Reading My Way Around the World

Wednesday 16 April 2014

N is for Northern Ireland

Have a listen to The Homes of Donegal which I recorded with guitarist Steve Cooney.   I grew up looking out over the hills of Donegal.  

I had planned to write today's post about Northern Ireland, but when it boiled down to it I didn't know where to start explaining the enigma that is this place without either confusing the life of you my lovely readers, or ending up in a political rant, or both, and getting extremely depressed as a result!!!  So here's a wee intro to my Northern Ireland (or if you want to sound like a local - Norn Irn)
The Giants Causeway
(built by the giant Finn McCool!)

I grew up on the border, just inside Northern Ireland, - my mother comes from Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal (in the South) and my father from Belleek in Co. Fermanagh, 4 miles away in the North.

Our  home house was about 100 yards from the border ... the dividing line being a sheugh (pronounced shuck - a tiny boggy stream) and most of our neighbours had land on both sides of the stream.   In fact one neighbour's house is right on the dividing line - so if he goes out his front door he is in the South (or the Republic) of Ireland and if he goes out his back door he's in Northern Ireland!!!   Very handy for smuggling!!  of which there was and still is a roaring trade.

And loads of jokes about it …
A man walked past the border post most days pushing a wheelbarrow of manure …. the guards weren't too keen to check the contents but suspected he was smuggling something …. Every day without fail he walked past them and they poked something into the barrow checking for contraband.   
A long time later one of the guards met him and asked him if, and what, he had been smuggling - he'd been smuggling wheelbarrows!!!!!   Hahahaha.

It made no difference to us growing up, until all the unapproved roads were closed by the Army and our friends in the south went to school in Co. Donegal and we went to school in Fermanagh.

While it was a very unhealthy atmosphere to grow up in through 30 years of The Troubles, mostly it's now just incredibly fruststrating since we all think of ourselves as living in Ireland - even the most hardened Unionist - but we're part of the UK.   So to send a letter to the nearest town a few miles away it has to go airmail because it's officially an international mailing - our banks have different currencies and the only ones winning there are the banks - and mobile phones when we head down to Dublin for some shopping, welcome us to Ireland!!!!   We're already in Ireland you idiots!!!

Still, we have the best of both worlds - great music, and all the culture of this wee island, the excellent health and education systems of the rest of the UK and for the most part we can ignore the twits who run the government in London and save our despair at the shenanigans of our own politicians-in- training.  What other country has a First Minister and Deputy First Minister who have to do everything together to equally represent both sides of our community!

For my part, I'm happy to be in the North - I just wish that more visitors to Ireland would venture across the border and experience our wonderful scenery, humour and cities.  So come and say hello if you're ever in this part of the world - you'd be most welcome.
Botanic Gardens in Belfast behind Queens University.

Some facts - Northern Ireland has 6 counties out of the total of 32 in Ireland.   It has a population of just under 2 million in an area the size of Holland.  
NOrthern Ireland lies within the ancient province of Ulster with 3 more counties of the province in the Republic.


  1. Hello Fil I am so happy you dropped by my blog so I could find you. I love Ireland my Grandma was Irish and quite the storyteller she was. I love that about the Irish and I hope I inherited that. I find this post fascinating as I have never really knew much about Ireland only the tales my Great Grandpa passed on to my Grandma who never managed to get there even though she had a internal longing to go. I wish she had. I am going to follow you for Grandma and learn more about Ireland. Thank you. Hug B

  2. Delighted to meet you Buttons:) Do you know what part of Ireland she was from? Fil

  3. You have a beautiful voice! Thanks for sharing that. I love Irish inspired music.One of my faves is "The WInd that Shakes the Corn". I learned a couple of days ago that Loreena McKennitt's "The Old Ways" refers to the old traditions, language, and customs of Ireland. This was an interesting post. If I visited Ireland, it would be Northern Ireland. I'll be back to visit again. :-)

    1. Lovely to meet you Teresa - I"m glad you enjoyed the post. Heading to over to your place now :)
      Happy Easter
      Fil at Fil's Place - Old Songs and Memories

  4. Fil,

    Very interesing post about Ireland. I've always been fascinated with your country and want to visit someday - maybe - money is always an issue with me. My grandparents were part Irish, but it was way back in their history and they weren't born there.

    I love the stories about leprechauns. I did some research on them and wrote a Y/A book about a boy meeting a leprechaun and going on an adventure with him.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.


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