In the 1800’s hurling and Gaelic football were dying out. A major factor was the fact that the English didn’t like the Irish playing hurling or Gaelic football, because it was their belief that the Irish people planned rebellions at the matches. So they discouraged those sports and promoted the English-supervised sports of rugby, soccer and cricket. Then when the famine came in the 1840’s half of the population died or emigrated. After the famine the English continued to suppress these sports so they were really dying out. In 1884 there was a man, Michael Cusack, who decided with his partner, Maurice Davin, to form an association to promote hurling and Gaelic football. It was also meant to promote Irish culture. Their association, the GAA, kept working and now 84,000 people fill up Croke Park stadium to watch the All-Ireland finals and millions more on TV.
Yesterday ( Friday) Dad and I went to The GAA Museum and Croke Park, named after Archbishop Croke of Cashel, one of the first patrons of the Gaelic Sports Association (who obviously gave them a lot of money). The GAA promotes the sports of hurling, camogie (see my “First Day” post), gaelic football, ladies’ gaelic football (soccer-like but you can use hands for passing) handball, and rounders (similar to baseball). The tour of Croke Park came first, and we were lucky because Saturday there is an International Rules game between Ireland and Australia, so there was a lot of prep. Croke Park is the fourth largest stadium in Europe, but the turf is mowed by five men using push-mowers four times a week!!!!! Touring Croke Park to Irish Kids is like touring Fenway or Yankee stadium to Americans or touring Wembley or Old Trafford to the English.
Another important event in Croke Park history was in 1920, Bloody Sunday, during the Irish War of Independence. The Auxiliaries, a brutal British-hired police force, drove on to the field during a Gaelic football match and opened fire on the stands. They killed 14 people including one of the players, Michael Hogan.
After the tour we went to the museum. We went to the skill testing area, and I can’t hit a sliotar ( the little hurling ball which is a little heavier than a baseball ) more than 11 kph, but I can pitch it 52 kph. New York is considered a GAA county because it has so many Irish people, and the NYC team competes in the All-Ireland finals. We also looked at the wall of clubs, and there are a bunch of clubs in Australia, Qatar, France, Argentina, South Africa, Boston, Chicago, and even in St. Paul – Minneapolis.
On Monday we went to the Fota Wildlife Park, on Fota Island in Co. Cork. We virtually had the whole park to ourselves because it was a slightly rainy, cold day and many people were at work or in school or such. In the park, they have dangerous animals behind humongous fences — but animals like kangaroos, wallabies, and lemurs are able to walk outside their enclosures. Even the enclosed animals have lots of space. One thing that I thought was a really smart idea was that they had a gargantuan grassy area in the middle of the park which was home to maras, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and wallabies. As we were walking along the gigantic loop through the park, little miniscule kangaroo-like thingies called wallabies just walked right across our path. Also, these wallabies were just eating in a small area with trees, with fences in the back to keep them and other animals from going too far.
I really loved the wallabies, as they were really cute. And I thought the maras were really funny because they were just sleeping within human reach on the side of the road. (Maras are very close relatives of guinea pigs.) All in all it was a very cool park, but the pictures really say a lot. Another cool thing we saw were meerkats which are very cute creatures often found sitting on top of each other ( here is the link to wiki ( Meerkat), I advise you watch the videos, they are cute)
- Wallaby spotted at Highgate Cemetery (bbc.co.uk)
Last Friday we went to the Cliffs of Moher. Thomas’ favorite part was the gift shop, because he got to get a black hat with horns, which he calls his Strongbow and Norman hat. Before we went to the actual cliffs we went to an exhibit on the geology of the cliffs, but the interesting part of that was not the part on geology, but the part about the fact that people lived there. They would drop down the cliffs in wicker baskets hung off ropes to collect eggs, which were on very small ledges on the edge of the cliffs. The cliffs are approximately 60 feet down so one wrong move and you’re dead! The cliffs themselves are kind of hard to describe but I have one really good picture which does all the describing that it needs. All in all it’s a very cool natural thing, however, I liked the Giant’s Causeway better because it was more interesting.
FIONN AND THE DRAGON
The king gave him a seat next to his son. The king spoke in the feast. He said ” There was a spirit. This spirit appears to be a dragon. I will give you whatever you want if you kill the dragon.”
