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

Bidding Farewell – A Not-So-Simple Irish Ritual

Saying goodbye and departing a friend’s home may be a simple act in America, but in Ireland there is an unwritten code of honor that guides farewell rituals.

There are superstitions that must be adhered to, or God forbid you may draw some form of ill fate upon your unsuspecting self.

I always remember my mother’s superstitions about a first visit to a new friend’s home.

She advised me to always leave by the door through which I first entered.

I have arrived at parties in the U.S. where all the guests are streaming through an open garage door. Try as I might to forget obsolete traditions of my youth, my unwilling feet always lead me to the front door of each and every home I visit.

I find it very difficult to arrive non-chalantly through a back door with an enthusiastic announcement of my arrival.  For me, the ding dong of a door bell wards off those bad luck spirits ruling over ancient Irish greeting rituals.

And then of course there is the issue of which door I may leave through without bringing ill luck my way.

Red Gate - Cottage Rear Door

My mother’s words return and you know you should never ignore your mother.


Leave by the door through which you entered on your first visit to a home.


If I go in through an open garage when I arrive in daylight, it can be a little awkward to ask to exit through the garage, if it’s all closed up at the end of a night’s festivities.

Oh the dilemmas of carrying old cultural ways all the way to a new land.


Image courtesy of www.vintagerio.comImage Credit

And then there is the whole drama of bidding farewell to guests in my own home.

Unsuspecting American guests might announce they are about to leave, and try to slip out the back door or through the yard unnoticed.


Not in my Irish American home!


Guests must be escorted to the front door for a proper goodbye and thank you. Even my kids know they should join the farewell party as we move out to the porch.

Into the bargain we stand there and wave goodbye as your car departs down the street. Our front door does not close until you have officially departed.  I know my neighbors think I’m crazy, but what can I say. I’m Irish.

In Ireland farewells can go on and on. Deep conversations are launched at the door. A quick exit is very difficult, so plan your departure with plenty of time to spare.

Now recently I learned of an American term called ‘an Irish goodbye’.  This phenomenon is also called ghosting, and refers to leaving a social gathering without saying your farewells.

I never heard of this expression in Ireland. Perhaps it evolved in the U.S., as those in the know slipped out the back door, to avoid the infamously prolonged real Irish goodbye.

Shakespeare may have summed it all up when he said “parting is such sweet sorrow,” but in Ireland parting is full of superstition, and endless chat.

If you know of any other Irish superstitions regarding the rituals of coming and going, please feel free to tell us in the comment section below.

And so, without any more fuss, I bid you all farewell this cold and wintery January evening.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

What Is Irish Turf?

When most Americans hear the word “turf”, an image of green grass immediately comes to mind, like the lush green turf of a golf course.  For Irish people the word conjures up dreams of lapping flames, and the distinctive smells of a turf fire.

And so today I thought I might introduce my American readers to Irish turf.

© Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Image Credit

Known as peat in other parts of the world, the Irish prefer the term turf, unless referring to hard, compressed fuel blocks known as peat briquettes.

But whatever you call these brown earthen blocks, I think most Irish people appreciate the warmth and comfort of a turf fire.

Image Credit

 Turf is dried peat and was a primary fuel source for Irish people for thousands of years.

© Copyright Derek Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Image Credit

Upon hearing the word ‘turf’ my husband immediately recalls days of back breaking summer toil, cutting, stacking, drying and bagging winter’s fuel supply. 

When he reached his teenage years, his poor father had to peel him off the bed to come help him in their Donegal bog.  Somehow the lure of an ice cream cone at the end of the day had lost its appeal for a cool teenager.

© Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Image Credit

In the past, Irish people used turf to heat their homes and cook their food.  Turf was harvested from a bog.  Cutting turf by hand is a laborious task.

A two-sided spade called a sleán is used to slice blocks of peat from the bog.

© Copyright Jeremy Durrance and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Image Credit

So much work was involved entire families, in years gone by, took part in the summer turf cutting expeditions to the bog.  Everyone’s effort was necessary to save enough fuel to sustain the family throughout the cold winter season.

Preparing turf requires drying it out so that it will ignite when lighted. 

Sods of newly cut turf are laid out in the sun and turned to allow them to dry.

© Copyright Pamela Norrington and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

Image Credit

The turf blocks or sods are then stacked into small ‘stooks’ as shown in the photo above.

These little towers of peat allow the wind to blow through the sods and help with the drying process.

Standing the sods of turf upright and leaning them against each other is no easy task. This process is called ‘footing’ the turf.

© Copyright Liz McCabe and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Image Credit

Stacking turf is back breaking work.

Very few people cut turf these days, but in some western counties turf stacks can still be seen in the summer months, balancing precariously against each other to dry out in the wind and the sun.

The sods of turf in the picture above are almost ready for the fire.  However, they probably wouldn’t see a match until the cold days of winter.

Connemara Turf Pile – © Copyright Chris N Illingworth and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

Image Credit

Once the turf is deemed dry enough it is gathered together into a great mound or rick for storing.

In the summer months of 1846, at the time of the Great Irish Famine (1845 – 1850) many Irish people were too hungry and weak to work in the bog. 

Cutting turf and saving it was exhausting work. A day at the bog was a daunting prospect on an empty stomach.

As a result the poorest Irish folk had an inadequate fuel supply stored for the winter months of 1846-1847. And to make matters even worse, that winter was cruel, with bitterly cold temperatures. 

I have read that people took to drying cow dung to burn in their fires for heating, since they had no turf saved.

Such sad, sad times.

  © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

© Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Image Credit

Today turf cutting is primarily completed by machinery in the vast bogs of Ireland’s inland counties. But you’ll still see turf stacks in unusual places along the coast.

In the photo above a rick of turf has been gathered on top of the high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal.

Turf Fire in an old Irish hearth

Turf cut from peat bogs may be the traditional fuel in the west of Ireland, but unfortunately it is a smoky fuel. It has been  banned in smokeless urban zones.

In my granny’s cottage kitchen in rural Ireland turf was the fuel of choice. I still remember the bright, lapping flames of the turf fire, and the sweet aromatic scent that permeated her kitchen.

Cozy Fireside - Irish Thatched Cottage

Turf brings back lovely childhood memories.

Let us know in the comment section below if you have ever had the pleasure of warming your toes in front of a glowing turf fire, or perhaps you endured days on end of back breaking labor to save the precious turf when you were a child. I’m looking forward to reading all your stories.

Many Irish pubs in the west of Ireland still burn turf in open fires, helping tourists and locals experience a little bit of the olden ways of Ireland.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom