We are featuring all Irelands Eye Knitwear and Keith Jack Jewelry starting Monday, February 18 through Saturday, March 16. Make a purchase and get 10% off any item from these fine crafters. Like most of the items we carry, our support of these makers is as much about their story as it is about the quality of their product.
Last year we celebrated the Centenary of the Easter Rising. The Rising was not only a result of British injustice but also the Potato Famine several decades earlier. The famine was actually a blithe on the potato crops that prevented the poor Irish farmers living under British rule from paying their rent. During the years 1845 -1849 record crops were sent to England from Ireland. The poor in Ireland who depended on the potato had to choose to eat or pay their rent. A million plus people could do neither which resulted in their starving to death. Some families resorted to stealing food to feed their starving children. Those who were caught with even a single loaf of bread were given up to 20 years of hard labor in an Australian penal colony. Many who chose to stay, lost their homes and were sent to work houses that were almost as bad as the English prisons. The starving peasants are remembered by statues located on the Quay of the Liffey River in Dublin. Forced to leave their homeland a million Irish people emigrated to Europe, Australia or America to escape the death spiral. Even so thousands of these emigrants died on these black ships sometimes called 'death ships'. One restored Death Ship the Jeanie Johnson is pictured below. The famine finally ended but excessive taxation and ill treatment did not. The result was the Rising of 1916. Though the Rising failed, the execution of the leaders and murder of many innocent people kept a guerilla movement growing. Finally in 1922 A.D. the English had enough. Twenty-Six of the Irish Counties were granted independence. The six colonies in the North (Northern Ireland) remained under British control until 2005 A.D. when the last of the British troops were finally removed. The north and the south are still separated and each is an independent country today. In spite of over 800 years of brutal treatment by the British government and their landlords the Irish people have chosen to be forgiving of the English. Forgiveness however, does not mean forgotten. We should always remember the sacrifices that were made and the hardships of our ancestors. These brave people sacrificed, fought and died that future generations can now live in peace and freedom. Almost every city around the beautiful this island has statues and monuments remembering the brave men and women of the Easter Rising. If you would like to learn more about these heroes, read the historical novel by Morgan Llewellyn entitled "1916." This is a work of fiction with many real people and historical facts. Miss Llewellyn has written several other historical novels that makes learning the history of Ireland fun. I have read them all and each one was enlightening.
In 1915 Joseph Mary Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and quickly rose in rank to become a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916. Joseph had contracted Tuberculosis at an early age and struggled with poor health all of his life. Joseph was well educated and even wrote a book of poetry. One of his poems was incorporated into a song about his relationship with his wife, Grace. In 1916 shortly before the Rising, Joseph was taken to the hospital to undergo surgery to the glands in his neck. He practically crawled from his hospital bed with bandages still on his neck to join the other leaders in the General Post Office. Several days later after heavy shelling and running low on ammunition the GPO was surrendered. Joseph was taken and held at the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin to be court martial. His poor health was never an issue to the British who quickly sentenced him to execution by firing squad. Seven days before the execution was to be carried out he was allowed to marry his long time sweetheart Grace Gifford. They were allowed one kiss and 10 minutes to talk with guards all around them in a small room. On May 04, 1916 Joseph Mary Plunkett was shot in the court yard of the Kilmainham Gaol. So ended the life of one of Ireland's bravest patriots. Grace Gifford Plunkett died in Dublin on December 13, 1955. Grace had never remarried. Please listen to this moving story in song by Wolftones:Click here to hear - Wolf Tones - Grace
Few topics have flared tempers in pubs more than the question: Who invented whiskey? Was it the Irish, the Scots, or someone you'd least expect, like the Chinese or Arabs? Whisk(e)y is sunshine in a glass. Uisge baugh, or water of life in Scots Gaelic, and uisge beatha, water of life in Irish Gaelic. It's the cure for what ails you, and the Celt's gift to the world. It's now distilled and bottled on nearly every continent, with a variety of regional grains.Interested in attending a Whiskey Tasting? The origins of distillation are pretty murky. Some say it first started with ancient Babylonians, or possibly ancient Greeks, or maybe it was the Chinese... at this point in my research, I'm willing to say it was anyone but aliens... The origins of whisk(e)y are just as obscure. The Irish claim that they have been making whiskey for anywhere between 1000 and 1600 years, depending on who you ask, and frankly, who are we to argue? Excuse me, sir, can you tell me if the Vikings invented whisk(e)y? One story tells of Irish monks bringing the secrets of distillation back to Ireland from the Middle East. Another story claims that the Vikings had learned to distil while raiding in Greece or Syria, or possibly Turkey and brought the technique to Scotland when they built villages on the West Coast of Scotland. I could go on because there are many more stories of the origin of whisk(e)y. So many more stories... So, we're left to draw our own conclusions, dear reader, at least until someone smarter than I, with access to some arcane tome that definitively sorts this matter once and for all. I, for one, conclude that just as the Irish and Scottish histories, people and culture are intertwined, so are the origins of whisk(e)y. Maybe we should just be content not to know and just enjoy the magic that is whisk(e)y. Slainte! Check out The Whiskey Cowgirl's videos here.