Welcome to the Irish Culture & Customs newsletter which is published every fortnight or so and sent out to nearly 4300 readers all over the world. You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up for it - God Bless you! If you'd like to read past issues, they are archived at:
If, for any reason, you wish to unsubscribe, instructions are at the very end - but we do hope you'll stay with us. And if you need to update your info' or change your email address, you can do that at the end, too.

Greetings and Blessings to all,

We hope this edition find you on the pig's back and fit as a fiddle. As for ourselves, since last we wrote, we rang in the new year a bit early as we found ourselves yawning and in bed by 10 pm. But on January 1st, we awoke with the lark and without a hangover. There's a lot to be said for becoming old fogies. Next on our agenda was celebrating Epiphany with our adult family gift exchange on January 6th. In our humble opinion, if it was good enough for the baby Jesus to get His presents on Epiphany , it's good enough for us. And besides, we all received even nicer Christmas gifts, thanks to the after-Christmas sales and we also got to enjoy a second round of prime rib leftovers in the form of Shepherd's Pie. (Or Cottage Pie, if you want to be entirely accurate since the main ingredient was beef and not lamb).

Later, we embarked on putting Christmas away until next December. There's always a tug at the heart strings when the lights in the windows are turned off to mark post 12th Night. But there's also a wee bit of relief that the "Silly Season" is finally over.

Onwards. The warmest of welcomes and a special hello to our newest readers. Thanks for becoming subscribers and if you enjoy our musings and meanderings, please feel free to pass them along to your family and friends.

Which brings us to our very important annual fund drive announcement. It's always with a bit of trrepidation and reluctance that once a year, we ask for your donations; but, if you do indeed enjoy our newsletter, you can help us keep it going in several different ways:

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Or you can shop at the merchants in this newsletter or on the website. They all give us commissions whenever you buy something.

Whatever you decide to do, even the smallest contribution - yes, even a dollar - helps to cover our out of pocket expenses which continue to increase every year. We thank you in advance for your generosity and kindness.

Enough of the blitherin and beggin' - on with the update:
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From the mailbag
Quips, Quotes, Proverbs & Toasts
A Bit of the Wit
Joke of The Week
Did You Know
Know Your Writers
The week That Is
Leave 'em Laughing
What follows are news clips from around the counties and the world. Links for more news stories can be found on our web site here
And more county news can be found here:

Armagh: Parish community to restore 15th century church
The parishioners of Creggan Church of Ireland are determined to carry out the restoration of their fifteenth century church, with the roof, vestry and windows needing attention, as well as the front door of the building. They are also determined to preserve the Poets' Glen, a thirteen-acre site which features a sculpted garden and a river. The Glen contains the graves of three eighteenth century Irish poets, Art MacCooey, Séamus Mór MacMurphy and Pádraig MacAliondain.

Carlow: Tullow house bequeathed to State
The late Mrs Corona North bequeathed to the State her home at Altamont House and Garden in Tullow. Comprising almost one hundred acres, the estate includes gardens featuring an ornamental garden, and an ancient oak wood, as well as the Hundred Steps, hand-cut from granite, which lead down to a walk beside the River Slaney. Altamont also has a house dating from the early eighteenth century, though it is believed that some of the building's features may date from the sixteenth century. Mrs North inherited the estate from her father, a plantsman named Fielding Lecky Watson, and from the 1970s worked to create one of the most visited gardens in the country.

Cavan: Traditional homecoming becomes something special
For the past twelve years one of Ireland's leading clerics has returned to his native parish on St Stephen's Day to celebrate Mass and greet the parishioners. This year was a special one as the cleric has recently been elected to the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Séan Brady celebrated Mass for his family and neighbours in St Patrick's Church at Carrickallen, in Laragh parish, the church in which he was baptised almost seventy years ago. At the font he was joined by the youngest parishioner, Hanna Louise Magee, and the oldest, ninety-year-old Michael Boylan.

Clare: Quilty builds on its French connection
The village of Quilty is undertaking a number of initiatives under the title of the Leon brand, commemorating an incident which took place one hundred years ago when men from Quilty set out in four currachs to rescue twenty-two French sailors whose ship had foundered. Now the local community is to set up a Leon Centre which will act as an umbrella for a number of tourism-related initiatives including an annual Leon XIII Festival, Leon Seasonal Coach Tours and the Leon themed weekends. A walking trail is also to be established, as is a local Comhaltas music group.

