Picau ar y maen: an authentic Welsh cake recipe!

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From my Instagram! #foodporn

So…here’s my attempt at interpreting my great-grandma Watkins’s beautiful but illegible handwriting. The more readable writing at the bottom of the note is from my grandpa Jim, who inherited this recipe from his mother and makes these bad boys like no one else.

4 cups flour

1.5 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2.5 tsp. nutmeg / 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 box of currants or raisins

1.5 cup shortening

Makes 48 cakes.

Mix all dry ingredients. Then, add 2 beaten eggs. Fill cup with milk. Then [flavored? illegible] currants. If sticky, add a little bit of flour. Roll out to about 5/16″ thick; cut to about 2.75″ diameter (in my opinion, the thinner the better, but tastes vary). Fry on electric skillet until golden (don’t bake them! Grandpa Jim was wrong!) at about 300 degrees. 

Traditionally, the recipe calls for lard instead of shortening, but my family tries to be a bit more cruelty-free.

What I’ve given you here is basically the standard variety of Welsh cake, but traditional recipes vary based on region. My family originates from the coal fields of Glamorgan and cwm Rhondda, which is in the extreme south of Wales, and there, homemade berry jam is added on top of the cake as a teatime staple!

What I love about the concept of a “Welsh cake” is that, in reality, it’s pretty similar to most griddle cakes made in the U.K., but Welsh people are so insistent that this is a Welsh thing, and literally call it a *Welsh* cake — it’s a pretty wonderful assertion of identity through food.

Baseball in Ireland

So, initially I wanted to post my full paper about Irish society hindering the growth of baseball in Ireland on here that I wrote for a class last semester, but the file is too large. Instead, I’ll post the highlights of the paper.

My Personal Experience:

My experience with Irish baseball began in November of 2015. Both of my paternal grandparents were born and raised in Ireland so I was proud when I finally became an Irish citizen and learned of the potential opportunity to represent Ireland on the National Baseball Team. They did not recruit me by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason I was even aware that there was an Irish National Baseball Team was because the players on the British National Team told me about the Irish team during a post-high school European baseball tour. Following the news that I had become an Irish citizen—two years after my time in Europe—I spent a few hours on the Internet attempting to learn how I could play for the ‘Boys in Green,’ and eventually settled on simply emailing the head coach after coming across the Baseball Ireland website. I sent Coach Sean Mitchell an email telling him that I was interested in playing for the team and followed up by sending a recruiting video to him. He responded a few weeks later and informed me that I had made the team. Six months later, in June 2016, I arrived at my first National Team practice at the International Baseball Centre in Ashbourne with absolutely no idea what to expect. While it was, and still is, a small operation, I was impressed with the time and energy that was put in to make the National Team competitive.


Hitting and Throwing:

One societal difficulty standing in the way of the growth of baseball in Ireland are the sports that Irish children grow up playing. Hurling, an ancient Irish sport, is a sport that is somewhat similar to lacrosse in the sense that each player has a stick that must be used to advance the ball up field. The catch, however, is that the ball must be hit up and down on the stick while running. Although the form of hitting in hurling is different than baseball, this aspect of the game is actually beneficial to helping Irish children learn how to hit, because hurling cultivates hand-eye coordination. This helps young children to have success when first learning to hit a baseball. That being said, hitting is only half of the game. The other half, throwing and catching, provides serious challenges to Irish children because hurling, Gaelic football, soccer, and rugby are all prominent Irish sports that do not include any overhand throwing motion. During my five weeks in Ireland, it became very clear that this is the skill that the Irish struggle with teaching. Baseball Ireland has had difficulty teaching pitching, and the youth clinic that the National Team ran in July brought the struggles with throwing to the forefront. Children as old as fifteen were on the same throwing skill level as six or seven year olds in America.

On another note, there was a documentary made about the founding of the Irish National Baseball Team. It is pretty entertaining, and gives some insight into the initial struggles they encountered PLUS it’s on youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFlUQfZr3MA



Fun Facts About Harps

Last time I was in Ireland (summer 2014) I got this cute little Irish harp (known more broadly as a Celtic or Gaelic harp, since indigenous Scottish harps are pretty much the same) necklace:

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In Irish this instrument is called a cláirseach. The Irish harp is a national symbol of Ireland and appears on the Irish Euro and the Guinness logo. It was also used as a symbol by Irish nationalist organizations, including the Repeal Association and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. A flag showing a gold cláirseach on a green background was flown above Liberty Hall in Dublin on Easter 1916 and was displayed last year at the centennial celebration of the Easter rising.

