Read our last ten fun facts here.
1. Ireland is home to the longest running television “chat” (not “talk” in Ireland!) show in history--The Late Late Show began in 1961 and has continued on for 59 years! The show resembles The Tonight Show or any of the late night interview shows we’re used to—except for the annual The Late Late Toy Show. Once a year the show gets into the Christmas spirit and “…transforms the usually serious chat show into a wonderland of bright colours, pantomime-esque acts, excited children and an even more excited audience of adults in Christmas Jumpers.”
2. The word boycott was coined in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo when Irish tenants took Charles Stewart Parnell’s lead. Parnell was an Irish Nationalist politician in the 1880s who popularized this form of protest (i.e. isolating a person or country as punishment or to force a specific action) during the Irish Land Wars. Ballinrobe tenants (successfully) ostracized a British estate manager named Charles Cunningham Boycott, and the name stuck!
3. For many years, Teltown in Co. Meath was best known the version of the ancient tradition of “handfasting” that became popular there. A “Teltown Marriage” refers to the custom that on St. Bridget’s Day a couple could wed simply by walking towards each other. They could also choose to divorce by walking away from each other on the same day, a year later. (Read more about handfasting in our Valentine’s post here.)
4. Rhianna is of Irish heritage! The singer’s full name is Robyn Rhianna Fenty, and her father, Ronald Fenty, is descended from Irish indentured servants who were brought to the island of Barbados in the 1600s as cheap labor on the British-colonized sugar plantations. The history of the Irish indentured servant is a complicated one—you can read more about multimedia artist Marianne Keating’s research into the practice in Jamaica and Barbados here.
5. Tuckey’s Cork Remembrancer, a historical record of the area, claims a man died in the town of Ovens in the early 1800s at 127 years old! The text describes him as perfectly healthy and surrounded by 7 generations of his descendants. (For comparison: the oldest verified person in human history was a French woman named Jeanne Calment. She passed on at the age of 122 years and 164 days old in 1997. Let me do that math for you: that means she was born in 1875!)
6. You know Irish Gaelic is hard to pronounce, but try out this town name: Muckanaghederdauhaulia. Or, in Irish Gaelic: “Muiceanach idir Dhá Sháile.” No? In all fairness, this is the longest town name in Ireland (located in Co. Galway,) and even natives find it difficult. It translates to: “ridge shaped like a pig’s back between two expanses of briny water.” Which is…a mouthful too!
7. Ireland’s beautiful Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare have starred in some of your favorite movies, including: The Princess Bride, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Leap Year, Far and Away, and Snow White and the Huntsman (to name a few—along with innumerable TV shows and even music videos!)
8. In the 1980s, there was a legal battle been Germany and Ireland over the use of the symbol of the shamrock (a three-leafed clover—never four!) Germany began using a blue shamrock (a kleebatt) as a trademark on German meat and dairy products and eventually sued Ireland over the country’s use of the symbol (albeit, usually in green.) Ireland lost the first case, but it eventually moved on to the German Supreme Court which ruled in favor of Ireland!
9. Due to higher than average birthrates over the last 50 years (at least compared with the EU,) Ireland has one of the statistically youngest populations in the world (and thus, one of the healthiest—especially coupled with the highest rate of increase of life expectancy anywhere in Europe.) 21% of the population is reportedly under 15!
10. The Céide Fields in Co. Mayo are considered the oldest and most extensive Stone Age site ever found! The site has the oldest known field systems in the world at nearly 6,000 years old and Europe’s largest stone enclosure—the wall encloses 5 square miles and hundreds of Stone Age farms. There’s even more to uncover, but the boggy land has made excavation slow and difficult.
This post is part of a series. Read our last batch of fun facts here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Check out our last ten fun facts here.
1. The first, national language of Ireland is, well, Irish (or, in its own language: Gaeilge.) It’s used on all official government documents and you’d be all to see it on public transport, road signs, and all public buildings. (And it’s not “Gaelic”—that’s what they speak in Scotland! “Irish Gaelic” refers to Ireland’s national language.)
2. While Irish government sticks close to its roots, the reality is that only an estimated 2% of people in Ireland speak Irish Gaelic regularly and the majority of Irish people claim English as their first language. Gaeilge is part of the national curriculum…but how much of that high school French do you remember?
