Living In Ireland, Then And Now

Life in Ireland has changed significantly over the past 150 years.  Old images relate stories of the past to us, but have you ever wondered how specific locations in Ireland might have changed with the passing of time?

In today’s post a Cork Photographer tells of his experiences in recreating some of the region’s most iconic images from days gone by.

A big thank you to James Walsh from My Ireland Tour in Cork, detailing his amazing work. And so I’ll hand you over to James to tell his story.


Ireland Then And Now


Grand Parade, Cork

Grand Parade, Cork, circa 1948

 Image Credit


For the first 30 years of my life, living in Cork, I had never noticed any real changes taking place in the city.

I guess when you see a place every day the little differences don’t tend to resonate as much. But I recently moved back to the city after spending a year in the UK and, returning home, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Cork had changed. It must have been all the small, subtle changes I’d never taken note of before.

A paint job on my favorite pub, a new coffee shop, different road layouts, a juice bar next to the War Memorial on the Grand Parade. It felt as though I’d traveled into the future, even if really I’d been left in the past.

After a few days back I started to adjust to my surroundings and it started to feel like the Cork I know and love.

At the same time I kept thinking about the change, wondering if it had changed that much in a year how much had it changed in the last 5 or 10 years.

Knowing about my background in film and photography, a local tourism company called My Ireland Tour asked me to produce a photographic resource based in Cork and I immediately knew the pitch should be “the changing face of Cork city” – an article showing photos of Cork as it was and recreating those same iconic images today.

mit monument

Grand Parade, Cork, as it is today.

Image Credit

I started by researching old archive photos of Cork (some dating back as far as the 1880’s) and marking out the ones that I could recreate from the same location. The results, when put side by side, were fascinating. The cars, clothes, shop fronts had all drastically changed over time but the essence of the city was still there. It was still Cork. It was still Cork people going about their day.

The little story-telling nuances really brought each image to life for me and, bringing in a web-design specialist, I added a ‘magnifying glass’ tool which allows visitors to see every detail up close.

Whether you want to have a closer look at the mysterious woman dashing across Patrick’s Street in 1902 or the license plates of the cars parked across the Grand Parade in 1948 the magnifying glass really adds an extra level of enjoyment to the page. I hope you enjoy browsing through it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Ireland Then and Now : Images of Cork, past and present was conceived, captured and shared by James Walsh on behalf of My Ireland Tour. 


A big thank you to James for his amazing work and this guest post. I hope you all enjoy the pictures of Cork, both old and new, which can be accessed through the links above. I loved using the magnifying tool to appreciate details of the pictures from the past.


Slán agus beannacht,

(Goodbye and blessings),


Irish American Mom

Irish Farm Safety

Farm safety is a key issue for Irish farmers. Unfortunately many lives were lost and severe injuries sustained on Irish farms last year. A big safety awareness initiative is currently underway in Ireland to help save lives.

A line of Irish cows or yearlings

The Irish Farmers Journal is a weekly agricultural newspaper which I remember well from my childhood days. Although I was raised in Dublin, I hail from a long, long line of County Cork farmers on both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family.

The content of this weekly publication is agriculture to the core. The editors of the journal stay at the cusp of major farming developments, and highlight issues of importance for Irish farmers today. 

When I was contacted about the possibility of using my website to share information about farm safety, at first I thought, this topic is not in keeping with my blog’s storyline and theme. Then I gave more thought to this serious situation, and realized sharing this information is of extreme importance.

Like me, many of you hail from a long line of Irish or American farmers, and I believe you have a wonderful appreciation for rural customs, farming and the importance of agriculture to our shared cultural heritage.

2014 was a horrendous year in terms of lives lost and injuries suffered on Irish farms. I hope that by publishing this informative graphic created by the Irish Farmers Journal, I may in some small way help to create awareness about the seriousness of this situation.

Even if you, as a reader of my blog, have never set foot on a farm, I hope you appreciate the importance of spreading this safety message.


Farm Safety Image Credit

A big thank you to Pat O’Keeffe, the News Editor for The Irish Farmers Journal, for sharing this piece with me. I truly hope that 2015 will be a safer one for Irish farmers and their loved ones.


Slán agus beannacht leat.

Goodbye and blessings,

Irish American Mom

What Are You Giving Up For Lent?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season and a day when many receive ashes, marked in a cross on our foreheads as a symbol of our mortality.

Ash WednesdayImage Credit

I remember receiving ashes in school as a little girl in Dublin. We held the hair of our fringes (bangs in America) to one side, closed our eyes and prayed for a huge daub of black ash to land right smack in the middle of our foreheads.

Whoever got the darkest marking wore it with pride. The blacker the ash, the greater the heavenly trophy.  We loved to compare foreheads to decide who won the “ashes” that year. 

But our school girl banter did not end there.  Ash Wednesday discussions centered on the burning question of the day ….


“What are you giving up for Lent?”


Our biggest wish was to respond ……


“I’m giving up school for Lent.”


And we thought we were ever so funny when we answered ….


“I’m givin’ up givin’ up things for Lent.”


