The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter
The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland
Now received by over 50,000 people worldwide
Copyright (C) 2008
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Irish Halloween Traditions
=== Did Someone say Twins?
by Josephine Doherty McTague
=== Ireland House-Swap
=== A Biography of Sean Lemass
=== The Ghost Story by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Shamrock Site of the Month: Celticattic.com
=== Monthly free competition result
Hello from Ireland! It is hard to believe that
10 years have passed since we sent out our very
first newsletter. I want to take this opportunity
to thank all of our contributors over the years
for their stories, poems, articles and goodwill.
This month we are delighted to announce our new
service for Irish tourists. Our new web-board
guarantees you an answer! Unlike most other web
forums that go unattended if you post a query to
this board you WILL be answered - and its free!
Such has been the response to our 'house-swap'
service that we have decided to expand it
dramatically. The new site with house listings
will go live shortly but you can still register
your house or apartment for free - see below.
Finally I would like to invite you to enter a
competition to win 1 of 5 copies of Pat
Watson's book 'Original Irish Stories' which
has 60 of his 'lyrical yarns'. This competition
will be available for the next 3 days only and
only to those readers who enter their email here:
Help keep this newsletter alive at
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
GOVERNMENT UNDER PRESSURE OVER BUDGET CUTBACKS
The recently announced annual budget of finances
has been greeted with scorn from the opposition
parties and street marches by disgruntled interest
groups. First up were the pensioners who were
unhappy about the fact that the automatic right to
free medical service for the over-70s was being
replaced by a 'means test' system which accounts
for an applicants financial situation.
The Government had initially proposed that an
income level of just over the standard rate of
pension would apply, meaning that all pensioners
who received an alternative source of income
would be excluded from getting the coveted
'medical card'. It is estimated that over 15,000
senior citizens attended the much publicized
gathering outside Leinster House (the seat of the
Irish parliament). The fact that the pensioners
were able to travel from all corners of the island
using free travel provided to them by the
government was not missed by some commentators.
It is doubtful if Fianna Fail will have
appreciated the irony however, as they have
damaged their credibility with their handling of
this issue. They backed down under severe
political and media pressure and changed the
income threshold to 700 euro per week which
effectively means that 95% of those who are
already in receipt of a medical card will retain
it. The only real success in this for the
government is in having introduced the concept
of 'means testing' for the medical card, rather
than an automatic entitlement for those people
over 70 years of age.
Targeting older people in order to balance the
economic books is rarely a good idea however, and
it is likely that Fianna Fail will pay for this
debacle at next years local and European
elections. The fact that the country is now in
dire need of financial restraint seems to have
been lost on the opposition parties and the media,
both of whom are practically giddy at the
Students were on the march also, complaining about
the increase in their university fees. Farmers
promise protests in the coming weeks, fearful that
their overall income is to be drastically cut by
Another main platform of the recent budget was a 1%
levy on all income to be paid by everyone earning
up to 100,000 euro. Those earning over that amount
would pay 2%. Hot stuff, except that the government
then rowed back and declared that those on the
minimum wage would be excluded. It is likely that
the higher threshold for moving from the lower rate
to the higher rate will be reduced to make up for
Other unpopular features of the tightest budget in
* 10 Euro airport departure levy for those flying
out of Ireland
* Motor tax up by as much as 5%
* Petrol hiked 8 cents per litre.
* VAT (sales tax) on retail purchase increased by
half percent to 21.5%
* 'Second home' tax of 200 euro per year, whether
the property is in Ireland or abroad.
IRELAND THE FIRST TO GUARANTEE ALL BANK DEPOSITS
In an unusually bold show of action by an Irish
government Ireland became the first country in
the world to have all of its citizens bank
deposits guaranteed by its government. Bank
officials had been in crisis talks with officials
from the Deparment of Finance about the
possibility of an Irish bank collapse. The
guarantee had the short-term effect of preventing
an old-fashioned 'run' on any of the banks, but it
did little to reduce negative sentiment alluding
to an Irish bank collapse. Despite continued
statements from both the banks and the Irish
financial regulator that the Irish banks are very
well capitalised there are still fears that the
acquisition of a direct capital stake in any or
several of the main Irish banks by the government
is still on the cards.