The dude is the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins.

The dude is the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins.

The earliest known possible depictions of harps in Ireland date to the 8th century but we don’t know if those are the type of harp that came to be known as the “Irish harp” or if they’re even harps at all. At the very latest, Irish harps had appeared by the 11th century, as shown by this cute little guy on the Breac Maedoc shrine:


Early harps were made of four pieces of wood held together not by glue but by the tension exerted by the strings on the joints between the pieces of wood. Only three Celtic Harps from the Middle Ages remain. Two of these are Scottish: the Queen Mary Harp (Clàrsach na Banrìgh Màiri) which was allegedly a gift from Mary Stuart, and the Lamont Harp. The third is the Irish 14th or 15th-century Trinity College Harp also known as the “Brian Boru Harp.” A legend has arisen around this harp claiming that after Brian Boru’s death, his son brought the instrument to the Vatican where it remained until a 16th-century pope gave it to Henry VIII. In reality, the harp postdates the death of Brian Boru by about 400 years, but I think the existence of this legend shows that the harp is a powerful symbol of Irishness, if it’s considered worth connecting to one of Ireland’s most famous kings. Made of oak and willow, the Trinity College Harp has been reconstructed at least twice, first because it was falling apart from age, next because it had been taken apart for examination, so it might not look now like it did in 1500.


The modern “Irish Harp,” while it looks like the medieval harps, is actually the 19th-century invention of John Egan, though it draws on the ancient Irish harping tradition. Egan took the shape of the medieval Irish harp but altered the instrument with elements of the orchestral harp: gut strings instead of metal strings and, to quote Simon Chadwick, Honorary Secretary of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, “mechanical semitone-fretting mechanisms.” As I can figure out, that gives you more versatility in terms of the notes you can play.

This summer in my class on Irish mythology, folklore, and music I got to hold and play an Irish harp. I wish I had a picture but it looked something like this:

I wasn't dressed like that though.

I wasn’t dressed like that though.

It was the kind you can hold on your lap, not the huge kind that you have to set on the floor. I don’t know how to play the harp but it’s such a cool instrument that all I had to do was touch some strings and it sounded beautiful. At the time, I knew nothing about the long history of Irish harps. If I had, I might have pretended I was the cute little guy on the Breac Maedoc.


“1916 Easter Rising: Irish Citizen Army flag returned to Dublin by Enniskillen museum.” BBC News, 22 March 2016, www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-35875676.

Chadwick, Simon. “The Early Irish Harp.” Early Music, vol. 36, no. 4, 2008, pp. 521–531., www.jstor.org/stable/27655252.

Dooley, P. (2014). “Reconstructing the Medieval Irish Harp.” The Galpin Society Journal, vol. 67, 2014, pp. 107-142, 267-268, 271. search.proquest.com/docview/1534494343?accountid=11321.

“Mary Louise O’Donnell discusses the Brian Boru Harp.” YouTube, uploaded by Patricia O’Callaghan, 16 March 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0ccbVqH8O8.

“Queen Mary Harp.” National Museums Scotland. www.nms.ac.uk/explore/stories/scottish-history-and-archaeology/mary-queen-of-scots/mary-queen-of-scots/queen-mary-harp/.


Celtic Hair History

I’ve had an interest in intricate hair styles pretty much since I’ve had hair long enough to braid. After I’d exhausted the books I’d been given on the subject, I turned to other forms of media. The braids in faux medieval fantasy movies where always the best: ridiculous amounts of both braids and hair, pinned and woven in ways which were a struggle to figure out – and a great triumph once I did so. Because of this interest, I decided to research the history of hair keeping and styling among the ancient Celts and then recreate any styles I found described as well as styles which are currently considered “Celtic.”