Remember I was a Dublin school girl, so the final “g” in every “-ing” word was optional.

But usually we settled on givin’ up sweets (candy) for 40 long days and nights.

Now if you were lucky you lived in a house where your mother agreed with the Church and accepted that Sundays are not technically part of Lent.  A little indulgence might be allowed on the Sabbath Day.

But not in our house. My mother stuck to her theory that it would be too difficult to give it all up again every Monday morning. She believed it was easier to simply stay off the sweets until Easter Sunday.

But on one special day we jumped straight off that sweet wagon. We were granted one, and only one, Lenten reprieve.

To celebrate our favorite saint, the most famous of all adopted Irishmen, St. Patrick himself, my sisters and I had a little treat or two or three.

What To Give UpImage Credit


Oh let’s face it!  On St. Paddy’s Day we gorged on sweets and chocolate to honor our patron saint all day long.

And once again on March 18th we suffered through our sugar withdrawals. I’ve no idea why we thought is was so difficult because we didn’t even give up biscuits or cake for Lent.

Our sacrifices were no where near a complete sugar separation, but in stoic Irish fashion we supposedly endured our abstinence from sweets for the remaining days of our penitential torture.

To start this 2015 Lenten Season off on the right footing confession time has arrived for me.


“I confess to you, my readers, that in my early years

I never succeeded in adhering to my Lenten sacrifices.”


I feel better already for sharing my fallibility with you. Let me explain my childhood sins.

When “off the sweets” for Lent my sisters and I collected any sweets and treats from our relatives and parents and saved them in a jar for Easter Sunday. The chocolate bars I left unwrapped, but if I got my hands on a packet of jelly tots or dolly mixtures I opened the packet and emptied those sweet temptations into my jar.

Our jars were placed on the highest shelf of the dresser. And if I ever found myself all by my lonesome, staring at my saved jar of sweeties, I confess I scaled that dresser, fumbled with the lid of the jar, and sneaked out a jelly or two to sooth my sugar cravings.

Invariably one of my sisters or my mother arrived back into the kitchen before I had completely scoffed my loot. That’s how I learned how to make candy last a long time, allowing it to melt sweetly and quietly on my tongue without being noticed.

I nearly got caught red handed on many an occasion.  My mother must have thought I took a vow of silence for Lent, I was left speechless so often.

My sister was always pleasantly surprised when she finally opened her sweet packages and emptied them into her jar on Easter Sunday.  For some ‘strange’ reason she always ended up with far more sweets than I did.

A few years ago we were reminiscing about our days of Lenten sweet saving and she admitted she knew I was “on the take” all through Lent.

Ashes To GoImage Credit

And so now, I turn the clock forward to 2015. Once again I am going to try to give up candy and chocolate for Lent. I hope I will succeed this time.

If you have any stories about your childhood Lenten sacrifices, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Wishing every one success on your Lenten missions this year.


Slán agus beannacht,

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Why Graveyards Remind Me Of Christmas

Visiting our departed loved ones at Christmas is an age old Irish tradition. My childhood memories of Christmas Day include a trip to the local cemetery to say a prayer at the gravesides of our deceased relatives and friends.

Irish graveyard - Leaba Molloga, Kildorrery, Co. Cork

To many this may seem a very grave matter for Christmas time, but if like me your heritage is Irish, connecting Christmas with death is a perfectly normal and natural thing to do.

Honoring our ancestors and those who have gone before us is very important to Irish families.  Christmas is a family holiday which we not only celebrate with the living, but also the dead. When a close relative is unable to visit a grave, a cousin or a friend will often complete the traditional task.

Irish graveside

I have heard that Finnish people also observe this tradition of Christmas visits to graveyards. There however, the visit usually happens on Christmas Eve just before dark.  Finns usually light a candle in memory of their loved ones.  I can only imagine how beautiful it must be as darkness falls.  Graveyards must transform into a beautiful sea of candles.

On Christmas Day in Ireland graveside weed pulling is deferred, but old vases and pots of decaying flowers are replaced with wreaths of holly and ivy.  We pay our respects in many ways. Some write little notes, and graveside mementos are placed respectfully over the dead.

Irish graveyard ruin

But these customs are not reserved for the recently departed. Our long lost ancestors are often acknowledged on this holy of holy days.

Cemetery visitors nod to each other, respectfully conveying season’s greetings, yet all the while acknowledging our forebears are now close neighbors.

Like many other Irish people, I find graveyards have long been a source of solitude, comfort and contemplation.  Even as a child I never objected to our yuletide cemetery visits, recognizing at a young age that this was part of our heritage – our family duty.

Ancient door in an old Irish church

As I have grown older and look back on my Irish childhood I have come to fully appreciate this family ritual, even though many may deem it too somber for this merry season. But I never felt somber as I searched headstones for names I recognized so well.

Our ritual actually felt joyous, as if somehow in my young heart I knew I was bringing the joy of Christmas to our beloved family members who had passed away. Together we honored their lives, aware their lives gave us life, and the ability to celebrate this joyous season.