The unprecedented decision by the Irish
government was greeted with disdain by some of its
fellow EU partners. The UK were particularly
miffed that deposits from some of their banks were
now flooding into Irish banks, basking in their
newly 'guaranteed' status. The French president,
Nicolas Sarkozy even went as far as to blame
Ireland directly for the financial liquidity
problems being faced in London as cash made its
way across the Irish Channel.
Despite the fact that the bank guarantee was
quickly copied by dozens of other countries around
the world, the current President of the EU was
barely able to contain his dismay at the
'problematic' Irish. He promised that the EU would
'work on a road map to see how we can deal with
the Irish problem'.
Such rhetoric is only likely to fuel anti-EU
sentiment in Ireland, which has been gathering
pace since the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. The
utter disrespect shown by the majority of EU
leaders for the Irish vote is unlikely to be
forgotten should the beleaguered Irish government
attempt a second Lisbon referendum.
ECONOMY CONTINUES TO SLIP
Consumer spending has fallen 6% in the last year
according to the Central Statistics Office. The
August decline was the biggest since 1984!
Unemployment has risen to 6.3% in October, up from
4.8% in January, still a relatively low rate but
the upward trend is worrying.
LIGHT BULBS TO BE BANNED BY MARCH 2009
The use of high-energy light bulbs of over
75 Watts is to be banned from next year with the
gradual phasing out of incandescent bulbs in favour
of low-energy fluorescent bulbs.
IRISH SOCCER TEAM PROGRESS IN WORLD CUP GAMES
The Irish soccer team have gotten off to a great
start it their quest to qualify for the world cup
finals to be held in South Africa in 2010. A recent
defeat of Georgia and a draw with Montenegro was
followed up with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over
Cyprus at Croke Park. Damien Duff combined with
Robbie Keane to provide the only goal of the
match, although Ireland did enjoy the better of
the chances. Anyone who thinks that Cyrpus are a
pushover should recall that this is the team that
hammered Ireland 5-2 only 2 seasons ago. Ireland's
main opposition in qualifying group 8 is Italy,
who top the group with 10 points from 4 games,
and Bulgaria who have only 3 points from 3 games.
Ireland currently have 7 points from 3 matches.
All to play for!
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE
IRISH HOLIDAY AND TOURIST BOARD
Post a question about holidaying in Ireland
and we guarantee an answer will be posted on
IRELAND HOUSE-SWAP LISTING
Our new free service lets you find or list a
home for a house-swap:
NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY:
The following 5 coats of arms images and family
history details have been added to the Gallery:
M: Montague, Morley
View the Gallery here:
THE PERFECT WEDDING, ANNIVERSARY OR BIRTHDAY GIFT!
We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available.
Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring,
Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for
your name at:
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
IRISH HALLOWEEN TRADITIONS
The Celts celebrated Halloween as Samhain, 'All
Hallowtide' - the 'Feast of the Dead', when the
dead revisited the mortal world. The celebration
marked the end of Summer and the start of the
During the eighth century the Catholic Church
designated the first day of November as 'All
Saints Day' ('All Hallows') - a day of
commemoration for those Saints that did not have
a specific day of remembrance. The night before
was known as 'All Hallows Eve' which, over time,
became known as Halloween.
Here are the most notable Irish Halloween
Colcannon for Dinner: Boiled Potato, Curly Kale
(a cabbage) and raw Onions are provided as the
traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Clean coins
are wrapped in baking paper and placed in the
potato for children to find and keep.
The Barnbrack Cake: The traditional Halloween
cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a
fruit bread. Each member of the family gets a
slice. Great interest is taken in the outcome as
there is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in
each cake. If you get the rag then your financial
future is doubtful. If you get the coin then you
can look forward to a prosperous year. Getting
the ring is a sure sign of impending romance
or continued happiness.
