When two Irishmen meet the first question asked is usually:
“What county are you from?”
Irishmen find identity in their county of origin, always believing their county to be the best. No matter where an Irishman wanders across the globe, his heart sings when he connects with a fellow Irishman, and especially a fellow county man (or woman as the case may be).
A satellite view of Ireland reveals no divides and markings, just one beautifully green island. Yet Irish people love their counties with zeal and passion
This innate love of county one would assume stems from some ancient, mythical symbolism associated with these provincial divides. Many an Irish man assumes the division of Ireland into thirty-two counties is our Celtic inheritance from High Kings and wise druids who ruled through the Brehon laws.
The thirty-two county division of Ireland is a system of convenience created by English rulers, dating back to the time of King John (early 13th century). These English, administrative, and randomly drawn lines, may no longer hold any meaning for governance, yet the Irish have embraced these divisions and bestowed upon them a sacred quality.
Personal identity and connection are intertwined in myths, which assign certain traits for all born in a specific county. These traits may be complimentary or not. Cavan people are notoriously miserly. Corkonians are rebellious in nature. Kerrymen are crafty, and Galwegians are tribal, to name but a few.
Irish people cling to their county identity, cherish their territory as God’s country, extol the magnificence of its beauty spots, and reverently sing songs to celebrate its famous sons and daughters.
County consciousness is further enhanced by the Gaelic Athletic Association. County rivalries in hurling and Gaelic football are fierce. All-Ireland championship matches dominate summer sporting events. Gaelic games are a rich source of pageantry, strengthening county pride with the waving of flags and the donning of county colors.
And so, whatever forces may have shaped county awareness, the identity a county imbues on its people, is an integral part of Irish life. It is about a sense of place, of community, local friendships, and a deep affinity for your childhood home.
I have added a new page in my Lessons for Tourists category, called “Ireland – County-by-County”. Although I am most familiar with three Irish counties, Dublin, Cork and Donegal, I can say I have at least driven through all 32 counties.
Over the next few weeks and months, I plan to take you on a tour of Ireland’s beautiful counties, share pictures and recount tales of county heroes past and present.
I plan to present each county in alphabetical order, starting with County Antrim. Many Irish tourist websites focus on images of Ireland’s scenic west coast. Small inland counties like Carlow, or Longford are seldom mentioned. Here we will tour all corners of my homeland, visiting counties both big and small. I hope you enjoy this tour, and some beautiful images of Ireland. Come back and visit often, so you don’t miss out on your favorite county.
As I publish each new county post, I will add a link to this alphabetical list.
Slan agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom