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Ireland and Gin

Gin over the past few years has had a renaissance in Ireland, as it has once again become fashionable with young and old. The success is apparently linked to the popularity of the show Downton Abbey, which shows many characters enjoying the drink. Gin has an interesting history, originating in the Netherlands (hence the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”).

By the end of the Eighty Years war in 1609, gin had come to British shores and slowly gained popularity from then on. In the latter half of the 19th century, the gin and tonic was invented. British people in India drank gin and tonics due to their antimalarial properties. Quinine, a bitter malaria treatment, was mixed with tonic water, sugar, lime and gin to create a sweeter tipple. Gin has since become a staple ingredient in other cocktails such as a Vesper Martini, Negroni and Tom Collins.


Although typically thought of as a Dutch and later, British drink, in Ireland, there is a particular growth in the “boutique” gin market, with new labels coming from all over the country – in places such as Dingle, Leitrim and Glendalough. These often use local and/or wild botanicals, which give Irish gins distinct flavour. Some of the most interesting ingredients include seaweed, mountain heather, potatoes and rhubarb. Many also only make small batches, adding to the detail of the process. Tonic, which is so often served with gin also has seen many new flavours and brands pop up in the past few years. Thyme, hibiscus, rosemary and lavender are some of the flavours Irish creators are using at the moment. 

If you’re in Ireland, be sure to try some of our distinctive gin culture! And don’t forget to come by our shop, located just off Grafton Street, for more fond memories of your visit. You can also shop online on our Irish Jewelry store.



History Of The Claddagh Ring

The claddagh ring is an iconic design – as seen worn by Bono, Walt Disney, Julia Roberts, Jim Morrison and Liam Gallagher, to name a few. The ring is made up of two hands holding a heart wearing a crown. The phrase “Let Love and Friendship reign” sums up the design’s message: the hands are for friendship, the heart for love and the crown for loyalty. It was historically used as a wedding ring by a small area for over four hundred years. But what’s the history of this Irish design that is now worn by many people on and off the island?

The claddagh ring design is said to have originated in a fishing village, Claddagh, in county Galway on the west coast. The story goes that Richard Joyce, born around 1660, was travelling to the West Indies when he was captured and sold as a slave to a goldsmith who trained him. He was released from slavery in 1689 and he returned to Galway and worked as a goldsmith there. The claddagh ring design was originally his. With time, many more versions of the ring have been created, some of which can be found in our store and online shop.

Aside from the ring’s unique history and design, the way it is traditionally worn is also of significance. If the ring is worn with the crown pointing towards the finger nail (thus the heart to one’s heart), it means they are in love or married. Wearing the ring with the heart pointed towards the finger nail means they are single or looking for love. However, not everyone who wears a claddagh ring knows this tradition, so don’t always believe it to be true!

In store we have a copy of The Claddagh Ring by Malachy McCourt, a great read on the history of the claddagh if you’re interested. As mentioned, we also have numerous claddagh designs, not just as rings but pendants and more too. We are always happy to custom make and fit jewellery to your liking, if you contact us in store, online or over the phone. We hope you enjoyed this little segment of Irish history.



Irish Slang


Ireland has a rich amount of slang, that is constantly changing. As a twenty-something year old Irish person, I thought I’d shed some light on our slang. I was born and raised in Dublin, so these are words I grew up using and still use now. It’s worth noting that slang varies across the island, so the majority of these words may not come across clearly outside of Dublin!

Craic: Probably the most iconic Irish phrase, “craic” comes from the Irish language, and could roughly be translated as “banter” though that still doesn’t capture it truly. It means more broadly lively conversation or action, that’s quite a lot of fun.

Session: A time spent drinking alcohol. It can also mean a trad music session too, but to be honest I’ve mostly only heard it used in relation to a long night of drinking.

Hack: If something is a “hack,” it’s tedious to do.

Grand: Unlike the British or American English meaning of “grand,” grand used in an Irish context doesn’t mean something luxurious and large – it just means “ok.” Rather ironically!

Unreal: Something that’s so good, it’s unreal.

Melt / melter: Someone who’s either annoying or incompetent, or both.

Lashing: It’s lashing means it’s raining, very very heavily. A commonly used word as all to often, it is lashing.

Happy out: Very content!

If you enjoyed this small selection of slang terms. We hope your visit to Ireland won’t be complete without visiting our store in Dublin City, at the Royal Hibernian Way. If you can’t make it here, don’t worry, you can order online through our website. We ship securely worldwide!



Newgrange

Having previously covered James Joyce and Trinity College on this blog, today we’re looking at something much, much older: Newgrange (or in Irish: Brú na Bóinne)! 

Newgrange is a world-famous prehistoric monument in County Meath, just north of Dublin. It’s one of the best examples of a passage-grave in Western Europe. It was built around 3200 BC – making it at least 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt and 1000 years older Stonehenge. It has around 200,000 visitors a year, making it Ireland’s most popular archaeological site. It is estimated it took 300 people 30 years to make.

The old Irish word for womb is Brú and so, Brú na Bóinne may mean “Womb of the Moon.” The layout of the grave in many ways resembles the female reproductive organs. Bizarre, but true. However, the most special thing about this ancient site happens most years on the Winter Solstice. Usually, the sun rises on this day and lights down the main chamber perfectly – showing that the site is an ancient timekeeping piece of architecture. This was rediscovered as a feature of the site in 1967. Nowadays, people are picked by a lottery to get to be there on this special day: https://www.newgrange.com/solstice-lottery.htm

More ancient sites are being found in Ireland all the time – the most recent being one that happened over summer due to the hot weather revealing another monument at Newgrange: https://globalnews.ca/news/4329755/henge-crop-circle-monument-ireland-farmer-field/

If you’re interested in more about Ireland in the past, we have many designs exploring this theme: Newgrange, Ogham writing and the Celts. Carol is also always interested in discussing making custom pieces if you have a particular idea in mind.



Trinity College

Today’s blog is on one of the top visitor destinations in Ireland – and it’s only five minutes walk from our store! Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s oldest third level (university) institute, founded in 1592. Initially when it was built, it was outside the city’s medieval wall, but as Dublin expanded it now has a central location – south of the Liffey River and Dublin’s most famous shopping street, Grafton Street. Some of the college’s famous alumni include Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Edmund Burke, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Ruth Negga and Anne Enright. 

The university has an interesting 500 year history. During the Irish War of Independence, the college’s students and staff became divided on whether to support or reject independence while their college became a battleground. Women were only able to attend the college from 1904 on and Catholics were formally banned from attending by the church until 1970 – due to the college being historically a place for the Protestant Ascendancy. 

Nowadays, the college has a student population of around 16,000 and over 120 student run societies. Some include DU Players (Europe’s largest and most active student drama society) and the Phil (a debating society founded in 1853 which attracts celebrity visitors every year). There is the annual Trinity Ball, a student outdoor event and Europe’s largest private music event – with 7000 attendees on the campus. Previous musicians include Imagine Dragons, Dizzee Rascal, U2, The Smiths and The Cure. There are ever changing myths and superstitions to do with the students every year but the most longstanding is it’s believed to be bad luck to walk below the Campanile bell tower. 

The college houses the world famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from around 800AD. It can be viewed in Trinity’s Long Room library. If you know / can befriend a student of the college, they can take you for free – otherwise there is an entry fee. We hope you get to see us and Trinity College if you’re visiting Dublin sometime soon!