Saturday, September 23, 2017

Rod Dreher on "Dialogue"

Thanks to Hibernicus of the Irish Catholics Forum for drawing my attention to this article from Rod Dreher on the liberal attitude towards "dialogue".

I feel mildly vindicated by this article. I've been sounding the alarm about political correctness for quite some time now. I really do believe its impossible to exaggerate just how insidious, how cancerous it is. And "dialogue" is the false flag under which political correctness loves to march. "Dialogue" sounds so harmless, so reasonable, so non-committal. But it ain't!

Writing and Faith

As I've mentioned before, I've been keeping a diary for more than two years. Every now and again, I spend some time browsing it. I was browsing it this evening and I came across this passage (actually something I posted on Facebook at the time):

I like how people look when they are walking outdoors. It's like there is a thicker outline around them. There is something more deliberate and cautious about them. This becomes even more pronounced if they are walking somewhere they have never been before. This occurred to me when someone asked me the direction on campus today. You can recognise when people are in a place that is unfamiliar and I think there is something very endearing about the sight.

This is probably why I like fish out of water films, like Crocodile Dundee, the best movie of the eighties (after The Breakfast Club, of course).

Reader, what do you think of that? I can't remember if many people reacted to it on Facebook, but I don't think they did.

Re-reading it, I find myself once again contemplating the act of faith required in writing-- faith in one's own ideas, their value.

When I think about the idea I've outlined above, I get terribly excited. It seems important to me. It suggests so much, although I can't say exactly why. Getting excited about such an idea is like finding yourself in a passage which may lead to a cavern, or finding a hidden panel that opens onto...who knows what?

I realize how strange this seems. Very, very often, for as long as I can remember, I've found myself getting very excited about some idea which I can barely articulate, and desperately wanting to convey that idea in some kind of written form.

At the same time, I'm a deeply insecure person, and I'm always dogged by the question: "Why should anyone else care about your strange enthusiasms? Perhaps you struggle to convey this idea because there is quite simply nothing to convey?"

I'm deeply envious of the writers who manage to take their inspirations and convey them to thousands, tens of thousands, millions of people. I imagine that it requires a tremendous amount of faith, of faith in the validity of their own thoughts. Because surely anything that's original, that's creative, started out as simply being odd. I once read an interview with Sue Townsend, writer of the Adrian Mole books, in which she recalled that, when she was younger, she often found herself pointing out things to other people which they found completely uninteresting-- they didn't know why she would be pointing them out in the first place. I found a lot of consolation in that!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hurray for Culture Night

Tonight is the thirteenth Culture Night in Ireland. It's an institution which has gained momentum over the years (I certainly hadn't heard about it thirteen years ago) and has now reached the stage where people ask each other: "What are you doing for Culture Night?" As a lover of traditions, I approve of this.

On this one night of the year, cultural institutions give free admission or put on special events.

The Central Catholic Library is open for it and has a display about writers of the Irish Literary Revival.

I moan about modern Ireland enough, so I like to celebrate the good when I can.

Doubtless we will have a horror movie set on Culture Night if it becomes popular enough!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Time and Eternity

Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways: 

Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old

In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody. 

Come near, that no more blinded by man's fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate, 

In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.

Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill! 

Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave, 

The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass; 

But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead... 

That's Yeats, of course, in "To the Rose upon the Rood of Time". The lines often come to my mind, because I'm very familiar with the conflict they describe. I've always been familiar with it. I've written about it on this blog before, especially in this post.

I suppose I could describe it as "love of the world, versus hatred of the world". Or love of eternity, as opposed to the love of time.

The mystical side of me, the side that is drawn towards romantic nationalism and poetry, craves all that is elevated and elemental; ritual, hierarchy, idealism, nature, solemnity, poetry, proverbs, mythology, high romance...

But then there is the other side of me, the lover of the ordinary; of news bulletins, diaries, the hum of voices on the air, pop songs playing in supermarkets, nerds of every description, Hallmark shops, newspaper cartoons, election posters, cinemas, all human life in all its delicious banality...