Derry: Golden landmark for Magherafelt instructor
In January 1958, just as the compulsory test was introduced, Patrick Deehan set up the South Derry School of Motoring, and he is still going strong at the age of eighty-three. Patrick began his driving instruction career using an Austin A30 but his latest car is a Renault Clio. He says his most memorable student was back in the mid-1960s, when he successfully instructed Jim Patterson, who had lost both legs and an arm in an accident. Patrick was also responsible for the introduction of female drivers in Ulsterbus, and is an accident investigator.

Down: A vote of thanks after 150 years
Descendants of some of those who lost their lives trying to find the North West Passage in 1845 are to meet in Banbridge during January with descendants of a Louth man who led a mission to discover the fate of the expedition. Sir Leopold McClintock set off fourteen years after the Franklin expedition had foundered in the Arctic and his party found a note which shed light on the fate of the more than one hundred men. Banbridge man Captain Francis Crozier was one of those who lost their lives, and his relatives, along with those of Sir John Franklin and Sir James Clark Ross, will meet members of the McClintock family to offer their thanks.

Fermanagh: Guinness entry for Garrison man
Thomas Maguire from Garrison has earned himself a place in this year's Guinness Book of Records by recording the fastest time for the North Pole Marathon this year. In completing the marathon in 3:36:10 Thomas broke the record for the run and is officially the fastest man to have completed it.

Kilkenny: Market moved to traditional spot
While the Parade in Kilkenny city is redeveloped, the Farmers' Market is to be relocated for a two-year period to a site in St Kieran Street between Kyteler's Inn and Bollards pub. Although it has been designated a temporary move, councillors are hopeful that it will prove permanent as the site is a traditional trading area for the city; before the Market Yard was built in the mid-nineteenth century St Kieran Street was the site of the King Street Market.

Laois: Lalor statue unveiled in Portlaoise
A statue commemorating James Fintan Lalor, described by former trade union president Des Geraghty as one of the architects of the Labour movement, has been unveiled outside Aras an Chontae in Portlaoise. The sculpture was designed and created by Rory Breslin, a sculptor based in Co. Mayo. Mr Geraghty suggested that the next step would be to establish an annual summer school focusing on the writings of James Fintan Lalor.

Roscommon: Roscommon loses landmark building
Castle Street in Roscommon town will never look the same again after the demolition of what remained of O'Gara's Royal Hotel last weekend. Fire had broken out on the first floor of the building and despite the efforts of more than fifty firefighters the damage was such that the building became unstable, necessitating its demolition. The guests and staff were all evacuated and no one was injured in the blaze, and Larry O'Gara had hopes that Rockford's could reopen once Castle Street had been opened to traffic again. Both Rockford's and the Kinnegad Bar were saved from the fire but the roof of the adjacent Mac's Bar is believed to have been damaged.

Sligo: Long-suffering commuters finally rewarded for their patience
Reports of trains to Sligo being delayed for a variety of reasons have become familiar to radio listeners, but the long-suffering commuters have been rewarded with the first of Iarnród Éireann's new 'green' diesel trains being assigned to the line. The first green and yellow train pulled into Sean MacDiarmada station recently. For the next few weeks, the new train will operate once a day but after that there will be between five and eight trains each day.

Tyrone: One good turn deserves another
The two gestures of good-neighbourliness might be more than two hundred years apart, but a church in Donaghmore has presented a neighbouring church with funds to help in repair of the building. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the congregation of the Church of Ireland in Donaghmore presented the neighbouring Catholic church with the sum of £20 to help with church repairs. And as a Christmas gift this year, the Upper Parish church presented the Rev. Peter Thompson with a cheque for £5,000 to help with repairs to the Church of Ireland.

Waterford: Golden celebrations for St Laurence's Hall
Speaking after a Mass celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of St Laurence's Hall in Ballinroad, Michael Fraher, the chairman of the Hall Committee, paid tribute to the group who initiated the project when there was little money around in Ireland. He made particular mention of the surviving members of the founding committee, Peggy Hanrahan, Sally Walsh, Anthony Hayes and Sheila Morrissey, who was representing her husband Gary. The Morrissey family of Ballinaskeha had donated the land on which the hall was built and have since donated two further sites to enable the facilities to be extended

Westmeath: Location of tourist office brings dissent
The present location of the tourist information office in Athlone has been criticized by a number of councillors on the grounds of its inaccessibility. The office is located within the castle, placed there by the Regional Tourism Organisation seventeen years ago. It is open only from May to September and a debate took place at a recent council meeting about the need to have it open throughout the year. Councillor Kevin Moran suggested it should be moved to the Civic Centre in the centre of the town, which is open to the public from early morning to late evening every day.

