The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter
The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland
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Copyright (C) 2007
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Getting Connected by John B. McCabe
=== The Southern Irish during the Civil War
=== Who were the Black Irish?
=== Shamrock Site of the Month: celticattic.com
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Hello again from Ireland where the talk is of a
slowing economy and what will happen next. For a
country that has only recently experienced an
economic boom the Irish are quick to jump on
the 'gloom and doom' bandwagon!
Please do send us in a poem, story or article for
inclusion in next months newsletter. Once it is
about Ireland or the Irish then we would love to
Best from Ireland!
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
INTERNATIONAL CREDIT CRUNCH HITS IRELAND
The recent turmoil in the US credit and housing
markets has spread to Ireland and the UK where
well established bank Northern Rock has been
brought to its knees.
Scenes reminiscent from the 1930's were witnessed
on Dublin's Harcourt Street where Northern Bank
has its sole Irish branch. In the UK pictures of
hundreds of people queueing outside branches all
across Britain dominated the evening news. This
was an old fashioned 'run' on the bank, the fifth
largest mortgage lender in the UK. It took a
declaration by the British Chancellor, Alastair
Darling, that all savings were guaranteed by
the Government before the panic subsided.
Despite reassurances by the Central Bank that
Northern Rock was well funded and in no danger of
collapse, the fact that it had to offer the bank
short term lending because of the international
credit crunch sparked a wave of withdrawals by
customers who just did not see any need to take
a chance. It looks like Northern Rock, whose
share price has collapsed from £12 a share in
2006 to £2 a share today, may now be sold on the
cheap as its reputation has been destroyed
IRISH TEENAGERS FATTER THAN THEIR ANCESTORS
A public health conference held in University
College Cork (UCC) has revealed that an average
14-year old in Ireland now weighs 9.5 stone,
compared to the 5.5 stone that his grandfather
may have weighed in 1948. Modern teenagers are
also taller by 9 inches at 5 foot 6 inches than
their 1948 counterparts. A richer economy often
means better nutrition and this was certainly
the case in Ireland up until the 1970s. Since
then however, the excesses of the economic boom
have become apparent in the diet of the young.
Diabetes in the adulthood of the fast food
generation is expected to be one of the fastest
growing diseases facing healthcare experts in
LANGUAGE SKILLS NOW A REQUIREMENT FOR MIGRANTS
Migrants who have entered Ireland and who seek
to become Irish citizens will in future be
required to pass a language test. The issue of
integration is very much to the forefront for
immigrant and government groups alike and the
proposed measure is intended to assist with the
integration process. The Government also has
one eye on the huge intellectual dividend that
migrants can add to Ireland. Many of the Polish
and eastern European migrants who have entered
Ireland in recent years have University degrees
but end up working in Coffee shops and the service
industry simply because they can earn up to four
times the weekly wage in Ireland than they might
earn in their home country. Accessing this pool
of talent and encouraging them into more
challenging fields of employment is likely to be
a key requirement if Ireland is to retain its
economic competitiveness. The provision of
language classes to immigrants is seen as one
step along that road.
IRISH SMOKING BAN REDUCES HEART ATTACKS BY 10%
The ban on smoking in the workplace in
Ireland has been credited with the reduction
in heart attacks by its citizens of 10% a
health conference has heard.
The ban on smoking has also led to a reduction
in drinking in some categories as public houses
continue to lose trade to off-licences.
AER LINGUS CERTAIN TO LEAVE SHANNON
Plans by Aer Lingus to leave Shannon airport and
to set up a hew hub at Belfast are still on
course despite a concerted campaign by business
and local interests in the west of Ireland. Rival
airline Ryanair has repeatedly tried to get an
EGM of the company called where there is a good
chance the decision to pull out of Shannon would
be reversed. Aer Lingus management have so far
fought off their bitter rival but the game is
not up yet.
IRISH SOCCER SHAMBLES CONTINUES
Any hope of the Irish soccer team qualifying for
the 2008 European Championships have all but
evaporated after two dismal performances by the
Irish team. A lame draw against a poor Slovakia
side in Bratislava was followed up by a narrow
1-0 defeat in Prague to the Czech Republic. The
poor results in the qualifying campaign of the
Irish team (including a defeat to Cyprus) have
resulted in calls for the resignation of Irish
manager Steve Staunton. It looks unlikely however
that the FAI will bow to the pressure and only a
home trouncing by Germany or a big defeat in
Wales might jeopardise Stauntons job.
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
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NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY:
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history details have been added to the Gallery:
C: Callin, McCool
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GETTING CONNECTED by John B. McCabe
Enclosed find new article for your newsletter.