Generally, the Celts wore their hair long. Soldiers were sometimes an exceptions; they also wore their hair in rounded, bowl cuts. The Celts were usually described as blond, whether naturally or through the use of chalk or lime-water to lighten the hair. Both those substances change the texture of the hair as well, which would allow soldiers to shape their hair into spikes or tufts as a form of intimidation. Upper class men wore both mustaches and beards, which were usually forked or squared, while lower class men wore simply long mustaches, often curled at the ends. Both men and women wore their hair long, often braided or in curls. Women also wore their braids pinned to the head and also incorporated knots and buns in their hairstyles. Decorative pins, golden beads, ribbons, and precious metals and stones were also incorporated, with the materials differing throughout the classes. Both men and women sometime wore bands of cloth or metal across the forehead, and women sometimes wore similar bands across the crown of the head. Combs were made out of bone or horn.

I’ve decided to recreate three hairstyles: one involving a Celtic knot, one described in a primary text, and one with the numerous braids and adornments which characterized ancient decorative Celtic hairstyles. I’ve used modern tools in all but the first one, like bobby pins, corkscrew pins, and hair elastics, but they would all be possible with the Iron Age tools described above, especially for hair more textured than mine.

The first is a recently popular half-back style called a Celtic knot, which is, as far as I can tell, completely unrelated to any actual historic Celtic hairstyles depicted in art or literature. However, the design is reminiscent of traditional, interwoven patterns portrayed in Celtic art, and women were described as wearing their hair knotted.

Celtic Knot

The second is derived from a description of a beautiful woman in the Irish prose epic Táin Bó Cúlaigne. She wears three braids wrapped around her head, with a fourth hanging down her back to her ankles. There is not a description of the configuration of the braids, and obviously my hair doesn’t reach to my ankles, but I’ve taken my best shot.

Táin Bó Cúlaigne

The third is based on a totally untraceable picture from the internet. Despite my best reverse image searching skills, I couldn’t find the original creator of this style. It’s one of many similar styles which are usually described as Celtic or elven. I apologize for the lighting; the sun went down as I was braiding this one, and I had to take the picture indoors.

Celtic Braids

(Please excuse the messiness. I only got one go at this, and some of the braids came out slightly uneven.)

I hope y’all have found this informative and interesting – and maybe even aesthetically pleasing! I really enjoyed the research and the braiding.

Work Cited

Riley, M. E. “Clothing of the Ancient Celts.” 1997, www.marariley.net/celtic/SentToKass/Cosmetic.htm, 15 February, 2017.

Sherrow, Victoria. “Celts, Ancient.” Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History, Greenwood Press, 2006, pp. 77-8.




My Goodness My Guinness

Let’s talk about beer.  At some point, we have all probably enjoyed a pint (or four) of Ireland’s iconic “black stuff”.  If you have, you’re not alone – in fact, over 10 million glasses of Guinness are consumed, around the world, every single day.  Even the Obamas love a good pint! Guinness has indeed become both an iconic, and wholly beloved aspect of Irish culture.  So how did Irish nectar reach this storied cultural status?  


Source: philly.thedrinknation.com/images/articles/obama-fl.jpg%5B/caption%5D

In 1759, Arthur Guinness, then 34, signed a 9,000 (yes, 9,000) year lease on the property that was to become the world-famous St. James Gate Brewery, where the vast majority of Guinness Stout enjoyed around the world is still brewed today.

[caption id="attachment_1009" align="alignnone" width="970"]Source: http://stjamestearoom.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Arthur_Guinness-2.gif Source: stjamestearoom.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Arthur_Guinness-2.gif%5B/caption%5D

In its fledgeling years, the St. James Gate Brewery only produced a variety Arthur called “Guinness Dublin Ale”.  By 1794, however, darker porter brewed in London had become the newest trend, and Arthur, luckily, decided to try his hand at the new style.  Over the years, this experiment would come to be the Guinness Draught we know and love today, introducing “stout” a completely new beer variety, to the world.  

[caption id="attachment_1010" align="alignnone" width="584"]Source: http://themanagementshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/StJamesGate.jpg Source: themanagementshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/StJamesGate.jpg%5B/caption%5D

So what makes Guinness so special?  A pint of the black stuff only contains four unique ingredients: water (from the nearby Wicklow mountains), hops, yeast, and roasted barley, which gives the beer its iconic dark color.  Nitrogen is then pushed through the liquid to create the iconic creamy head and smooth taste.

