Ballabuidhe 2014: Day One In Ireland

Aug 5, 2014 by

I’m currently on vacation in Ireland, and Day 1 was all about the Ballabuidhe 2014 Races in Dunmanway, Ireland. This ancient three day racing event in County Cork is currently in at least it’s 399th year–the first written references to Ballabuidhe are in the year 1615.   Many long-time attendees will tell you that these races date back more than a thousand years.

Ballabuidhe 2014

Ballabuidhe 2014

The Ballabuidhe (pronounced BALLA-bwe) races draw more than 300 horses, including trotters and pacers (and donkeys!) for the sulky races, and ponies and horses for the flat races.  In the flat races,the ponies and horses (usually Thoroughbreds that are too small to compete at regular tracks) are generally piloted by young, aspiring jockeys, eager to prove their skill.  The best of these young men go on to careers in professional horse racing.


Ballabuidhe 2014

Crossing the finish line at Ballabuidhe 2014

Ballabuidhe is very much a family friendly event, with people of all ages sitting side by side on the grassy embankment above the turf track. Many families are also active participants, bringing their own horses to race each year, with fathers and sons sometimes competing against each other on the track. I saw women involved in almost all aspects of the equine event–from grooming and harnessing the horses to receiving the ribbon in the winner’s circle. I didn’t, however, see any female jockeys or sulky drivers.

The last day of Ballabuidhe is a huge horse fair and horse show held on the streets of Dunmanway town. I’ll post some pictures of that event after I attend it. I’m looking forward to talking with the wily horse traders again!

For more information on Ballabuidhe, click on their official website HERE or HERE for a short news article about the races.

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Star Wars Ireland 2014: The Filming Of Skellig Michael

Jul 29, 2014 by

Star Wars Ireland 2014: A long time ago, on an island far, far away….ancient Christians established a remote monastery off the wild Atlantic coast of western Ireland. Filming has begun on that same island, Skellig Michael (Irish Gaelic: Sceilig Mhichíl), a UNESCO World Heritage site, which will be the backdrop for a segment of the next episode in the epic Star Wars movie franchise. The nearby town of Portmagee has been flooded with Star Wars fans seeking a glimpse of the cast or the film’s popular director, J. J. Abrams, because public tour boats to Skellig Michael have been suspended for the three days of filming.

For those intrepid Star Wars devotees thinking of hiring their own private vessel to get out to the island, the Force will not be with them. The Irish Navy (standing in for an Imperial cruiser, no doubt) is patrolling the waters around the island for any unauthorized incursions with a clear warning: this is NOT the Irish island you’re looking for.

Star Wars Come To Ireland  In 2014

That’s no moon. It’s Skellig Michael! Image source


For more information on the Star Wars hulabuloo going on in County Kerry and its potential impact on the bird colonies of Skellig Michael, read The Daily News‘ story HERE or Entertainment Weekly’s story HERE.

You can read one of my previous posts about the Irish town of Portmagee and the Skelligs HERE–this beautiful little town on the Iveragh Peninsula is the starting point for the Skellig Experience.

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The Piebald Irish Cob

Jul 9, 2014 by

The Irish Cob, also known as the Gypsy Vanner or Gypsy horse, has long had an important role in Irish life, as a cart horse in the city streets, an all purpose farm horse in the countryside, and a means of transportation and barter for the Irish Travellers.    Although this sturdy draft horse comes in many coat colors, the  most common is a piebald, or black and white pinto coat pattern.   Whatever the color, however, the Irish Cob is a fitting symbol of  Ireland: strong, resilient, spirited.


Piebald Irish Cob galloping.  Image source

Piebald Irish Cob galloping. Image source

Denise Blake of Donegal wrote a lovely poem about a piebald horse who faced down the dreaded Black and Tans during the Irish War of Independence:

It is said in Ceannconn — the Head of the Hound —
the Black and Tans came for my great-grandfather’s horse,
a piebald horse that ate windfall apples from a child’s palm,
who back-burdened their small farm, who cart-pulled
a whole clan the miles to Schull for Sunday mass.

They came for his horse as they came for all others,
with no intent of any speedy return.
Paddy Callaghan, staying gravestone silent, stared
at the horse who reared full height on his back legs,
brandished hooves more deadly than smuggled Fenian guns.

So the Black and Tans went away,
passed the family in their moonlight ransacking.
If Paddy and his piebald came wandering towards
a boreen checkpoint, the makeshift soldiers stood aside
as if he was Lord of West Cork, his family the heirs.

Has his Ceannconn nature passed through our blood,
a piebald-soul that can incite bone-crushing wildness?
Come between me and mine, and we’ll see.

WILD HORSES by Denise Blake

from TAKE A DEEP BREATH, Summer Palace Press

Rearing piebald at Dublin's Smithfield Horse Fair. Image source

Rearing piebald at Dublin’s Smithfield Horse Fair. Image source

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The Empty Chair

Jul 6, 2014 by


Irish brewing company Guinness has a new video that shows the best way to end the American Fourth of July holiday weekend—with a nicely poured pint of Guinness… and a patriotic reminder that out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind.


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Hawks On the Wing In County Mayo

Jun 25, 2014 by

If you find yourself in County Mayo, Ireland, looking for a unique experience, you might try your hand (in a glove) at flying hawks. 

Ashford Castle, a medieval castle near the Mayo-Galway border, is home to the oldest established falconry school in Ireland.  For a fee, Ireland’s School of Falconry will take you on a one hour Hawk Walk, giving you the opportunity to get up close and personal with magnificent  birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, and owls.



Ireland's School of Falconry in County Mayo~image source

Ireland’s School of Falconry in County Mayo~image source


The Falconry School is open year round , except for Christmas, but you must book the Hawk Walk in advance. To contact the school about prices, location and additional options, click HERE.


