Ah, Valentine’s Day. Invoking the innocence of early schooldays in Ireland, and our childish attempts at romantic rhyme – “Roses are red, violets are blue, the rainfall at night reminds of you (drip..drip)”.
Regular readers of our blogs and those who follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, will know we love sharing all things Irish in our own unique Anam Croí Ireland Tours way. And, we generally adhere to the great Irish tradition of ‘never letting the truth get in the way of a good story’. However, on this occasion, we’re dealing in fact. So, if you thought that this was going to be a guide to spending Valentine’s day in Dublin, I’m afraid you’ve fallen for our double entendre!
What we actually mean, is that St. Valentine literally is in Ireland. His remains have lain in the heart of Dublin since the 19th century. We’ll come back to that, but let’s first take a look at Valentine – man and tradition.
Some (usually cheapskate boyfriends/partners/husbands😍) may hold that St. Valentine’s day is simply a lot of commercialised hogwash. An opportunity for card and flower retailers, restaurants and chocolate manufacturers to enhance profits. But it really does go so much deeper – it’s believed the tradition of lovers celebrating 14th February predates the foundation of Hallmark by some 600 years!
The 14th February link is a rather unfortunate one, as it’s the date Valentine was put to death on the orders of Roman emperor Claudius, who had him arrested for marrying couples. Back then, newly married men were forbidden from travelling away for the first year of marriage, to enable them to do their part in starting a family. However, as this hampered the emperor’s efforts in mustering armies needed to bolster the empire, he banned marriage. Just as well the Romans never came to Ireland!
During his incarceration, Valentine began to educate the blind daughter of his jailer. The night before his execution he wrote a note to her, signing it ‘your Valentine’. When she opened the note, a crocus fell from within, and her sight was restored. The celebration of his feast day from a church perspective goes back to the very end of the 5th century. As well as lovers, St. Val is also the patron saint of bees.
During the 19th century, Dublin priest Fr. John Spratt, gave an oration in Rome. So impressed was Pope Gregory XVI, that as a token of appreciation, he presented him with the remains of St. Valentine. Spratt, renowned for his charitable works, went on to become one of the driving forces of the temperance movement. Yet, just a few months before his death, physicians prescribed alcohol as a cure for a gangrenous foot. He stout heartedly (‘scuse the pun) declined, stating that, having denounced alcohol for much of his lifetime, he would rather die than let it help him live a little longer.
St. Valentine’s remains/relics were brought to Whitefriars Street Church amid much pomp and ceremony in 1836. Unfortunately, after the demise of Fr. Spratt, they were virtually forgotten about until the church was being renovated in the 1950s, when they were placed in their current location. The statue above the casket carved at that time shows Valentine holding a crocus. The casket itself contains the seal of the Vatican, evidence of Ireland holding Valentine dear to our hearts.
Saint Valentine is just one of the many unusual sights and stories one can stumble upon while rambling around Dublin before or after one of our great fully guided and fun tours of Ireland. Check out our brand new Wellness Tour of Ireland, our 12 day Ultimate All-Ireland Tour or one of our shorter six and seven day tours
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Breaking News- we launch our brand new 7 Day Wellness Tour of Ireland this week. It includes meditation, forest bathing, restorative yoga, sea and sauna, and shoreline foraging. All that, added to the other great elements of all our wonderful small group tours, ensures this is definitely an Ireland tour with a difference.
Just one tour runs in 2023 (September), and is limited to 12 guests. The full itinerary will be uploaded here on on February 1st – the feast of Brigid – Celtic godess and saint.
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‘Mná na hÉireann’ (Women of Ireland) has become synonymous as a shout out to all good things achieved by the better species of Irish humankind! Here we take a look at six of our favourite Irish women from Mythology, through history right up to contemporary 21st century.
Mythical Queen Meadhbh of Connaught (a province in the west of Ireland) is one of the main characters in the Ulaidh (Ulster) cycle of Irish Mythology and Legend. Perhaps best known for her role in the legend of a great cattle raid, which resulted in the death of another hero of Irish legend, Cú Chulainn.
Back in Celtic times in Ireland, cattle raiding was almost a pastime. Money as a currency didn’t exist and the measure of your wealth was the amount of cattle you owned, so such raids were quite common.
The greatest cattle raid of all came about simply because Maedbh’s husband, Aillil, had one thing she didn’t – a great white bull. And the only one to match or better it, was the Brown Bull of Cooley, over in the east of the country.