Wicklow: Bray's last thatch disappears
The last thatched cottage in Bray has been demolished. The two-storey building known as Massey Cottage in Ballywaltrim was knocked down last month. From the middle of the last century it was occupied by the Fitzgerald family and the thatching, funded with help from the National Heritage Council, was carried out on a regular basis by Pat Malloy of Nurney, Co. Kildare. Pat also applied his thatching skills to cottages in Windgates and Delgany, staying in the cottages on which he was working.

Washington DC
Atlantic Archipelago Revisited
Fr Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus is gunning for the National Geographic for describing Ireland as one of the "British Isles" in a recent publication. " And to make matters worse," Fr. Mc Manus continues, " the catalog is introduced by the National Geographic president, who bears the proud name of John M. Fahey, Jr. Surely he should know that Ireland is not a British isle but an Irish isle? If someone wants to give it a name, it is usually called the Emerald Isle, Mr. Fahey".
SPONSOR: Please help us keep your newsletter coming - visit our good friends at Lollysmith:
Our very best in the new year from all of us at Lollysmith. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who shopped with us in 2007 and hope you'll be back again in 2008. On the heels of the holidays sees us getting ready for the next big event - St. Patrick's Day! And you can be certain we'll have everything you need to do it up right - from Guinness gear, authentic walking sticks, hats, caps and more! Come explore:
My name is Ray O'Brien and I really look for yours news letters. Not only are they full of information about Ireland, they also tell much of the history which I enjoy reading. I wonder if you could help me with a letter / quotation / passage re living  out side of Ireland  (NZ). It was a gem. I printed it off and now can't find it. The theme was no matter how little irish was in you, your roots were firmly planted in Ireland. My great great grandfather came to Australia, where, around 1866 he moved to NZ., so you see I am well diluted,  but like my late father, aI am proud of my Irish roots.It was my intention when printing off the passage to pass it on to my three children and my seven grandchildren. From memory, it was printed in an old gothic style of printing.

Rachel asks:
My father was in the service when he proposed to my mother and so he sent her engagement ring to her.  She always told us that she went to her mother and asked her mother to "wish it or bless it on her finger".  Do you know is this an old Irish custom?  I am writing a family memory book for our two daughters with family stories and memories and I would like to add this story but would like to have some background on the ring wishing or blessing.  My mothers' family came to America from Scotland and Ireland so I wondered if it was a custom from the old country.
In response to sending Christmas cards when a loved one dies, Lisa writes:
Hi I read you newsletter all the time and love to see what's going on at home. I lived in Ireland until moving to Canada 12 years ago. I saw that question this time about sending Christmas cards after a death in the family. I know that it is in fact a custom not to send Christmas cards the first Christmas after the death of a immediate family member . It is okay to receive cards but not send them. As far as I know it is still the custom.

About the superstition associated with receiving a Christmas card featuring the Three Wise Men, Tom Burke writes:
I am 52 and as long as I can remember, it was a tradition to take the first Wisemen Christmas card that you received and place it above the inside lintel of your front door. It was thought that was to bring only good things through your door. It remained there until the next year when it was replaced by a new Magi card.

Who wants to be an Irishman?
Take the Quiz and see if you qualify:

The Irish Page - A Tooth extraction in Irish and English!
Most of us  will avoid going to the dentist at all costs. We know only too well the pain associated with dental work. Well, our hero, or victim, lived in the last century in Ireland where dentistry (as in all countries) was quite primitive to say the least. To read the story, please click

She Moved Through The Fair
Captured on tape by a visitor to a pub outside Dublin, no-one seems to know who the singer is - and is she good! Perhaps one of our readers might be able to shed some light on the identity of this mystery nightingale?

And now for something completely different: Cartoon of Barnyard animals cartoon doing a slip jig
Wait 'til the sheep show up. If you want to waste time on something totally silly, please click

What if the Beatles were Irish?
We're not sure if we didn't post this link before. In any event, it's worth another look and lots of laughs!
When you mix alcoholic beverages
This video link was sent in by our good friend AG and even though it's not Irish we thought you might enjoy it.

Free Mammograms
Many women can't afford the test, but here's how you can help: Go to the Breast Cancer site and click on their free mammogram link; if the site gets enough clicks , they'll be able to donate at least one free mammogram a day to underprivileged women. It takes just a minute and there's no cost involved:

Free Pet Food!
Last but certainly not least - our ongoing gift to AG in California and all friends to animals, please click this link today and everyday. It only takes a second to feed an animal. Thanks!

Free People Food!
It only takes a second to feed hungry people, too:
No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office. Attributed to George Bernard Shaw.
ED. NOTE: This quote came to us by way of a good friend in California. We're not entirely convinced GBS actually said it. Our rationale is that across the big pond, politicians "stand" for office - they don't "run'.
In recognition of the Presidential race in the USA:
I think 'Hail to the Chief' has a nice ring to it.
(when asked his favourite song)
John F. Kennedy

Taking his seat in his chambers, the judge faced the opposing lawyers/solicitors.