In America the Electricity has been around for a
long time. We owe it to the great inventor Thomas
Alva Edison. In Ireland we have harnessed the
waterways and have caught up with the rest of the
However in the 1950's many parts of the country
had no electricity. The 'Rurual Electrification
Scheme' was initiated in the late nineteen
fifties. Our home was connected in 1959. The
enclosed article recounts the excitement of that
Hope this article evokes many memories for your
Some moments are burned into the soul and remain
as permanent reference points for a life time.
They are as great watersheds between distinct
periods of evolution where nothing will ever be
the same again. Such was the summer of nineteen
fifty nine which saw the arrival of the rural
electrification scheme to south Monaghan. Great
debates were held about the advantages and costs
involved in being connected up and many an
argument raged among the townlands about whether
or not to 'take the electricity'. My father who
lived with a terrible fear of penury, a nervous
disposition which left him indecisive and prone
to forebodings of imminent disasters, advised
against it. The expense was too much and he
firmly believed that once people were lured into
acceptance by the initial low cost attraction
the price would soar and 'drive us out of house
Mammy was more optimistic and her determination
and pride which would not allow us to be 'behind
the times' won the day. She took the matter into
her own hands and rode her bicycle all the way to
Ballybay where she engaged an electrician to wire
the house and be ready for connection when the
power lines were switched on.
It was a scorching summer and longer than any I
had ever remembered. Meteorological records can
easily prove otherwise but for me it was the first
summer of real awareness, of excitement, of new
beginnings and so much was happening that year
that it seemed like I had never been alive before
or else had stepped over an unseen border into a
more vibrant world.
Men came and put down marking pegs along the
roadside verges and at intervals across the fields
to indicate where holes were to be dug for the
poles. Soon the countryside was littered with
mounds of clay as if enormous rabbits had scooped
out giant burrows in the night.
All was not throbbing with the pulse of progress.
The rabbits had bred like wildfire in the previous
months and populated the area in plague
proportions, destroying crops, cratering the
fields and fouling the pastures with millions of
Mixamatosis was introduced to eradicate the rabbit
population with devastating consequences. The
disease caused horrible swelling in the head and
eyes of these animals and they wandered stupidly
to their death, sometimes killed in their hundreds
on the road way. We watched these pitiable
creatures with their gigantic death laden eyes
huddled in their dying thousands in every field
and country laneway.
The electricity board had delivered supplies of
pylons, stacked in groups of five or six at
strategic intervals along the road. The scorching
sun raised blisters of oozing tar from their pores.
Nineteen fifty nine forever in my mind recalls the
smell of melting tar and the feted stench of
decomposing rabbits on the road.
A new craze took hold of every boy in our area that
year. The magic of digging holes, erecting pylons,
coupled with the giddy adventure of being an
overhead linesman caught the imagination.
Everywhere on farms holes were dug, strings strung
from tree to tree and old lids and polish boxes
improvised as switches.
My mother was none too pleased when my brother and
I paused from our exertions of digging yet another
great hole and tore our vests so we could more
accurately mimic the sweating workers with their
manly chests exposed to the sun.
When at last the power was switched on we were
high with excitement and my father warned us of
the dangers of electrocution. 'It's no toy to be
tampered with', he said, as we argued which of us
should switch on the light. Eventually we took it
in turns to do so, night about, until it had lost
I have always been amazed at how important changes
within ourselves happen so unconsciously that we
are never aware of the small day to day
developments. Growing up, growing old, growing
tall or growing fat - these are not observed in
the gradual daily progress which is too small to
measure but in relation to other objects, people
or environments. The phenomenological reference for
my growing up pertains to that simple exercise of
putting on the light. Initially I had to stand on
a chair, later on tip-toes and later again it was
but a hand stretch away. I have much cause to
wonder at the many other changes which have
happened to me as imperceptibly but equally
dramatically as the process of growing up.
The following year the Shankill power lines were
begun. This was a new development linking two
generating stations and brought new drama to my
Huge steel giants strode across the hills,
towering over the tallest trees, marching through
swamps and straddling ditches. They carried heavy
power lines that hissed and sizzled in the frost.
I had broken my wrist that year and I remember
standing outside the back of our house watching
these pylons being erected. They were planted in
a concrete base and built piece by piece until the
two great arms branched out to carry the top
section. The one in our field was nearly eighty
feet tall and it stood there begging to be
climbed. And climbed it was! My brother did it -
I only went up as far as the arms. He had a better
head for heights than me and up he went until he
was a small dark speck - ten years old and
dangling his feet from the triangular corner with
nothing beneath him but the certainty of death.
He got down safely and I have nightmares to this
day to prove it happened.