One side of me thrills to "The Passing of Arthur" by Tennyson ("clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful"), while another part of me thrills to "Snow" by Louis Macneice ("the drunkenness of things being various").

Part of me is the highest of High Tories, while another part of me feels very home in liberal democracy. (By liberal I do not mean anti-life, anti-family, or anti-religion. I mean the messiness  of liberal democracy.)

Part of me wishes to withdraw from all pop culture and current affairs, and part of me loves to gorge on three hour TV documentaries with titles like "The One Hundred Scariest Movie Moments".

I have been tossed between these two extremes all my life, and I'm really beginning to think that is my fate unto death.

The Heelers Diaries

There is an Irish blog called The Heelers Diaries which has been regularly updated since 2005. This is sterling dedication to the cause of the Catholic faith and to poetry (which are the two main themes of the blog).

The blog's slogan is: "The fantasy world of Ireland's greatest living poet".  I thought that was me!

There is no blog quite like it and I'm ashamed I haven't plugged it yet.

Irish Traditions and Customs

Regular readers will remember me mentioning, fadó fadó (a long, long time ago), an ambition to compile a comprehensive list of Irish traditions and customs, including the sort that generally fly under the radar.

Well, I'm still a long way from achieving that, but I enlisted the help of the contributors to the Irish Conservatives Forum and we've put together a fairly good list now.

I'd like this to be the kind of blog post that people might find through an internet search. My post on differences between Ireland and America seems to get quite a lot of that traffic, as does my review of Groundhog Day. I hope it might be useful to people, or at least interesting.

What is a tradition? What is an Irish tradition? Two big questions. I don't have any working definition, but I've followed a few guidelines. I've tried to stick to traditions that are ongoing, or that might possibly be revived. (There are exceptions.) I've tried to stick to things that are distinctively Irish, though not necessarily exclusively Irish. That's pretty much it.

So, without any further ado, here is the list. If you can think of any traditions I've left out, please tell me.


Gaelic Football
The Munster Hurling Final
Road bowling
Rugby, especially in Limerick
Horse racing and horse breeding
Supporting English soccer teams
The John 3:7 placard that sports fan carries to games
Swimming in the "forty-foot" promontory in Dublin Bay, especially on Christmas Day.
Making speeches after winning the All-Ireland

The social media hashtag #COYBIG (Come On You Boys in Green) when Ireland play international soccer matches

Music and Dance

Irish traditional music
Sean-nós singing
Irish folk ballads
Tin whistle
Uileann pipes
Set dancing
Lúibíní, whatever the hell they are
Country music, in some areas. (I hear it is a way of life in some towns. Is that true?)

The Sean Ó Riada Mass, and the hymns taken from it

Handel's Messiah, first performed in Dublin and often performed there since


The Irish language
The various dialects
Yola and Old Fingalian (well, these are more memories than traditions, but I'll put them in anyway-- vanished dialects of English in the East of Ireland.
Hiberno-English, which deserves a section all of its own


Giving rhyming names to Dublin statues (the Floozy in the Jacuzzi, the pr---- with the sick, the hags with the bags, the tart with the cart, etc.) No name for the Millennium Spire ever stuck, despite many efforts. Also used for at least one monument in Belfast; "the Balls in the Falls".

Visual arts and architecture

Celtic knotwork
Pre-Celtic spirals
Hiberno-Romanesque architecture
John Hinde postcards

Ireland's strong tradition of stained glass, in the modern era
Round towers 


The Irish literary tradition in general.
Short-story writing (Sean O'Faolain, Mary Lavin, and others.)
Winning the Nobel Prize for literature (four times)

The Ogham script of medieval Ireland

Food and Drink

Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes
A full Irish breakfast
Colcannon on Halloween
Red, white and orange ice-cream and jelly on St. Patrick's Day
Tea. Strong tea, especially in rural areas. Lyons and Barry's.
Irish whiskey
Red lemonade
Cadet Orange
Cavan Cola. (I understand this is no longer produced but there are campaigns to revive it, so I will keep it in.)
Irish stew
Dublin coddle
Friend breakfast at Bewley's
Dulsk (chewable seaweed)