“I will kill the dragon” said Fionn. Then Fionn left. Fionn went to someone and he [Fionn] said ” Who goes there?”
“I am a friend of your father” he [stranger] said. He gave Fionn a spear (NOT a sword) “Take this” he [stranger] said ” When you hear the music you press this against your forehead and the music will have no power to it. I must hurry away now” And the stranger was gone.
Fionn went through the desert pressing the signal. Then Fionn met the dragon. Then he heard the music and pressed the spear to his head. The dragon fired a blue flame but Fionn fired his spear first and the dragon fell dead on the spot. Then Fionn went to the king, and he was the leader of the Fianna.
This is a dragon story from iol.ie
The dragon story from irishcultureandcustoms.com
The reason why I put in these two other stories is that a big part of irish storytelling is twisting the story and making it your own. The two stories I linked to are amazingly different from Thomas’s .
Also, you could use these stories to tease friends (instead of Aillen of the flaming breath you could do Liam of the flaming breath or Charlotte of the flaming breath or even Erin of the Freezing Breath, also you could make your enemies the dragon like Conor of the flaming breath or Padraig of the flaming breath or even Elliott of the stinky breath!
My point is that unlike a written book you are free to change the story to your heart’s desire.
Here are the results for the troll poll :
Estella the troll : 11 votes
Mom the troll : 5 votes
Thomas the troll : 2 votes
Dad the troll : 1 vote
I encourage you to vote in my Trafalgar Square post, at the bottom.
Sorry it’s been so long, but we were in London so I couldn’t post. We went to Trafalgar Square last Friday. That morning we went to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. I’m not going to blog about this one because it is more of a Thomas-oriented thing — a museum full of old and new buses, tube cars (subway cars) and old trains, etc. Thomas loved it, and it was fun for me, but not as great as I remembered it from when I was five years old. The one thing that was my favorite there was that they had a train-driving simulator (I thought it was stimulator). You pull on the Iron Man handle and you see what is ahead of you on the track — and then you have to stop at the right time on the platform so that you don’t crash into another train. It’s actually really hard to do because you have to time it perfectly.
After lunch we went to Trafalgar Square, which is a big square with lots of street performers, a beautiful museum and a raised-up big stone platform with a gigantic lion on each corner. Nelson’s column is in the middle. We climbed the lions a bit, but spent most of our time watching the street performers. There were four notable ones. There was one guy who threw up glass balls and caught them on his arms.
There was who I call the “Gold Guy” who has a cane and appears to be sitting in mid air. (For those that watched America’s Got Talent he was a lot like Special Head, but a little less amazing.)
There was a contortionist who was doing all these strange bendy things, like sticking his head between his legs and walking backwards like that.
But, by far, my favorite of all was the flags chalk artists. They had drawn flags with chalk of almost every flag of the world (but not like Turks & Caicos islands). So people would take some money and put it on their favorite flag. So, for instance, the US had a lot of money on it because there were a lot of American tourists. Mom gave me about nine coins, and I put them on my favorite flags — and Ireland. I put them on Montenegro and Saudi Arabia and South Africa and Wales. I was talking to one of the two people who were making the flags and I recognized she was drawing Montenegro. I talked to her a lot about how I like flags and about how she did it, how often (she does it every day when it’s not raining), etc. And they need to wash it off every day so they are allowed to do it again.
Anyway, she let me make Mali, and I did. It was very very fun. It was cool to be able to draw on this famous place and be part of her art project. She didn’t have any other people drawing with her except her friend who was drawing the whole time. It was more of a spectator, watching-them-draw thing. It was lucky that I was able to draw with them.
Some flags didn’t make as much money as others, or instance, South Sudan. And she told me that Malta is the least money-making (although it did have a coin on it on Friday). She saved the controversial ones, like Northern Ireland for last and there was no Palestinian flag. Although they did have the Basque countries.
Today I went with Dad to school where he was teaching about European privacy law vs. American privacy law, especially Facebook. I didn’t really participate much for the first part of the class because they were reviewing stuff that they had worked on yesterday. After the five minute break we started to talk about other stuff like the “safe harbor” between the EU and the US, which means that the US is able to get employee information from companies that have offices in EU countries.