3. In the same vein, more people regularly speak Polish in Ireland than Irish Gaelic. Polish people account for the largest non-Irish group within Ireland, making up approximately 2.5% of the population!
4. The ball that drops each year in Times Square on New Years Eve is Irish in origin! (It’s made of famously beautiful and coveted Waterford crystal from, you guessed it, Waterford—a county in the southeast of Ireland.)
5. In Irish Gaelic, there’s no words for yes or no. Well, at least not directly translated. Some common Gaeilge phrases used instead include: tuigim (“I understand”) and níor mhaith liom (“I wouldn’t like.”) More or less, the Irish always need to use more words to get the point across!
6. An Irishman is responsible for answering every kid’s favorite question: “Why is the sky blue?” A scientist named John Tyndall made the discovery in the 1860s (and why the sky turns red at sunset!) (Still curious yourself? This article breaks it down better than we can!)
7. While Americans love to go on and on about the beauty of Central Park in New York City (which is still true—protect our green spaces!), Phoenix Park in Dublin is twice the size! (P.S. It’s not Phoenix like the mythical bird, but the Irish Gaelic fionn uisce or “clear water” is also the size of all the parks in London put together!)
8. Ever wondered why so many Irish surnames include Mac/Mc or O’? Mac just means “son of,” while “O” means “grandson of.”
9. The oldest yacht club in the world is the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Knocknagore, Co. Cork. It’s been in operation since 1720 and sits on second biggest natural harbor in the world (Cork Harbor—only beat by Sydney Harbor in Australia!
10. If you make it to 100-years-old in Ireland, you receive a “Centenarian Bounty”: €2,450 and a letter from the President. Every subsequent year you receive another letter and a commemorative coin! This tradition started in 1940 with Irish President Douglas Hyde. (You do need to apply to receive it, though. Click the above link for an application for your Irish grandparents!)
This post is part of a series, read Volume IV here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
St. Patrick’s Day Edition!
Check out our last ten fun facts here.
1. One of the most recent Leprechaun “sightings” was in 1989. A man named P.J. O’Hare claims he saw one and now has the clothes the wee faerie folk left behind on display in his pub in Carlingford, Co. Louth. The town even holds an annual Leprechaun hunt every year!
2. They’ve been dying the Chicago River green every Saint Patrick’s Day since 1962—but the first time was an accident! The year before the tradition began, then-mayor Richard J. Daly approved dumping some green dye in the river to help see where sewage was being dumped and fix the problem. A local named Stephen Bailey, a member of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local, realized with a little more dye they could (safely! It’s a vegetable-based dye now!) color the whole river and the tradition was born. These days, they use 40 pounds of orange powder to get that garish green hue!
3. The odds of ever finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000. (Though check out this 2014 story about a woman who found an astonishing 21 four-leaf clovers in her yard!)
4. From 1999 to 2007, the Irish town of Dripsey claimed the title of “Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the World.” The parade route was only 26 yards long! (Nowadays Hot Springs, Arkansas has claimed the title for themselves.)
5. An estimated 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed every St. Patrick’s Day—that’s a steep increase from the more typical 5.5 million a day. (Beer sales in America alone rise 174%!)
6. Leprechauns are a protected species under EU law. A man named Kevin Woods from Carlingford (yes, the same place with the annual Leprechaun hunt!) managed to get his local Sliabh Foy Loop trail protected under the European Habitats Directive, including the 236 Leprechauns the local lobbyists claim live there!
7. The special type of marshmallows everyone loves to pick out of Lucky Charms cereal are called “marbits” and were originally just chopped up circus peanuts! (AND! The original incarnation of Lucky Charms didn’t have a sugar coating. A General Mills project manager named Paul Bunyon had to find a solution for all the excess Cherrios, so he did what any sane person would do…mixed them with candy.)
8. We’re used to thinking about the story of Irish Immigrants coming to America, but what about Australia? In 2010, the Sydney Opera House went green to celebrate 200 years of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country. The first was when the then-Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquaire, provided entertainment for Irish convict workers on March 17th, 1810!
9. You may have noticed there isn’t any corn in that corned beef and cabbage you have once a year on March 17th…the “corned” bit actually refers to the large salt crystals that were historically used to cure meat and called, you guessed it, “corns”! (That’s why it had to be boiled—to get rid of the excess salt!)
