The Written Word Comes to Life

Writer's Festival 5 banner0001Writer's Festival 6 Lee Ann & Leslie0001Writer's Festival 10001Writer's Festival 7 with Steve Scott0001Writer's Festival 4 with Carol-Ann0001Writer's Festival 20001_1

Writer's Festival 20001Writer's Festival 8 with Irene Spence0001Writer's Festival 9 Authors0001

The written word came to life at the International Writer’s Festival in Perth on Saturday. Under sunny skies, perched along the historic Tay Basin, the Crystal Palace was home to nearly a dozen authors showcasing their work and chatting with locals and visitors alike. The event was part of a weekend of activities which included a writing contest and some notable guest speakers from the writing community.

Many thanks to the Chamber of Commerce along with the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Farmer’s Market, the Town of Perth, the Perth & District Union Public Library, the BIA , Heritage Perth, The Book Nook and many local businesses who organized and sponsored this first-time event in the newly formed Perth Chapter of the well-known International Writers Festival.

We were pleased to be situated with author Gene Bassett to our right and with Irene Spence and Ron Shaw to our left. Irene was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee award for her many years of service in promoting history and heritage and is active at Archives Lanark as well as the Lanark County Genealogical Society.

It was a pleasure meeting author and instructor Lee Ann Eckhardt Smith, member of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Lee Ann, along with Leslie Wallack of The Book Nook presented each author with a smart black carry-all featuring the Writer’s Festival logo, a writing journal, pen and decorative ceramic keepsake.

One of the highlights of the day were visits from Carol-Ann McDougall and husband Ken who are building their dream home along the picturesque shores of Rideau Ferry. Another delightful visitor was an old friend and neighbour from the third line – Dr. Steve Scott. It was a wonderful surprise to connect once again and have a quick chat.

The day was a great success and we look forward to future events with the International Writer’s Festival!

International Writer’s Festival August 23rd, 2014 – Participating Authors:

Gene Bassett, author of: ‘Tall Tales’, and ‘Stolen Moments’

Allison Graham & Cathy Rivoire, author/illustrator of ‘Caterpillar Soup’

Joelle Hubner-Mclean, author of ‘Corvus and Me’

Shirley Mackenzie, ‘Orphan Sage’

John McKenty, ‘Square Deal Garage’, ‘Follow the Crowd’ and ‘Arden Blackburn’s Mail Route’

Anne Raina, author of: ‘Clara’s Rib’

Ron Shaw author of: ‘Tales of the Hare’, ‘Black Light’ and ‘Forgotten Hero’ (Co-authored with M.E. Irene Spence)

Claudia Smith, author of ‘By Word of Mouth’

M.E. Irene Spence, co-author of ‘Forgotten Hero, the biography of Alexander Fraser’

Arlene Stafford-Wilson, author of: ‘Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen’ and ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line’ and ‘Lanark County Chronicle: Double Back to the Third Line’ and ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line’

Mick Wicklum ‘Grand Popo and Kanaga’ and ‘Wicklum’s Law and Other Tips on How to Survive in Africa’

http://www.staffordwilson.com

International Writer’s Festival Comes to Perth!

Writer's Festival Aug 2014

Perth Crystal Palace

Join us Saturday, August 23rd from 9 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Crystal Palace in Perth, Ontario.

In its first year ever, the Perth Chapter of the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival will be showcasing local authors at a Book Fair at the Perth Farmer’s Market set against the backdrop of the picturesque Tay River.

Whether you come by car and park along the historic streets of Perth, or sail up by boat and take in the breathtaking views along the Tay Basin, there will be something for all ages to enjoy.

The event features a number of local writers including Arlene Stafford-Wilson, author of:

• Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen
• Lanark County Kid: My Travels up and down the Third Line
• Lanark County Chronicle: Double Back to the Third Line
• Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third

Pick up a copy and have it signed by the author.
Mark this special event on your calendar.
For more information contact:

The Perth and District Chamber of Commerce (613) 267-3200 / 1-888-319-3204
or Leslie Wallack at The Book Nook thebooknook@bellnet.ca

http://www.staffordwilson.com

A Beautiful Day, So It Is

fred and ethel0001

 

 

“It’s a beautiful day outside, so it is.”