"So," he said, "I have been presented, by both of you, with a bribe."

Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably. "You, attorney O'Hara, gave me $15,000. And you, attorney Higgins, gave me $10,000."

The judge reached into his pocket and pulled out a check. He handed it to O'Hara. "Now then, I'm returning $5,000, and we're going to decide this case solely on its merits!"
1. According to one rather obscure Irish legend, a ringing in your ears means a deceased friend stuck in Purgatory is ringing a bell to ask for you to pray for him or her?
2. While the Purple Mountains of Kerry in Killarney National Park are said to be purple from the abundance of heather growing there, Purple Mountain itself derives its name from the colour of the sandstone rock which emits a purple hue under favourable light conditions?
3. Jonathan Swift is buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin and wrote his own epitaph in Latin? It was translated into English by William Butler Yeats:
Swift has sailed into his rest.
Savage indignation there
cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
world-besotted traveller.
He served human liberty.

To begin with, the answers to our last quiz:

1. Heart and Soul by Trevor Brennan
2. The Táin by Ciaran Carson
3. Are Ye The Band by Jimmy Higgins

A pat on the back and a tip of the hat to our latest Irish book sleuths

Helen Dowd
Thanks for visiting my site. Please note the new guestbook, right on the front page. I'd love it if you would drop a note

Pauline Dewberry
DO YOU LIKE CATS? Then you will love this site - full of warm, funny stories that will make you laugh and occasionally shed a tear. Join us as my wonderful feline companions and I share what life is like - living in a multi-cat household. It will be a journey you won't forget!

Déirdre McKiernan Hetzler
"Glorious Ireland" 22 May - 3 June, 2008: view itinerary at

Hartson Dowd
Hartson went into the hospital soon after he sent in his entry; he didn't nominate a site, but we're sure it would be his wife's, given the option. Please keep him in your prayers or meditations.

Want to see your name and favorite web site in our next newsletter?
Who wrote:
1. The Story of Ireland
2. All of Our Yesterdays
3. 40 Shades of Green

Hint: They are all best sellers in Ireland.
SPONSOR: Please help us keep the newsletter coming - visit our good friends at the Irish Lotto.
In operation since 1988 , it's one of the oldest online lottery sites in the world. With subscribers in 89 countries it is also among the most reliable. Jackpots are never lower than US$1,500,000 and are frequently worth in excess of US$5,000,000 Here's the best part - you don't have to live in Ireland to play and all winnings are Tax Free!

Latest results: There was NO winner of Saturday's drawing. Which means that the jackpot on Wednesday is estimated to be over € 3.6 Million Euro. It's always been our fantasy that one of our readers will win; but, as they say in Ireland, you can't win if you're not in. To buy a ticket for next Wednesday's drawing, please click
First off, the answer to our last Skull Scrambler:
Q. What starts with a J, ends with an R and contains the number 31622400?
A. A Leap Year. While many of our Riddle People guessed a year, the extra seconds in a Leap Year threw quite a few of you off the track. Sorry about that. But since 2008 is a Leap Year, we really thought it would be an easy riddle to solve. All of that said, we did have a correct answer from one of our always brilliant solvers: Jim Turley. Well done, Jim!
And now for our next Brain Bruiser:
Q. What one syllable word becomes a three-syllable word with the addition of a single letter?
1. Soundtrack Review: The Waterhorse
2. Article: New Year's Day to Epiphany
3. Article: Oiche na Gaoithe Moire...The Night of the Big Wind
4. Article: An Post - C Both Sides
5. Article: Uisce Beatha - The Water of Life!
6. Article: Counties of Ireland -Antrim
7. Article: Sleabhac: Manna from the Seashore
8. Recipe: Spiced Beef
9. Basic Irish - A New Year, A New You
10. Kids' Ireland - The Day After
11. Circle of prayer - The third Novena in this cycle began on January 13th and continues through January 21st.. We are sad to report that since last we wrote, our dear friend and contributor hartson Dowd is back in the hospital with yet another serious infection which if it doesn't respond to treatment could cost him his other leg. The Dowds are remarkably strong and unswerving in their faith, but it does seem terribly unfair that they should be dealt yet another blow. So please keep them in your prayers or meditations. Also Isabella who turns out to be a very active toddler and not a baby as we reported last time. If you'd like to check on her progress and see new pictures, please click
We also ask that you remember the following people who are also fighting brave battles: Liam Nolan who may have to have a kidney removed, our daughter-in-law's dad George Reynolds just diagnosed with liekemia, Heather whose cancer has returned, Pauline who is still experiencing many problems since her bone marrow transplant, Benjamin H, and so many others who need our spiritual support especially our men and women in the military serving their country all over the world. Please God, they will all be home safe and sound soon.
ED. NOTE: We went ahead and shortened the list to just those people we've received updates on. If you need us to put someone back, please let us know.
12. The Trivia Contest for January is posted. All entries must be in by midnight. January 31st, whatever time zone you're in:
December's Winner: Congratulations to: Christine Seaholtz, USA
13. December Letter of the Month - A delightful contribution from Glen and Michele Whelan (please scroll to the bottom pf the home page:
SPONSOR: Please help us keep our newsletter coming - visit our friends at the Celtic Attic:
Starting Monday January 14 to January 17, 2008 we are continuing a HUGE STOREWIDE SALE. We are completely revamping our inventory so we are getting rid of hundreds of products and adding new items. Sales pages are jammed packed and all items are 75% the listed price. In addition, there is FREE Shipping on orders over $45.00 that have at least 1 sales item. Receive Free Shipping on all orders over $100.00 without any Sales item purchase. FREE GIFT with each and every order and a FREE COPY of the CELTIC ATTIC COOKBOOK with each order! So stock up for next Christmas or Shop early for St. Patrick's Day!
Order on line or by phone - and tell them Bridget & Russ said hello!
Order by phone: Tel: 360-765-0186
Order on line:
So there you have it until next time. If you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other important event between now and then, we hope it's an occasion filled with joy.
In the meantime, a very very belated pinch punch, first day of the month. If you were married in January or plan on tying the knot, here's the special old Irish verse:
Marry when the year is new, always loving, kind and true.

