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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