[caption id="attachment_1012" align="alignnone" width="584"]Source: http://hostels-ireland.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/92/2016/10/guinness1.jpg Source: hostels-ireland.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/92/2016/10/guinness1.jpg%5B/caption%5D

To enjoy your pint like a true Dubliner, however, you first have to master the art of the perfect pour.  Here’s a handy guide:

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Make sure to wait the full 119.5 seconds for your glass to settle before topping it off (or worse, drinking it) or you will get some very judgmental glances from the Irish folk around you.  Don’t worry, though, foreigners can definitely get it with practice.

[caption id="attachment_1013" align="alignnone" width="720"]15741169_10209447339874787_6008963228955217235_n My dad, on step 5

Now that you have poured the perfect pint, sit back, relax, enjoy, and don’t forget: Guinness good for you.  Slainté!

Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6d/1a/66/6d1a66ae32ab12ec82cb6b2b37b5d61d.jpg Source: s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6d/1a/66/6d1a66ae32ab12ec82cb6b2b37b5d61d.jpg%5B/caption%5D

Works Cited:

“Arthur Guinness Biography: The History Of Guinness Beer.” Astrum People. Astrum People, n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2017.

Cowden, Adam. “The Man Who Invented Beer: All About Guinness.” Heave Media. Heave Media, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 Feb. 2017.

“Our Story.” Guinness® – Beer Made of More™ | Guinness®. Guinness and Co., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2017.

A Reflection on Family and My Own Irish Origins

If first asked, I would describe my family as something dilute. I picture ink drops in water, which, over time, have spread green and purple fingers out far from one another. What marks us as the same is not location, or even physical appearance, but rather an innate, shared stubbornness, a mile-wide independent streak that has, oft as not, left us a bit in trouble and a bit isolated. This self-containedness, combined with the fact that I have grown up with a Polish-Canadian stepmother, has often made me feel separated from my own geographical origins. While I have known people who speak proudly of their heritage, who instinctively lay claim to the countries of their ancestors, I have rarely reflected on my own identity in the context of nationhood. For me, family has always been something behavioral and (sometimes) genetic–that is, a unit defined by learned and mimicked behaviors, similar personalities, and similar traits. Even my concept of place–childhood haunts, for example, or vacation spots–has centered around the people I met there. Yet this class, and especially the way physical Ireland, its landscapes, its ruins, its traditions, factors into language, and, by extension, heritage, has made me reflect on my own identity in the context of nationhood. I realize that my Irish origins, just as they colored Yeats’s poetry, have also left threads running through my own life, and that I am perhaps not as independent of nationhood as I first thought.

There is, most obviously, my nickname and its Gaelic roots. Rory, generally considered a male name, means “red king”, and is an anglicization of the Gaelic name “Ruaidhr,” the Irish name “Ruar” and the Scottish name “Ruaraidh”. This is no accident; my grandmother on my father’s side was Irish,  and I believe the nickname, for all its masculinity, fits the tomboyish aspects of my personality. Moreover, though I gave it little thought at the time, my dad has told me I am “Irish” in my moods, making reference to my tendency to be morose, reflective, and (more than slightly) cynical. Though undoubtedly this statement is an oversimplification of what it means to be Irish, I think it does relate to the poetry we have been reading, as often the lines seem to echo with distant sorrow, with melancholy. Arguably, these are the same emotions that can be evoked by the stark and bare beauty of Ireland’s stony shores.

I recall now, too, that as a child I loved watching Riverdance on VCR. For those unfamiliar with the show, it consists mainly of Irish folk music and dance, although the music, besides featuring an Irish folk band, also makes use of electric bass, drums, and horns. While Riverdance was far from the only thing I watched (Spongebob and documentaries on marine biology also made regular appearances), there is a part of me that jumps–if ridiculously–to associate the pull of Riverdance with some innate Irishness. It is that same part of me that would like to somehow equate coastal Maine, one of my favorite vacation spots, with coastal Ireland, even though, as someone who has never actually been to Ireland, I will be the first to acknowledge this is an overly romanticized, overly trite notion. Yet what drives me to make this connection is that the Maine I am thinking of is not the tourist-trapped lobster-state, but rather the fog-swathed, wide-skied coast, whose nights are edged with salt, the low croon of foghorns and the memory of unpeopled rocks. This is, in my mind, somehow similar to the Ireland I have heard described to me, although I would have to visit to truly find out.