The Ivy Leaf: Each member of the family places a
perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and it is
then left undisturbed overnight. If, in the
morning, a leaf is still perfect and has not
developed any spots then the person who placed the
leaf in the cup can be sure of 12 months health
until the following Halloween. If not.....
The Pumpkin: Carving Pumpkins dates back to the
eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith
named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was
denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to
wander the earth but asked the Devil for some
light. He was given a burning coal ember which he
placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out.
Thus, the tradition of Jack O'Lanterns was born
- the bearer being the wandering blacksmith - a
damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the
lantern in their window would keep the wanderer
away. When the Irish emigrated in their millions
to America there was not a great supply of turnips
so pumpkins were used instead.
Halloween Costumes: On Halloween night children
would dress up in scary costumes and go house to
house. 'Help the Halloween Party' and 'Trick or
Treat' were the cries to be heard at each door.
This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back
to Celtic times. On the special night when the
living and the dead were at their closest the
Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumes
to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in
case they encountered other devils and spirits
during the night. By disguising they hoped that
they would be able to avoid being carried away at
the end of the night. This explains why witches,
goblins and ghosts remain the most popular
choices for the costumes.
Snap Apple: After the visits to the neighbours the
Halloween games begin, the most popular of which
is Snap Apple. An apple is suspended from a string
and children are blindfolded. The first child to
get a decent bite of the apple gets to keep their
prize. The same game can be played by placing
apples in a basin of water and trying to get a
grip on the apple without too much mess!
The Bonfire: The Halloween bonfire is a tradition
to encourage dreams of who your future husband or
wife is going to be. The idea was to drop a
cutting of your hair into the burning embers and
then dream of you future loved one. Halloween was
one of the Celt 'fire' celebrations.
Blind Date: Blindfolded local girls would go out
into the fields and pull up the first cabbage they
could find. If their cabbage had a substantial
amount of earth attached to the roots then their
future loved one would have money. Eating the
cabbage would reveal the nature of their future
husband - bitter or sweet!
Another way of finding your future spouse is to
peel an apple in one go. If done successfully the
single apple peel could be dropped on the floor
to reveal the initials of the future-intended.
Anti-Fairy Measures: Fairies and goblins try to
collect as many souls as they can at Halloween but
if they met a person who threw the dust from under
their feet at the Fairy then they would be obliged
to release any souls that they held captive.
Holy water was sometimes anointed on farm animals
to keep them safe during the night. If the animals
were showing signs of ill health on All Hallows
Eve then they would be spat on to try to ward off
any evil spirits.
Happy Halloween from Ireland!
YOU CAN HELP TO KEEP THIS FREE NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
where you can get great Irish gifts, prints,
claddagh jewellery, engraved glassware and
Anne MacDonald ordered a family crest plaque:
Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
in good order. It is splendid! I am
thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose
81st birthday this was ordered, will love
it. I would like to order another one!
Everyone who has seen the plaque has been
really impressed, even those who, as my
daughter says are 'not into ancestor
Again, my hearty thanks for this
Best wishes for happy holiday season.
Sincerely, Anne MacDonald
THE PERFECT WEDDING OR ANNIVERSARY GIFT!
View family crest plaques here:
DID SOMEONE SAY TWINS?
by Josephine Doherty McTague
James was sent to meet the midwife and assist her
in anyway possible. He was a lean lad of seven
years and walked briskly to meet Nora Stanton,
the neighborhood midwife. The sheet had been put
on the bush to give signal to the midwife that
the time for help was at hand. James' mother was
in labor with her fifth child. Nora Stanton was
walking across the green fields towards the
Kearns Homestead in Fargureens, a small village
outside Balla, in County Mayo. James saw her
coming in the distance and ran to meet her and
carry her black bag. They walked up the road
together. Mrs. Stanton entered the house and put
on her white starched apron. Soon Delia Riley,
the second neighborhood midwife, arrived and did
Inside the three room cottage, Ellen (Kilgallon)
Kearns was in labor assisted by her mother,
Bridget Kilgallon. Thomas (Dan) Kearns, the man
of the house was nearby. James joined his sisters
Bridie, Lena, and Kathleen and played outside.
