Ireland & County Pride
|On Howth Head, looking towards Dun Laoghaire|
When I first moved to Ireland, one of my goals was to visit every county. I did a fairly good job in those first few years. I was a student, footloose & fancy free and enjoyed the open road. I became particularly smitten with the lush beauty of County Limerick and the laid back vibe of uber-cool Galway city. I walked the medieval streets of Kilkenny and hitchhiked from Tralee to Cork (in the early 90s, when it was still fairly safe to do so). I visited Oliver Plunkett's shrunken(ish) head in Drogheda and the old, ruined monasteries of Glendalough and Clonmacnoise. In Ireland, you never run out of things to see and do.
As I got older and more settled, my frequent travels became less so. And yet its never been easier to travel through Ireland. Bypass roads make the cross-country journey so short its ridiculous. We might be a small country (relatively speaking, half the area of Washington State) but our culture is rich and this includes our county identities. Once, while traveling in Tipperary I was told of a Tipperary farmer who's land straddled the Tipp/Kilkenny boarder and who woke up every morning and pissed into Kilkenny (if this doesn't make sense to you, know that Tipperary & Kilkenny are fierce competitors in the hurling). While studying in Cork, I was frequently reminded that it, not Dublin, was the rightful capitol of Ireland. I enjoyed learning all the County GAA nicknames. Why is Cavan the Breffni County? Why is Tipp the Premier? Why is Clare called The Banner?
Then there was the challenge of becoming familiar with the accents. There are so many different accents just in Dublin city alone. I became familiar with the term 'stage Irish', essentially non-Irish actors doing Oirish accents badly and OTT. After first not being able to distinguish between a Scottish and Northern Irish accent (I know, the shame), I am now proud that I can read dialogue written in a Norn Iron accent and actually get it. Mostly.
So out of a sense of pride and love for my home I decided to create a map inspired by the Google autocomplete map of US stereotypes.
Not surprisingly, a country with over 300 million people has different results to one with just over 6 million people. A lot of the Google results for Irish counties are based on their nicknames (The Lilywhites, etc) and it appears that the Google default autocomplete when one types "Why is County [X] _____" is to fill in the blank with "in Northern Ireland". Random and surprising, to say the least.
One of the best Letters to the Editor I have ever read occurred in the summer of 2004. A Greek national had been traveling through Ireland and wrote to the Irish Times to declare how proud he was to see the national colors of Greece (blue and white) displayed in towns along his tour of the Irish coast. Particularly in the Waterford area. He was delighted to see the 'small European States sticking together' and Ireland's support for Athens holding the Summer Olympics. (If you're laughing right now, you get it.)
Speaking of county colors, its quite delightful to see the creative flag waving during All-Ireland season. I've seen Japanese & Canadian flags at Cork matches, but my favorite so far is seeing a family from Mayo, decked out in Mayo colors and carrying a massive Mexican flag. Mayo Abú!