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Everyone may be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but there’s more to Irish culture than corned beef chased by Guinness. Ireland is a small nation, but it’s made outsized contributions to music, language, and literature. And while English is the primary language spoken in Ireland, the Irish language is enjoying a renaissance, both on the Emerald Isle and here in the U.S. Colorful slang we’ve adopted includes words like smithereens, galore, and scam. We explore Irish culture – including sports, fashion, and language — with local expats.
- Kevin O'Shea member, Washington DC Gaels
- Jenny McFarlane Fashion and Music Coordinator, Solas Nua
- Ronan Connolly Irish Language and Culture Lecturer, Catholic University of America; instructor and owner, Learn Irish with Me
D.C. Gaels GAA:
“The Guard” trailer:
Terry George and Oorlagh George’s 2012 Oscar-winning short film:
“The Prophet of Monto” by John Paul Murphy; produced by Solas Nua:
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform “Falling Slowly” on The Late Show With David Letterman:
“Give Up Yer Aul Sins” (Oscar-nominated Irish short film):
“The Secret of Kells”
Two Door Cinema Club’s “Something Good Can Work:”
The Flaws “Constant Adventure:”
Hal “Be With You:”
Sinead O’Connor and The Chieftans:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Americans of Irish descent have long embraced St. Patrick's Day. In fact, the first parade marking the day was not in Dublin but in New York City in the 1700s. Since then, playing traditional Irish tunes, wearing green and throwing raucous parties have become a sure sign of spring.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut contemporary Irish culture has a lot more to offer, and you can find everything from Irish language classes to Irish football teams right here in Washington, D.C. Joining us in this conversation about Irish culture and language is Ronan Connolly. He teaches Irish language and culture at the Catholic University of America and at his company called Learn Irish with Me. Ronan Connolly, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. RONAN CONNOLLYThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Jenny McFarlane. She is the fashion and music coordinator for Solas Nua. That's a contemporary Irish arts organization. Jenny McFarlane, thank you for joining us.
MS. JENNY MCFARLANEThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Kevin O'Shea has been a member of the Washington, D.C. Gaels football team for 16 years. Kevin, good to have you aboard.
MR. KEVIN O'SHEAThank you, sir.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation about all things Irish, you can call us at 800-433-8850, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. If you're Irish-American, have you traced your roots back to Ireland? How connected are you to the culture? 800-433-8850. First, I'd like to know a bit about where each of you grew up and brought -- and what brought you to the U.S. Kevin O'Shea, I'll start with you.
O'SHEAGrew up in County Kerry, the south coast of Ireland, and lived there till I was 21. I came to America, to New York, to see my sister and brother for three months and pretty much never left -- 16 years later.
NNAMDIThat was a long three-month stay.
O'SHEAIt was a long three-month stay. Came down to D.C. to see an old college buddy and loved the city and made it my new home.
NNAMDIAnd have been here ever since.
O'SHEAI've been here ever since.
NNAMDIWhat's your story, Jenny?
MCFARLANEI'm from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
MCFARLANESo, yeah, I came over here about a year-and-a-half ago. I was living in Albania for a year before that. So I've kind of got the travel bug. But I wanted to find a sort of a good job because at the moment the economy is really quite bad in -- back in Ireland. So, yeah, I came right here for that. And I find Solas Nua, and the rest is history.
NNAMDIJenny has a background in fashion and art, so you fit right in here, huh?
NNAMDIYour story, Ronan?
CONNOLLYI came here about three-and-a-half years ago, and, you know, I was teaching in Monaghan -- that's where I'm from, Monaghan. It's in the northeast of Ireland.
CONNOLLYSo then I went traveling. I took a career break to go traveling, and that took me around the world. I started -- went to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and eventually ended up in D.C. 'cause I wanted to come to D.C. in time for the presidential election, sort of soak up that whole atmosphere and see that. I thought it was pretty historic at the time. And then I just liked it so much, so I decided to stay on. And that's just over three years ago now.
NNAMDIWell, clear up something for us here, Jenny, because there could be some confusion between what is Ireland and what is Northern Ireland.
MCFARLANEOh. You know, it's all...
MCFARLANEIt's all the -- you know, it's the island of Ireland, but, yeah, unfortunately, we're -- well, not unfortunately, but we are part of the U.K. So it's slightly different, but it's -- you know, I cast myself as Irish, so...
NNAMDINorthern Ireland is part of the U.K.
MCFARLANEThe capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.
NNAMDIAnd Ireland, however, is an independent nation with Dublin as its capital.
NNAMDIIreland is a beautiful country, full of lush green fields, rolling hills, but you say the lovely landscape seems to perpetuate a misconception among Americans about Irish people. What do you mean by that?
MCFARLANEYeah. I've mentioned the...
NNAMDIWe think of you as rural, don't we?
MCFARLANEYes. Sort of country bumpkins, I suppose.
MCFARLANEI mean, only, you know, due to sort of leprechauns and all sorts of other fun stereotypes. But, yeah, we are a very modern society, and so it's great that we can talk (unintelligible).