“So it is.”   –     It was an expression we heard often, spoken in our father’s even, melodic tones, with a hint of an accent, faded over the past three generations, since his great-grandfather left southern Ireland.

There were many lively expressions, and old customs, that surfaced from time to time, reminding us that our father had grown up in an isolated area, populated mostly by Irish and Scottish immigrants . It was a close community, where the Roman Catholics married other Roman Catholics, whose families had also come from the old country. The traditions of story-telling and singing, fiddle-playing, and hard-drinking were tempered with an absolute and unwavering devotion to family, and to the church.

He grew up in a rural area where the dead were waked in the home. He recalled one particular wake where the deceased, an uncle, was laid out on the dining room table, as was the custom. The drinking had commenced long before the funeral took place in the tiny, packed, St. Patrick’s Church in Ferguson’s Falls. Some would claim that they drank to help deal with their grief, at the loss of their dearly departed. Dad said that some used any excuse to drink. Before the wake was over that night, Dad, a young boy, would see two men pour whiskey down the dead man’s throat.

In the years that followed, he continued to witness the destructive powers of alcohol abuse, as it fueled conflicts, tearing families apart, and caused children to abandon their education in order to support themselves. Determined not to repeat the past, he would not tolerate the presence of alcohol in his own home. This remained unchanged from the early days of dating my mother, through the five decades that would follow, until his death.

A mild natured man, reflective at times, he was hard-working, and steadfast. A farmer’s son, he loved nature, and frequently called us to come and admire the bright night sky, or a hovering hummingbird in the yard. He loved his family, and smiled proudly as we left the nest one by one, to try our luck in the world. When one of us drove away, down the lane, after a visit home, he would stand out in the yard, and wave at the car until it eventually went out of sight. In keeping with his personality, he was not a demonstrative man, and expressed his love for us in a quiet, reserved way.

An avid reader, he cherished the written word, and regularly devoured the epic novels of James Michener, with some westerns by Zane Grey thrown in for good measure. He would be pleased that all five of his children became insatiable readers, and his grandchildren as well, as the passion for prose continues down through the generations.

As the hot, sultry, days of July are upon us once again, I remember this man, who was our father. He worked tirelessly to provide for us and put food on our table. He shared his wisdom with us, and cautioned us, “everything in moderation” and “always think for yourself, or someone else will do it for you”. He was the role model who gave us a strong work ethic, and reminded us to “always keep your word.”

Today, on his birthday, I recall many July 15ths when we celebrated together. I remember the jokes and the laughter, familiar faces gathered around the weathered old picnic table, and our mother beaming, making her way across the lawn, carrying his chocolate layer cake, candles lit….

It’s a beautiful day to remember our Dad,……so it is.


 

 

This post in memory of Tobias ‘Tib’, ’Tim’ Stafford
July 15, 1918 – July 18, 1992

(photo:  l to r:   Tobias  “Tib” Stafford, Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, Tim Stafford (standing), seated – Ethel (Burlingame) Rutherford, Fred Rutherford (Mother’s aunt and uncle from Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, New York.)

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July Thunders Through Our Yard

thunder storm

“Louder and louder the deep thunder rolled,
as through the myriad halls of some vast temple in the sky;
fiercer and brighter came the lightning;
more and more heavily the rain poured down.”

Charles Dickens

 

 

Thunderstorms in the country followed days of still air that was heavy, and thick with humidity. The leaves on the poplar trees outside my bedroom window fluttered, and eventually turned their backs toward us, as though they were bracing for what was to come. The birds scurried back to their nests to take shelter, and the squirrels and chipmunks sped quickly toward their homes without looking back.