They were not to come in the house. They had to
wait for the new baby. An older cousin from
America had been visiting that day and was
summoned to play with the Kearns children on that
particular day. Bridie the oldest daughter
remembered the fun and excitement of having
someone older to play with.
The white aprons for the midwives had been ready
for days. The large pot of water was on to boil
in the fireplace. The midwives were attentive.
The labor for Ellen went on. Finally, after a
few hours, a baby girl was born. Anne was her
name. Now the count of the Kearns Family was one
boy and four girls. After washing the new baby
and wrapping her up tightly, Nora and Delia took
off their aprons and went into the kitchen for a
cup of tea. Minutes later, Ellen called from her
bed in the upper room,
'Put back on those aprons,
I think there is another baby coming!'
The midwives donned their aprons in a panic. Sure
enough in a few minutes a second baby was born.
Margaret was greeted with shouts of glee.
'It's a girl, again!'
From the doorway of the thatched cottage, it was
'Twins, twins! Your mom has had twins!'
Bridie, the oldest girl and only six at the time
had never heard the word 'twins.' She thought the
midwife was saying WINS. Wins to Bridie was a
thorny bush found on the hillside. Bridie thought,
'What in the world is that woman talking about?'
All the children were invited in to meet their two
new sisters Ann and Margaret and to finally see
their mother. They looked down in awe at the two
bundles. James secretly had been desperately
hoping for a new brother. Without any hesitation,
he blurted out,
'If I knew there were two girls in Mrs. Stanton's
black bag, I would have thrown the bag in Riley's
James, after his initial disappointment grew to
love his new sisters. The twins were an added joy
to the growing Kearns Family and the word 'twins'
would be repeated quite often in the Kearns
This story was told to me by my mother,
Bridie Kearns Doherty.
Retold and written by Josephine Doherty McTague
We had a great response to our article about
house-swapping which you can view in a
We are working on the online program to allow you
to freely add and view details of other people who
are interested in this service.
You can add your home-swap details to our new free
listing service at:
A BIOGRAPHY OF SEAN LEMASS
Sean Lemass was Taoiseach (leader) of Ireland
from 1959 to 1966. He is regarded by many
historians as the greatest of all political
leaders of Ireland and is credited with laying
the foundations of the modern economic success
Born in Dublin in 1899 Lemass was a veteran of the
Easter Rising in 1916. He fought in the War of
Independence and was imprisoned in Ballykinlar in
County Down for a year. He opposed the Anglo-Irish
Treaty and fought against the Michael Collins Free
State in the subsequent Civil War. He was among
the rebels who occupied the Four Courts which
were famously bombed by the Free State forces. He
was again interned in Mountjoy and the Curragh.
He was first elected to the Irish parliament in
1924 as member of Sinn Fein and was re-elected
from his Dublin South constituency at every
election that followed, up until his retirement
in 1969. With DeValera he was a founder member of
the new Fianna Fail party in 1926 which had
abandoned armed struggle in favour of using
political means to achieve its goals. He served
as Minister for Commerce, Minister for Supplies
and finally as Tanaiste (Deputy-Taoiseach) before
being elected leader in 1959. His dealings in
economic matters on behalf of the State were to
serve him well.
Ireland during the 1950s and 1960s was an economic
wasteland with little industry and huge
emigration. Costello worked incessantly to develop
industry and trade. His Programme for Economic
Development saw the creation of Bord na Mona, Aer
Lingus and the Irish Shipping industry. He worked
to develop and expand the tourist industry, to
extend the supply of electricity countrywide, to
develop the sugar industry, and a myriad of other
schemes and developments.
Irish society was changing at a rapid pace, with
RTE being set up in 1961. The old conservatism
was being challenged as never before. Ireland had
applied for membership of the EEC and was becoming
part of the wider modern European society.
