Guest sayings

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The Dublin family - like all Irish families (and many the world over), it is dominated by (a) children and (b) the 'Mammy'. Family sizes are still quite large by western European standards, a reflection of the church's teaching towards family planning and the historic severe mortality rate in centuries past.The emphasis on having boys (or the desperation to have a male heir) has not been so much as in the country - males inherit the farm but females traditionally had to be married with a dowry. Such practices are mainly extinct in country areas.

The 'Ma' [often referred to as 'herself' by her husband] is still a big feature of the Dublin family. She often controls the finances of the house and since the mid 20th century will often have a part-time job too. She is frequently the house disciplinarian, controlling the lives of the children. Jackson & McGinley draw a parallel between the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Irish mother.

When Irish people are introduced to another Irish person and are making small talk, they will often avoid asking where the other person went to school. This is one sure way of finding out about their religion and even about their background. The Republic of Ireland is about 96% Catholic, and the vast majority of persons aged 20 and upwards would have been taught by the religious orders. It is even possible to tell whether you had a 'wealthier' upbringing (Jesuit educated) or not (perhaps Christian Brother educated). Protestant-educated people stand out a mile since their schools are usually private, and there is only one Jewish secondary school in Dublin, Stratford College in Rathgar. Recently, Muslims in Dublin have opened a beautiful new school in the Dublin suburbs at Clonskeagh. So, the lesson is not to ask about someone's education since we try to avoid talking heavy religion!

Relationships in past and modern Ireland


Irish people typically have a huge circle of casual friends, due to their informallity and the lack of need for introductions. Many will maintain school friendships into their adulthood, although the effects of past emigration resulted in new overseas friends being made. The gregarious and easy-going nature of the Irish, combined with the effects of strong family ties in a small island, mean that most Irish people know about each other's extended families and friends-of-friends. This partially explains the interrogation effect that foreigners often experience - it is born of natural curiousity and not from any malice.

Courting ('courtin')

This ancient term is still used to describe two young people beginning and developing a relationship, particularly in rural areas (youngsters in Irish cities tend to have more fast-track opportunities and don't chose to become involved in protracted rituals of the past). While the social circumstances found in more rural communities differ somewhat from medieval times, the ritual is still very similar. Teenagers are encouraged to meet each other in a controlled environment by their parents or by the community (church, school, etc). Typically, this is a dance (as in medieval times amongst the courtiers), frequently organized by the local village or church. Thus, the fear of meeting an unknown stranger is limited and the process by which the relationship develops can be surveyed. The ultimate aim amongst the community is marriage, meaning security for the village and the potential of stronger family ties and village life. In ancient times, the matchmaker was an important factor in Irish country life s/he would negotiate with the two families to arrange the best marriage in terms of money and dowry.

In reality, this rarely happens in twenty-first century Ireland. Many young people have left their villages and towns to work where the work is – in the cities. Life there is varied and diverse and you are unlikely to meet someone from your village at the same night club! Of course, it is far more healthy for the Irish gene pool to meet and mate with others with different blood.

When one refers to a courting couple today, it normally means a couple in an intimate act such as kissing or cuddling.

Steps towards an Irish Marriage

Many Irish couples still choose marriage rather than living together, and this often results in engagements which are lengthy. The average engagement is probably from one year to eignteen months, but I know people who took nine or even thirteen years to actually tie the knot! There were various reasons for this, mainly that the gentleman was quite comfortable living with his parents (particularly his "dear old Irish mammy!") and was in no hurry to addapt his comfort zone!

Coming soon...marriage in Ireland or the alternative - living in sin!

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