The ancient sport of falconry is alive and well in Mayo, Ireland

The ancient sport of falconry is alive and well in Mayo, Ireland

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Jack Dempsey: Remembering The Manassa Mauler

Jun 24, 2014 by

The sport of boxing has a long history of Irish and Irish-American men who became legends of  “the sweet science” and one of the greatest (all due respect to Muhammad Ali, another boxer with Irish heritage) was born on this day, June 24, in 1895.  William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey was born to poor parents with Irish heritage in the small Colorado town of Manassa; by the age of 16, desperate for money, Jack began boxing all comers in alley and bar room settings, and soon made a name for himself in the boxing world.  His incredible strength and unrelenting brawling style eventually earned him the World Heavyweight Championship title, which he held from 1919 to 1926.


Jack Dempsey, "The Manassa Mauler" : :Image source:

Jack Dempsey, “The Manassa Mauler” : Image source

Dempsey soon became known as the “Manassa Mauler”, a nickname earned by his aggressive—and extremely successful— boxing style:

“Has there ever been a fighter quite like the young Dempsey?–the very embodiment of hunger, rage, the will to do hurt; the spirit of the Western frontier come East to win his fortune.”
— Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing; Dolphin Doubleday, 1987.


Dempsey was widely popular with people from all walks of during his life time, from the average worker at the local pub, to celebrities such as Harry Houdini, Bob Hope, even Irish writer George Bernard Shaw, who sponsored the fight between Frenchman Georges Carpentier and Dempsey on July 2, 1921, the first time a boxing event garnered a million dollars in gate revenue.


Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey, Irish-American Boxer :Image Source


 “He was once the most powerful, ruthless, and dangerous unarmed man in the world…Dempsey’s greatness, apart from the power of his punches, was his ability to crush much heavier opposition with the sheer viciousness of his attacks.”
Boxing: The Great Ones, by R. Gutteridge, 1975



In September 1926, Dempsey fought Irish-American former U.S. Marine Gene Tunney, losing to Tunney on points after 10 rounds.  In a famous quote, Dempsey told his wife, Estelle Taylor, who was waiting for him in his dressing room, “Honey, I forgot to duck.”  President Ronald Reagan used the same quote to his wife, Nancy,  after Reagan was shot during a failed assassination attempt in 1981.  After retirement, Dempsey and Tunney became good  friends.


Two boxers with Irish heritage: Jack Dempsey and Muhammed Ali: Image source

Two famous boxers with Irish heritage: Jack Dempsey and Muhammed Ali: Image source


Jack Dempsey died in 1983 of heart failure, at age 87. He will always be known as one of the greatest boxers of all time, leaving a record of 66 wins, 6 losses, and 11 draws during his entire career. The Ring Magazine, the main publication in the boxing world, lists Dempsey as #10 in its list of all time heavyweights  and #7 among its Top 100 Greatest Punchers. In 1950, the Associated Press voted Dempsey as the greatest fighter of the past 50 years. Dempsey was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1951 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.


Jack Dempsey wasn’t the first boxer of Irish heritage to make a name for himself, and he won’t be the last, but you can be sure that all future heavyweights with Irish blood in their veins will be judged against the ferocious Irish fighting style of the great Manassa Mauler.


Sources and More Info:

Jack Dempsey: Lean and Mean With the Skill and the Will, Tracy Callis; Cyber Boxing Zone

Jack Dempsey; Wikipedia

Irish and Irish-American Boxers

Jack Dempsey: Official Web Site

Jack Dempsey-The Manassa Mauler;

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Perusing Celtic Magazines

Jun 15, 2014 by

Much information about the Celtic countries is online these days, but I still enjoy having a Celtic-themed magazine to display on the coffee table for friends and families to peruse.  Those glossy mags are a good way to spark interest in my favorite topic, all things Celtic.   I can’t always convince friends to read a book about the Celts or a Celtic country, but they are usually happy to flip through a copy of the latest Irish America or Scottish Life, for example, while having a coffee or lounging at the pool.

Celtic magazine subscriptions make good gifts, also, especially for someone who is planning a trip to one of the Celtic countries or thinking about researching their family ancestry–most magazines are available now either in print form, online or both.  Additionally, after everyone has read the current issues,  the mags get a second life when I donate them to the local senior center.  Many senior citizens, like my mom, either don’t feel confident looking up information on the internet, or have vision problems that make it difficult for them to read on a computer monitor, thus browsing through a colorful magazine is a wonderful solution for them.

There are all kinds of magazines that touch on Celtic themes, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites for you to consider.  I’ve included a link to Amazon for each one, which will have rates and reviews, and remember–you can also read your subscription online, if you prefer.


Started in 1985, Irish America is a popular magazine that covers topics relevant to the Irish in North America including a range of political, economic, social, and cultural themes–one of my favorites. Click HERE for subscription  and reviews.

Scottish Life is a lovely magazine with loads of photos and tips about Scotland, her history and culture. Click HERE.


The Cornish Banner (An Baner Kernewek) is Cornwall’s longest running cultural magazine, and deals with contemporary events in Cornwall as well as  articles on its history, culture and the arts by the land’s leading writers. Amazon doesn’t have an image, but the magazine is available for purchase HERE.


Welsh Country is a lovely magazine chock full of stories about Welsh history, contemporary life, food, travel, art, music and more.  Click HERE.


History Scotland is more scholarly in content, but fascinating to read, especially if you love Scottish history and archaeology–well worth the price, in my opinion.  Click HERE.



Another scholarly magazine, Archaeology Ireland contains articles on recent research and excavations profiles of famous sites, with photos and maps for illustration.  A great mag if you want to explore ancient Irish sites that are off the beaten tourist path.  Click HERE.

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