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Traditional Harvest Day Makes Long Awaited Return To Bunratty.

Co. Tipperary lovers of history take note.

Ireland’s agricultural heritage and the Fair Days of the 19th century will be brought to life when ‘Traditional Harvest Day’ returns for the first time since 2017 to Bunratty Folk Park on Sunday next September 17th.

Traditional threshing machine at work.

Rural Irish life and traditions from over a century ago will be showcased as part of the family day out, which will feature a display of vintage machinery and tractors, craft demonstrations, and dancers, musicians and performers from across the Banner County. (Co. Clare)

A traditional threshing machine will be put to work giving visitors an insight into how neighbours and friends once gathered during the harvest in the spirit of meitheal [Latter Irish word meaning ‘Group‘]. Enthusiasts will be on hand to speak about the evolution of the vintage farm machinery on display on the day, including tractors, and stationary engines. Visitors will also view a range of various ploughs, hay rakes, Root Cutter (Pulper), Turnip and a Mangel Seeder.

The public will be able to witness local craftspeople at work, including Michael Foudy, as he carries on the time-honoured tradition of basket making, Blacksmith Ger Treacy, Elizabeth O’Connor and Geraldine O’Sullivan who will demonstrating the ancient craft of wool spinning, using locally sourced wool, a practice first introduced by Neolithic farmers over 6000 years ago. Bunratty’s ‘Bean an Tí’s’ also will be on hand throughout the day to demonstrate the art of bread and butter making and with tasting opportunities for those who pay a visit to the Golden Vale and Loop Head Farmhouses.

As well as so much to see throughout the 26-acre site, there will be entertainment from Sean Nós Singer MacDara Ó Conaola, the Mary Liddy School of Music from Newmarket on Fergus, the Helen Hehir School of Dance, and resident musicians James Anglim and Michael Grogan, while resident Seanchaí Mike ‘Mickey Joe’ Flynn will regale stories of tales of bygone days and traditional ways from Corry’s Pub on the Village Street. At the Old Schoolhouse, located in the Village Street, the school master will be on duty to greet children and adults as they hand over their customary sod of turf for the tiny school room fire.

A range of native Irish and Heritage Breeds of animals will be located throughout the Folk Park paddocks on the day, including Irish Red Deer, Peacocks, Highland Cattle, Tamworth Pigs, goats, geese, bronze turkeys and the recently arrived Irish Wolfhounds Míde and Rian.

Ms Marie Brennan, (Events Manager at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park), commented, “We are delighted to bring back this event after a six-year hiatus and to give everyone, both young and old, a flavour of what life would have been like in Ireland during harvest time at the turn of the 19th century.
The essence of a Harvest Day was bringing communities together, to support, celebrate and toast the end of a good season,” she explained. “Threshing was backbreaking work, which started early in the mornings and continued until the end of the day with neighbours and friends, all gathering to help out. The machine, and all the activity about it, had a special attraction for children. Its moving belts, the noise from inside and the way it put out straw and oats, was as intriguing back then as the latest computer game is today.
We are looking forward to providing a true glimpse of life in rural 19th century Ireland and celebrating the immense sense of community and hospitality that existed during harvest time. Throughout the Folk Park, for example, there will be plenty of activities available to visitors just like during the fairs of old” added Ms. Brennan.

Visit www.bunrattycastle.ie for more on the Traditional Harvest Day. Normal admission rates apply.


Medieval Knights Ride Into Bunratty For Inaugural Grand Medieval Tournament.

Looking for something new and an exciting experience next weekend, then read on.

Medieval archery contests, mounted swordsmanship and jousting will be showcased during the inaugural Grand Medieval Tournament at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare this coming Saturday and Sunday. [September 9th & 10th]

Reenactors from the Wexford-based Horsemen of Éire group will play the knights of the Earl of Ulster Hugh De Lacy and his bitter rival John DeCourcy as they take over the paddocks of the Folk Park.

Visitors can also experience a true to life medieval encampment and witness history come to life by meeting the characters, learning about the turbulent times, lifestyles, customs and skills of 12th and 13th century Ireland.

The two-day medieval spectacle will also afford the public a unique opportunity to witness the preparation and training required for those facing into battle and see how their customs, crafts and traditions have shaped modern society.