Celtic Cross, Molloga Graveyard, Kildorrery

A silent spiritual music provided rhythm to our Christmas stroll around grave stones and family memorials. Trees seemed silent and indifferent, yet ancient stones comforted us, rooting us to the valleys of our past.

As I now walk amongst the Celtic crosses of my memories, I am reminded that we too are simply passing through. We are only temporary residents on earth, yet duty bound to find joy in the simple things in life, especially family holidays and celebrations.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

Chilblains, Hot Water Bottles And Other Chilly Memories Of An Irish Childhood

Chilblains were part and parcel of an Irish childhood for many when I was growing up.  Memories of red, itchy, inflamed toes still linger for my generation, but painful, chilblain flash blacks still haunt the generation that went before me.

Chilblains and Hot Water Bottles

Now many of you are probably wondering what on earth a chilblain could possibly be. The word is not feared here in America, with very few even being familiar with the term.

One cold winter’s day I was reminiscing with an American friend, and asked her if she ever suffered from chilblains as a child. A flash of fear spread across her face, as if I had asked her if she ever had the plague. She never before had heard of the dreaded CHILBLAIN, but the very word put the fear of God in her.

A Chilblain On The Third Toe

A Chilblain On The Third Toe

She was relieved to hear they’re non-contagious, small, itchy swellings on the skin that occur as a reaction to extremely cold temperatures. I have only ever seen chilblains of the toes, but apparently they can appear on fingers, heels, ears and even on the tip of the nose.  OUCH!

I was one of the lucky ones in Ireland in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. My little piggies seldom succumbed to the frosty bite of winter’s chilly air, but my poor sister often complained of burning, itchy toes that swelled and turned bright red. Sometimes her poor little piggies were blistered by these notorious chilblains.

Chilblains seldom occur in America, because despite the cold winter temperatures, the air is dry, unlike the cold, damp conditions found in Ireland and the United Kingdom during the winter months. Chilblains were common in my youth, in the days before we had central heating.

Now it’s time for a little technical explanation … after studying physical therapy, I just can’t resist sharing the medical rational behind this winter discomfort.

Chilblains are caused by an abnormal reaction of blood vessels to the cold. As the skin gets cold, blood vessels near the surface get narrower, and then when suddenly exposed to intense heat, the blood vessels near the skin surface grow wider too quickly, and the blood leaks into the surrounding tissue, causing none other than, a chilblain. Warming our freezing toes by an open fire was not a good idea.

Allergy to cold and hives are two diagnoses some American readers have reported, but I think a differential diagnosis of chilblains might be indicated in some cases.

A Cozy Fire

Does anyone remember coming in from the freezing rain, discarding coats and scarves by the door, and ripping off wet shoes and socks to wiggle those freezing piggies by the fire?  If you answered yes, then you must be IRISH.

Little did we know we were creating the perfect conditions for a CHILBLAIN ATTACK.

I remember sitting by the cozy fire in the living room, my legs all toasty and warm, mottled red and white from the heat of the fire. We always said we had the ABC’s on our legs when we overheated our skin. I remember trying to convince myself I didn’t need to go upstairs to the bathroom, afraid to face the arctic air of the hallway. You see, when I was young, most houses were heated by an open fire, with no central heating. The living room was the only comfortable room in the house.

Hot water bottle

At night we snuggled under a layer of wooly blankets and brought our favorite friend to bed – the hot water bottle, hoping to ward off those dreaded chilblains. In my day, if our hot water bottle was too warm at first, we wrapped it in a towel, but nowadays they come with all kinds of fancy covers.

Apparently wearing socks in bed is a better way to prevent chilblains. Our hot water bottle solution only exacerbated the situation, creating more exposure to extreme temperatures.  Little did we know!  And oh, how I loved my pink hot water bottle. It was made of pink rubber, and had no fancy knitted heart like this modern day hot water bottle pictured below.

Pink polka dot hot water bottle cover with a white heart

Chilblains are now practically a thing of the past. Central heating has ensured most houses have a nice warm, dry atmosphere promoting chilblain free Irish feet.

A few years ago when I took a guided tour of Glenveagh Castle in County Donegal, I learned a neat little fact about its previous aristocratic inhabitants.

Servants were tasked with warming the master’s bed before he retired for the night. No, the poor servant didn’t have to jump in and lie there for a while to warm the sheets.

Metal Bed Warmer

Metal Bed Warmer

Image Credit

The task of heating the sheets was accomplished using a special metal bed warmer, which consisted of a copper container, shaped a little like a frying pan.  The pan was filled with hot coals from the fire, covered with a finely perforated lid, then placed under the bed covers. A long handle allowed the servant to swish the hot pan over and back across the sheets without burning them.  This process also dried out damp beds. I wonder if the gentry suffered from chilblains?????

Anyway, as I snuggle under my comforter each evening, warmed by the soothing warmth of my forced air heating system, I wiggle my pain free toes, and count my blessings. It’s lovely to live in a chilblain free age.

And so, I hope all my American readers have learned a little bit about our Irish winter time ailments of days gone by, and that my Irish readers won’t have any chilblain infested nightmares after reading this little post with a trip down a chilly memory lane.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom