When you go out to drink your green beer today, you’ll probably wander into a pub and bump into some smug Irishman who’ll bust your chops for being ignorant of the history & traditions of the land which St. Patrick’s Day was intended to celebrate.
Well, brother, I’ve got your back. Paddy O’Tatertot will dumbstruck by your vast storehouse of knowledge when you regale him with these:
* Bram Stoker was working as a civil servant in Dublin when he wrote “Dracula” in 1897. The main character was based on an old pub lout named Drac O’La who was notorious for sneaking around the room sipping peoples’ beers when they weren’t looking.
* Ballygally Castle in County Antrim, is allegedly one of the most haunted places in the country. Lady Isobel Shaw, whose husband built the castle in 1625, reportedly did not pay off her student loans, and the castle still receives mysterious harrassing phone calls to this day.
* The national sport of Ireland is “hurling”, a similar to field hockey, with much shoving, brawling, and hitting with sticks. It’s been described as “what would happen if last call lasted for an hour”.
* In 2003, a village known as “Dun Bleisce” changed its name back to the indecent-sounding “Fort of the Harlot,” as it was known in the distant past. Some of the residents claim that a more accurate translation is “Fort of the Hilton”.
* It was once popular in Ireland to pin sprigs of shamrocks on your coat on Saint Patrick’s Day in remembrance of his using shamrock leaves to illustrate the idea of the holy trinity. At the end of the day, one would “drown the shamrock” by putting a few shamrocks into a glass and covering them with whiskey. Thus the saying “In Ireland, EVERY day is St. Patrick’s Day!”.
* The national symbol of Ireland is the Celtic harp, not the shamrock. The harp is less popular, though, because it’s hard to find a glass big enough to drown one in.
* Unlike the Scottish bagpipes, the Irish uilleann pipes do not have a pipe going directly to the mouth. However, there IS usually a straw going directly to a pint of Guinness, so sometimes it can be hard to tell.
* An odd Irish birthday tradition is to lift the birthday child upside down and give his head a few gentle bumps on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps should allegedly correspond to the child’s age plus one. For adults, the bumps are replaced with whiskey shots and fistfights.
* The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on its property. Legend has it that when the lease expires, God will descend from heaven to punish the wicked of Ireland with eternal sobriety.
* One of the most popular radio shows in rural Ireland is still the weekly broadcast of local obituaries, since people with thundering hangovers keep hoping to hear their names.
* An old legend says that, while Christ will judge all nations on judgment day, St. Patrick will be the judge of the Irish. Denis Leary gets Boston.
* Catherine Kelly, who died in 1785, was allegedly the smallest Irish woman ever. With a total height of just 34 inches and a weight of 8 pounds, she was known as “The Irish Fairy”. At least until Michael Flatley came along.
* According to one rather obscure Irish legend, a ringing in your ears means a deceased friend stuck in Purgatory is ringing a bell to ask for you to pray for him/her. Or that you got drunk and passed out in the church belltower again, Father.
* “Gulliver’s Travels” writer Jonathan Swift is buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, where his remains are held fast by dozens of tiny ropes.
* Montgomery Street in Dublin was once the largest red light district in all of Europe, with over 1600 prostitutes plying their trade. To help you imagine this, picture the lineup outside an American Idol audition, except with talent.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go “drown the harp”.
[Tip o' the green plastic derby to Ireland-Fun-Facts.com]