Today is a day for the history books in Ireland. Official postal codes are being introduced throughout the Republic of Ireland.
What? A country without postal codes?
Until today, Ireland was a numberless country, toying with global logistics gurus throughout the world, by using personalized addresses with mysterious locations known only by the local postman, or woman (we're talking about Ireland, so I'll stick with postman. No need to get all politically correct).
Anyone who has ever mailed a letter to Ireland will understand how simple our addresses were in days gone by, like just yesterday.
And to be honest, I feel a little sad.
Table of Contents
The End Of An Era
This is the end of an era - the end of our personalized addresses with no numbers, unless of course you lived in Dublin. Then you had a very complicated postal code such as "1" .
Non-Irish people are always amazed at how our letters arrive on time despite our uncomplicated addresses. I have often been asked for a postal code when mailing a letter or a parcel home to Ireland. But trust me, Irish mail gets delivered.
The Irish Postman
And the answer to Ireland's postal distribution system is every community's local hero, the postman, whose intricate knowledge of the lay of the land was, and still is, up to every delivery task.
No matter how far off the beaten path a home may stand, nor how challenging the phenomenon of last name clustering may be in a locality, the Irish postman is the savior of the day.
Now you may wonder how can one poor postman be expected to know everyone's name and where they live?
Well, that's the beauty of Ireland. Our postmen know everything ... who you are, where you live, who your father's father was, who's engaged to who, who's having a baby, whose going on holidays, you know, they simply know everything ....
But I suppose all the trouble started with online ordering and non-postal company deliveries. Ireland is a first world country after all, and instructions for the postman such as ...
"Throw that box into the shed for me, and I'll get it later" ...
just won't cut it anymore. The postman could always phone you if you weren't home, to get instructions like ...
"Just leave it in the pub for me, 'cos I'm way up the fields pulling a new calf."
Official global delivery men from the next big town over, have no idea where to go or who to ask for when delivering the latest gadget ordered on the internet.
These poor non-locals frequently go astray trying to find addresses for towns with funny names like Tuam and Maam in County Galway, or Inch and Newtwopothouse in County Cork.
And don't get me started on townlands, which are small districts with origins in the ancient Gaelic system for land division.
Believe me, some have very strange names like .... Muckanagherderdauhaulia, County Galway, or Crazy Corner, County Westmeath or Heavenstown and Bastardstown, County Wexford.
And so, you can understand why these out-of-town delivery men are languishing in a non-postcode haze.
So why can't they just stop someone and ask for directions?
Anyone who has ever been to Ireland knows how good Irish people are at giving directions.
Irish people LOVE to give directions. We're experts at it .....
"You just go over that hill there, and round the sharp bend, and you'll find that house before the next bend."
or perhaps you've heard something like this on a trip to Ireland ...
"It's right beside Johnny the Smith's. He's dead, but they're still there."
(And Smith does not refer to the family's last name, just the fact they used to be blacksmiths in days gone by, or centuries ago. But sure, you'd know that if you were the postman.)
And wait. I have more examples of crazy Irish instructions for finding a place of residence.
"Go left at the big tree, then up the bog road."
(Now how does a blow-in know how big a "big tree" might be in your neck of the woods. Or what on earth a bog road looks like? Ah, but sure the postman knows all the trees, and all the bog roads ....)
"Go beyond the cross, keep going straight till you come to Timmy Ryan's house. Then, it's the one beside the Ryans."
(And who knows all the Ryans in County Tipperary??? You've got it .... the postman).
Have you ever heard incomprehensible directions like these uttered from the lips of an Irish person???
"Go way on out that road there in front of you,and turn up left where the phone box used to be."
And in Donegal they're always talking about the "brae", which is a steep slope or hillside, a term borrowed from our Scottish neighbors.
"Head up the brae. If you come to the second brae, you've gone too far. Turn back and it's the house with the cross dog."
(Now that doesn't mean the dog is a mutt, but is probably a border collie with a testy temperament. Ah but sure, the postman knows that. He knows all the dogs, even the cranky ones.)
"Take the crossroads, then after the bridge take your first left, then next left, then first right, then next right, then pass the convent, and it's the fifth house on the right side with the bright green door."
Now if the route to your destination is that complicated you might get even further offers of assistance. Your helpful Irish guide might even give you his or her phone number to help out.
"Ring me at the crossroads and I'll talk you through it from there."
(Now "ringing" someone is phoning them, and has nothing to do with a date, and rings, or anything like that ..... ).
Eircodes or Irish Postal Codes
Well I suppose the crazy Irish system of local postman knowledge had to grind to a halt some day. I wonder if all the townlands will be forgotten.
The days of the postman having his daily cuppa at 11 with Brigid who bakes those lovely scones, may come to a sudden end .....
But wait all is not lost. Change will not come to Ireland so soon. On checking out the official Eircode website I discovered ....
“Eircodes are not mandatory.”
Whew! We're doing this thing Irish style. No need to comply. No need to learn new numbers for my letters home.
Like many new systems in Ireland, postal codes will be introduced on an as-you-like-it basis.
Ireland may be spending millions on a new “system” but in true Irish fashion we won't bother compelling anyone to use it. You've just got to love Ireland!
Now you wouldn't want to go upsetting anyone, would you? Especially the postman .......
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
Here are some other ramblings and recipes about all things Irish and Irish American, which you might enjoy.