NNAMDIAnd that's one of the things you're doing at Solas Nua, aren't you, trying to show people what modern Irish life and art and fashion is like?
MCFARLANEThat's correct. Yeah, trying to kind of shed a new light. Solas Nua means new light in Irish. And we're basically shedding a new light on Irish arts.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. A couple of you have called already, but we still have lines open. If you'd like to join the conversation, you can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Have you traveled to Ireland? What struck you the most about culture there? Did it meet your expectations? Did it surprise you? 800-433-8850. Kevin O'Shea, for a lot of Americans, St. Patrick's Day celebrations revolve around one thing: beer -- or maybe two, beer and whiskey. But you think the emphasis on drinking as a part of Irish culture is overblown. What's the reality?
O'SHEAThe reality back home is more of a family day and more of a social day where Mass is involved and the parades and dining with your family, as opposed to over here. I think what you see over here is people lining up outside pubs at 10 a.m. in the morning. And we don't see that in Ireland. We haven't seen that in a long time in Ireland. And just look at the T-shirts that they wear over here. It's usually alcohol and the leprechaun involved in them.
NNAMDIThis is true. But it's my understanding that the centrality of the pub to culture in Ireland doesn't mean that people are drinking all the time. It means that people do not drink that much at home.
NNAMDIAnd the pub is where people go to...
O'SHEAIndeed. The pub is your social network for your community.
NNAMDIIndeed, if I'm buying a house from you, we're likely to finalize the deal in a pub.
O'SHEAIndeed. Or a cow or a pig or whatever you need to get. You go down to your local pub. You meet the local farmers, the local people, and you do a deal there.
NNAMDIAnother thing, Ronan, that runs contrary to popular belief, the Irish language is not Gaelic. So what is it?
CONNOLLYWell, the term Gaelic is a term used to describe Celtic languages. So, when you use a term Gaelic, you also include Scots Gaelic or Welsh, you know, or Manx, indeed. So these cultures are all under an umbrella of Gaelic. But the language that we learned in school, we call it Irish. So there's that little distinction, and some people are maybe confused. And whenever I say I'm an Irish teacher, they understand better when I say Gaelic.
CONNOLLYBut Gaelic is more a broader term, a little bit like when you might say Germanic, and that covers English and German and few other languages. So it's a little bit like that.
NNAMDIIrish is the first official language in Ireland, but most people primarily speak English. How did you learn Irish?
CONNOLLYWell, like most people, I learned it in school. It's a compulsory subject that you learn, so you do maths and English and Irish. And those are the three core subjects you do in school. And then the others are options, or they're added on afterward. So those are the core subjects you learn, so you'll get, usually, the opportunity to learn. And you have to keep learning Irish, English and maths until, you know, you finish secondary school or high school, as you would call it here.
CONNOLLYSo you get that opportunity. And that's why I learned it. And then I studied it more outside of school as well. So I enjoyed it.
NNAMDII hear that you've been kind of surprised by the popularity of your Irish language classes in America. What are some of the reasons why students sign up?
CONNOLLYI think people sign up because they like to connect with their identity. And I think that's a very interesting point because, in this day and age, you know, everyone does admire assimilation and the whole melting pot of America as a great attribute to the country. But also people like to explore their own personal identity and sort of put that to the fore. So I do meet a lot of people, and they say, well, you know, I have Irish heritage, or I've been there in visits.
CONNOLLYI have family there. I know my ancestors come from there. So they like to learn the language and connect on that level. That makes them feel a connection with a place that they know they're from.
NNAMDIA lot of words that we use in America on a regular basis have Irish roots. Everything from smithereens, deer and galore to -- I was surprised to learn -- Baltimore.
NNAMDIWhat does Baltimore mean?
CONNOLLYYeah. Baltimore means the town of the big house. And if you're familiar with Irish geography, you might know that, you know, oftentimes begin with Bally, you know, Ballyard, Ballybay, whatever. So the ballya bit means town. And ballya and timore (sp?) -- more means big, so you get the town of the big house. And that's where the name of Baltimore originates. You also said whiskey.
CONNOLLYAnd with Kevin and that's an Irish word, too, because uisea beatha is the term used for whiskey. It means water. Uisea beatha, water of life. So it's considered, you know, something that gives people that extra bit of life, I guess.
NNAMDII knew that. He lied cleverly.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Let's go the telephones. We will start with Kelly in South Riding, Va. Please don your headphones. Kelly, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
KELLYHello. I started our genealogy search before my husband and I took our three children, named (word?), Tiernan, and Brennan, no little Irish there. We did our Irish genealogy search. And we were able to find all the original -- you know, the original immigrants. And my grandmother's side is from Wexford. They were dairy farmers down in Wexford. And my grandfather's family was from Dingle, around that area.
KELLYAnd the original immigrants now, we have a lot of recovering alcoholics in our family here in America. My dad was tickled that the original immigrant came over to Chicago, and he was a saloonkeeper. And he immediately had a son, and that son went into politics in Chicago. So we're all the stereotypes from top to bottom.
NNAMDIBut you're also really human beings with personal idiosyncrasies of your own, aren't you?