The tournament consists of a series of duels and feats of arms horseback and on foot where the two teams try to accumulate points. Visitors will see mounted knights joust at the quintain attempting to strike stationary objects with a lance and hurl javelins at targets, archers demonstrate their accuracy and precision by shooting at distant targets, knights duelling while mounted on their steeds, and multiple knights engaging in a fierce battle within the arena, demonstrating their swordplay, agility, and tactics.

The closing ceremony each day will feature two of the most outstanding knights facing each other in an epic duel on horseback and on foot. A panel of experienced judges will assess the participants’ skill, technique, sportsmanship, and adherence to the code of chivalry. Points are awarded for successful strikes, deft manoeuvres, and demonstrations of honour and respect. The victorious knight will be crowned the Champion of the Grand Tournament, awarded with a glittering laurel wreath, and the admiration of the crowd.

Bunratty Castle was itself the target of multiple attacks during medieval times. The castle was captured and destroyed in 1284, before being rebuilt by Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond, three years later.

See www.bunrattycastle.ie for more on the Grand Medieval Tournament at Bunratty Castle on September 9-10th.


Later Pub & Club Closing Times Not Before Summer 2024

An Taoiseach Mr Leo Varadkar has stated that next summer is possibly a more realistic timeline for the implementation of expected new licensing laws, which are expected to see later official closing times.

The Government is currently studying the renewal and updating of our antiquated licensing laws to allow both pubs and clubs to open later.

Some of the current licensing laws are more than 200 years old and two-thirds of same currently pre-date the foundation of the Irish State.

Legislative changes were originally believed to become enacted this year, but now next summer is viewed to be a more realistic timeline for this new system to be introduced.

In October 2022, Minister for Justice Mrs Helen McEntee received Cabinet approval for her draft Bill to reform Ireland’s antiquated licensing system.

Then, as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, had stated he believed the reforms, that Minister McEntee was proposing, would be good for hospitality businesses and would boost the wider economy, while generating employment. It would also give people and performers more autonomy about how, when and where they would socialise.

In a press release; Mr Varadkar further stated, “Our nightlife does not compare favourably with that of other European countries, when it should be as good as anywhere in Europe. Rural pubs are closing, as have many nightclubs in urban areas, while the number of off-licences is increasing. It is not all about alcohol and should not be, but is part of the picture. It’s about cutting red tape and streamlining regulation. These reforms should be seen in the wider context of the government’s efforts to improve the cultural and entertainment offerings in our towns, cities and rural areas.”

In late January of this year, 2023, an Oireachtas committee heard that the Government’s plan for an overhaul of Ireland’s licensing laws was largely positive, with concerns raised with regard to licensing costs for night clubs and the removal of obstacles to the opening of pubs.

Under then proposed legislation, pubs and nightclubs would be permitted to apply for extended opening hours annually, rather than applying for a special exemption order for each night they would want to open late. Trading hours would be extended to allow nightclubs stay open until 6:00am and pubs allowed to remain open until 12:30am, seven days a week.


Irish Wolfhounds Return To Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.

Affia Hussey, aged 4 years, walks with newly arrived Irish Wolfhounds, Rían and Míde, who today took up permanent residence on the grounds of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
Photograph by Eamon Ward

Unlike the town of Thurles, Co. Tipperary, which has allowed its elected representatives to succeed in eradicating most of the town’s history; Bunratty village in Co. Clare, has reinstated a small but attractive piece of their medieval history, for the benifit of its well established tourist trade.

The sight of Irish wolfhounds roaming the paths and laneways of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park has now once again been reinstated.

Among the largest of all breeds of dog, Irish wolfhounds were regular guests at Bunratty Castle from the early days of its medieval banquets in the 1960’s. The dogs would roam the great hall and dining areas as would have been the custom in medieval times at the castle.

12-week-old Rían, (Irish meaning King), and 1-year-old Míde, (latter named after the 5th province of Ireland in Celtic times), today took up permanent residence on the grounds of the famous County Clare visitor attraction. They both replace Meabh and Saoirse, the two previous resident wolfhounds at the castle.

Breeder Mr James Hussey of Cúdáráth Irish Wolfhounds, delivered the dogs to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park today, where they were welcomed by farm manager Mr Niall Moloney.