The sky changed from a playful, summer blue as the heavy, dark, grey clouds rolled in over the old house. The largest, darkest clouds appeared menacing and powerful as they hung low over the yard, turning midday into night.

I could see the first streak of lightning as it lit up the sky around Mitchell’s barn. Seconds later, the thunder crash was so loud that I instinctively ran downstairs, hoping to find some comfort in the grownups who had gathered in the living room.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.”, Mother would say, matter-of-factly, as Great Aunt Clara sprinkled holy water over the lamps and the around the doorways. “Let’s play a game and count the seconds after the lightning flashes to see how close the thunder follows.” Mother said. I wasn’t in much of a state to play a game and wondered if this was her way to take my mind off of the dangers of the storm.

The rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind was pounding it against the kitchen windows so hard that I thought that any minute the glass would break. Another bolt of lightning lit up the house, followed by an ominous crash, and I wondered if it had hit one of the big maple trees outside. Great Aunt Clara scurried into the living room without glancing my way, as though she knew that I’d see the sheer terror in her eyes.

This went on for several minutes, that seemed like hours, until the flashes became less frequent and the thunder moved off into the distance, and the whole house and all of its occupants seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

I went back upstairs and watched from the window until the dark clouds moved along in the sky, back toward the railroad tracks. It was as though someone had turned the lights back on and patches of blue dotted the sky again and the sun burst out from behind the big grey mass overhead.

There would be many storms in the heat of July, and they all began and ended the same. It would commence with menacing skies, deafening thunderclaps and a shared fear of the unknown. It would end with calm skies, nervous laughter and gratitude for the abundance of rain that had quenched the thirsty farmlands around us.

 

Excerpt from “Lanark County Calendar”

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Remembering Mothers in Peace and War

Airforce Women 1942 001
First Phys Ed Instructors
Today, as we celebrate Mothers around the world, I would like to share a story often told by our late Mother – Corporal Audry Rutherford Stafford, RCAF Women’s Division WWII.

It was 1942, and for the first time in Canadian history, a select group of airwomen were sent from their air bases to train as Physical Education Instructors. Twenty-one women in total were selected for this prestigious program and sent from their respective air bases for a five-week training program, and were immersed in various active sports, exercises, developing team spirit, studying general health practices, and recreation.

Classes were held at the Margaret Eaton School in Toronto, and while many of the classes were conducted in lecture form, ‘Peter’, the skeleton, was used in the study of anatomy.

Section Officer Ruth Jernholm was in charge of the group. Miss Jernholm was a graduate in physical education from the University of Denmark, Copenhagen. She had come to Canada with her sister in 1929 and began her career teaching children in the Winnipeg public school system.

A highlight for these girls in the program was an invitation to perform at the half-time show at the 1943 Grey Cup game held on November 27th in Toronto. It was a day not to be forgotten and a story told and re-told by our late Mother.

And so, today, as each of us remembers our own Mothers, let us also take a moment to remember the women who have served and continue to serve their countries proudly, in times of peace and war.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Graduates of the first Physical Education Instructor’s Course
RCAF Women’s Division 1942:

L.A.W. Phyllis L. Reid, Toronto, Ontario
Cpl. Joy Galloway, Hamilton, Ontario
A.W.1 Naomi Carley, Consecon, Ontario
L.A.W. Margaret Chase, Aylmer, Ontario
A.W.1 Elizabeth Ann Tompkins, Port Credit, Ontario
A.W.2 Mary Crew, Barrie, Ontario
Cpl. Mary Howden, Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Helen Rocke, Vancouver, British Columbia
Cpl. Ethel M. Boyce,Vancouver, British Columbia
A.W.1 Maureen S. Martin, Vancouver, British Columbia
L.A.W. Violet Peck, Edmonton, Alberta
A.W.1 Audry Rutherford, Edmonton, Alberta
Cpl. Elizabeth Currer, Port Kells, British Columbia
A.W.1 Kathleen Mowbray, Cloverdale, British Columbia
A.W.2 Ethel McCully, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Cpl. Estelle Marcotte, Verdun, Quebec,
L.A.W. Nona Butts, Victoria British Columbia
A.W.1 Anne Turner, Victoria British Columbia
Cpl. Grace E. Nicoll, Mannville, Alberta
A.W.1 Mary Schommer, Leipzig, Saskatchewan,
Cpl. Alice Cuthill, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Perth Festival of the Maples April 26 2014