One Sunday we conquered a smaller pylon on
Trainor's Hill and my uncle bellowed from half a
mile away to 'come down ou'are that before yiz get
kilt'. His grammar was off but his concern was
The giants are still standing and hissing at the
sky - ugly and un-magical, monuments to a blind
progress which so disfigures the beauty of the
John B. McCabe
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
THE SOUTHERN IRISH DURING THE CIVIL WAR
by David Donehoo
Although it is quite well known there were several
Irish brigades who fought for the North, little
has been said about the contribution the Irish
made to the Southern cause.
This of course seems odd to us who are of Irish
heritage with deep roots in the South, since a
large percentage of the people around us were
also of Irish descent. Names like Coleman, Farrell,
Adams, Campbell, Reed, Thompson, Sullivan, Early,
so on and so on, made up a majority of the people
in our little north Georgia town.
The fact is that probably over 90% of the Southern
population were of Scot/Irish/English descent.
Because of this, and because these individuals
groups were so well assimilated into the culture,
there was little call or desire for brigades made
up of particular nationalities.
It has been noted that the South was the only region
in the United States that ever developed a unique
and homogeneous culture. That of course, is because
of the common heritage that was shared by those who
originally settled in this area. Attributes like
chivalry, honor, loyalty and civility were simply
considered a part of life. Those of Irish descent,
as a result, were not thought of as an individual
group to be looked down on or separated. On the
contrary, they were thought of as the backbone of
the South, it is no mistake that the heroine of
'Gone With The Wind' was named Scarlett O'Hara.
The Irish of the North and South, although similar
in many ways, did have some major differences.
Most of the Irish in the South were descendants
of the 'dispossessed Ulster Presbyterians of the
Eighteenth Century'. Thus, they were among the
early settlers in the Southern States. By the
1780s my particular family 'Donehoo' had settled
in South Carolina. Later on, before the Civil War
began, they packed up and moved into North
Georgia. The Irish in the South were extremely
patriotic toward their newfound home. According to
John Mitchel, a Protestant Irish nationalist of
the time, they viewed the Confederacy as 'a
surrogate Ireland, an agricultural society
fighting for its way of life, for self-rule
against an Anglo-Protestant industrial state,
much like England'.
Most of the Irish in the North, unlike their
brothers of the South, migrated to their newfound
home in the nineteenth century, just prior to the
War, and were Catholic. Being a minority at the
time, many doors were closed to them and they
experienced quite a bit of discrimination. When
the war came along they saw an opportunity not
only to distinguish themselves as Irish-Americans,
but also to carve out a place in Northern society.
Several Irish brigades were established as a
result, and were honored for their bravery and
loyalty. No one can deny the great contribution
these men made to their country, but the Irish of
the South were fighting for different reasons.
They were fighting for their way for life, for
their homes, and for their families and neighbors.
I know that there are those who place a special
emphasis on the fact that the North had several
Irish Brigades made up of individuals who were
actually born in Ireland. However, we in the South
who are of Irish blood, also take great pride in
the fact that our forefathers had the courage to
fight an enemy who overwhelmed them in numbers and
were better armed. In spite of the odds, these
brave Irishmen fought and won many battles until
they could simply go no further. My Grandfather
described for me in detail what his Grandfather
had told him about the terrifying sound of the
'rebel yell' as it would grow to a deafening
crescendo across the battlefield. In my mind's
eye I can see those ancient Irish warriors
charging across a vast open field, swords and
lances in hand, to do battle with a great Roman
army. We Southern Protestant Irish are very
proud of our ancestors who were so willing to
give their all for their homeland.
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
WHO WERE THE BLACK IRISH?
The term 'Black Irish' has commonly been in
circulation among Irish emigrants and their
descendants for centuries. As a subject of
historical discussion the subject is almost
never referred to in Ireland. There are a
number of different claims as to the origin of
the term, none of which are possible to prove
'Black Irish' is often a description of
people of Irish origin who had dark features,
black hair, dark complexion and eyes.
A quick review of Irish history reveals that
the island was subject to a number of influxes
of foreign people. The Celts arrived on the
island about the year 500 B.C. Whether or not
this was an actual invasion or rather a more
gradual migration and assimilation of their
culture by the natives is open to conjecture,
but there is sufficient evidence to suggest
that this later explanation is more likely.
The next great influx came from Northern
Europe with Viking raids occurring as early
as 795 A.D. The defeat of the Vikings at the
Battle of Clontarf in the year 1014 by Brian
Boru marked the end of the struggle with the
invaders and saw the subsequent integration
of the Vikings into Irish society. The migrants
became 'Gaelicized' and formed septs (a kind
of clan) along Gaelic lines.
The Norman invasions of 1170 and 1172 led by
Strongbow saw yet another wave of immigrants
settle in the country, many of whom fiercely
resisted English dominance of the island in
the centuries that followed. The Plantation of
Ulster in the seventeenth century saw the
arrival of English and Scottish colonists in
Ulster after the 'Flight of the Earls'.