According to Mr Aodhagan Behan, Operations Manager at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, “Bunratty Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland, and no 15th century Castle is complete without these iconic and noble dogs.”
“These noble creatures were regular guests at the Bunratty Castle from the early days of the medieval banquets in the 1960s and therefore it is only fitting that they make a welcome return to this iconic fortress in the same year that the castle world famous medieval banquets celebrate 60 years in operation,” he added.

Mr Niall Moloney, farm manager at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, explained that Irish wolfhounds are known for being gentle, friendly and very intelligent, and they inhabited Ireland long before the arrival of Christianity and the written word. He stated, “For many visitors, especially children, the sight of wolfhounds wandering throughout the site is the highlight of their visit. We are grateful to Cúdáráth Irish Wolfhounds for their support, and we look forward to hosting Rían and Míde for many years to come”.


Forget Images Of Stonewalls, Donkeys & Wild Sheep Blocking Green Wide Open Spaces.

Let’s be real here, the Irish postcard era of dry stonewalls; mountain sheep blocking narrow roads against a background of green wide open spaces; bare footed children escorting forlorn overladen donkeys, latter carrying creels of turf; same can no longer be effectuated by our Irish National Tourism Development Authority.
We have slid decidedly backwards, as a small island from this once attractive rural tourism marketing ploy, selling relaxation, peace and solitude. This so called relaxed way of life has for many years been consigned to old God Almighties time.

Dublin derives its name from the Irish “dubh linn” – meaning “black-pool”, but recent years and given recent events, it is understandable why some may view Dublin City Centre as more of a “cess-pool” at the moment. Dublin City Centre has lost its charm – and then some. The celebrated central thoroughfares and winding pavements we used to so celebrate in countless spoken verse and lyrics are now more synonymous with anti-social behaviour, faceless boarded shop facades, crime, litter, homelessness, drug use and even violence, generated in many cases by greed.

Same is thanks to a small group of teenage thugs, permitted by their negligent and often absent parents, to roam our capitol’s city streets, exempt from punishment and from the injurious consequences of their purposeful actions.

An area on Stradavoher Street, Thurles, near the scene where a number of homes were destroyed by mysterious fire, over the more recent past.
The number shown as 666 is identified as the ‘Number of the Beast’ as mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Chapter 13, verse 18) and is explicit in anti-Christian subcultures.

Sadly, in a travel advisory warning this week, the US Embassy in Dublin, refers to what they call “a number of recently reported incidents”, while stating that travellers should immediately safeguard their valuables e.g. credit cards, bank cards, passports etc., while refraining from carrying large amounts of cash.

The Dublin US Embassy also encourages all their American visiting citizens to be aware of their actual surroundings while visiting in Ireland, especially when travelling in unfamiliar places; attending crowded locations and empty streets; and especially if obliged to walk alone, during the hours of darkness.

Sitting opposite Thurles Cathedral, latter building one of the few remaining tourist attractions in Thurles not removed by local councillors, is the privately owned eyesore and blot on the landscape, known as the Munster Hotel.

But it is not just Dublin streets. Here in areas of Thurles also, the broken windows theory has become totally ignored.

For those not familiar with the “Broken Windows Theory”, same states that visible signs of disorder and misbehaviour in an environment will encourage further disorder and misbehaviour, leading to the committal of further both minor and serious crime. This principle amply explains the decay of neighbourhoods.

Thinly layered, lightly printed cloth banners, say ‘Welcome To Thurles‘, I think!

Meanwhile, in an attempt to make tourists feel at home, (same having inadvertently lost their way while travelling to South Tipperary, to find themselves in this jobless conurbation called Thurles); four thinly layered, lightly printed cloth banners, welcoming people to the Liberty Square area of this potholed town, have long since become entangled around their sky hooks, courtesy of our light summer breezes.
One wonders how much travelling expenses were generated by the members who met to sanction this cheap tourism fresh approach.

One notes too that our town’s neglect and potholes are a reflection of poor management at County Council and Urban District level. Thurles, despite some ills, is still a town worth visiting for its history, arts, sports and much more. Like so many other urban areas, however, it risks further deterioration and destruction, if we accept ‘broken windows’ and become complacement about the failures and inadequacies of our elected community leaders and County Councils.

The solution to this growing problem of anti-social behaviour is not just placing extra Gardaí on our streets. It includes our justice system ensuring to punish wrong doers as well as local communities co-operating with Gardaí, who for the most part are more than anxious to facilitate change.