James Brothers edit

With over 160 vendors, live entertainment, and the finest tasting maple syrup produced in the world, the Festival of the Maples in Perth is the place to be on Saturday, April 26th, 2014.

You may not know that Lanark County is the maple syrup capital of Ontario, and you may not know some of the history leading up to the very first festival that was held back in the 1970s.

The story that follows is dedicated to the Lanark County families who played such a significant role, back in the early days, leading up to this annual festival in Perth: Andrew and George Korry, Bowes family of Glen Tay, Ernie and Evelyn Miller family of Glen Tay, Robert McEwen of Prestonvale, Ken VanAlstine of Maberly, Leonard and Tom Adam of McDonald’s Corners, Brien and Marion Paul west of Hopetown, Lanark, James ‘Carman’ and Edna Gibson of Dalhousie Township, Don and Marion Dodds of Clayton, George Coutts of Rideau Ferry, Wheeler family of McDonald’s Corners, and Fulton family of Pakenham to name a few.

Taffy on the Tay

Years ago, many of the local farmers produced maple syrup. Some just made enough for their families and for some it was a supplement to their farm income at a time of year that was less busy than during the summer months. There were also a few dealers in the area that sold sugar bush supplies – Max Miller of Snow Road, Percy Drysdale of McDonald’s Corners, and W.J. Ballantyne in Lanark. James Brothers Hardware and the Co-Op also sold supplies for maple production. Labels for the bottles were often printed by ‘The Perth Courier’.

The Korry family across the road from us had a medium sized sugar bush and they produced not just enough for the family, but enough to sell locally. Andrew’s son-in-law John Chaplin sold it through his dairy to the local customers on the milk routes. Andrew Korry and his son George spent a few very busy weeks making syrup each spring and my brother Tim worked with them in the bush one year. They used a team of horses with a tank mounted on the sleigh to draw the sap back to the evaporator at the sugar shack; typical of many other producers at that time.

The Bowes and the Miller families near Glen Tay also produced their own syrup. I remember that Art Bowes used to tap quite a number of trees in the mid-sixties. Their farm was known as Tayview farm and it straddled the Tay River and was very picturesque. At that time they had about 300 acres which included hay fields, pastures and of course maple bushes. His son Doug was on our school bus and he used to talk about helping his Dad back in the bush each spring.

The Miller family’s farm, known as Tayside was owned by Ernest ‘Ernie’ Miller and his wife Evelyn (Mather). The Miller family arrived from Scotland in 1809 and their farm was purchased by Ernie’s great grandfather Dodds in 1858. Their kids were Diane, Nancy, John and Ruth. Evelyn was a lovely, soft-spoken lady and she was my first 4H club leader. I also remember that Ernie was tapping about 1,500 trees back in the sixties and had about 30 acres of maple woods. Ernie was a forward thinker and one of his ideas at that time was that sap should be gathered by trucks from each farm and taken to a large central evaporator – similar to the way that milk was trucked to cheese factories. It seemed through the years that Ernie was into everything. When he wasn’t farming he wrote history books, he researched genealogy, he worked with young people and it was no surprise to me when he was inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.