Lemass favoured an attitude of co-operation with
the new political entity that was Northern Ireland.
In 1965 he became the first Irish leader to visit
Stormont for talks with Prime Minister Terence
O'Neill. The subsequent controversy as well as
failing health may have convinced him that it was
time to step down.
Sean Lemass retired as Taoiseach in 1966 and
eventually retired from politics in 1969.
He died in 1971.
His legacy of economic reform in Ireland is
perhaps his greatest achievement and is being
evidenced in the economic boom which began in
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
THE GHOST STORY
by Pat Watson
It was a frosty night in January in the year of
Our Lord nineteen hundred and nine. Bill was the
church caretaker in this half parish. The priest
only rode his horse out here on Sunday to read
Mass or for funerals. This was one such day as
this evening the remains of old Granny Smith had
come to the chapel. Coffins were left in the back
of the chapel overnight. He had locked the church
earlier at ten and had only come out to look at
the cows before going to bed. It was just after
midnight. Was that a noise he heard in the church?
It couldn't possibly be as he had barred the
double doors on the inside before exiting through
the sacristy door, which he locked with the key.
Why he still had it in his pocket. Just the same,
it was only twenty yards to the double doors, he
would have a look. Halfway there he felt a bit
eerie so he called out.
'Is there anyone there?' The only reply he got
was a creaking door. As he moved into the shadow
he could see that one of the double doors was
half open. What the hell? He stopped in his
tracks. He peeped in the door, he could not see,
he pushed in the door a bit farther. He looked
over to where the coffin was left on trestles.
Good God! The old woman was sitting up in the
coffin. He could see her by the moonlight that
came through the stained glass windows. He could
feel his hair stand on end. She had her head on
the end of the coffin with her two arms hanging
over the sides. The lid of the coffin was
standing up against a pillar.
'Did that lid move?' He thought it did.
'Don't be daft' he told himself, coffin lids don't
move on their own accord. There, it moved again,
it had feet, little bare feet! He looked back to
the coffin. It had legs, two bare legs. Had the
old woman put her legs down through the bottom
of the coffin? The legs had a white shroud
dangling to the knees. Bill was rooted to the
spot. Sheer terror froze him. Then a white cowl
appeared over the edge of the coffin. He felt its
A great unearthly shriek emanated from the cowl.
It sounded like r-u-n-f-o-r y-o-u-r l-i-f-e. So
screaming, the white ghost emerged from behind the
coffin and headed straight for Bill at the open
door. A black ghost who came from behind the lid
chased him. Bill collapsed into the back seat just
in time to avoid been trampled on by the screaming
ghosts. They went through the opening like bats
out of hell. Had he really collapsed? Or did they
run through him? He just didn't know any more. He
was glad that the shrieks were receding into the
distance. He hoped he had seen the last of them.
His hair was still on end. It had probably turned
A few people who lived near the road thought they
heard screaming, but they could not be sure. Some
thought they dreamt it. Not so John and Stephen
who were coming home with a good few pints on
them. They saw the ghosts all right. They passed
them on the road at great speed. Their shrieks
had subsided by then. They disappeared after
crossing the dragon stream, near old Granny
John spent the rest of his life, which wasn't
very long, mumbling in a drunken haze. Stephen
on the other hand took the pledge the very next
day and never drank again for the remaining
thirty years of his life. Indeed, it was
rumoured that he confided to his good wife that
he saw the devil chasing his soul across the
dragon stream and that he promised God that if he
gave him another chance, he would never drink again.
Meanwhile back at the church, Bill sat in a trauma
trance, silently invoking God, His Blessed Mother
and every saint in creation. Eventually, his heart
slipped back out of his mouth and began to beat
normally, his hair lay down again and the sweat
all over his body began to cool. Some of his
reason returned. The small stipend he received as
church caretaker made the difference between him
being a poor small farmer and a very poor small
farmer. His 'gossans' were serving Mass and doing
well at school. He might even make a priest out
of one of them yet. That would give him real
stature in the parish. Fear or no fear, he had to
keep his job and that meant keeping the church
locked and corpses in their coffins. He got up,
his knees were shaking, his hands were shaking,
yet he closed the double oak doors, the handles
of which were u-shaped made to line up with
similar u-shapes on the frames when the doors
were closed. Into those slots he dropped the six
by three polished oak plank that was made for
the purpose. This made the whole thing rock
solid. Hopefully it would keep out the ghosts
if they returned.