Morning in Acadia, ME


A foggy day at Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

In high school, James Joyce’s Dubliners was one of my favorite books. I found it to be darkly humorous, and the challenge of decoding his language, of culling meaning from such resistant and tricky prose, was one that in and of itself made me grin. Yet there was also some underlying poignancy, something watchful, still, and serious, in Joyce’s writing that pulled at my heart. Here I think especially of an excerpt from Joyce’s short story, “The Dead”:

A few taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of Allen and, further westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. 

Although as readers we are viewing this scene directly through one of Joyce’s characters, and are thus, arguably, more displaced from it than if the narration were third-person omniscient, the pure poetics still elicit chills instead of the wry, dry satisfaction of mental chess. Thus, even as Dubliners pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to become a more analytical reader, it also touched me in ways that were more emotional than intellectual. Though secretly I am not a very critical reader, and enjoy most books, Dubliners remains one of my favorites.

With all this said, I am still aware that my connections to my own Irishness are tenuous, and perhaps mostly contrived or coincidental. A cynic could observe that The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock and Hamlet left as deep an impact on me as Dubliners, that I have spent most of my life ignorant of my nick name’s Irish roots, or that I never met my Irish grandmother–and he would be right. I am not trying to claim that my own Irish blood has played an especially formative role in my upbringing; rather, I am trying to mark the places where my genetic origins have intersected with my life. This line of thought, besides being convenient fodder for a class blog post, or an interesting intellectual exercise, has made me reflect that my sense of family is neither as dilute nor as unmoored and nationless as perhaps I first thought. I won’t argue that this has made me feel closer to my family, or even closer to my own origins; but perhaps it does allow me to climb a little more securely into the poetry we are reading, to recognize and validate my own relationship to these poems.

There you are. I can say to them. There you are. There are small parts of you, your notions of melancholy, your raspy notes and stone shores, that run into me.


1. www.apogeephoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/aug2013/Juergen_photos/Misty-Acadia-National-Park-Seacoast.jpg




Modern Irish Identity in Comedy: “How to be Irish”

Now that my login issues are sorted at last, here is my slightly ridiculous contribution.

The Internet has been an extremely useful tool for expanding general knowledge about all cultures, as it is accessible to people all around the world, of all sorts of different nationalities and backgrounds. As a result of like being able to find like more easily, communities form: around similar interests, shared beliefs, and identities (to name a few).

The analysis of the transformation of identity as a result of the internet is definitely not a subject I can cover in one blog post because, though fascinating, it would take a metric ton of research at the very least to even begin to comprehend it, and that is far beyond what we’re focusing on in this course. That said, I think the significance of being a member of a niche culture has changed on a global scale, and that includes the Irish. (Not to say that Ireland itself is “niche,” just that it does have a particular culture that is reserved to a small area, i.e. one island in the Atlantic Ocean.)

What I want to discuss today has to do with this specific video by an Irish YouTuber who goes by the name JackSepticEye:

Irish Time With Jack

(Precaution: This YouTuber has a somewhat shrill voice and there is a lot of cursing in this video, so viewer discretion advised. You don’t have to watch it to understand this blog post since I’ll be summarizing the specific aspects I want to talk about.)

This video is called “Irish Time With Jack,” and it begins with his typical intro, a high-five and a rather boisterous, “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, laddies!” This is characteristic of him as a YouTuber, specifically a Let’s Player. A Let’s Player, for those unfamiliar with the term, is someone who records themselves playing video games and giving commentary. It is generally considered a comedic category of entertainment, so it serves the dual purpose of being able to watch someone play a game one might take interest in while also hopefully getting a laugh. Jack (as he’s popularly known – his real name is Sean) capitalizes on the fact that he is one of the few popular Let’s Players out there (though certainly not the only) who is Irish by co-opting the stereotypical “top o’ the mornin’ to ya” greeting that is so familiarly and stereotypically Irish, usually associated with leprechauns or any similar stereotypes those of us non-Irish exposed to media representations of Irish people would be familiar with.

