Dem’s Abroad Pub Quiz

Here in Ireland, going to the pub is a part of life. Sometimes you have a Pint, sometimes you don’t. I often wondered why it’s such a big part of the Irish culture. For me, the answer came when I started realizing that traditionally – Irish have large families and very small homes. This means that the Pub became what is effectively everyone’s living room when you wanted a bit of space to “yourself”. It also became a place to meet your mates and a heart of the community. Now – with a housing crisis here in Ireland and many individuals and families forced to share houses and apartments (I know of several single mums that share eg. a 3 bedroom house – in which each mum has a room – shared with their youngest one or two – and the older kids all share a bedroom too!) what I’ve found is that folks spend time at the pub. Eg. Your roommate or the kids are using the living room to watch something. You go to the pub to give them space and not spend your life in the bedroom or kitchen.

That being said – part of Irish life and the center of everything is the Pub quiz. Some Pubs have them weekly, while others have special events to fund raise. I’ve been to a few while here – but recently had my chance to help organise one for the democrats abroad. Basically, several of us wrote up 50 questions – and then the “host” chose a few from each area to include in the sections. Because so many of us wrote questions – we could still participate – because in total only 4-6 questions (out of 50 asked) were used -and we didn’t know all the answers.

The First annual Pub quiz for Dems abroad was held on July 13, at the Stag’s Head Pub in the city center. There were about 50 ex-pats that showed up and answered questions from about 8 pm – 11:30pm. Marja and her husband were the “tally” for the team and then the Dem’s Abroad Chair (TJ) was the host.

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016
Marja and TJ

My team was made up of Paddy, myself, Stephanie, and then another Patrick and his wife (Irish) who we met at the table quiz. Our team name was the “#NeverTrump-eteers”. The 3 of us from work were stumped on many questions -but amazingly – the couple we met knew many of the answers. My team came in 2nd.

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

Some other teams had really great names – like “Make America Great Britain again”

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

And Donald Trump’s Tiny T-Rex Hands.

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

The entire night – we had a great time – and the first, second, and third place teams were all within 2 points of each other (55, 54, 53 points).

The first place team: the Kew Tours! – who won the glamourous hotel voucher for 2.

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

The second place team (mine): The #Never Trump-eteers (who won back the 3 bottles of wine that I donated):

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

And the third place team -I can see Ballsbridge from my house – who won a fabulous bag of gourmet Gummy bears:

Dems Abroad Pub Quiz 2016

it was a great evening – and very successful in terms of fund raising. Hopefully, we can do another one sometime soon!

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Taking Flight with the Fairies

Wishing Trees (aka May Bushes or Fairy Trees) are hawthorn trees where people tie ribbons to ask blessings from the local saints/deities/wee folk. The hawthorn usually flowers in May, time of the Bealtaine festival of rebirth (now generally known as May D

Yesterday, I mentioned that S. was in town and we went over to several places including a place new to me – Duleek Abbey. One of the other places that we went was the Hill of Tara. I have posted a blog about it before (you can see it here – Hill of Tara), but I decided that maybe I should go into one of the interesting things about Ireland and ancient faiths that is relevant to the Hill of Tara (and other places around Ireland).

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Here in Ireland, the people are considered mostly Catholic / Christian in faith. Now this is changing as time moves on and immigrants from other places arrive, but one thing that is interesting is that if you know where to look – there is evidence of far older beliefs. Celtic beliefs. When you go to Tara, you wander the grounds up the ditches, down the ditches. You see the stone of destiny, and you feel the ever blowing wind at the top of the hill. The smell of grass is thick, and the bleat of sheep and moan of cows are carried from the fields below. There are kids running about, dogs playing fetch, and others that are just enjoying the view. One thing that most people miss – because they don’t walk the perimeter of the site – are the the Trees.

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To most people, the Hawthorne trees / Hawthorne bushes edging the Hill of Tara are trees are nothing special and most of them are what they seem. The reality is that trees are among Ireland’s most ancient. They can live to be 400 years old. The trees grow in a knarled fashion with rough trunks that have deep divots and curves. In spring time, the trees bloom in white flowers and as their leaves come in they have thorns just under each tiny little sprout. These thorns typically 1–3 cm long. In autumn, they bear a red fruit type berry. The hawthorn has been regarded as the emblem of hope, the ancient Greeks used to carry Hawthorn branches in wedding ceremonies, but somehow during medieval times the tree took on a lore that might help, in part, to explain why people avoid them. The crown of thorns that Christ wore during his crucifixion is said to have been made from a Hawthorn tree.

In Irish legends, the first humans on the Island encountered a “fairy” or “mystical people”. They were called the Sidhe (pronounced Shee-hey). Something happened (was it a fight?) and the Sidhe were banished to the Realm of the Fay. Some of the wee folk chose to remain, however, and they live underground or sometimes are said to reside in certain trees or bushes, usually of the hawthorn variety. You don’t want to disturb the fairy folk or you might bring some kind of misfortune upon yourself.

