Ireland and the Irish: 20 Random (some true, others not) Facts


We do not exist. At all, at all.

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, our national holiday, and because a friend asked me for some facts and figures about this wonderful country of mine, here are 20 random (and I mean random) facts, cobbled together from various resources: books, television, cinema, the arts and, of course, the pub. Some of these interesting tidbits may be accurate (at time of posting); others may contain about as much truth and relevance as our political parties (yes, Fianna Fail, I’m looking at you).


1. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 and is a time for feasting and celebration (or, if you’re around the Temple Bar area, a time for avoiding puking teenagers and chuggers). The Day is now a Festival, which brings to this country a large number of tourists, eager to check out all things Irish. Unfortunately for the Irish economy, most of them never return. St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Cheers for that, said the druids as they were matched to their deaths. He is also rumoured to have cleared the country of snakes. Where was he when the IMF were in town last November?

2. The Irish believe that on Judgment day, Jesus Christ will be the judge of all people, but St. Patrick will be the judge of the Irish. Simon Cowell obviously didn’t want the gig, then. But we Irish have talent.

3. George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Richard Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Alec Baldwin, Cillian Murphy, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Colin Farrell are some of the famous Irish. What, Clooney? Yes, I believe his grandmother was Irish. If Gorgeous George played soccer, he’d have qualified to play for the Republic of Ireland.

4. Ireland is also very popular as the home of pop music with Westlife, Horslips, Boyzone, Thin Lizzy, Clannad, Boomtown Rats, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Ronan Keating, Gilbert O’Sullivan and U2 as some of the world famous bands and singers. We do, however, unreservedly apologise for inflicting Jedward upon an unsuspecting public. It will not happen again.

5. Ireland last won an Oscar in 2007, when Glen Hansard (of The Frames) and Markéta Irglová picked up the award for Best Song, “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once. Glen is also famous for playing Outspan from the popular musical comedy The Commitments. (Am Irishman won an award last year, for his special-effects work on Avatar, but for the life of me, I don’t know his name. Sorry, man.)

6. According to the Irish laws, there is no death penalty found in Ireland. It is for this reason alone that Jedward and Dustin the Turkey are still amongst the living.

7. The national religion is Roman Catholicism, of which most of the population are of the non-practicing variety. Mass attendance has plummeted in recent years and a time will come when priests will be as easy to come by as gold under a rainbow. Which leads me to…

8. Leprechauns. There are NO leprechauns in Ireland. There never were, okay? Don’t let Walt Disney tell you any different. To insinuate their existence is to insult the intelligence of every right-thinking Irish person in the country. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

9. Couples in Ireland could marry legally on St. Brigid’s Day (February 1st) in Teltown, County Meath, as recently as the 1920’s by simply walking towards each other. If the marriage failed, they could “divorce'” by walking away from each other at the same spot, on St. Brigid’s day the following year. The custom was a holdover from old Irish Brehon laws, which allowed temporary marriage contracts. Think of the legal fees that saved.

10. Titanic, the Unsinkable ship, which sunk in its maiden voyage, was made in Ireland. The iceberg that sunk it was placed there by God. Even He liked to get one over the Irish.

11. The phrase “The Fighting Irish” is a fallacy, created by the British because of the way we behaved when under the influence of intoxicating liquor. This explains why we don’t riot against the government, unlike other countries. We just vote the feckers out. We’re all about democracy, we Irish.

12. The Celtic knot is one of the most famous Irish symbols that stands for continuity of life. Apart from this, the harp, the Shamrock, and the Irish wolfhound are some other famous symbols that belong typically to Ireland. Well, these and Guinness, I suppose.

13. In Ireland there is a place called Hook Head, and another village called Crooke. According to historical accounts, the English Oliver Cromwell, in his plan to siege Waterford had devised to options, either to take ships around Hook Head or march through Crooke village. This was the origin of the phrase “by hook or by crook.” As Michael Caine would say: “Not a lot of people know that.”

14. The veteran Oscar-winning director John Huston spent his last years in Ireland. Indeed his last movie was an adaptation of James Joyce’s Dubliners. His daugher Anjelica is a regular visitor to these shores.

15. One of the most popular radio shows in rural Ireland is still the weekly broadcast of local obituaries. One day I’ll hear my name mentioned and then it’s sayonara, Jimbo.

16. Vikings were believed to establish Dublin. Many centuries later, the name of Dublin can be found in many towns such as California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas. We Dubs are like sand: we get everywhere.