KELLYOh, yes, of course. And, you know, my -- still all lived on the South Side of Chicago, and this -- I was actually back there last weekend for a family funeral. And the Irish -- you know, it was just wonderful to watch the Irish heritage -- people had announced it, and people were (unintelligible), you know, really came out and supported everyone. And, you know, then, of course, we hit the local pubs, and we -- like, we just walked through the stereotype, but in a good way.
NNAMDIOK. Kelly, thank you very much for your call. We have a caller, Hugh, in Mt. Airy, Md., who wants to talk about the centrality of pubs to life. Hugh, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HUGHHey, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. A couple of years ago, we went to Ireland for our honeymoon. I'd been to Ireland once before on business, and then I took my wife back for a honeymoon -- it impressed me so much. What struck me the first time we went was really the friendliness of the people, the willingness to take in visitors and foreigners, and especially us Yanks. And the pub life, it's so different from what we do in a bar or a tavern here in the States. You know, you go to the pub for just about everything. It really, really impressed me, and we really enjoyed it a lot.
NNAMDIYou heard Kevin talking earlier about the fact that people go to the pub if they have business to do with one another or any kinds of groups that they have to form. Is that what you found when you were there, Hugh?
HUGHYes, we did. I had a contact there from my first trip. He met us in a pub. When we arrived in Dublin, we met in a pub. He -- we made all the arrangements for every -- just about every place we went, we made in a pub. It was really, really neat. And if I could afford it, I'd go back again in a heartbeat.
NNAMDIHugh, thank you very much for your call. I'd like to move on to music because traditional Irish music is pretty popular here in Washington, D.C. How popular is it in Ireland, Kevin?
O'SHEATraditionally, it's huge, especially where I come from a (word?) area, down in Kerry. And it's carried on from tradition from family to family and generation to generation. And to be able to sing Irish music in the Irish language is something that you have to keep in the family.
NNAMDIWell, let's give a sample of one of the things that, I think, Kevin may have recommended for us along the lines of traditional Irish music. Here are The Chieftains.
NNAMDIThat's The Chieftains. The name of the song, Kevin, is "Up Against the --" what?
O'SHEAI don't know.
NNAMDIB-U-A-C-H-A-L-A-W-N-S. Buachalawns? Buachalawns? How do you pronounce that?
O'SHEAI need to see it. I...
NNAMDII'm making it up as I go along. You could tell us how to pronounce it in a second. But, Jenny, it's my understanding that the traditional stuff is great -- you like it -- but you like to highlight new sounds coming out of Ireland, too.
NNAMDIWhat are you listening to now?
MCFARLANEWell, I recently interviewed And So I Watch You From Afar. They are quite a big band in Northern Ireland. And, recently, Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters asked them to, you know, play with Them Crooked Vultures, who are Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age.
MCFARLANEAnd they're a new band, so they're kind of getting on to a kind of a world stage at the moment. So I was lucky enough to kind of interview them, and that's what I'm listening to at the moment.
NNAMDISo I Watch You From Afar. Here is "Start a Band."
NNAMDIAnd on to you, Ronan, you, it is my understanding, like The Flaws. What do you like about The Flaws?
CONNOLLYOh, yeah. I like The Flaws. Well, they're just...
NNAMDIWhat kind of band is The Flaws?
CONNOLLYThey're a rock band, and I think the great thing about Irish music is that there are many genre covered. So you have the traditional music, and you have the instrumental music, like And So I Watch You From Afar. But you have great rock bands as well. There's another band I really like called Hal, and they're like a West Coast-sounding band. And if you heard them, you would think they're American.
CONNOLLYAnd I think a lot of people here might enjoy listening to them or The Thrills. But they also have their Irish slant on things, so, I think, there's a wide variety of music available in Ireland, not just the traditional music, which is great.
NNAMDIWell, we picked a cut from The Flaws for our listeners to hear. This is a part of "Make Good" by The Flaws.
NNAMDIJust rocking out here while we're discussing Irish culture and language. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation. If you have called, stay on the line. It looks like all the lines are filled, so, if you'd like to reach us, send an email to email@example.com, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, where you will find a number of video clips having to do with Ireland at kojoshow.org.
NNAMDIHave you enjoyed any recent movies or books that came out of Ireland? Let us know about them. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about Ireland, Irish culture, Irish language. We are talking with Kevin O'Shea. He's been a member of the Washington, D.C. Gaels football team for 16 years. Jenny McFarlane is the fashion and music coordinator for Solas Nua, which is a contemporary Irish arts organization. And Ronan Connolly teaches Irish language and culture at Catholic University of America and at his own company called Learn Irish with Me.
NNAMDIWe're taking your calls, 800-433-8850. Kevin, in addition to having its own distinct language and music, Ireland has its own version of football.
O'SHEAWe do, indeed.
NNAMDIHow different is Irish football from American football?
O'SHEAThe extreme opposite.
O'SHEAIt is a big -- a combination of -- if you ever seen Australian football, we are closer.
NNAMDIYes, I have. It's closer to Australian football?
O'SHEAYes, very much so.