Until we write again, may the Good Shepherd of us all hold you and yours in the palm of His hand, but not close His fist too tightly upon you. And, as they say in Ireland, mind yourself.

Slan agus beannacht!

Bridget & Russ
Get down on your knees and thank God you're still on your feet!
Please check with the Wild Geese - they have a huge listing of events and we don't want to duplicate their efforts:
If we receive a unique event not mentioned there, we will be happy to list it here.

Hollywood, Florida - January 19
The Irish-American Ceili Club wishes all of our Members & Visitors the best in the new year. May 2008 be kind to you! We also hope one of your New Year's resolutions is to have more fun in 2008 at the IRISH-AMERICAN CEILI CLUB! Join us on Saturday, January 19, 7pm-11pm when legendary Irish stars, TOMMY GOODWIN [accordion] & SHARON O'MEARA [vocals & guitar] take the stage at the American Legion Hall 211 North 21 Avenue, Hollywood. For complete details, please visit us on line:

Dublin - January 23-27
For five days and nights, Temple Bar in the heart of the city, will come alive to the sound of jigs and reels from the many pubs and cultural centres in the area. With live music concerts, pub sessions, workshops, children's events, festival club and much much more, prepare for a barrage of flutes, accordions, bodhráns, mighty sessions and great craic! For complete details, please visit:

Dublin, Ireland - February 4th through March 1st
Miss Julie by August Strindberg, in a version by Frank McGuinness
Project Arts Centre & Space Upstairs
East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
For more details, please write to Layla O'Mara

Los Alamitos, California
Friends of Ireland of Southern California Monthly Breakfast. Events are held on the 1st Tuesday of the month. Please call in RSVP to one of the contacts below, one day in advance so we can accommodate you.
Barbara Walsh (714) 739-4195 Kathy Wisdom (714) 572-8277
Tom Kennedy (562) 425-2636 Jim O'Dea (626) 965-0307

Another oldie but goodie from our good friend AG in California:


A Jewish man walked into the lingerie department of Clerys in Dublin. He tells the saleslady, "I would like a Jewish bra for my wife size 34 B." With a quizzical look the saleslady asked, "What kind of bra?" He repeated, "A Jewish bra. She said to tell you that she wanted a Jewish bra, and that you would know what she wanted." "Ah, now I remember," said the saleslady. "We don't get as many requests for them as we used to. Most of our customers lately want the Catholic bra, or the Salvation Army bra, or the Presbyterian bra."

Confused, and a little flustered, the man asked "So, what are the differences?"

The saleslady responded. "It is all really quite simple. The Catholic bra supports the masses. The Salvation Army bra lifts up the fallen, and the Presbyterian bra keeps them staunch and upright."

He mused on that information for a minute and said: "Hmm. I know I'll regret asking, but what does the Jewish bra do?" "Ah, the Jewish bra," she replied "makes mountains out of molehills.