|There are 54
counties where Irish
is the largest
group. Forty-four of
these counties are in
the Northeast, with 14
in New York, 11 in
Massachusetts and 5
in New Jersey.
|There are 34 million
U.S. residents who
claim Irish ancestry.
This number is
almost nine times
the population of
Ireland. It is the
ancestry in America,
trailing only German.
Ireland is situated in the Atlantic
Ocean and separated from Great
Britain by the Irish Sea. Half the size
of Arkansas, it occupies the entire
island except for the six counties that
make up Northern Ireland.
Ireland resembles a basin—a central
plain rimmed with mountains, except
in the Dublin region.
The mountains are low, with the
highest peak, Carrantuohill in County
Kerry, rising to 3,415 feet .
The principal river is the Shannon,
which begins in the north-central
area, flows south and southwest for
about 240 miles and empties into the
By the Act of Union (1801), Great
Britain and Ireland became the
“United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland.” A steady decline in the Irish
economy followed in the next
The population had reached 8.25
million when the great potato famine
of 1846–1848 took many lives and
drove more than 2 million people to
immigrate to North America.
3,840,838 (July 2001 est.)
27,135.26 sq mi
(slightly larger than
English is the language generally
used, with Irish (Gaelic) spoken
mainly in areas located along the
Ninety-two percent of the population
is Roman Catholic, 3% are Angelican
Christians, and 5% were listed as
other in a 1998 census.
Industry includes food products,
brewing, textiles, clothing, chemicals,
transportation equipment, glass and
crystal, and computer software.
Local agriculture produces beef and
dairy products; and crops consist of
turnips, barley, potatoes, sugar beets,
Natural resources are zinc, lead,
natural gas, barite, copper, gypsum,
limestone, dolomite, peat, and silver.
|Centuries ago, Ireland was inhabited by Picts in
the north and a people called the Erainn in the
south, the same stock apparently, as in all the
isles before the Anglo-Saxon invasion of
Britain. About the 4th century B.C., tall, red-
haired Celts arrived from Gaul or Galicia.
They subdued and assimilated the inhabitants
and established a Gaelic civilization. By the
beginning of the Christian Era, Ireland was
divided into five kingdoms—Ulster, Connacht,
Leinster, Meath, and Munster.
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known
figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the
stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his
banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of
It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the
fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although
his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the
role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a
particularly religious family.
At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his
family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. There is some
dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount
Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala. During this time,
he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion
for solace, becoming a devout Christian. It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of
converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.
After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he
believed to be God's—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick
walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After
escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells
him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study
that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual
mission—to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. Interestingly,
this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.
Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish
practiced a nature-based pagan religion. Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to
incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native
Irish beliefs. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. For instance, he
used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also
superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a
Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.
Some 400 years ago in a fishing village called Claddagh overlooking Galway Bay, lived Richard Joyce,
a master goldsmith, of the Joyce Tribe, one of the renowned "Fourteen Tribes of Galway" City. It was he
who crafted the first of the popular design that has become part of the Irish heritage.
The Claddagh ring belongs to a widespread group of finger rings called Fede (or "Faith") rings, which date
from Roman times. They are distinguished by having the bezel cut or cast in the form of two clasped
hands, symbolizing faith, trust or "plighted troth". Fede rings were popular in the Middle Ages throughout
Europe. The "Claddagh" ring is a particularly distinctive ring; two hands clasp a heart surmounted by a
By tradition the ring is taken to signify the wish that Love and Friendship should reign supreme. And has
been exchanged by lovers and friends alike for hundreds of years. The hands signify friendship, the
crown loyalty, and the heart love. The ring worn on the right hand, crown turned inward tells your heart is
yet unoccupied; worn with the crown turned outwards reveals love is being considered. Worn on the left
hand the crown turned outward shows all - your heart is truly spoken for.
The idea of the design is a matter of conjecture, but one story reports that Richard Joyce was captured by
Agerian corsairs and while being transported as a slave to the plantations of the West Indies was captured
by Mediterranean pirates and sold to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him in his craft.
In 1689 he was released from slavery as a result of a demand from King William III. The Moor offered him
his only daughter in marriage and half his wealth, if he would remain in Algiers, but Joyce declined and
returned home to Galway and set up his shop in the Claddagh, the oldest fishing village in Ireland. And
brought with him the idea of the Claddagh ring.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17th, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in
the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years. On St.
Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend
church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the
consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast—on the traditional meal of
Irish bacon and cabbage.
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers
serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their
music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen
serving in the English army.
Over the next thirty-five years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the
rise of so-called "Irish Aid" societies, like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society.
Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the
Scottish and British armies) and drums.
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant
middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor, uneducated,
Catholic Irish began to pour into America to escape starvation. Despised for their religious beliefs
and funny accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial
jobs. When Irish Americans in the country's cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate
their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power
that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the "green
machine", became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day
parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of
political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade, a
proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find
acceptance in America.
Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and
Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been
celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the
1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17th. Beginning in 1995, however, the
Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive
tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part
in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor
theater productions, and fireworks shows.