The McEwen clan in Ferguson Falls was another family who made their mark in the maple syrup business back in the 60s. In 1966 Robert McEwen of Prestonvale opened up the first pancake house in the area. Originally, Robert made his syrup the old fashioned way out in the bush and boiled a cauldron of sap over the fire. Later, in the 1970s I remember that he was one of the first to use plastic pipelines to bring the sap from the trees to one main location. Dad knew the McEwen family well, having grown up in that area and said that Robert often spoke of the difficulties involved in syrup production. There were always problems like getting reliable labour and often the lack of capital to purchase new equipment. Robert was very active in the local industry and at one time was the President of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Association.

Ken VanAlstine in Maberly had over 2,000 trees tapped when I was a kid and he was among the first to use pipelines. He experimented at first and tapped just 200 trees using the pipeline system but the rest was collected in buckets the traditional way and transported to the evaporator by horse and sleigh.

Ken, like other producers in the area found the cost of hiring labour prohibitive and that distributers wanted too much money per gallon. Ken was well known in the area for his excellent quality maple syrup and said on his best day at that time he gathered 3,300 gallons of sap.

Another local family of producers was the Adam family of McDonald’s Corners. Leonard Adam and his brother Tom tapped an average of 2,250 trees and had about 500 acres of land between them. They were hard workers and spent many days sawing, chopping and stacking the 20 cords of wood required for their evaporator and were one of the first to use a brand new style of evaporator which was 4 by 14 feet. They produced enough to sell locally and the remainder was shipped out West.

Brien and Marion (McLaren) Paul of R.R #3 Lanark had a 575 acre farm about three miles west of Hopetown and began maple production in 1953. Marion was raised on a farm near the village of Lanark, was known locally as the ‘First Lady of Maple’ and became a maple judge at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. Their kids Kathy, Wayne and Darrell were also very involved and provided additional labour for the family business. In 1972 Kathy was even crowned Maple Queen in the local competition.

Back in the 1960s they used two sleighs, one pulled by a tractor and the other by a team of horses. Brien’s father Raymond Paul often tended the evaporator, keeping a watchful eye as the steam boiled off into the air. Russell Foster and Raymond Watt often assisted the Paul family with the production. They tapped an average of 4,000 trees at that time and produced about 700 gallons of syrup and used approximately 30 cords of wood during the season.

The Paul’s were pioneers in the maple industry and were very modern in their approach. They were one of the first to install plastic tubing and an oil fired evaporator. The plastic pipes were attached to the tree spiles and the sap flowed through the pipes and emptied into a storage reservoir located behind the evaporator. Brien and Marion were inducted into the International Maple Hall of Fame and were members of the Ontario Maple Producers and the Lanark and District Maple Producers Association.

Gibson was a name known for their excellent syrup. James ‘Carman’ Gibson and his wife Edna (Rodger) had a maple business in Dalhousie Twp at R.R. # 4, Lanark. The nearby areas of Hoods and Poland were also known for their fine quality maple syrup. The Gibson family began tapping trees in 1821 with the arrival of James Gibson from Lanark, Scotland. He was the first pioneer settler in the area and named their new home Lammermoor after the Lammermoor Hills in Scotland. Their five children Verna, Beatrice, Norma, Carol and Earl all helped out with the operation. They also raised beef, dairy on their busy farm and hauled milk to the Middleville cheese factory.

When locals think of a long running maple operation, the name Dodds comes to mind. They had a substantial sugar bush at R.R. 2 Clayton in the Lanark Highlands. The Dodds family has owned Springdale Farm for generations and Don and Marion Dodds and their sons Bryan and Stephen helped with production through the years. The family has won many awards for being long term maple producers and as recently as last year Stephen Dodds won Grand Champion Trophy at Perth Festival of the Maples for 2011. Their long, long, list of awards include trophies for World Champion Maple Syrup, Sugar Maker of the Year, and a meeting with HRH Prince Charles at the Royal Winter Fair.

One of the maple syrup families that I remember fondly was the Coutts family on the Rideau Ferry Road. I’ll never forget how George Coutts used to invite the local kids to visit his sugar shack and he would take the time to patiently explain how the maple syrup was made. Miss Norma Devlin from the North Elmsley School was invited each year to bring her grade one class to visit the Coutts farm. George along with his son Kenneth showed the children how syrup was made and even provided the kids with some maple taffy at the end of the tour. At that time the Coutts family was tapping about 1,300 trees and produced more than enough syrup for both the family and for area sales.