10. There’s a 50-year-long tradition that, on or around St. Patrick’s Day, the current Prime Minister of Ireland (the Taoiseach) presents the current U.S. President with a crystal bowl of shamrocks. It’s both a symbol of the close ties between the two countries, and a political move that helps a relatively small country retain a familiar relationship with the U.S.! While it most likely won’t be happening this year, it did in 2020, just days before the world went into lockdown.
This post is part of a series, read Volume III here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Check out Volume I and Volume II!
1. Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford is one of the oldest in the world. While the present structure has been around for 848 years, there’s evidence that a lighthouse has stood on that spot back to the 5th century.
2. St. Patrick is also the patron saint of Nigeria. He was named the patron saint of the country by Irish bishops in 1961—the same year Ireland opened their embassy in Lagos (there’s actually a long-standing Irish Catholic presence in the country!)
3. It may or may not be a coincidence that Nigeria actually beats Ireland in Guinness consumption (though it’s only second on the list--the UK takes the top spot!)
4. And while Ireland doesn’t drink the most Guinness in the world, it does drink almost the most tea (impressively beating the UK), at an average of 1,184 cups of tea a year…per person. (Only Turkey has Ireland beat!)
5. Still, Guinness is one of Ireland’s most renowned exports—the famous Guinness Brewery located in Dublin and the top tourist destination while in town. Don’t worry, it will still be there when you’re able to travel again: in 1795, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on the land.
6. If you are planning on visiting one day, consider going in April or June: they’re the driest months of the year there, depending on where you are in the country. But any month will work! While Ireland’s often considered one of the wettest places in the world, it’s actually 80th on that list (though it does have one of the oldest rainfall records in the world—300 years old!)
7. The infamous Billy the Kid, real name Henry McCarthy, was born to two Irish immigrants in New York City in 1859. While his career as an outlaw and his life were short, he was said to be fluent not only in English, but also Spanish and even Irish Gaelic!
8. Ireland has won the Eurovision Song contest more than any other country in the world, seven times since 1970. They’re also the only country that’s won three times consecutively! (Not really sure what Eurovision is? Most Americans aren’t really—just think of it was “a cross between ‘The X-Factor’ and a Miss Universe pageant.”)
9. An Irish art director and film production designer named Austin Cedric Gibbons designed the statue we call an “Oscar” today in 1928. If you look closely, the coveted Academy Award is a knight holding a sword, standing on top of a film reel.
10. Students at Trinity College in Dublin have a much-believed and almost beloved curse: if you pass beneath the “Campanile” (a bell tower,) you’ll fail all your exams. Even those who don’t believe in superstitions admit avoiding the area—if only because it’s also believed to be built over the graveyard of a medieval monastery.
This post is part of a series, read Volume I here and Volume II here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Check out our first ten fun facts here!
1. The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest, uninterrupted coastal driving route in the world. Officially opened in 2014 by the Irish tourism board, the route covers the entire west coast of the country, from the border of Northern Ireland all the way to (almost!) Cork. Passing through three provinces and nine counties, the route displays some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery.
2. As Dracula is set largely in England, most people don’t realize its author, Bram Stoker, is an Irishman. In fact, the character of Dracula and this concept of vampires that became our standard was based on the Irish legend of the Abhartach.
3. The Titanic was built in Ireland—in Belfast at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, specifically. Pre-COVID, there was even a large, interactive, narrative monument and museum dedicated to Belfast’s shipbuilding called “Titanic Belfast.” (Miss Courtney's been!)
4. While we tend to think of it as an “Irish accent,” there’s really hundreds of Irish accents, all specific to different areas, education levels, and classes, with a variety of complex, social histories behind them. (Though phonologists tend to divide all these varieties into 3-5 larger groupings.)
5. The Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo are the third highest sea cliffs in all of Europe at 752 meters (that’s about half a mile!) Only Hornelen in Norway (860 meters) and Cape Enniberg on the Faroe Islands (754 meters) has them beat! (Barely.)
6. There’s evidence that people have populated Ireland for over 10,000 years. It’s a little later than much of Europe due to the climate (and the fact it’s an island,) but impressive nonetheless! The oldest artefacts have been found in the North of the country.