Queen Maedbh’s pride and ambition led to her mustering her armies and leading them to capture the bull. Naturally the story doesn’t have the happiest of endings, as per the reference to poor Cú Chulainn, who single-handedly fought them off for days, but you’ll have to join us on one of our great small-group tours to find out the full story (Editor’s note: Larry takes so long to tell it most people fall asleep before he’s halfway through!).
Even thousands of years after her death, Meadhbh lives on.. ..legend has it that she is entombed beneath a massive stone cairn (30 feet high and 190 feet across) on the top of Knocknarea mountain in Co. Sligo, overlooking the Wild Atlantic Ocean. Within, she is said to be buried standing tall, facing her enemies, even in death.
While Meadhbh may be a character from Irish legend and mythology, another feisty west of Ireland woman, Grace O’ Malley, is noted in history from Elizabethan times. The daughter of a sea-faring Irish chieftain, she had a number of sobriquets – the ‘Pirate Queen’ amongst them. She followed the family tradition of extracting ‘taxes’ from other ships that plied their way along the Wild Atlantic Way off her home of Clare Island. There are many true tales of her derring do (yep, you’ll have to come on tour to hear them). One our favourite’s relates to her schooner being boarded by Barbary pirates as Grace was resting in her cabin, having only recently given birth. Though she heard the commotion, she didn’t stir until one of her crew broke the news that they were in danger of losing the battle on deck. Swinging into action she quickly rallied her crew to turn the tide and repel the boarders. We think that both the pirates and her own men were equally afraid of this feisty Irish woman and reacted accordingly!
We spend two nights in Grace O’Malley territory on our 7 Day Northern Ireland and Best of the West tour, with our stopover in Westport, Co. Mayo. If you want to read more about the life of this amazing Irishwoman, we recommend the books of Anne Chambers
Jumping forward in time, may we introduce you to the first ever female Member of the British Parliament – Irish revolutionary, close friend and kindred spirit of Irish Nobel Laureate, W.B. Yeats. Countess Markievicz, aka Constance Gore Booth of Co. Sligo (not far from Queen Meadhbh actually).
Born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family, she married Polish Count Casimir Markievicz, hence the title and surname, though there is some doubt about the provenance of his ‘royalty’ tag. Constance was not just a republican but a suffragette and tireless worker for the downtrodden. Having played an active role in the 1916 Easter Rising, she was only saved from suffering the safe fate of execution of some of her comrades in arms, by virtue of her gender. She was sentenced to life imprisonment instead but was released as part of an amnesty in 1917. Her death, at the age of 59, in 1927 saw tens of thousands line the streets of Dublin to pay their respects to this truly heroic woman of Ireland.
For the fourth in our list, we’re actually going to double up- as both these ladies held the highest office in Ireland with distinction – Mary Robinson became the first woman to hold the office and she was succeeded by Mary McAleese, who served two terms totalling 14 years.
Former President Robinson actually resigned her presidency just prior to the end of her seven year term, to take up a post as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Former President McAleese, a native of Northern Ireland, will be remembered for the binding and healing role her presidency played in the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s.
Undisputed women’s World Lightweight Boxing Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist, 35 year old Katie Taylor has been in the vanguard of Irish sport for many years. Katie is just one of a handful of boxers (male or female) to hold all four major belts concurrently. Since turning professional in 2017 she has been undefeated in 19 bouts. As an amateur, she won Olympic Gold in 2012, when women’s boxing first featured as an Olympic sport.
Her fancy footwork was also noticeable on the soccer field. Before putting it aside to concentrate totally on boxing, Katie represented Ireland at underage and senior levels, playing 11 times for the senior team.
Katie is also a devout Christian, and has ‘Psalm 18’ embroidered on her shorts. Her sporting behaviour inside the ring and on the field, allied to her humble modest demeanour, makes her an ideal role model for young Irish sportspeople. The ups and downs of her career were captured in this critically acclaimed documentary: Katie
In honour of these these and all Irish women, we’ll close this post with one of the most beautiful, haunting pieces of Irish music ever written. It’s been recorded, sung or played by many diverse musicians – from Kate Bush, Sinead O’ Connor and the Chieftain, to rock guitarist Jeff Beck. However, we’d like to present you with this version of Mná na hÉireann (Women of Ireland), featuring Irish singer Sibéal Ní Chasaide and Steve Cooney (an Irish-speaking Australian who we’ve claimed for ourselves for many years now). The music was composed by Seán Ó Riada and this is a fitting tribute to him on the 50th anniversary of his death.