Each of these immigrant groups had their own
physical characteristics and all, with the
exception of the Ulster Planters, assimilated
to some degree into Irish society, many
claiming to be 'more Irish than the Irish
The Vikings were often referred to as the
'dark invaders' or 'black foreigners'. The
Gaelic word for foreigner is 'gall' and for
black (or dark) is 'dubh'. Many of the
invaders families took Gaelic names that
utilised these two descriptive words. The
name Doyle is in Irish 'O'Dubhghaill' which
literally means 'dark foreigner' which
reveals their heritage as an invading force
with dark intentions. The name Gallagher is
'O Gallchobhair' which translates as 'foreign
help'. The traditional image of Vikings is of
pale-skinned blond-haired invaders but their
description as 'dark foreigners' may lead us
to conclude that their memory in folklore
does not just depend on their physical
The Normans were invited into Ireland by
Dermot McMurrough and were led by the famous
Strongbow. Normans are ultimately of French
origin where black haired people are not
uncommon. As with the Vikings these were
viewed as a people of 'dark intentions' who
ultimately colonised much of the Eastern
part of the country and several larger
towns. Many families however integrated
into Gaelic society and changed their Norman
name to Gaelic and then Anglo equivalents:
the Powers, the Fitzpatricks, Fitzgeralds,
It is possible that the term 'Black Irish'
may have referred to some of these immigrant
groups as a way of distinguishing them from
the 'Gaels', the people of ultimately Celtic
Another theory of the origin of the term
'Black Irish' is that these people were
descendants of Spanish traders who settled in
Ireland and even descendants of the few
Spanish sailors who were washed up on the
west coast of Ireland after the disaster
that was the 'Spanish Armada' of 1588. It is
claimed that the Spanish married into Irish
society and created a new class of Irish who
were immediately recognisable by their dark
hair and complexion. There is little evidence
to support this theory and it is unlikely
that any significant number of Spanish soldiers
would have survived long in the war-torn place
that was sixteenth century Ireland. It is
striking though how this tale is very similar to
the ancient Irish legend of the Milesians who
settled in Ireland having travelled from Spain.
The theory that the 'Black Irish' are descendants
of any small foreign group that integrated with
the Irish and survived, is unlikely. It seems
more likely that 'Black Irish' is a descriptive
term rather than an inherited characteristic that
has been applied to various categories of Irish
people over the centuries.
One such example is that of the hundreds of
thousands of Irish peasants who emigrated to
America after the Great Famine of 1845 to 1849.
1847 was known as 'black 47'. The potato blight
which destroyed the main source of sustenance
turned the vital food black. It is possible that
the arrival of large numbers of Irish after the
famine into America, Canada, Australia and beyond
resulted in their being labelled as 'black' in
that they escaped from this new kind of black
Immigrant groups throughout history have generally
been treated poorly by the indigenous population
(or by those who simply settled first).
Derogatory names for immigrant groups are legion
and in the case of those who left Ireland include
'Shanty Irish' and almost certainly 'Black Irish'.
It is also possible that within the various Irish
cultures that became established in America that
there was a pecking order, a class system that
saw some of their countrymen labelled as 'black'.
The term 'Black Irish' has also been applied to
the descendants of Irish emigrants who settled
in the West Indies. It was used in Ireland by
Catholics in Ulster Province as a derogatory term
to describe the Protestant Planters.
While it at various stages was almost certainly
used as an insult, the term 'Black Irish' has
emerged in recent times as a virtual badge of
honour among some descendants of immigrants. It
is unlikely that the exact origin of the term
will ever be known and it is also likely that it
has had a number of different creations depending
on the historical context. It remains therefore a
descriptive term used for many purposes, rather
than a reference to an actual class of people who
may have survived the centuries.
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Wendy Walker of Columbia, Missouri got a
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I received by registered mail today the ring I
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Gardai! Ta se prainneach.
PRONOUNCED: gard-ee! Taw shay pronn-ack
MEANING: Police! It's an emergency.
PHRASE: Taim i gcruachais anois
PRONOUNCED: tah-imm ih grew-cuss ah-nish
MEANING: I need your help now
PHRASE: Chaill me mo mhala.
PRONOUNCED: kyle may muh wall-ah/spar-awn/tick-aid
MEANING: I lost my bag/wallet/ticket
View the archive of phrases here:
SEPTEMBER COMPETITION RESULT
The winner was: email@example.com
who will receive the following:
A Single Family Crest Print (decorative)
Send us an email to claim your print, and well
done! Remember that all subscribers to this
newsletter are automatically entered into the
competition every time.
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month,
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