O'SHEAExcept we play with an oval -- a round ball as opposed to an oval ball.
NNAMDIYou have been playing with the Gaels, the Washington, D.C. Gaels, for 16 years.
NNAMDIYou've been here for 16 years, so that means you started playing the moment you arrived?
O'SHEAI did. Every night -- I've been in the city since 1988. So we just celebrated 24 years in the city.
NNAMDIAnd if you go to our website, kojoshow.org, you'll see a little bit of the Gaels there. The Gaels have both men's and ladies' football teams, do you not?
O'SHEAAnd hurling and camogie teams.
O'SHEACamogie be the female version of hurling, which is with sticks and with a slither.
NNAMDINow, do the men and women play football together or different men's and women's teams?
O'SHEAWe would in pre-season, but not in actual games.
O'SHEAWe would have a freestanding ladies team.
NNAMDIAnd the Gaels compete nationally and internationally?
O'SHEANationally, we just came back from San Francisco last September. We played the national championships over there.
O'SHEAThis year, we're getting to Philadelphia for the nationals in Labor Day weekend.
NNAMDIThe difference, of course, between Irish football and most other organized sports, it's my understanding, is that it's strictly amateur, no professional.
O'SHEANo professional. No one gets paid.
NNAMDIAnd in terms of the Washington, D.C. Gaels, you do not have to be Irish to join.
O'SHEANo. Most of our members are Americans. I think our ladies team last year had one Irish girl and up to 25 American girls. And they absolute love it.
NNAMDII saw a lady on the ladies team talking about how it's a combination of several sports. If you happen to be born in the United States, there's a little basketball, there's a little soccer...
NNAMDIThere's a little football, I guess, too.
NNAMDIIt's my understanding that you were quite literally born into your team. So it sounds like a big part of community life in Ireland.
O'SHEAIt is. Every locality, every parish has their own team, and that's your team for life, unless you end up in D.C. where you have to pick a different team. But, yeah, there's no such thing as transferring to a better team or -- you're part of -- it's part of your...
NNAMDIIt's your neighborhood team.
O'SHEAIt's your neighborhood team. And you definitely...
NNAMDIAnd that's the team you play in for the rest of your life. How important was it for you to find a team to play with ones who got here? It seems to be the first thing you did.
O'SHEAIt was the first thing I did when I landed in D.C.
NNAMDIAll right. Looking for an apartment or a team? First a team, then I'll find an apartment.
O'SHEAWell, yeah, exactly. You find a team, and you find a job. You find your apartment. You find your new bunch of friends, new opportunities. It's a great networking.
NNAMDIFinding the team comes first. And we mention D.C. Gaels also has a hurling team and the camogie. Exactly, what is hurling?
O'SHEAHurling is played with -- it'd be equivalent to field hockey.
CONNOLLYYeah. There's a lot of people, when we describe hurling, they say field hockey.
O'SHEAYeah. But it's lot faster.
NNAMDIAll right. Back to the telephones, and, again, you can see on our website, kojoshow.org, some of the Washington, D.C. Gaels. Now, we move on to Sheila in Rockville, Md. Sheila, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MS. SHEILA MAHONEYHi, Kojo, this is Sheila Mahoney. Thank you for taking my call.
NNAMDIHi, Sheila Mahoney. You're welcome.
MAHONEYI just called because I wanted to say that all of my grandparents are from Ireland, and so my whole time growing up, I knew that I was Irish. So, now, I don't consider myself American and -- but I don't consider myself exactly Irish. But I definitely think of myself as Irish-American. And I loved knowing where I was from, and I loved knowing that I had a, you know, culture that was my own that I could identify with.
MAHONEYAnd the first time I went to Ireland, it was amazing because everybody looked like me, and my neighbors and my relatives. And I'm like, everybody looks like me. Even though I'm white, it's -- you know, it's a definite kind of way that you look, you know, that you're Irish. So, anyway, I'm glad I had that experience, and it was great to hear all of your speakers speaking about Ireland today and takes for having this just before St. Patrick's Day.
NNAMDIHow is your facility with the language, Sheila?
MAHONEYI know some Irish. I do know some Irish.
MAHONEY(speaks foreign language)
CONNOLLYOh, yeah, tell me (unintelligible). Well done, Sheila. That's great.
MAHONEY(speaks foreign language)
NNAMDISheila, we'll try some more because we got a tweet from Courtney, who says, "My wife takes Irish dance. I tried learning the language and was surprised by the differences from Romance or Germanic languages" -- both of which Ronan mentioned earlier. Ronan, can you say for me, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood to the world, in Irish.
CONNOLLYYeah, I'll give it a go. I used to do a radio -- an Irish-language radio show of my own, so I'll give it a go.
NNAMDILadies and gentlemen, here it is.
CONNOLLY(speaks foreign language)
NNAMDII hope we recorded that so I can repeat it on St. Patrick's Day. Thank you very much for your call. We move on to Roberto in Ashburn, Va. Roberto, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROBERTOThank you, Kojo, great show. I just wanted to share a little bit of trivia with your guests. Having grown up in Spanish Harlem in New York City, we had a nickname for police officers, very similar to calling a police officer a cop in English. We would call him a Hara, H-A-R-A, and I always wondered what that meant.