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Your trip to Ireland is booked (hopefully with Anam Croí Ireland Tours). Now it’s time to test the attic or basement ladders, pick a case from your collection, and practice packing for Ireland 2022.
But, before you make that ascent or descent, hang tough for a few minutes and read on, as we outline some suggestions on packing for Ireland. Use this article to reconcile your own list. You have made one, haven’t you?
Remember – it’s an Ireland vacation, you’ll be returning home, so the golden rule is don’t overdo it. Only take what you need for your time in Ireland. So let’s split it in two – your main luggage and your carry-on that’s going into the aircraft cabin with you.
Your cabin bag should contain what you need to get you through a day or two in the event of your main bag going astray. So we suggest:
Toiletries – it’s personal to your own needs, but make sure you follow your airline’s advice to ease your passage through security. In addition to toothbrush and your normal washbag contents, consider adding these: Facecloth – if you use one. Irish hotels generally don’t provide them. Small pack of wet wipes (eco-friendly ones please). Lipbalm and suncream. Though your trip to Ireland may not align with our annual two-day heatwave, you can still get sun or wind burn- especially along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Medicines – if you’re on regular medication make sure you’ve enough for your trip. Apart from that, something for tummy upsets is always handy to have. We carry a first aid kit on our luxury Mercedes mini-coach, so don’t overdo it on plasters and such like.
Clothing – Just enough to get by for a couple of days. But if you forget, don’t despair. You can pop into Irish clothing store PENNEYS, where 50 bucks will outfit you top to toe for a couple of days (Ask any Irish person you know to explain this one😊).
Passport (check that it’s in date well in advance of your Ireland trip). Other travel documents, such as travel tickets, booking reference numbers, contact details for your tour/hotels, etc.
Adapter and charging cable for you phone or other device. In Ireland we use a three square-pin type. Btw, you don’t need to bring your hairdryer. All hotels used by Anam Croí Ireland Tours have them in bedrooms. In fact, we sometimes play a little game of hunt the hairdryer! We also have USB charge points on our mini-coach.
Emergency information – Set up ICE (In Case of Emergency) details and contacts on your phone. This willl also help reunite you with your phone should you lose it. Here’s a ‘how to’ for both Android and Iphone.
Why do we ask? It’s simply to get you thinking – do you actually need to bring more than will fit into a carry-on? Again, it’s subjective and personal – you may be buying Irish gifts for your loved ones (or yourself). If so, you’ll need to leave enough room. Have you read your tour information? Is there a size restriction? Anam Croí Ireland tours, like most small-group tour operators, does have a maximum bag size (30″ long).
Clothing – In the main, casual smart is the dress code for dining out in Ireland. When you hear Irish people say we get four seasons in one day, we’re not joking (find out more here). You do need to pack accordingly.
As we tour around the byways of Ireland, we’re hopping in and out of our luxury Mercedes mini-coach. Whether standing at the majestic Cliffs of Moher, strolling or taking a jaunting car through Killarney National Park, or simply taking a photo of some breathtaking views, comfort is the name of the game. This is key when it comes to your feet. We know how attached some can be to their footwear, and we’re not brave or foolish enough to dare suggest how many pairs to bring, but…….🤔
In Summer, some form of sturdy sandals may suffice, or trainers. Even if you do get wet, it won’t be too cold and they should dry out quickly.
Pants – In Ireland, a term to describe underclothing! Trousers, as we say here – along with boot (trunk), bonnet (hood) and more. Whatever the terminology, comfort again is key. Hiking style that can zip into shorts, or a light comfy dress. Synthetic materials work better than cotton. Cotton absorbs and holds moisture, no matter which of the two ‘p’s – (perspiration or precipitation) are the cause. In Spring or Fall tee or long sleeve base layer, and for summer, tees/polos. Denim jeans should really be kept for the visit to the pub in the evening.
Jacket – Simple rule – Waterproof – end of story!
If you’re using public transport to and from the airport or meeting point for your tour, you’re the one lugging the luggage. Also, no matter what sort of Ireland tour you’re doing, (unless porterage is specifically included ) you’re also toting your bag to and from your room. Of course, your Anam Croí Tour guide will always endeavour to assist with this when needed. Don’t forget to label it securely – if it goes a different direction to you – the more info on it, the easier it’ll be to get it back.
Emergencies: Ensure you’ve access to sufficient funds to cover delays or the unexpected. And please do take out suitable travel insurance.
