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Archive for the ‘Irish History’ Category

The Wren Boys in Dingle, Ireland, Celebrating St. Stephen’s Day

From Your Dedicated Authentic Ireland Writers, Meredith and Win Blevins:

In Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas, is one of nine official public holidays.

In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín, meaning the Day of the Wren or Wren’s Day. When used in this context, “wren” is often pronounced “ran”.

This name alludes to several Irish legends, some linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. Although not practiced often anymore,  in certain parts of Ireland people carry either an effigy of a wren or an actual caged wren through the streets.  They travel from house to house playing music, singing and dancing.

Depending on which region of the country, they are called wrenboys and mummers. A Mummer’s Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway and Dingle in County Kerry. St. Stephen’s Day is also a popular day for visiting family members.  (Good-bye Christmas dinner leftovers!)

A popular rhyme is known to many Irish children and sung at each house visited by the mummers.  Here’s a very nice version of the song for you to enjoy, complete with chords and words!:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZI_PzRIqU0

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds…

Happy December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, from the Crew at Authentic Ireland Travel

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Kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland for Luck and the Gift of Gab

There are two versions of how Ireland’s Blarney Stone came to have its power, and two versions of its true location.

Now, here we are, at the present:  Sir Charles Colthurst, current owner of the County Cork Blarney Castle, says the oft-smooched rock is in the exact place it has always been, and that it is the real-deal.  To the archaeologists who say it is in a different part of County Cork, he says, “That’s plain Blarney!”  We believe him.

There are also two legends about the Blarney Stone’s gift of power.  The first pertains to Cormac McCarthy, the castle’s owner during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  He never gave her what she requested, and all her requests from him were met with long-winded distractions and terrific (elusive) oratory.  One day, in a fine dither over him, the Queen said, “This is all Blarney! (referring to the castle.)  He never says what he means!”

The second version is more spooky.  Some believe that a magic stone was built into the castle in the 1400s, but no one knew its exact spot.  Then, the castle owner found a witch drowning in the river and saved her.  She told him where the magic stone was, and that anyone who kissed it would be given great powers of persuasion.

In fact, both stories could be true. McCarthy did persuade the queen, although it was in utter frustration, to expect nothing from him and nothing was what she got!

Your Dedicated Authentic Ireland writers:  Meredith and Win Blevins

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Dun Bleisce Towns Gets Back Her Illustrious Name

Years of efforts by Doon, Limerick, Ireland residents to bring back the name of their town, taken away from them in 2003, have paid off. The people have spoken and are triumphant!

Their town has been called Dun Bleisce since at least 774 AD, which is as far back as anyone can remember.  The problem?  The town’s name translates to “Fort of the Harlot.”  This was not cool with the Irish Placenames Commission.  This grand body decided that nice, little towns should not be named after harlots, and they renamed the town An Dun.  That seemed safe since it really has no meaning. Or at least not much.

On came the heated debate.  Residents and irate Irish around County Limerick said that the original name actually translated to, “The stronghold of immoral women.”  Others claimed it meant, “Stronghold of Strong Women,”  because only strong women would have a fort.  Still others claimed the original meaning of the word “harlot” is “powerful women.”  (This is the kind of jam you get into when you mess with history.)

800+ locals signed a petition that was presented to the Great and Illustrious Commission.  They decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and an order was handed down from on high to rename the town Dun Bleisce.

When in the west of Ireland, stop by.  It truly is a nice town with a juicy name that has withstood history!

Your Dedicated Authentic Ireland writers:  Meredith and Win Blevins

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Ireland is the Perfect Place for a Family Reunion

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats

Do you dream of getting your entire family together?  Many of us live far from each other, the kids are growing or gone, and the grandchildren and cousins don’t see each other often enough.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful legacy to arrange a family reunion in Ireland?

Ireland is all about families, friends and the ties that bind.  Because of this, there is no better place to strengthen your ties, relax together, laugh and reminisce.  You may even arrange to broaden your family circle, and see the Irish family you’ve never met.

Children are treasured in Ireland.  They are welcome most places, and there is a lot for them to do and enjoy.  They’ll even find shopping a small miracle as they wander through the maze of a medieval town, especially when they hear stories of witches and faeries who wandered the same streets.