So that was fun. No really, it was. 🙂
Anyway, one thing that I noticed is that there are tons of different nationalities in Dad’s class. He has a Brazilian, a Spanish, a Belgian, a German, an Indian, an Australian, and a Chinese (although he doesn’t really come). And he also has part Austrian/part Irish and a part Libyan/part Irish guys but they were born in Ireland. The other five are pure Irish. There are seven Irish and seven other nationalities. It’s kind of easy to tell which are pure Irish based on the names (Eoin (pronounced Owen), Cormac, Sara, Ciara (pronounced Kyra) and Niamh (pronounced Neave)). I really like names so all the funny spellings to pronunciations are fun.
This is a guest blog my mom made for the grownups.
In one way we’ve gone back in time – we only have broadcast television here, not cable. We can watch a total of eight channels and one is Bloomberg News and one is Irish language.
I was distressed to learn that morning and afternoon cartoons are predominantly in Irish (i.e. no “electronic babysitter”). I don’t think the Irish government is worried about my childcare, but it it is trying to preserve its native language. Signage here is in Irish and English, and Gaelic is compulsory in schools, but think of the power of cartoons at that age. Irish language cartoons must help little children develop an ear for this notoriously difficult language.
Of course they have paid television too – and I understand those broadcast many US “reality shows.” The idea that this major “export” is composed of our most unstable, celebrity-hungry, obsessive, shallow and alcoholic citizens causes me grave concern. This was confirmed at the Church of Ireland where the priest began his sermon by saying, “They have something in America called ‘couponing’.” He described the show Extreme Couponing where people spend their energies collecting coupons and are able buy $400 of groceries for $6.85. The theme of the sermon was that you can’t get something for nothing. Not a bad message, but I have to disagree. In the case of extreme couponing you can get cases of ramen noodles, minute rice and cheese spreads for nothing.
That’s not to say that other countries have better reality television. Bill and I watched an episode of a reality police show set in the English town of Tewkesbury, and it was a far cry from The Policewomen of Broward County. Apparently the lack of guns in England makes for boring TV. Along with a medium-speed car chase , the episode focused on getting a 90-year-old man who had crashed his car to the ferry on time. “Will he be able to rent a car? Does he have the proper paperwork?” muses one of the fine officers. So while Americans may be shining a spotlight on our buffoons, at least we’re more interesting.
We did catch one program that was exceptional. It was on the Irish-language channel, subtitled in English. It consisted of a plain set, two truly hideous floral armchairs and two men talking. The Irish tradition of storytelling came through so beautifully in the natural, well-crafted questions that the interviewer used in order to draw out his subject – in this case the former Taoiseach (i.e. prime minister, literally translated as “leader” or “chieftain”) Brian Cowen, who had the misfortune to govern during the economic crash. No Barbara Walters photo montage of a boy in short pants in front of his grandparents’ thatched pub or Olympic-style bio of physical triumph over tragedy. This was just two men talking about a now-distant past and a recessionary present; weaving pictures with their words. We, the audience, was presumed to be intelligent and patient. The interviewer would walk up to very sensitive questions about why Mr. Cowen and his government hadn’t seen the banking and property crash and then dance away to discuss slaughtering cattle with his butcher father or living in the pub, until Mr. Cowen was sufficiently comfortable with the hard questions. It was a real pleasure.
And finally, that brings me to Father Ted, an Irish institution from the 1990’s that we stream on Netflix Ireland. Father Ted is a straight-arrow priest serving a remote island with the world’s daftest priest, Father Dougall. Ted is the well-meaning Bert to Dougall’s sweet Ernie as they lay in their twin beds chatting after a hard days work. What makes this program edgier than the Vicar of Dibley is Father Jack, the cantankerous old priest. Everyone rhapsodizes about the pleasures of caring for Father Jack in his retirement as he gets increasingly drunk, throws bottles, curses a blue streak and wrestles to avoid his daily constitutional. Bill and I went on a date on Saturday night. As we were sitting outside a pub in the beautiful historic town of Dalkey , an older couple asked to squeeze in next to us. All Dubliners firmly mind their own business, but when you start a conversation they unfold in the warmest way. We spent the whole evening together learning about their views on an upcoming vote on a proposal to eradicate their Senate, the lack of jobs for young people, and good tourist spots. But they were absolutely delighted to discover we were watching Father Ted.
Television is indeed a gateway to another country.