ROBERTOAnd then I did a little research and found out that that's a bastardization of O'Hara because there was so many Irish police officers that -- during the turn of the century that the Spanish-speaking communities, specifically in Harlem, would refer to their police officers, here comes another Hara, instead of saying O'Hara, so just wondering whether anybody has heard that before or not.
NNAMDINo. I hadn't heard it. Anyone else around the table? Of course, we weren't all around at the turn of the 20th century, Robert -- Roberto, even though I'm sure you weren't either. But thank you very much for your call. You know, when Americans think of Irish fashion, Jenny, visions of plaid and cable-knit sweaters may dance in our heads. Those are both all well and good but maybe a little out-of-date. What's big in Irish fashion today?
MCFARLANEWell, our designers work in a vast array of materials from knitwear to millinery and basically everything in between. So they kind of push the boundaries of the traditional techniques. When I was studying textiles, we were kind of encouraged to look into our past and look into our tradition and then create some new, you know, take on it. So there are so many amazing designers at the moment, including Joanne Hynes, who's, you know, doing London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.
MCFARLANEAnd also, Grainne Maher, who's actually from Belfast as well, and she's on a world stage now at the moment because Selena Gomez just wore her designs at the MTV EMAs in Belfast. And she's now, you know, doing so well through that. So, you know, there are great designers there, and -- yeah, so...
NNAMDISomething we don't think about a lot when we think of Ireland. Back to the telephones. Here now is Mike in Alexandria, Va. Mike, your turn.
MIKEHi. Thanks for having me on. I was -- my wife is actually Welsh from Cardiff but born on St. Patrick's Day, so there's a little bit of a dichotomy there. And you talked about differences between the Celtic cultures between different areas, and -- 'cause my wife also speaks fluent Welsh and some Irish. But if you could kind of just explain a bit more of some of those subtle differences, that would be...
CONNOLLYWell, you know, I would say that there's a similarity between Scots Gaelic and Irish. And I've been at different conferences where there have been speakers of Scots Gaelic, and we noticed the differences. Now, with Welsh, that's much different, much more different. And the good thing about Welsh is that its position is stronger, I would say, than Irish in terms of revival. I mean, Irish language is being continually revived, and it's in a stronger position all the time.
CONNOLLYBut the Welsh is even in a more strong position, so I think that's something to be very proud of for the Welsh people. But the -- actually, comparing the two languages, I think it's quite a stretch understanding Irish and Welsh. But your wife would maybe be, with no doubt, (unintelligible) the differences and if she has learned both of them.
MIKEYeah. I'm sorry.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
MIKEOh, no, no. I just -- 'cause we're there several times a year, so she's fairly fluent in both. Her mom was from County Waterford, and then she's grown and raised in Cardiff in a Welsh-speaking household. So we're there several times a year into Dublin and to Cardiff, so -- but thanks for having me on.
NNAMDIThank -- you're welcome, Mike. Thank you so much for calling. We move on to Elizabeth here in Washington, D.C. Elizabeth, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELIZABETHYes. Thank you, Kojo. I'm calling from the area, but I'm from Rochester, N.Y.
ELIZABETHAnd I used to have the privilege of serving as the president of the Rochester Irish-American Cultural Institute, and one of our missions is to serve and promote an intelligent appreciation of Irish culture. And I was delighted to hear your show and the conversation that's going on. We tried to say we're an anecdote to green beer and shamrockery.
NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding that you in Rochester, N.Y., just started Irish language classes.
ELIZABETHExactly. And we opened it up to a group to see how many would come, and we had 20 people apply within a three-week period. I'm taking it myself...
NNAMDII was about to ask.
ELIZABETH...and I must admire anybody that understands Irish. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm determined to go forward. And I wondered if your speaker would have any opinion about the "Buntus" series, B-U-N-T-U-S.
CONNOLLYYeah. I know it. It's a series that came out in the '60s that was recorded by RT, the national broadcaster, to help people learn language or learn Irish. It was broken up as a radio show, and it was so successful that they then continued it. They did three versions of it. And it's still seen as a standard, which is quite bizarre 'cause I -- when I ordered it, you know, it still says 1966 on it or what have you. And some of the -- one of the versions I got has still got the old typeface. It's very good. I would highly recommend it. It's a little bit old-fashioned.
CONNOLLYIt's a little bit old-fashioned, but it's wonderful that you're learning Irish in Rochester. I know Rochester very well. It's a lovely spot, so...
ELIZABETHOh, you do?
CONNOLLYYeah, it is. Yeah, I've been there a few times.
ELIZABETHOh, wonderful. Would you like to come and be our speaker for our program?
CONNOLLYYes. Yeah, just contact learnirishwithme.com, and I'll -- next time I'm there, I'll meet up with you guys. That'd be great.
ELIZABETHOh, we would love that.
CONNOLLYOK. I'll do that.
ELIZABETHThank you so much. All right.
NNAMDIElizabeth, thank you for using us...