The ancestors of the current Fulton family began to tap their maple trees back in the 1840s. Their large 370 acre farm is located between Almonte and Pakenham and they have tapped their huge 4,000 tree sugar bush for generations. Well known for their high quality syrup they have also operated a pancake house for many years and their sugar camp has been a popular attraction for both area families and visitors.

With these and so many other excellent producers in Lanark County, it’s not surprising that back in the 1970s there were talks of having a maple festival in the town of Perth. It was Vic Lemieux, owner of Norvic Lodge at Christie Lake, who first came up with the idea and presented it to the Perth Chamber of Commerce. Vic was successful in his campaign to launch the first festival, with the hopes that it would bring people out to celebrate the spring season after a long, cold, winter.

On April 19, 1975 the very first Festival of the Maples was held in Perth and it was quite an event!

When we arrived at the Festival that Saturday, they had closed part of Gore Street and Foster Street and the local maple vendors had set up their displays. At 10 a.m. the Festival was officially opened by the Ontario Minister of Industry Claude Bennett. The Legion ladies and the ladies from St. Andrew’s church had home baking for sale, and there were also side-walk sales on Gore Street and many arts and craft exhibits.

There were a tremendous number of district producers and many of them offered syrup for sale in various sized containers. Pancakes were available for purchase and free samples of Balderson cheese were given away and I recall we went back a couple of times to that booth! One of the oddest things was to see a wood burning evaporator set up on one of the main streets of Perth. I’ve seen a few of those out in the bush, but I never thought I’d see one in town!

Fiddling and step-dancing competitions were held that year and I remember Dawson Girdwood saying that some of the best fiddlers from Eastern Ontario were competing in the open and junior fiddling classes. Jimmy Heney, one of our neighbours won the fiddling prize hands down, as he often did and Karen Grey of Perth was the top step-dancer that night.

The folks in Perth were always up for a good beauty competition and so part of the evening program at the arena that night was the crowning of ‘The Sweetest Girl in Lanark County’. Miss Perth 1975 Michelle Hughes crowned the winner, Maple Queen Susan Thompson of Perth.

Over the years we always attended the Festival and each spring it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Every year it seemed that there were more vendors selling their maple goods, more artisans displaying their crafts and an increasing number of booths and displays. We also noticed a steady growth of tourists who had come from Ottawa, Kingston and even as far away as the States to visit.

People in Lanark County, understandably, have always taken their maple syrup very seriously. Because of this, it was devastating to many when January of 1998 brought the most destructive ice storm in Canadian history. From January 4th to 10th Lanark County was severely affected by freezing rain and ice pellets that fell and accumulated on tree branches day after day. This ice created a thick, heavy coat, damaging both the maple trees and the pipelines in the sugar bushes. Millions of tree branches were caked with the build-up of ice and became so heavy that they split right off of the trees; severely affecting the sap flow. At the time, there were speculations that it could take forty years for production to return to normal.

Many of us, have participated in making maple syrup at one time or another and know from experience that it’s extremely labour-intensive. We also have a clear understanding of the enormous amount of sap it takes to make a very small quantity of syrup. No matter how modern the equipment or methods, it still takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Now, add in the hours of labour for the tapping, transporting from the tree to the evaporator, the boiling down, the straining, the bottling and the labeling. Next, factor in the cost of equipment such as the spiles, the pails or tubing, the evaporation tank, fuel, the straining equipment, the bottles, cans and cost of transporting to market. Fifty dollars a gallon really doesn’t sound like all that much anymore now, does it?