17. The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, in County Galway. No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either. Mucka will do me.

18. Contrary to common belief, we Irish don’t hate the British. We support soccer teams, like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspurs, Aston Villa and Glasgow Celtic. We watch their television programmes more than we’d watch our own: Eastenders, Coronation Street, Match of the Day, Only Fools and Horses and Doctor Who are all ratings winners every week. The only time we don’t like the English is when their national team plays in either soccer or rugby. Just Google “Who put the ball in the English net?” and see what happens. On a more recent note, the Irish cricket team scored a famous victory over their English counterparts at the ICC Cricket World Cup. I wished I was there to see it.

19. The origin of the word “slogan” is Irish, the sluagh-ghairm. This means “war cry”.

20. No list about Ireland is complete without mentioning the Gaelic Athletic Association. A completely amateur sports body, the GAA is Ireland at its finest; supporting its codes, football, hurling, camogie and handball from parish levels right up to county and international standards. Nowhere in Ireland will you find more colour and atmosphere than at Croke Park in September, when the All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championship winners are crowned.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Some of the information I gleaned from other webites, but all commentary and jokes are mine. Thank you for reading, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

26 responses to “Ireland and the Irish: 20 Random (some true, others not) Facts

  1. Wonderful post, James!

    You’re a fine Irish lad and you do your land proud . . . by hook or by crook, or perhaps by voting the feckers out of office. 😛

  2. Thanks for the info Jimbo!

  3. This was great fun, and I thank you that I can now smugly inform other Americans about the origin of “by hook or by crook!” I also would like to let the Irish off the hook for the sinking of the Titanic. I believe it was the White Star Line (not Irish, I don’t believe) that came up with the notion that the Titanic was “unsinkable.” You don’t say foolish things like that and not expect to face the consequences.

    Don’t worry – I’ve never believed in Leprechauns. Now banshees – that’ s another story. . . 😀

  4. Interesting and entertaining.

  5. Brilliant! Perfect! ❤

  6. That was AWESOME! I am so telling people about ‘by hook or by crook’ and ‘slogan’ now! YAY for Ireland!!!! And Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

  7. Great list, most amusing. You forgot to mention the plastic paddies that go mental over Saint Patrick’s day dressing from head to toe in green and calling themselves Irish because their great-great-great-great-cousin’s mother was Irish. (no offence on the yanks….just taking the piss, something the Irish (and English) are good at)

    What can I say, two of my fave writers of all time are Irish: Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde enough said…

    (but Bono, you had to give us Bono…for the love of god…)

    Father Ted…you forgot Father Ted…best show ever FECK DRINK ARSE!!! 😉

    • Unfortunately RTE passed on Father Ted, for fear of pissing off the Church. In the end, Channel 4 brought Ted, Dougal and Jack to the world.

  8. Jimbo, you might be interested to know that we Texans, especially in the Panhandle, have Irish roots too. There is a town in the Panhandle called Shamrock and every year there is a St. Patrick’s Day festival that starts on March 17, and usually continues through the weekend or starts on a Friday and continues through March 17. There are beard contests, the wearing of the green, plenty of green beer and even rodeos. The town is very small but grows to about twice its size for that weekend. You should come some year.

  9. I should, shouldn’t I? As long as there’s coffee and good company, I’ll go anywhere.

  10. Great post. I must share a visit I made to County Antrim where I stayed with a lovely family. The seven year old son told me he caught a fairy by setting a bowl of oatmeal by the door then waiting and finally grabbing he fairy when he bent over to nibble the cereal. Unfortunately he couldn’t show me the little creature because he had put it in his pocket, took it to school and a kid bumped into him and crushed the little fairy. My question is this: Was that little creature a leprechaun or something else?

  11. It could very well have been a Fianna Fail canvasser, Nancy 😉

  12. Nancy, I love that story! What a great imagination the child has! I hope he keeps it all his life. He’ll writing some great stories.
    Jimbo, where ever I am, there is always coffee and I’m not bad company either. 🙂

  13. For shame James listing Westlife boyzone and Ronan Keating and not mentioning Sinead O’Connor, the late great Gary Moore and of course the world famous Kilfenora Ceili Band

    BTW – RTE were never offered Fr Ted – urban myth 🙂

    • Well Mark, I did say in my title that some of these facts may or may not be true. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it 😉

      As regards my selection of Irish music, I take full blame. I hope you have a great day.