He goes on, at the start of the video, to mention that he has been asked numerous times whether or not he is “actually Irish,” or if he just puts on the accent for his YouTube persona. He affirms this is not the case: he is Irish, “as if you couldn’t tell by how pasty white my skin is.” (Note: I’ll be putting all of the things Jack himself says in Italics.) He’s proud of being Irish but notes that he is “one of the worst Irish people ever,” and he has thus purchased a particular book to help himself, and his audience, “be as Irish as possible.” The book is titled A Massive Book Full of Feckin’ Irish Slang That’s Great Craic for Any Shower of Savages. “By the end of this video,” Jack says, “we’re all gonna be Irish.”

Appropriately, it is green.

Obviously, becoming Irish isn’t as simple as learning some funny slang, but again, the purposes of this video are purely comedic and not truly instructional. The way he describes being Irish would probably make Yeats roll over in his grave, but being an Irishman by birth gives him a specific perspective into Irish culture, as he is part of it, no matter how poor of an Irish person he believes himself to be. (Whether or not you can be bad at being part of your own culture is another topic entirely, but I’m shelving that for now.)

The rest of the video entails Jack going through this book and describing various Irish slang terms such as “gas,” “howiya,” “how’s she cuttin’,” “craic,” “the black stuff,” and so on. Jack inserts various personal asides into the video as he remembers them and notes that he hasn’t heard some of these words in a long time.

“Of course, the base of learning any culture is how to like, introduce yourself to someone, because it’s all about mannerisms,” Jack notes in preface to the term “howiya.” He says that this means “hello” and in other cultures would entail “how are you,” “but the Irish are so evolved and so evolutionarily smart that we just shorten it all down to ‘howiya.’” He repeats this specific language later on when addressing the term “Jaysus,” saying, “Again, we are evolved, we are descended from potatoes, so… we are carved out of potatoes from the hillsides, so we have… we’ve a funny way of saying things.” As most things in this video, saying Irish people are made from potatoes is being playfully satirical toward the stereotypes about the Irish and their deep, intense relationship with said root vegetable. To me, however, what struck me as the most interesting was Jack’s use of the term “evolved,” and earlier, “evolutionarily smart.” The reason why that strikes me requires only a very brief glimpse into the past:

Not long ago, the English used “scientific” imagery and language to attempt to prove the Irish to be subhuman. Considering that Irish people, particularly Irish Catholics, were second-class citizens until very recently, historically speaking, this was what I found the most intriguing regarding Jack’s discussion of his own culture. Of course, the bit about potatoes is meant to be funny, but he does say evolved and smart. Within a comparatively short period of time, an Irish person is proud to justify the quirks of his culture as being smart or evolved in comparison to the way other cultures speak. (Jack does mention at the beginning that he is proud of being Irish, or, as he puts it, “I’m f*ckin’ proud of it, dammit!” and mentions that one of the purposes for the video is to improve his own Irishness as well.)

A lot of the Yeats we dealt with recently concerned Irish identity, and as I said before, Yeats would be likely rolling in his grave if he knew a video like this existed, or that the contemporary Irish behave this way. And yet, Jack not only makes Irish culture (specifically dialectical differences) into something one can learn, but he presents it as important knowledge. He is sharing an Irish perspective on Irish culture. One could say that he’s possibly trying to justify his own Irish heritage in the face of those who have disputed his nationality, but I prefer to look at it from a lighter perspective than that. Though Jack is clearly parodying the doubt and criticism about his nationality by capitalizing on numerous Irish stereotypes (the Irish are always drinking, they’re descended from potatoes, they spend most of their time insulting each other), he does so playfully, and he lets his audience in on the joke, so to speak. He makes Irishness inclusive instead of exclusive and provides a way, however joking, to access Irish culture in a more natural and far less scholarly way than Pearse, for example, might have wanted.

The silent, judgmental stare of a dead Irish revolutionary.

Instead of instructing his audience in Gaelic, Jack takes a more practical approach: “If you just wanna hang around Ireland, and you just wanna see what the place is all like, […] and then you come in to […] the C’mon Inn, and then you’re just like, ‘ah, Jaysus, ah Jaysus gimme a pint there now, Peter, will ya? Good man yerself, what is it, forty euro? Jaysus, pints are gone up a lot…’ See what I mean? You just work it into your language like that and it just comes out naturally.” He is making Ireland itself accessible to those unfamiliar with the dialect or the language. Of course, this is also largely comedic, as there’s just as high of a likelihood that any Irish person would laugh themselves silly at a foreigner trying to sound too Irish.