Credit cards: Most outlets in Ireland do not accept American Express. Mastercard or Visa are your friends here.
Currency exchange: Shop around for the best rate. Don’t change at airport currency desks. Banks in Ireland no longer carry Foreign Exchange. You should be able to use your ATM card (but check out what charges your bank may impose).
Handbags/Manbags/Backpacks – whatever you are comfortable with. In our luxury Mercedes mini-coach, we do have overhead shelving – but it’s not airline overhead bin size. Many people also carry a journal. When you finally get around to sorting the hundreds of amazing Irish photos to a location or day, this will really help you remember.
If you haven’t started packing yet, then maybe it’s time to plan your trip to Ireland. Check out our super limited time Summer offers on our Six Day Southwest Ireland and Seven day Northern and West Ireland tours.
The best time to visit Ireland is a question oft asked and answered. Prompted by a recent comment on our Facebook page, we present you with some facts and (subjective) thoughts. Hopefully, it’ll help you decide the best time for your Ireland vacation. Let’s take a bit of licence with the calendar and use the old Celtic way of Spring being February to April, Summer – May to July and Fall (Autumn) – August to October
Of course us Irish will naturally say anytime is good – but let’s introduce a sense of realism. For visitors to Ireland there are some constrictions – not least of which is that we are an island. You can’t impulsively scream ‘ROADTRIP’ and jump in your car. With that in mind, we’ve broken down the pros and cons under Travel to Ireland, Cost of an Ireland Vacation, Weather in Ireland, Scenery and Nature in Ireland and whether Ireland is Crowded and Busy. Finally, we take a reluctant peek from under the duvet (comforter) at Winter.
Spring -Most airlines start ramping up the frequency of flights around February. Seat sales are commonly advertised in January giving great bargains for travel up to the end of March and sometimes into April. March is also when we hit the road with our small group tours.
Summer – Flights may be somewhat more expensive, but the upside is that airlines ramp up routes and capacity. For visitors to Ireland this may reduce cost, as there may be a departure airport closer to you. There are also more direct flights to Ireland from North American and European airports. And, you may have acculumated air miles that you can cash in!
Autumn (Fall) – Similar to Spring in that more bargains are to be had, but towards the end of the season capacity may be reduced and seasonal routes start to wind down.
Top tips– booking early will always get you better value. Try Skyscanner to source airlines and routes and then check out the airline websites.
Spring – Generally cheaper – but times like Easter school holidays, can occasionally negate that. We have a standing 10% discount for our March and April tours – and Frontline Workers also get some spending money from us with our great cash-back offer.
Good rates abound for hotels in Dublin and other popular cities – but watch out for major sporting or entertainment events coinciding with your visit. These will always see price hikes.
Summer – Peak season, but ganging up on us can ease the pain! We’ve got a super group discount offer for summer (extended to January 31st, if you’re subscribed to our newsletter). This gives you up to 10% off your Ireland summer tour. A deposit of just 10% secures your booking and takes the pressure off upfront payments.
Fall (Autumn) – Airfare and hotel prices start reducing and we’re back to our 10% discount prices for October.
Spring -Temps – average 9-10°c/50°F in March/April but can go to 15°/55° in April. Daylight increases to 14 hours. You get to watch Atlantic sunsets before dinner in March with after dinner sunset strolls in April. The light can be perfect for getting scenery shots as the cooler air is clearer.
Summer – May and June are the sunniest months in Ireland. Average temps are 18-20°c/64-68°f – though we do hit the odd day of late 20s/low 80s. But hey, chill out! Our luxury Mercedes mini-coach is fully air-conditioned. Daylight is from before 5am to after 10pm. Irish summer sunsets are truly stunning- lasting close to an hour.
Fall (Autumn) – Temps from 12-17°c/53-63°f. The curtain is drawing on the long days but still more than enough daylight to illuminate our day. Romantic after dinner sunsets are replaced by star filled nights.
Spring – The countryside is a blaze of yellow as daffodils and gorse (furze) burst into flower.
It’s lambing season and it’s truly a joy to watch as they gambol around the fields with their almost 4 million brethren! We see them up close and cuddly when we visit a working sheep farm on tour.
Summer – Areas like Killarney National Park and the Ring of Kerry are ablaze with colourful (yet invasive) Rhododendron. Hedgerows come alive with wild Fuchsia and Purple Loosestrife, while Ireland’s coastline wears a garland of Sea Thrift. Those lambs are a-growing and it’s getting to shearing time for their mammies. The scent of April showers/slurry being spread on fields fades, to be replaced by that of freshly cut grass.