Other legends say that a pair of Hawthorne trees serve as a portal to the Land of the Fay and if you’re not careful, you can fall through the portal and wake up ‘on the other side’.

What’s interesting is that at the Hill of Tara, there are a pair of “Fairy trees” (aka Wishing Trees), despite the negative connotations around the “portal” and the “wee people”. While you could walk through the portal between the trees into the netherworld, those that visit these trees are bringing wishes and gifts for the Sidhe to take on to the other side. Over the years of visiting Tara, I have come across these Hawthorne trees in various seasons. In the Winter, the OPW who is in Charge of Tara clears away all the debris and cuts off all of the “ties” and “tags” that have been put on the tree. Come springtime though, the people bring their offerings to the trees. By summer, they are covered in decorations, and by autumn, it is nearly impossible to find a place to put your own. It is a very interesting place. Each wish is different – but they tend to be in similar forms.

Children’s pacifiers / bracelets or toys – Perhaps in mourning for a lost childhood, as a symbol of growing up, or as a wish for children (more children)?

Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

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Pet items (like a collar, a leash, or a poop bag) – Perhaps their pets are lost? Perhaps they want a pet? or perhaps they are hoping that people will learn to clean up after themselves.

Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

keychains or little plush shaped like animals

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Notes / messages and paper items:

Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

My offering to the Fairies

Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

Ribbons, hair ties, and barettes:

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Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

Bells, chimes, things that move with the breeze or catch the sun and sparkle.

Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

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Hill of Tara - Fairy Tree

I think for me, the fact that the belief / wishes are still being placed on the trees makes Tara that much more magical and the cultural tradition very sweet. I’ve not seen any other trees, though I hear that they are all over Ireland – one even having had a petition to have a road routed around it successfully. For me – I always take the time to leave a little something for the fairies – just in case. ;).

For a legend about the trees, you can checkout a blog post at – http://www.derryghosts.com/tree.htm

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Duleek Abbey, Co. Meath

Duleek Abby

Spring has finally arrived to Ireland, and as part of so has the sunshine and the chance to visit some further sites. My friend S. arrived this week she will spend the next month touring around Ireland. After picking her up at the airport and giving her a day to get over the ‘jet lag’ we struck out in the 19C day and decided to see some sites. Among them were several I had been to previously – New Grange; KNowth; Old Mellifont Abbey; Hill of Slane; ; and Trim Castle & Area. One thing that I did do differently was on the way, we stopped in at Duleek Abbey Ruins.

Duleek Abby

Duleek or Damhliag in Irish, translates to stone house or church- is a small town in County Meath, Ireland. The town began as an early Christian monastic settlement. St. Patrick established a bishopric here about 450 A.D. St. Cianan in 489 A.D., where a Pre-Norman Church was built on the site of St Mary’s Abbey. Today the ruins of the second incarnation (St. Cianan’s Church) Abbey are visible in Duleek today.

Duleek Abbey

Duleek Abbey

This monastic settlement was raided by Vikings in 830 and again in 1149. The body of Brian Boru lay in state here in 1014 on it’s way to Armagh after the Battle of Clontarf. In 1180 Hugh de Lacy, the Anglo-Norman Lord granted the church and lands to the Augustinians. What remains of the Abbey today is the 13th century southern arcade with a 14th century southern aisle (below). In the east gable of the aisle is a 16th century window (above). The plaque says “this window was made by Sirr Johne BelleWe Knight and Dame ?”

Duleek Abbey

Duleek Abbey

To the west is a 15th century bell-tower which was formerly joined to an earlier round tower. The round tower is no longer standing but the scar where it was joined onto the square tower is clearly visible on the side (below behind the tree). There are some faces carved into the bell tower as well. (close up below)

Duleek Abbey

Duleek Abbey

In the center of the former church, there’s a carved slab tomb which has carvings from the 1600’s which you can see below in the 4 photos.

Duleek Abbey

Duleek Abbey

Duleek Abbey

Duleek Abbey

There are two Celtic high crosses in the churchyard that date from the 10th Century. Within the church are some early cross-slabs, a Romanesque pilaster-capital, and the base and head of the South Cross (first picture below).

Duleek Abbey

To the north of the abbey is a small but complete High Cross. This Cross is only about the height of a person, and is quite weathered and difficult to see what the carvings are. Front:

Duleek Abbey

Close up of Gryphon?

Duleek Abbey

Reverse:

Duleek Abbey

With S for size measurement:

Duleek Abbey

There is also an effigial tomb slab of James Cusack, Bishop of Meath 1679-1688 (above), as you can see below.

Duleek Abbey

There are several other gravestones in the area, and a “modern” church that has now been converted to a restaurant for the town on the property (first picture). As a side note, there’s also a quaint little thatched cottage in Duleek within walking distance to the Abbey ruins (we parked in front of it) that I had to get a photo of – because it’s just been re-thatched and looked so pretty in the sunlight.

Duleek Abby

The full flickr set is here.

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