NNAMDI...as a recruiting tool.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Here now is Anne, also in Washington, D.C. Anne, your turn.
ANNEThank you for taking my call, Kojo. I've been -- I just -- before I get to the point I wanted to make, I do want to say that I've been to many Solas Nua's events here in Washington, and it's really a wonderful outfit. And there's also a local outfit. It had a music camp last summer at a high school at (word?) clinic called the teachers' traditional Irish instruments. And you asked about movies, and three I would recommend are "The Wind That Rustles The Barley," and "Hunger," and the other is "Sisters Magdalene." They're all fine, and there are many other fine movies.
ANNEThe point -- the thing I wanted to bring up is that there's a book that I read a couple of years ago by Tom Hayden, who is the California state legislator that had been quite famous during the '60s as an anti-war activist. It's called "Irish on the Inside." And he goes into the, I think, the more serious underlying culture of every people is the ways in which it survived, and he talks about the history of Irish-Americans. There's a lot that I didn't know and that he feels has been suppressed both for Irish-Americans and non-Irish-Americans.
ANNEAnd he makes links to that, the things that people faced here to the whole situation that the Irish faced at the hands of the British in Ireland. It's quite a fascinating book. And one group which never is heard about here that really should be and -- but that is extremely famous in Mexico, and, actually, there's a holiday in their honor every year, is a group of Irishmen that are called the San Patricios. They had been recruited in the U.S. to fight in the Mexican-American War in the 1840s where large areas of Mexico were taken by the U.S. and later became Texas and other states.
ANNEAnd these young men recognized that they actually were in a similar position to the Mexicans because of their history in Ireland at the hands of the British. And so hundreds of them, maybe even thousands, a whole brigade went over to the Mexican side and fought very, very heroically. Unfortunately, they were, you know, caught by the Americans, and they were tortured before they were killed. And today...
NNAMDIAnne, the book you mentioned by Tom Hayden is called "Irish on the Inside," where you can find stories like that.
ANNEIt's called "Irish -- that's right. Thank you so much.
NNAMDIAnd thanks for the history lesson, Anne. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You know, Kevin, Anne mentioned movies. And, of course, the Academy Award for best short film went to "The Shore" last month. It's a Northern Irish short film dealing with a relationship between childhood best friends who grew apart during what's known as the troubles. But Irish films have been doing well recently. What movies have you been seeing, Kevin, that you would recommend?
O'SHEALast one I saw was "The Guard," which was quite amusing.
NNAMDISame here. I think I've seen it three or four times.
O'SHEAYeah. That's good stuff right there. And I've seen "The Hunger," which the lady mentioned, which is a whole different phylum but a good history lesson on the troubles in Ireland back in the '80s.
NNAMDI"The Guard," of course, also features Don Cheadle. The name of the star of "The Guard," however, I'm blanking on it right now.
NNAMDIBrendan Gleeson. To my surprise, I went to see the new Denzel Washington movie "Safe House," and who was in that movie? Brendan Gleeson was also in that movie with a completely different accent.
O'SHEAYeah, he does a good job.
CONNOLLYHe's everywhere. Like -- I think he's in "The Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter," and he just keeps turning up everywhere.
NNAMDIYeah. Any movies anyone else wants to recommend?
CONNOLLYI would recommend "Intermission." That's a movie from about 2004. It sort of broke with the tradition of Irish film. You know, you're seeing more modern Irish movies now and moving away from some of the stereotypes that people are used to. So I think that was a bit a breath of fresh air. And "In Bruges" is another strong movie...
O'SHEAWhich is another Brendan Gleeson movie.
CONNOLLYOh, yeah, again with Brendan Gleeson. And animation has been very strong in Ireland, like the -- there's one called "The Secret of Kells" and another one called "Give Up Yer Aul Sins." Those are really good ones. I think maybe you have the link on your website, but -- it is there.
NNAMDIYep, we certainly do.
NNAMDIWe have the links to those on our website. And what was the other thing I was going to mention about movies and Ireland? Oh, the fact that "The Guard" became the most successful independent Irish film of all time by the amount of money it grossed at the box office.
O'SHEAI didn't know that. That's pretty cool.
NNAMDIYes, indeed. Grossing over $4.3 million -- 4.13 million dollars -- euros in Ireland, made about $3 million here in the U.S. We're going to take a short break. And if you have calls, stay on the line. Believe me, we will get to your calls, but the lines are all filled. So if you'd like to join the conversation, go to our website, kojoshow.org. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow. How do you plan to celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about Irish culture and language. We're talking with Jenny McFarlane. She is the fashion and music coordinator of Solas Nua, a contemporary Irish arts organization. And if you want to keep up with events at Solas Nua, you can go to their website. And you'll find a link at our website, kojoshow.org. Kevin O'Shea is with us. He's been a member of the Washington D.C. Gaels football team for 16 years.