Fall (Autumn) – Mid-August/September into October is stunningly beautiful in Ireland. The verdant patchwork vista gradually yields to a kaleidoscope of colour. It begins when heather and montbretia start blooming in August. In the likes of Killarney (Six day south west tour ) and Glenveagh National Parks (7 Day Northern Ireland and best of the West), you’ll see stags at their most magnificent as they battle for dominance. As we drive our coastal route along the Wild Atlantic Way, we may see dolphins or whales. Rain showers align with the sun to create the most fantastic rainbows as we trundle along the country roads. As we’d say in Ireland – “soft day thank God” (please, please don’t ever greet us with “top a the mornin”…!!).
Spring – No, that’s the beauty of it. But – spoiler alert- some visitor attractions don’t open until mid-late April. However, there are still plenty of ‘must-sees’ along with some hidden gems we take you to. Craicometer level: 8.5
Summer – Not as busy as you might expect. Like yourselves, Irish people have spent two years ‘staycationing’. For 2022 they’re heading overseas (according to the travel industry). Everything is in full swing with all visitor attractions open. We time our visits to big ticket places like the Cliffs of Moher, to avoid the crowds. More music and entertainment in more venues (free in the pubs) and on more evenings each week. Craicometer level: 9.5
Fall (Autumn) – Crowded – most certainly not! All the Irish kids are back in school in the last week of August. This means great photo ops with uncluttered background and more time and space to take it all in. August is also when out exclusive 12 day Ultimate All-Ireland Tour takes place. Craicometer level: 8.5
Maybe the bees, bats and hedgehogs are right as they hibernate for a while. As a sustainable tour operator, we partner with locally owned hotels and guesthouses. Many of these are family owned and staffed and our custom helps sustain local economies and social fabric.
Our business partners take good care of us from March to October as we tour Ireland. Winter is their time to relax and refresh (themselves and their premises). Many Irish visitor attractions also close for winter.
So it’s time to turn the wool donated by the sheepies into winter jumpers (sweaters).
Craicometer level: a simmering 7 (but 9.5 in the cities!).
So, do Anam Croí Ireland Tours hibernate? Nope. After a break to recharge the batteries, we use winter to work on improving and innovating the Anam Croí Ireland experience for future (and old) “friends”. As Irish Nobel Laureate W.B. Yeats is said to have said “there are no strangers here only friends who haven’t yet met”.
Ireland in 2023? Great offers on all our scheduled small group Ireland Tours, giving you the best value Ireland vacations. Save with our range of discounts. And, if you were a Frontline Worker during the pandemic, we’ll give you €100 cash to spend.
Discounts apply to our boutique Ireland tours outlined below – 6 days in Southwest Ireland, 7 day Northern Ireland and Best of the West and, our brand new 12 day All-Ireland Tour.
When you choose Anam Croí Ireland Tours, you partner with a company that carries the ‘Guaranteed Irish‘ symbol of quality and takes Sustainability seriously. Our customers seem to like us too! Here’s what they have to say abous us:
“A Gold Standard for touring Ireland”
“We can’t imagine a better way to see Ireland ..“
“The amount of time, thought, and care into ensuring customers have the best possible experience is unprecedented.”
“When you choose to tour with Anam Croi you become part of a great adventure into Ireland’s history and culture.”
“Anam Croi tours are by far the best trip I have ever had!”
This great 6 day Ireland tour takes in Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Killarney National Park, Kinsale, Blarney and the Rock of Cashel. You’ll also uncover some of our little-known Irish gems. Why not avail of our shoulder season discount – when air fares are generally cheaper too.
Only one opportunity in 2023 to take this bucket list ultimate Ireland tour. Covering North, South, East and West, beginning August 21st, it’s limited to just 12 lucky customers.
Four of these super Northern and West of Ireland tours are happening in 2023 – and only three have spaces remaining.
We are so grateful to all those who put us first during the pandemic. That is why we have extended our cash-back offer. Every front-line worker who tours Ireland with us in 2023, we will give you €100 cash. And, that’s in addition to any of our discounted Ireland tours.
Breaking News – We have been awarded the prestigious national symbol of trust and provenance for business in Ireland – the ‘Guaranteed Irish’ symbol.