He then went to the coffin, put back the arm on
the right, walked round, put back the other arm,
then down to the foot where he caught the two
ankles and pulled the old woman back into the
coffin. Her head bounced off the bottom with a
thud, no lining in the coffins of the poor, not
even a fist full of sawdust. He then rearranged
her habit just for decency. He peered behind the
lid, just in case, then picked it up and put it
on the coffin. The wooden dowels for holding it
on were under the trestles. He put them in
position, pulled off one boot to tap them home.
He replaced the boot, now for the walk up the full
length of the church to the sacristy.
He could not look both sides at once and ghosts
might emerge from the shadows of the seats at
any time. The red sanctuary lamp looked down.
Its dull light mingling with the dim moonlight
making the whole scene eerie, unreal, ghostly
He could hear his own breathing, his heart was
pounding again, the sound of his own footsteps
unnerved him, but finally he reached the
sacristy. He rushed in, unlocked the outer door,
dashed out and locked the door behind him. He
had done his duty. He would keep his job. Nobody
would ever know what happened here.
Having broken the ice on the barrel under the
eve, he washed death from his hands, wiped them
in his trousers and tiptoed back into his house.
Everybody was still asleep. He had not been
missed. As he crept into bed beside his sleeping
wife his courage and reason returned. Why had the
ghosts left the dowels under the trestles? Had
they intended to replace the lid? If so, why? Why
were they so small? Perhaps they were not ghosts
at all. The Granny had only been rescued from the
poor-house because of the new five-shilling old
age pension. By the time they had brought her
home ten miles on the ass's cart she had the
rattles in her throat. She died the next day.
One five-shilling pension was all they got. It
wouldn't half pay for the drink at the wake. And
He had heard that the she was laid out on a
linen sheet on the kitchen table. No one
belonging to them ever owned a linen sheet,
no, nor even a flour bag sheet. That's where
unrestrained young love led to, poverty and want.
Where would they have got the sheet? Where! Only
on loan from their cousin who worked in the big
house? It would have to be returned even if
through drink or pride the undertaker was allowed
to put it in the coffin with the old woman. If
two grandchildren hid in the church wrapped in
granny's black shawl they could remove the sheet
when everyone was in bed. If they were disturbed
in their weird work, might they not have wrapped
themselves in the sheet and the shawl and run
screaming from the scene? Had he solved the
puzzle? He would confront the children after the
funeral tomorrow and confirm his suspicions.
Until he had talked to the children he would not
mention any of this to a soul. He had a long wait.
He would never be sure.
The children weren't at the funeral, sick, someone
said. He supposed they got cold in the church, he
would see them at Mass on Sunday. They didn't
come, still sick? He never saw them again.
Consumption took them with the blooming of the
daffodils, only twelve hours apart. They were
buried together beside the Granny.
'Maybe it was ghosts that night after all.
Maybe it was the children. Maybe, just maybe they
should have let the dead rest? Maybe just maybe
we should do the same?'
May they all stay resting in peace!
'The Ghost Story'
is one of sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in March 2006.
Get your copy from here:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Oiche Shamhna
PRONOUNCED: ee-ha how-nah
MEANING: Halloween (the night before Samhain)
PHRASE: Tabhair feirin dom no buailfidh me bob ort!
PRONOUNCED: tour ferr-een dum no booligg may bob urt
MEANING: Trick or Treat
(give me a treat or I will play a trick on you!)
PHRASE: Tine cramha/Cailleach/Taibhse
PRONOUNCED: tinneh cravh-sheh/coll-yuk/tavh-sheh
View the archive of phrases here:
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I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Here's to another 10 years!
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