NNAMDIAnd Ronan Connolly teaches Irish language and culture at Catholic University and at his company, which is called Learn Irish With Me. There are so many calls. I'll go directly back to the phones. And Stephanie, in Stafford, Va., thank you for waiting. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEPHANIEThank you, Kojo. I enjoy your show immensely. I learn something new every time I listen, and, you know, that has happened already again today. My question is for the panel. I am a 25-plus year collector of Tyrone Crystal, another one of the wonderful things that comes out of Ireland. We've mentioned already the (word?) the whiskey. And I am curious to know -- the factory closed several years ago, which saddens me, and I didn't know if anyone on the panel was aware if someone has taken up the mantle and is going to restore Tyrone Crystal. I just -- I love it so much.
NNAMDIWe need to make a contribution to the quality of Stephanie's life here. Do you know where?
MCFARLANENo, I don't know. I'm not sure.
CONNOLLYI don't know, but Monaghan is beside Tyrone, so I can make some inquiries next time I'm back home. But I don't know offhand.
NNAMDIWe don't know offhand, Stephanie, but we're doing what we can to improve the quality of your life.
STEPHANIEThat's -- well, I will keep looking because it is a wonderful crystal. It's quite hefty. It's solid, and it's extremely beautiful. They've made beautiful pieces, you know, that have been given by presidents to other countries as gifts, and they're just -- it's just beautiful. So if you have a chance to see some Tyrone crystal, please, do.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call, Stephanie. We move on to Eveline (sp?) or Eveline in Takoma Park, Md. Eveline, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EVELINEHi, everyone. I just wanted to share that my husband and I went to Ireland and -- as a vacation, and I highly recommend people to go to visit. We went to County Kerry, and we spent over two weeks. And we visited lakes and rivers and mountains. And we saw free-range sheeps and cows and chickens. And it was a healing place, a peaceful place, and saw many pagan stone circles. We stayed at various B&Bs, and the people were very friendly, very hospitable.
EVELINEAnd what we noticed is how much people were connected to nature and to the animals, and it was a wonderful flow of connection to sea. And, again, I highly recommend people to go and travel there and visit there and also that we're going to go see this Friday The Chieftains here in D.C. And that's what I wanted to share.
NNAMDIOh, there you, The Chieftains. Eveline, thank you very much for your call. I'm glad you talked about the friendliness of people because we got this email from Bernadette, who says, "I'm very interested in traveling to Ireland, but, as an African-American female, wonder how I would be received. Are there any communities of black U.S. expats or African immigrants living there?"
NNAMDIAnd one of the things that some people found disfavor with the movie "The Guard" with is because the protagonist in that movie had a throwaway line in which he said words to the effect that, of course, I'm a racist. It's part of me culture. But I think that line was intended simply for laughs in the movie at that point. What would an -- how would an African-American likely be received on a visit to Ireland, Ronan?
CONNOLLYWell, what I'll say is if you're familiar with the band Thin Lizzy, you'll know Phil Lynott, the lead singer, and he was considered a treasure in Ireland. And he was Irish, and he was black. And so I think -- he has a statue erected there on Grafton Street. So he's considered very warmly in Irish history, and he's always been popular. So I don't think that would be a problem at all.
NNAMDIIn addition to it, there's this, Bernadette. We got this email from Carl, who says, "My grandmother led Atlanta Saint -- Atlanta's St. Patrick's Day parade in the 1930s. Raised in County Cork, he was a short red-headed, with blue eyes, fluent in Gaelic. He loved to sing Irish songs, and it mattered to no one that he was a Lithuanian Jew." So there you have it. Back to the telephones now. Here is -- oh, let's continue with this tradition for a while. Here's Gail -- or with this line of thought. Gail, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GAILSo although my heritage isn't Irish, I relate to it a lot. But I actually have a lot of Scot heritage, and I lived in Aberdeen, Scotland, for a number of years. And speaking to the young woman whose email you just read, I lived there for two years, and I was very well accepted and totally felt that the culture was a part of my life. In fact, when I arrived in Scotland, I was in a parade one day. And their bagpipes were playing, and I started crying.
GAILThese tears just started rolling down my eyes, and this old Scotsman looked at me and said, you know, y'lass, you must have a bit of Scot in you if you cry when you hear the bagpipe.
GAILAnd at that time, however, I didn't know that. I found out from a family relative, some months later, that my great-great grandfather had emigrated from Aberdeen, Scotland. So my -- the Mathias clan, which was -- my family name was Matthews. (sp?) Matthews is part of the Mathias clan, and I was actually living in the home of the Mathias and the Matthews.
NNAMDIWell, and you are African-American, which you...
GAILAnd I am -- very much so, very much so.
NNAMDIYou got to repeat what the elderly gentleman said to you again.
GAILYou know, y'lass, you must have a bit of Scot in you to cry when you hear the bagpipe.
NNAMDIYou must have a bit of Scots in you indeed.
NNAMDIGail, thank you very much for your call.
CONNOLLYKojo, if it's worth mentioning...
CONNOLLY...Barack Obama is also considered to be Irish, going way back.
NNAMDIThis is true.
CONNOLLYSo if we're talking about African-Americans, that's another example.