The Guaranteed Irish symbol is only awarded to businesses based in Ireland that support sustainable jobs, contribute to our local communities and are committed to Irish provenance. In the case of Anam Croí Ireland Tours, it also adds value to your experience while in Ireland.
We are proud to have been awarded this Irish mark of quality and it underpins and emphasises not just our ongoing commitment to sustainable practices, but our core value – that we put our heart and soul into helping you Discover the Heart and Soul of Ireland.
We’re not claiming to be the best, but our previous guests seem to like us! Check out what our customers say about us on TripAdvisor and Google. Here are some tributes from our clients :
“We can’t imagine a better way to see Ireland ..“.
“The amount of time, thought, and care into ensuring customers have the best possible experience is unprecedented” –
“When you choose to tour with Anam Croi you become part of a great adventure into Ireland’s history and culture” –
“Anam Croi tours are by far the best trip I have ever had!”
When you chose to tour Ireland with Anam Croí Tours, you select a company that takes its responsibilities seriously. Whether that be offsetting our carbon footprint, or ensuring that local communities and businesses are supported by us and our customers. We are also members of Leave No Trace Ireland, and follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles.
Did you know Ireland has its own, ancient unique language? ‘Officially’, it’s our first language and is a recognised EU language. You’ll have fun learing a few Irish (Gaeilge) words when you tour with us.
We’re also proud of our national sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling – as much about community as it is sport. We’ll even teach you the rudimentary skills of hurling.
No trip to Ireland would be complete without immersing yourself into Irish music and song. All our tours stay in towns that are renowned for Irish music and song. And yes, we’ll have you singing as we wind out way through the scenery of the Irish countryside
Approaching the 78th anniversary of D-Day , we salute the Irish woman who was responsible for saving perhaps thousands of lives on the beaches of Normandy on that pivotal day in 1944.
Ireland was neutral during World War II , and with our penchant for understatement, it is officially known in Ireland as ‘The Emergency’. Our coastline remains dotted to this day with white painted rocks forming the Irish language name – ‘Éire’. These were strategically placed to alert air crews and help prevent our splendid Irish landscape being unwittingly cratered with bombs.
Despite our neutral stance, it was an Irishwoman’s weather forecast that decided the final timing of the invasion which heralded the beginning of the end of six years of war and devastation.
On June 3rd 1944, Maureen Flavin turned 21 years of age. She spent this landmark birthday carrying out her daily duties of collecting information from the lighthouse keeper at Blacksod, Co. Mayo, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Collating keeper Ted Sweeney’s reports with her own hourly barometer readings, Maureen was able to forecast that a storm would hit Normandy, France some 500 miles away on June 5th. This was the date that Eisenhower and his allied generals had chosen for the landings.
When Maureen’s readings and forecast were sent to the UK Met office from Dublin, the Allies took the decision not to launch the invasion on the scheduled date. Yet, Maureen wasn’t aware her readings were going any further than Dublin. How surprised she must have been, when the next day while working in the Sweeney family post office, she received a rather mysterious call. The lady caller, with an English accent, requested her to repeat and confirm the information previously sent.
Not only did Maureen confirm, but soon after, she and Tom sent further data and forecasts which predicted a window on 6th June. This coincided with favourable tides and still skies that were needed for the air and sea assaults.
The decision was taken to attack on June 6th. The Nazis were behind the game. They had no weather ships in the North Atlantic, so were unaware of the approaching good weather.
It would be another year before Maureen became aware of the significant role she and Tom had played in the invasion. And much longer before any official recognition arrived. In 2021, Maureen’s contribution was marked with the presentation to her, of a US House of Representatives Special Recognition Award.
So, today we salute you Maureen Flavin Sweeney, native of Kerry, woman of Mayo, unsung heroine, and wish you a Happy 99th Birthday.
And what of her forecasting collaborator – lighthouse keeper Tom? Well, they worked together so well, they married and had a family. The family lighthouse tradition also endures. Their son Vincent followed in his father’s footsteps and is the current Blacksod Lighthouse keeper.
You can read more about Irish heroines here. And, whether it’s one of our scheduled South West Ireland or Northern Ireland and Best of Ireland West tours, you can experience the beauty of our Wild Atlantic Way coastline and perhaps get up close and personal with one of the Éire signs. Don’t forget our very special private bespoke tours. Being customer-centric, we love collaborating (just like Maureen and Ted!) with our guests to develop customised tours for family and friends. Reach out to us by email for more information on any of our tours.