So, the next time you pass by the maple syrup display in the grocery store aisles, or visit a maple vendor at his farm or at a festival, please remember how it’s produced. Remember the proud, hard-working families who settled in Lanark County and passed down their knowledge through the generations. Think of the enormous quantity of sap required to make a very small container of syrup. Most of all please stop and consider the origin of your syrup and take it from this Lanark County kid – you won’t find any better, more flavourful syrup, than from the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario.

(an excerpt from “Lanark County Chronicle: Double-Back to the Third Line”,
ISBN 978-0-9877026-2-3 , available at local book stores)

http://www.staffordwilson.com

You May be Irish if…

Irish pub

The Top Ten Ways to tell if you’re Irish:

1. You have the ‘gift of gab’. There is an ancient rock near Cork, Ireland at Blarney Castle and they say that anyone who kisses the stone will have the gift of gab. If you are truly of Irish descent, then there’s likely no pressing need to make the journey, as you surely already possess the talent of talking rings around most other people.

2. You are musical. Maybe you play an instrument or perhaps you just sing in the shower, but the gift of music is in your Irish blood and you will not be able to resist tapping your toe or strumming your fingers on the table when someone gets their fiddle out and plays a tune.

3. You have strong convictions. Whether the topic is religion, politics or your favourite sports team there will be no point in challenging your beliefs which you hold dearly, and you will argue about these beliefs passionately and convincingly.

4. You have a gift for writing and story-telling. You will be the one at the pub or social gathering that will keep the crowd entertained with your vivid and colourful tales. There may even be a bit of exaggeration thrown in for good measure, but it just makes your story all the more interesting.

5. You’ve got lovely skin and pleasing features. You may have porcelain, pale skin, or you may have freckles that outnumber the days of the year, but your features will be pleasantly proportioned and your eyes bright, with a genuine smile that lights up your face.

6. Your dinner is not complete without some spuds at the table. Whether it’s home-fries for breakfast, French fries for lunch, or baked, mashed or boiled for supper, the humble potato is a regular, healthy staple in your diet and you wouldn’t think of going a day without it.

7. You will likely have a few Irish names in your family tree because people of Irish descent are proud of their heritage and often pass down the names of their ancestors: Sean, Shane, Annie, Maggie, Michael, Patrick, Francis, Kelly, Bridget, Daniel, Aiden, Liam, Eileen, Irene, Brian, Barry, Collin, Ryan, Katie, Thomas, Matthew, Molly, William, Robert, Mark, Elizabeth, Peter, Sinead, Eva, Fay, Julia and so on…

8. You are better at swearing than most people. Partly because of your natural gift of gab and partly because of your quick wit, the swear-words seem to roll freely off of your tongue. You have even been known to make up your own, or stick a word in the middle for good measure, like “abso-bleedin’-lutely”.

9. Nothing brings out your poetic nature, natural ability to talk non-stop, or your talent for swearing like a few pints at the pub. A drink or two or three tends to make your exaggerations a bit more colourful, your storytelling even more fascinating, and your talent for music and dancing shines even brighter.

10. You are loyal. Your strong convictions and unshakeable beliefs are the most visible when it comes to your family and friends. If someone insults your friend then they’ve likely got a fight on their hands that they won’t win. If someone says something unkind about your family then they will have a nasty surprise coming to them that they didn’t bargain for. You are fiercely loyal to all you hold dear.

So, what are the Irish really like? Perhaps the best description comes from the popular historian, Carl Wittke:

“The so-called Irish temperament is a mixture of flaming ego, hot temper, stubbornness, great personal charm and warmth, and a wit that shines through adversity. An irrepressible buoyancy, a vivacious spirit, a kindliness and tolerance for the common frailties of man and a feeling that ‘it is time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him’ are character traits which Americans have associated with their Irish neighbors for more than a century.”

Whether you are of Irish descent or merely admire this nation known for its great writers, poets and story-tellers, I will leave you with a traditional Irish blessing and hope that you have the ‘luck o’ the Irish’ wherever life takes you! Sláinte (cheers!)

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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