7. Ireland once had its own version of the Olympics! They were called the Tailteann Games (or the Lughnasa games after the Irish hero of legend, Lugh.) They took place in 1924, 1928, and 1932 and were a celebration of traditional Irish sporting events. Unfortunately, the event didn’t take off worldwide, but smaller versions still exist to this day!
8. Speaking of sport (as they’d say in Ireland,) Ireland has one of the oldest consistent sporting traditions in the world (at least 3,000 years old!): hurling. It’s considered the fastest game played on grass and bears a vague resemblance in equipment to field hockey or even lacrosse (though definitely not in play.) P.S. The women’s version of hurling is almost identical, but called camogie.
9. The hollow, hypodermic needle was invented by an Irishman and surgeon named Dr. Francis Rynd in 1844. The world’s first subcutaneous injection was even performed at the Meath Hospital in Dublin! Even if you hate needles, this was a revolutionary advancement that has allowed to save and better billions of people’s lives.
10. In 1970s Ireland (and still today at English boarding schools and some places in India) there was a tradition known as “bumps.” Essentially, if it was your birthday, you’d be grabbed by your classmates and thrown repeatedly into the air to be “bumped” on the floor, often upside down—once for every year of your life. It would often end in a big finale throw where you might or might not be caught on the way down. (You can see why it’s not often practiced these days!)
This post is part of a series, read Volume I here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram
Sometimes, in researching blog posts, we come upon information that, while it isn’t necessarily enough to write a whole page on (at least not an interesting one,) is too surprising not to share. So we present our first installment of our Fun Facts series, where we collect little details we’ve learned about Ireland and Irish dance into a quick read for you to enjoy. Let’s start with some truly unexpected ones:
1. More Irish people live abroad than in Ireland! There are approximately 50-80 million people of Irish descent in other countries (after about 10 million have emigrated over the years,) and only a couple million currently in Ireland.
2. The submarine was invented in Ireland by John Phillip Holland who sold his invention to the U.S. Navy in 1895 after coming to America in 1872—though the first successful launch wasn’t until 1900: the U.S.S. Holland.
3. Only around 10% of Irish people have red hair (compared to 13% of Scottish people, the highest concentration in the world.) Though, maybe this can be considered a good thing: redheads are often more sensitive to pain and can require more than a normal amount of anesthesia in surgery! (Also, bees are more attracted to them!)
4. The U.S. President’s home, The White House, was designed by an Irishman named James Hoban. He emigrated just after the Revolutionary War and based the design on Leinster House in Dublin, where the Irish Parliament meets. George Washington himself suggested Hoban enter the contest for the commission to design the new seat of the executive branch.
5. Ireland is home to the oldest known bar in the world! Sean’s Bar opened for business in 900 AD. Located in Athlone, it was originally an inn near a location where people came to ford the River Shannon. And if there’s any doubt: a renovation of the building in the 1970s revealed 9th century building materials still in the walls!
6. Ireland has had two female presidents (or “Uachtarán na hÉireann,”) more than the majority of the countries in the world. The first was Mary Robinson and the second Mary McAleese—both elected in the 1990s. Upon her election, Mary Robinson said: “I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.”
7. Ireland, as a country, has higher than average birthrates. This has changed its population’s makeup considerably with approximately a third of their population under 25—the youngest population in all of Europe. Estimates say that this will increase Ireland’s population from 4 million people to almost 6 million people by as early as 2040.
8. Despite so many young people, Ireland has one of the most highly educated workforces in the world! Not only is it in the top ten educated countries with its number of college educated citizens doubling in the last decade, it’s been reported that 53.5% of Irish people between 30-34 have a tertiary degree.
9. Despite being considered the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick was Welsh. He was born in Wales in 386 AD and was kidnapped by pirates at the age of 16. The pirates sold Saint Patrick as a slave, and he escaped after being forced to work six years as a sheep herder. His escape was treacherous, and after wandering for 28 days in France he made it home—only to return to France to become a priest and then to Ireland as a missionary.
10. There’s actually a little more to debunk about the Saint Patrick legend: though the Welshman’s most legendary act is thought to have been driving all the snakes out of Ireland, there’s actually no evidence that there’s ever been snakes in Ireland. It’s simply a bad climate for cold-blooded animals!
This post is the first in a series. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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