In the lead-up Mother’s day in the USA, Canada, Austrialia, New Zealand and other countries, we give you an insight into the ubiquitous Irish Mammy. Just as on our scheduled or bespoke Ireland Tours, we take a fun insight into a lighter side of Irish culture.
In infancy, the protective motherly instinct is the same as any mother in the natural world. The difference with the Irish Mammy, is that this becomes a peculiarity (especially with sons), that tends to last from cradle to grave (we deal with this in more detail later).
It’s during the post toddler to teenage years, that things take on a uniquly Irish slant. As we climbed ever higher up a tree, invariably the sharp knock on the window and the shout of “Don’t come running to me when you fall out of that tree and break your two legs” would follow. Though quite physically impossible, somehow this illogical utterance only served to enhance and reinforce the safety message. Falling foul of school teachers, might warrant a visit to the school from said matriarch. That was always guaranteed to bring double punishment – that doled out by the school, followed by sentencing from mother – and there never seemed to any mitigating circumstances taken into consideration either!
Ahh, the wooden spoon – we used to think it part of a mother’s anatomy. As the tooth fairy took away the last of our baby teeth from under the pillow in the middle of the night, were they also changing the shape of Mammy’s strong hand? So that, as our second set of teeth broke through young gums, the fingers of Irish Mammies’ morphed into the shape of a wooden spoon. And for some years after, if that hand wasn’t in a mixing bowl or sink, it was generally aimed in a low arc at our collective arses. Yet somehow, like a bad golf swing, it would always lose momentum just before the point of contact. It’s also why Irish kids were so good at Irish dancing – a nimble fleetness of foot developed as we pirouetted out of reach of the not so deadly arc.
In Ireland, one reaches the age of adulthood at eighteen – deemed as mature enough to vote, to (legally) drink and to (technically) be kicked out of the house. There’s a natural link to the last two, and the first time one arrives home ‘tired and emotional’ inevitably leads to a next day lecture, concluding with: “If you want to stay in this house you’d better move out”. Again, the pure absurdity of the statement simply lends credence to the threat.
In truth, the imbibment of alcohol by Irish kids of a certain generation (e.g., Baby Boomers and Generation X) usually started before they could talk. Mammy’s Mammy’s (aka Granny) old style cure of rubbing whiskey or brandy on aching teething gums being handed down through generations of Irish women.
Those old stlye ‘Mammy cures’ extended to most every ailment and injury – Warm or flat ‘7up’ (Sprite) cured all tummy ills. And a cold dessert or soup spoon would be pressed to any bump on the head that wasn’t bleeding – though it was probably the pressure applied rather than any coldness that caused the lump to recede.
Then there was the daily school prep ritual – Mammy licking her fingers to smooth your ‘cow’s lick’ or clear a smudge from the face – depsite your scowls of protest. The ubiquitous daily dose of cod-liver oil in winter had also to be endured. No point in trying to seal the lips – adroit finger and thumb always managed to prise open any attempt at locking the jaws shut.
As he gets into adulthood, there’s no such thing as an Irish lad being forced out of the nest by Mammy. Sometimes, they leave of their own volition – including to play their role in creating a future generation of Irish Mammies. And there’s many an Irishwoman can relate the challenges faced in weaning their husbands or partners away from the matriarch.
In fact, it can sometimes take many years of repeating ‘I’m not your mother’ before the realisation dawns on the incaltricant son – come life partner – that the ‘socks and jocks’ discarded nightly on the bedroom floor, don’t actually disappear and re-appear washed and dried. Of course, the Irish Mammy will always consider said son’s choice of life partner, not near good enough for her precious offspring.
So, if you’re celebrating this weekend, Happy Mother’s Day to all – from the Antipodes to America, . We hope you’re spoiled rotten and can associate with our tongue in cheek quick peek at the Irish Mammy. We’ll tell you lots more about them on our fun and informative Ireland Tours
For some more fun Irish ‘Mammyisms’ why not check out this video from Irish comedian and author Colm O’Regan
ps – no wooden spoons were hurt during the writing of this blog!
Cookies are Biscuits as Candy is Sweets and Soda is ‘Minerals’ – and we even have red lemonade in Ireland. Chips are to crisps (and we were the first to flavour them) as french fries are to chips. In your hotel, our ground floor is your first floor (to which you might take the ‘lift’ instead of the elevator’). Instead of putting on a Bonnet, in Ireland we raise it – we keep Hoods for our jackets. After after you pop the bonnet, you might need to go the Boot of your car for some tools, rather than the Trunk, which we confined to Dublin Zoo – one of the oldest in the world, which is located in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Europe.