Catch-all parties
Clientelism and parish pump politics
The two-and-a-half party system
Small, breakaway parties that are successful for a while and then disappear
Splits. ("The first item on the agenda of every Irish organization is the split.")
Political dynasties and family 


The Late-Late Toy Show
The Late Late Show itself
The dawn chorus on Mooney Goes Wild
Dustin the turkey
Shows in the format of Scrap Saturday


The Rose of Tralee
The Galway Races
The Ploughing Championships
The Young Scientist Awards
St. Patrick's Day
Nollaig na mBan/Little Christmas
St. Brigit's Day
The summer solstice in Newgrange
The Twelfth of July
Reek Sunday
St. Patrick's Day parade, including the wearing of St. Patrick's Day shamrock

Halloween (an Irish tradition itself)

Mummery - the tradition of playing practical jokes and pranks for the sake of personal honour among young men. May just be an Ulsterian or Co.Louth variation, as I Mummery is the name of another, entirely different practice elsewhere in Ireland involving people stuffing straw up their shirts.
Halloween bonfires
Halloween costumes
Pumpkin carving (originally turnip carving.)


The Irish wake
"I'm sorry for your troubles"


The "debs"
The colours debate between Trinity and UCD

Social Life

Pretending not to see famous people

"You're very good", an expression equivalent to "Thank you"

The Irish mammy-- matriarch in working class areas (at least she used to be)
Wren boys
Irish names such as Sinéad, Cormac, etc.
Going to the Gaeltacht
Shops having later opening hours on Thursday nights (in Dublin at least-- not sure about elsewhere)


Standing at the back of church at Mass
Taking the straw from the Christmas crib
The Irish monastic tradition
First Communion madness
St. Brigid's Cross
St. Patrick's Day being a "break" from Lent
Calling the day after Christmas St. Stephen's Day (not Boxing Day, as in Commonwealth countries)
Lough Derg pilgrimage
Croagh Patrick pilgrimage
Sitting on the backmost kneelers during the 'sitting down' portions of Mass, then standing and kneeling at the appropriate parts, since its wrong to sit on the floor and it doesn't 'make sense' to be standing all the time when there's a perfectly good seat right there.


Burning the Jack of a newly bought/opened pack of cards because it's bad luck.
Not killing spiders because they are 'lucky' in the sense that they 'prevent' bad luck by killing pests such as flies and other lesser insects. I think this might just be an Ulsterian superstition.
Not picking up a comb left lying on the ground, as it may belong to a banshee.
Folk cures, including holy wells
Travelling to the house of a person with a healing prayer, for ailments such as a wart, having their hands raised over you and a prayer said by them, then being directed to a well to apply some of the well water. Certainly in Wicklow, possibly Cavan and Leitrim.

Clothes and jewellery
Aran sweaters
Cloth caps
Tara brooch replicas
Claddagh ring
The Irish language fáinne (ring-brooch), indicating you speak Irish
Pioneer pins
Trench coats

Lace-making, especially in particular areas such as Carrickmacross


Fairy forts and the Shee in general
Tir na nÓg
The Hell Fire Club in the Dublin mountains, and the legends attached to it
The Ulster Cycle
The Fae
The Children of Lir
The Book of Invasions
The Otherwold, including Tir Na n-Óg


Nicknaming people named Christopher "Git"
The nickname "Joxer"

Men with the middle name "Mary", in honour of our Blessed Mother-- very popular once upon a time, and not so long ago


Aer Lingus vs. Ryanair
The Morris Minor


Carroll's cigarettes (still made?)
Bórd na Mona peat briquettes
President's cheque to centenarians
The Irish weather, and talking about the weather
The Irish diaspora
Red hair
Blue eyes

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Conservatives in Trinity College Dublin!

Conservative students in Trinity College Dublin have started a conservative online journal, The Burkean Journal.

This is a very heartening development. It deserves support. I've glanced through its articles, and I see that it's not just cheap libertarianism, either-- there is an article defending populism, an article by a prolife activist, and an article defending Catholic history!

Hurray! A reason to be cheerful! Thanks, TCD conservatives!