Ireland - Did You Know?

-Not only is there a big Norse mixture in all Irish ancestry, but every one of Ireland's coastal cities were founded by the Vikings.

-Fashionable St Stephens Green in the heart of Dublin is named after a small hospital that used to be there - for lepers.

-There were quite a lot of British in early Ireland. The Irish kept them as slaves.

-Saint Patrick was not the first Christian missionary in Ireland.Ireland's lack of snakes had nothing to do with the saint.At the end of the last Ice Age, the arctic waters cut Ireland off from Britain before the snakes could get across.

-Until the seventeenth century, Irish women had more freedom and more rights than English women. A man wanting to obtain the coveted freedom of Dublin could get it by marrying a woman who had it in her own right.

-Divorce was common in early Ireland, right through the Christian Middle Ages. Married priests and abbots were also common in those days.

-The Famine was undoubtedly made into a catastrophe by the British government. But the cause of their neglect was largely an economic, free-market dogma, misapplied in Irish conditions. The tragedy was chiefly the result of ignorance and stupidity rather than deliberate malice.

-Daniel O'Connell, the Catholic Liberator, was a Deist (pretty much an agnostic in today's terms) and a Freemason as a young man. His family fortune came from smuggling.

-The famous Hedge Schools of Catholic Ireland are much admired. But the schoolmasters who were most greatly prized were the mathematicians. By the end of the eighteenth century, many Irish insisted that their children be taught in English, because they thought it more useful.

-Today the Presbyterians of Protestant Ulster are known for their determination to remain part of Britain. But originally, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, they were persecuted for their religion, and allied with the Catholics against England.

-Most people have heard of the Year of the French, the rebellion of 1798 inspired by the French Revolution. But Rutherfurd shows how the great Patriot movement and the Parliament of Grattan which preceded it grew directly out of the American Declaration of Independence and War of Independence.

-Jonathan Swift's great book, Gulliver's Travels, contains some very curious names. Some of these are in fact jokes in the Irish language, which Swift could speak.

-At the famous Battle of the Boyne, when Protestant King William defeated Catholic King James, there were large numbers of Protestant mercenaries on the Catholic side and the Pope in fact supported Protestant King William!!

-Cromwell had to send many of his troops home before embarking for Ireland because they refused to fight a war that would deny Catholics the right to practice their religion. These English troops thought all men should be free to worship as they pleased.

-Cromwell's army came in part to avenge the Irish massacre of Protestants of 1641. They were told that the Irish had killed 300,000 Protestants. The true figure - both sides actually killed each other - was probably under 5,000. This outrageous piece of anti-Irish propaganda was repeated and believed for another two and a half centuries.

-The most sacred relic in Ireland, the Staff of Saint Patrick (supposedly burned at the time of the Reformation), was known to exist in last Elizabethan times and last recorded just before the Battle of the Boyne. It may still be out there somewhere.




Did You Know?
For perhaps 600 years, the patron saint of England - not Britain - has been Saint George. Before St George, there were several candidates for the position, including the last king of the ancient Saxon royal house, St Edward the Confessor, son of the disastrous King Ethelred the Unready. But St Edward was a monkish fellow, always praying, and never popular. Whereas St George, by repute, had slain a dragon on top of a well-known beauty spot in southern England. The fact that he was most likely an obscure third-century Roman, who had never been to the British Isles in his life, and is unlikely to have met a dragon, could be forgotten. He was heroic, he had a fine silver shield with a bold red cross on it, like a crusader. And the Londoners liked him and made him their own. When this author was a Wolf Cub and a Boy Scout in his childhood, he always had to march in the big St George’s Day parade, on the twenty-third day of this month !

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