A three-leafed clover, the
shamrock, has long-held a it is
widely believed that St. Patrick
used the shamrock to illustrate
the Christian doctrine of the
Trinity (Father, Son and
Ghost), this idea cannot be
The shamrock, which was also
called the "seamroy" by the
Celts, was a sacred plant in
ancient Ireland because it
symbolized the rebirth of
By the seventeenth century,
the shamrock had become a
symbol of emerging Irish
nationalism. As the English
began to seize Irish land and
make laws against the use of
the Irish language and the
practice of Catholicism, many
Irish began to wear the
shamrock as a symbol of
their pride in their heritage
and their displeasure with
Each year, thousands of Irish
Americans gather with their
loved ones on St. Patrick's Day
to share a "traditional" meal
of corned beef and cabbage.
Though cabbage has long
been an Irish food, corned beef
only began to be associated
with St. Patrick's Day at the
turn of the century.
Irish immigrants living on New
York City's Lower East Side
substituted corned beef for
their traditional dish of Irish
bacon to save money. They
learned about the cheaper
alternative from their Jewish
The name Ireland in Gaelic is Éire or Éireann.
translated as 'forever'.
Thus the phrase in Gaelic would be 'Éireann go Brách'
and is pronunced 'Erin guh brawk'. The popular phrases
Forever"Forever". They are the anglicised versions
of the They are the anglicised versions of the .Gaelic
phrase known to many Americans.
However, some have it interpreted as 'Ireland Go
Brave'. And this may stem merely from further
anglicised versions translating bragh as brave.
However it is translated, we do know it was a battle cry
of freedom with the slogan being incorporated into the
song lyrics above, which refer to the Easter Rising of
1916, which was an indignant loss, but eventually paved
the road to Ireland's independence from the British
crown in December 1921.
You call that Irish Luck?!
The saying may very well refer to the
fact that the Irish people have come
through a lot of peril and have come
out on top and it must be luck!
Some believe the phrase was
spawned from the life and works of a
kidnapped Brit who was enslaved and found God on the hills herding sheep. He escaped and returned as a
Bishop (St. Patrick) to bring the faith to the Pagan Irish who believed in the Druids. Lucky for the Irish,
In truth, this term has a happier, if not altogether positive, American origin. During the gold and silver rush
years in the second half of the19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish
and Irish American birth. For example, James Fair, James Flood, William O'Brien and John Mackay were
collectively known as the "Silver Kings" after they hit the famed Comstock Lode.
The Comstock Lode was a huge silver-mining area near Virginia City, Nevada, and its discovery made
people want to go west all over again (after the initial Gold Rush of the 1850s). Over time this association of
the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression "luck of the Irish." Of course, it carried with it a certain
tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.
The Blarney Stone is also known as the Stone of
Eloquence and is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney
Castle tower in a stone castle in 1210. The present day
castle was completed by Dermot McCarthy, King of
Munster in 1446.
The stone itself is believed to be half of the Stone of
Scone which originally belonged to Scotland. Scottish
Kings were crowned over the stone, because it was
believed to have special powers. One tale was that McCarthy was given the story of the stone by an old
woman whom he saved from drowning. This lady turned out to be a witch. As a reward, she told him the
secret of a certain stone in the castle that would give him the gift of eloquence in return for a kiss. Kissing the
stone gave the king the ability to talk sweetly. He was able to talk anyone into doing things.
Yet another record puts forth the stone was mentioned in the Bible as "Jacob's Pillow" and was supposed
to have been brought to Ireland by Jeremiah the Prophet. It was more likely to have been brought back
during the Crusades which legend applies also to the Stone of Scone now at Westminister Abbey.
Queen Elizabeth I wanted the Irish chiefs to agree to hold their own lands under title from her. Cormac Teige
McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, handled her every Royal wish with clever promises keeping loyalty to the
Queen without "giving in". The term "blarney" was introduced into the English language by Elizabeth 1 of
England and is defined as "pleasant talk, intending to deceive without offending".
In all reality, it's tough to reach the stone -- it's between the main
castle wall and the parapet. Kissers have to lie on their back and
bend backward (and downward), holding iron bars for support.
All that to kiss something that has had people's lips all over it for
some 500 years? Okay. I would.
|"Oops, I didn't know."
"O" is the Gaelic word for grandson. The apostrophe, which suggests a contraction, is a legacy of
British colonialism. Misguided English bureaucrats assumed the O stood for the word "of" (as in
"crack o’ dawn") and added the apostrophe when compiling official records and census data. Over
the centuries, many families dropped the O’, which accounts for the existence of both O’Sullivan and
Sullivan, O’Mahoney and Mahoney, etc. In recent decades many people in Ireland, and a few in the
States, have dropped the apostrophe in favor of the more traditional spelling.
|May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
|Saint Patrick's Day Celebrations
"Luck of the Irish"
1,000 years of invasion,
and mass emigration . . .
The Blarney Stone
|What's the deal with . . .
The original Irish name for
these figures of folklore is
Leprechauns had nothing to do
with St. Patrick or the
celebration of St. Patrick's
Day, a Catholic holy day.
Belief in leprechauns probably
stems from Celtic belief in
fairies, tiny men and women
who could use their magical
powers to serve good or evil.
In Celtic folktales, leprechauns
were cranky souls, responsible
for mending the shoes of the
Though only minor figures in
Celtic folklore, leprechauns
were known for their
trickery, which they often used
to protect their much-fabled
...The Corned Beef