw graw agg/um dwit
MEANING: I love you!
PHRASE: Mo mhíle grá
PRONOUNCED: muh veal/ah graw
MEANING: My thousand loves
PHRASE: Go raibh míle maith agat!
PRONOUNCED: Guh ruh meal/ah mawt ag/gut
(literal: may you have a thousand good things!)
MEANING: Many thanks!
View the archive of phrases here:
SHAMROCK SITE OF THE MONTH
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designed to make planning your wedding easier Visit at:
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