“The price you see is the price you pay” – Okay, maybe not quite a translation, but unlike North America, the price displayed in Ireland is what you pay. Be it in hotels, restaurants, bars or shops, when you get your Bill (check) or when you’re costing your Ireland vacation, all taxes are included in the cost presented. This makes it far easier (we think) to budget your spend for your Ireland trip.
“I’ll do the….” – This is one us Irish find unusual when dining out with North Americans. It conjures up images of the fightin Irish, as in – “I’ll do him, hold me coat/back”. Either that, or if you’re helping someone cook, we might say – “I’ll do the spuds” – translation – “I’ll peel and cook the potatoes”.
Now…Potatoes, or spuds (prátaí (praw-tea) in Irish) – there’s a story in itself. So let’s meander off the path and into the potato field for a few moments..
It’s said that it was introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, in the mid 1580s. However, others reckon it came to us from Peru via Spain. Cheap and nutritious, it was easy to grow in the damp poor soil of the west of Ireland. A 19th century English writer commented on the size and strength of Irishmen when compared to their English counterparts. It is said the average Irish male consumed up to 14lbs of potatoes per day back then. When the potato blight struck in 1845 and again the following year it thus removed the main food source for many Irish. But it wasn’t just starvation that caused the 1 million deaths- most died from malnutrition related diseases, such as typhus, dysentery, fever and diarrhoea.
While everyone reckons we Irish love to blame our neighbours for all our historical ills, one must take a serious look at the Irish Catholic class divide back then. Many middle class Catholics (e.g. traders) increased their wealth during the famine, profiting off the backs of their starving, dying brethren. A good indicator of this was the price of oatmeal – £2 per ton in 1845, £20 by the end of the following year! Also during the famine period a number of great Catholic cathedrals were being constructed around the country. As we were exporting food to England to the value of £15m at the time, some refuse to call it a famine. However, it’s often overlooked that food imports exceeded exports by a ratio of 2:1.
So why it was that, while the Netherlands and Belgium lost more of their crop to the blight compared to Ireland’s, those countries didn’t experience famine?
Perhaps what can be said is that, while the British Administration (and its refusal to interfere with ‘market forces’) may not have caused the famine – it certainly caused the deaths. A change of government in London didn’t help. Prime Minister Robert Peel, who had a fair understanding of Ireland, had ensured a supply of Indian corn from America. As there was no market for this in Britain, its distribution would not interfere with normal trade. Contemporary 19th century Irish newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, wrote – “No man died of famine during his administration”.
However, once Peel lost power, all changed. Charles Trevelyan, of the Treasury – and basically the man who controlled the purse strings famously said – “famine had been ordained by God to teach the Irish a lesson, and therefore not be too much interfered with”. Trevelyan’s name rings out at every Ireland international Rugby or Soccer game – in ‘The Fields of Athenry’.
If you owned more than a quarter acre of land, you had to surrender the land to receive any relief. This proved to be a great land clearance tool for the landlords, who wanted to use new more efficient farming methods that the industrial revolution now offered. This in turn led to a further one million emigrating.
Overseas aid began to pour in for the starving Irish. The most remembered and respected donation here in Ireland, is that of the Choctaw Nation. Though of pitiful means themselves, they donated $170 – a princely sum to them. There is an especially poignant connection between the Choctaw ‘Trail of Tears’ and an 11 mile trudge inflicted on hundreds of starving Irish. Staggering through a March storm over the Connemara mountain pass of Doolough, many dropped dead on the road or were blown into the lake.
Well, we certainly went off track with this story, and we didn’t really touch on emigration. Maybe we’ll keep it for another day. You can learn more while experiencing the beauty of the Irish countryside and the Wild Atlantic Way on our scheduled Six Day Southwest Ireland tour, Seven day Northern Ireland and Best of the West or your very own Private Tour of Ireland. And, don’t forget to take a peek at our shoulder-season discounts and cash back for Covid-19 frontline workers on our offers page.
If you want to do your own reading, there are many publications on this tranch of Irish history. One of our favourites, and the source for much of this blog’s research is ‘The Irish Famine’ by Colm Tóibín and Diarmuid Ferriter. It’s a nice slim tome as well! Tóibín is an award winning novelist and the film Brooklyn is based on his book by the same name. Ferriter is Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin, author and broadcaster.
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