I think a lot can be conveyed in comedy, though, and I think this video, in all the fun it pokes at itself, is an interesting representation of how Irish perspectives of Irish identity have evolved since Yeats’ time. Obviously, one Irish YouTuber does not speak for the Irish people as a whole by any means. This video certainly isn’t a reliable source for learning how to actually be Irish, if that is something you can learn to begin with. However, it does explore Irish identity in a contemporary context, particularly regarding how it is viewed externally versus how it is viewed internally (i.e. Jack’s non-Irish viewers’ perspectives vs. Jack’s perspective as an Irish citizen) and where these viewpoints cross, collide, or complement each other. Padraic Pearse might not be satisfied with exactly how Jack goes about trying to teach people to be Irish, but he might be satisfied with the fact that Ireland is free enough and its people confident enough in their heritage that a video like this can be produced.

There is something more profound in this than I can put my finger on, but mostly I just thought the video was hilarious and interestingly relevant to our exploration of Celtic identity, particularly through language. Perhaps someone else can provide further insight using the words I can’t find.


Works Cited:

JackSepticEye. “Irish Time With Jack.” Online video clip. YouTube. Google, 16 October 2016. Web.


Uilleann Pipes

One thing you have to get accustomed to when traveling around Ireland is the really fun pub scene. There are more modern pubs, jazz pubs, sports pubs, but in your standard pub scene there are always people I call hidden musicians. By that, I mean people who put down their Guinness and pick up an instrument from under their table at some predetermined point. There’s no way to tell if they brought this instrument or if it was just there, but without a doubt at some point a band will form and play traditional Irish music, seemingly out of the blue. Amongst the fiddles and flutes, one of the instruments you frequently see is a strange sort of bagpipes with a much softer, lighter sound. They are uilleann pipes.

A set of uilleann pipes

Maud actually briefly mentioned these in class as an “alternative” to bagpipes, and that characterization is pretty accurate. Uilleann pipes are a type of bagpipe that is powered by bellows pinned between the arm the hip. Uillean (roughly pronounced as “illin”) pipe players are unique because they can play in quieter settings, sitting down. A number of Irish traditional music bands use them because the sound has become distinctly Irish. The Chieftains are probably the most famous artists to use the uillean pipes, their pipe player Paddy Maloney is quite good.


You can hear it as part of a band here:

Pipe music in general is very important to Celtic cultural history and tradition. Most forms of bagpipes came from war pipes. Bagpipes are still used today within military contexts because of that history and the power they produce.  While I am a big fan of their sound, I can admit that the most common bagpipes played are unwieldy and very loud, so they don’t lend themselves to indoor playing or listening. Matt Molloy, the flute player for the Chieftains, owns a pub in Westport, Ireland. That’s the pub from the second link. I was there when a local bagpipe band began to play in the next room. A group of fifteen or so students from the music school came out to play. They were really cool to see, but the building was shaking and pictures were falling off the wall. Bagpipes are good for cutting through the cold March air on St. Paddy’s day, but not a great choice for musicians playing for pub audiences. Uilleann pipes don’t drown out every other sound and have become a unique Irish sound.

Pipe band at Molloy's. Note the guitarist in back trying his best.

Pipe band at Molloy’s. Note the guitarist in back trying his best.

The actual history of the uilleann pipes is pretty vague. They were first developed sometime within the late 17th century to the early 18th century, with the first mention of bellow-powered pipes coming as early as 1619. The Irish name, píobaí uilleann, translates to pipes of the elbow referring to the bellow system. They are a distinct instrument with a significantly softer sound that still maintained some of the character of highland pipes. Throughout their history, people also referred to them as Union pipes, in reference to the construction of the instrument, but the uilleann name stuck by the start of the 20th century. Interestingly enough, a large force that drove their original development were the English landowners precisely because of the ability to play indoors. English social customs and culture moved music and life indoors, so the uilleann pipes developed as a way to bring in traditional Irish culture. Most trad music bands nowadays have a set of uilleann pipes, in large part due to the Chieftains and other bands before them. They are also a fairly common sight on the streets of Galway, Cork, and other southern and western Irish towns. Some of the buskers even use them to play American folk music and pop music. Get Lucky sounds incredible on the pipes.