  14. LaDonna Lovvorn

    Thank you so much for coming up with the 20 random facts about Ireland for us. We really enjoyed your blog and found it very interesting. Nandy works on my team and we were so excited when we found out that a real Irishman was going to help us come up with some Irish trivia. We printed your facts and used them on a board that is displayed in our office. (Sorry but we just had to include a leprechaun on the board) Thanks to you, our board looks great, is interesting and everyone is enjoying it. Thanks again for helping us out. Look us up if you ever come to Texas and we’ll show you around. LaDonna

  15. Thank you James for some truly entertaining tidbits. Although, I am a proud American, my roots are firmly planted in Ireland (just ask my dad!) and I am equally proud of that heritage. Interestingly, my grandparent’s were even married at St. Brigid’s (a church here in the U.S.) and my family has lived in ‘little Ireland’ for the past 200 years. Anyway, thus it was that I found myself yesterday reminding my 6-yr old daughter why we celebrate St. Patrick’s day. As I briefly retold the tale of St. Patrick ‘driving’ the snakes out of Ireland, she interrupted me to say, “wait, so you mean he put them all in a cage on top of the car?” Hmmm…never thought of it quite so literally before. 🙂 May have to do the telling with a bit more detail next time.

  16. To LaDonna and Caroline: any friends of Nandy are friends of mine. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I hope ye and yours have a great St. Patrick’s Day. Go raibh mile maith agaibh 🙂

  17. Thanks for this. It was great hearing from a real Irishman. I’ve been fighting all day for the Irish ’cause’ as if I were a Fenian, although one of the reasons I am possibly so adamant is that I was deprived from my heritage, although being Irish did affect my ability to stand up for myself, I believe. I do have however, a different history of the “Irish” and was thus delighted to hear of your stories. One thing for certain, is the Irish have always been able to take themselves ‘less seriously’ than I often appear to. But I know the plight of the Irish poor, and the effect that has had on me. I also believe that Irish Catholicism is a religion ‘onto itself’. I do believe that the Irish are in the process of ‘fighting’ for a new integrity. No. They will not lambaste the British government, although you must admit that there have been a few occupations, and some fighting at least in Northern Ireland. And then there were the Fenians in North America. I know that the Irish are ‘the best’, and always willing to share a lager, but I protest mainly that this is not a warrant to imply they are a national of drunks and whores as I know from my experience can be the implication of some of the witticisms at their expense. This is what I believe, and although you may object, and go along with the Irish mandate for Irish humor, I’m going to stick to it. Only possible that I know from experience that things can be taken too far, and you can be taken too seriously, if you say ‘Kiss me Kate.’ Take good care of Eire. Wish I could visit. It’s a beautiful country, and there are no people on earth with the imagination of the Irish.

  18. I can understand why you might not want to be engaged in a ‘rethinking’ of the treatment of the Irish in some cases, that I have outlined here. I have had to do this ‘rethinking’ in my lifetime. Please know that I acknowledge your Irishness in sticking to the blarney! I can understand that you might not appreciate my seriousness. No offense. But I will say in my case, that it has done me, personally, a world of good to fight through these Irish ‘traditions’. I am looking for a humor that does not put me in a position of ‘flattering the oppressor’. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a humorous detachment, and yet you do know that James Joyce among others does refer to this ‘other’ Irish. Yet I will understand if you reject this and don’t publish my comment above. Shall I speak of the ‘luck of the Irish’? May every day be a happy St. Patrick’s day for you.

  19. I first became aware of certain ‘elements in my Irish background when I read James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.

  20. I posted a reference to the Google article on the Portrait as my ‘final’ comment in my rant today on Spirit is the Way. I am not the only one who has been deemed to have psychological ‘problem’ as part of the tradition of being Irish. But….. there are delusions and then there are delusions. The blarney is I believe can be very productive, especially as a shield against ‘oppression’. All the best. I do consider myself Irish because especially of the heritage I lived, especially as a child. I just may have more in common with James Joyce than some will admit to, but as I said on Spirit, I have not deserted, if that’s what Joyce did, and I don’t believe he did, the/my Irish roots, and/nor my noble heritage.

  21. Thanks. Aardvarkian (is that spelled right?). This is the link, or at least the name of the article on James Joyce that nrhatch deleted from her post today along with my other ‘rude’ remarks. Thanks.

  22. James Joyce. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Flying by … – 2 visits – 6:42pm
    English Literature Essay about Stephen Dedalus’s struggle to define himself in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. – Cached –

    Thanks Aardvarkian (hope that’s spelled right!). This was posted, now deleted from Spirit, because of my mean rant. All the best.

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