And there’s so much more: festivals, circuses from Eastern Europe, wildlife parks, tidepooling, the Aquadome,  a Viking tour of Dublin, visiting an Irish farm, horseback riding, ecology for kids, cooking on a farm, visitor centers for kids at Neolithic sites, folk parks, houseboats on the Shannon River, exploring caves… That’s plenty to keep the whole crew wide-eyed and happy.  Rent an Irish house together and explore.

Make the time to enjoy and appreciate each other!

Your Dedicated Authentic Ireland writers:  Meredith and Win Blevins

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James Joyce in 1902

Enjoy some of Ireland’s best literature-as-theater as you travel from one infamous Dublin pub to another. (Dublin’s Pubs and Writers are a perfect match.)

No city is as rich in pubs and poetry as Dublin, and Dublin’s literary pub crawl is a genius amalgam of both: a 2½ hour walking tour with Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Behan, Beckett, Shaw, O’Casey, Gogarty and other literary greats.

In the style of Leoopold Bloom, the pub crawl meanders through the streets of Dublin, taking in the sights, the smells, the sounds and the scenes. A team of rambling players and minstrels completes the ensemble, giving renditions of verse, prose, drama and song from the literary hall of fame.

When you join this fun-filled evening of literary greats, you’ll discover some of Dublin’s finest pubs and sample the finest Irish Whiskey and brews.  The wit and humor of the troupe is almost as potent as the drink.

“It combines street theatre with the ‘craic’ that makes Dublin’s pubs the liveliest in Europe and successfully avoids tourist cliches that could ruin an evening of high art and low life”. — The London Times

Authentic Ireland’s dedicated writers:  Meredith and Win Blevins

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1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is an historic Irish institution with more than 800 years of faithful service.

2. Visitors to Ireland love to kiss the Blarney Stone. Located at Blarney Castle, it was originally a timber lodge built in the 10th Century and replaced by the stone castle in 1210. Get a picture!

3. The Cliffs of Moher are, quite simply, breath-taking. Overlooking the wild and windy Atlantic in County Clare, they rise straight up over 700 feet.

4. The Four Courts governing the whole of Ireland are the Irish Supreme Court, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District courts  They’re grouped together in historic buildings. (Learn more about the Four Courts on our Historical Walking Tour of Dublin!)

5. The Oscar Wilde Statue, Merrion Square, Dublin. Wilde is lying back on a rock, as if he hasn’t a care in the world. Take our Literary Pub Crawl to learn more about Wilde, Beckett and other famous Irish writers as you visit local Dublin pubs.

6. When in Ireland, visit at least one castle–there are hundreds. Consider Belfast Castle, more than 400 feet above sea level with panoramic views of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

7. Grafton Street, Dublin, is a historic area with great shopping, pubs, restaurants and a cutting edge art scene.

Visit Ireland and make you own list! (Ours changes from week to week.)

Your dedicated writers, Meredith and Win Blevins

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The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Magic Steps to the Ocean

Northern IrelandThink about discovering her sights and sounds. It’s truly a hidden gem, and the place many Americans have their roots.

Belfast is the capital and largest city in Northern Ireland. It is a banquet of lovely gardens and neighborhoods, sublime Victorian homes and buildings.  There are extraordinary museums, great shopping and plenty of pubs filled with trad music and banter.

After all the hum and surprises that the big city has to offer, you might want to wind down and head to the countryside. Northern Ireland has one of the strangest and most exciting coastlines in the world. Explore the volcanic Giant’s Causeway. It’s made of 37,000 basalt columns running straight into the sea.  And, under the water, it leads to Scotland.  Many ancient tales surround the Giant’s Causeway.  How many are true?  There’s simply no way to know for sure, but let your imagination fly.

You’ll also want to explore the nine Glens of Antrim and experience the Mountains of Mourne sweeping down to the sea. And, a ramble through wild and gorgeous Donegal is a must, as is the serene Lake Country of Fermanagh.

Ireland is emerging unified, its troubles healed, its beauty and mystery made whole.

Your dedicated Authentic Ireland writers:  Meredith and Win Blevins

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