NNAMDIYes. He does have Ireland in his ancestry. But, Ronan, it's been said that, given its relatively small physical size, Ireland has made an outsized contribution to literature. Listeners, of course, may be familiar with the classic works of Joyce and Yates. But who are the more contemporary authors that you would recommend checking out?
CONNOLLYI would recommend checking out Emma Donoghue's book "Room," which I'm sure a lot of your listeners have read or have come across. Also Neil Jordan, the famous director of some of the movies we were talking about, and Michael Collins, who made "Interview with the Vampire." He's also a renowned writer, and it's worth checking out his stuff. But then there's also Pat McCabe, Maeve Binchy.
CONNOLLYMany of you would know Roddy Doyle is very contemporary. He -- and he wrote a book called "The Commitments," which is a fantastic movie. And if any of your listeners like soul music, they should definitely check out "The Commitments." It celebrated its 20th anniversary there last year. It's a great movie. John Banville, he also writes as Benjamin Black, under that pseudonym. He's a very highly respected writer, so -- and then if you like (word?), Cecelia Ahern. She wrote the movie "P.S. I Love You."
NNAMDIAll right. On to Yuri (sp?) in Arlington, Va. Yuri, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YURIHi, Kojo, I love your show. And thank to -- thanks to your guests for appearing for us this month. And I just want to relate a couple of anecdotes, how everybody wants to be Irish on St. Pat's Day. Yuri is a Japanese name. It means lily of the valley. I'm Japanese, and my brother, of course, is too. And my maiden name is Iida, I-I-D-A. And I had a blind friend in high school, and she knew I was Jappy. She felt my hair, how coarse it was and everything. And she even let me play around with her Braille machine.
YURIBut she asked my brother what nationality we were, and he told her, we are full-blooded Irish.
NNAMDIWell, appearance has nothing to do with these things.
YURIWe're short for the O'Iidas.
YURIAnd so, from that St. Patrick's Day on, he got a -- I'm Irish shirt, and then he was so ashamed and embarrassed and everything. But that kind of stuck with him from then on. And I love "The Commitments." That's one of my favorite movies, and I listen to Chieftains. And I'd love to go to Ireland someday (unintelligible) I guess.
NNAMDIWell, in your head, Yuri, you seem to be already there. So it's just the price of the ticket now between you and being there. By the way, we got an email from George, who says, "Kojo, how about shifting one letter of your name and adding an apostrophe to make it Koj O'Nnamdi to get in the mood." I guess that's what I'll be called for the rest of this week, Koj O'Nnamdi. Thank you very much for your call. On now to Dave in Silver Spring, Md. Dave, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVEThank you, Kojo. I just wanted to, first, say I was a guest on your show a few years ago, and I enjoyed it very much. We were talking about homelessness at the time. But I did a joint study with the University of Pittsburgh in University College Dublin back in 1985. And when we were preparing to go over -- my wife was coming with me. My wife is African-American, and I'm Irish. And we were talking with a friend of mine who's from Sligo. His mother was visiting from Ireland, and my wife asked her and said, we are looking forward to the trip.
DAVEBut are there any black people in Ireland? And Dennis' mother said, well, deary, (sp?) if you come, we'll have two. We were back for a family reunion. My cousin is a UCD professor and an environmentalist, John Theon, (sp?) and...
NNAMDIYou found a lot more than two when you went there, didn't you?
DAVEAbsolutely. So, yeah, we saw quite a change in Dublin. And, of course, our -- we're from Offaly so -- near Tullamore, so we didn't see too many black people there. But it was a great trip, and my wife and I have traveled all over Ireland. And I can tell any of your callers we were warmly received everywhere we went.
NNAMDIDave, thank you very much for your call. Walking down Wisconsin Avenue the other day, I looked at the menu at a local Irish pub, Kevin, and it turned up offerings like Irish chicken curry and Jambalaya pasta.
NNAMDIAre those dishes you find in the local pub back home?
O'SHEAChicken curry maybe, but Jambalaya pasta would be a big stretch down in Kerry.
NNAMDIHave you seen that one, Ronan, the Jambalaya pasta?
CONNOLLYYou know, I would say Ireland is very multi-cultural now, so you could find it somewhere, maybe even in (word?). Who knows?
NNAMDIOK. On, therefore, to Bill in Alexandria, Va. Bill, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BILLThanks, Kojo. Hi to your guests. I've been back to Monaghan many times. My mother was born and raised there. But I wanted to say that, here in Washington, we have a program that's called the Washington Ireland Program. We bring back about between 40 and 50 students each year to intern on Capitol Hill and various government departments. And once a year, we hold a fundraising to do that. It's called the Celtic Chefs. And this year, it is...
NNAMDIAnd the Washington Ireland Program. I'm afraid we're just about out of time, Bill, but people can check that out. Kevin O'Shea, thank you for joining us.
O'SHEAThank you, sir.
NNAMDIKevin O'Shea has been a member of the Washington, D.C. Gaels football team for 16 years. Jenny McFarlane, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIJenny is the fashion and music coordinator for Solas Nua. And, Ronan Connolly, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIRonan teaches Irish language and culture at Catholic University and at his own company, Learn Irish with Me. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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