Monday, March 16, 2015

A St. Patrick's Day Countdown - Day 1

In the late 19th century the Arbuckle Bros. Coffee Company of New York began issuing themed advertising cards in series to increase its business. I have over 300 of these cards that were collected by my ancestors over two generations. The company issued three cards with Irish themes and I'm pleased to post two of them in our St. Patrick's Day countdown. The first one appeared in the National Geographical Series and did not have descriptive information on the reverse. The description below was issued with the card in the company's special promotional booklet entitled, Arbuckles' Illustrated Atlas of Fifty Principal Nations of the World [1889].

IRELAND, known to the Greeks by the name Ierne (Erin) and to the Romans by the name Hibernia, is the second largest of the British Isles, and is washed on the N. W. and S. sides by the Atlantic Oceand and separated from Great Britain by the N. Channel, the Irish Sea and St. George's Channel. Dublin, the capital, first mentioned by Ptolemy, is one of the finest cities in the Empire, and is situated at the head of Dublin Bay. A Lord Lieutenant is head of the executive government, and is assisted by a Privy Council and Chief Secretary.
Area, 32,531 square miles; population 1881, 5,174,836. Between 1853 and 1889 2,289,735 Irish emigrants landed in the United States.
The great central portion of Ireland is flat, and not less than 2,830,000 acres is bog, but much of the soil is of singular fertility. The climate is milder and moister than that of Great Britain, and clothes the plains and valleys with the richest pasture, procuring for Ireland the name of the Emerald Isle. The coast inlets, called Loughs, are many and of great extent. The lakes of Killarney, three in number, in Kerry, and under shadow of the loftiest mountains in the island, are widely famed for their romantic beauty. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, beans, peas. The live stock comprises horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. The most important manufacture is that of linen. Other industries are muslin sewing, lace making and woolen and worsted goods. There is a considerable amount of whisky distilling and porter brewing. The Shamrock (trefoil) is the national badge of Ireland.

Our second card comes from the Sports and Pastimes of all Nations Series. I think you'll enjoy the description from the reverse.

THE Emerald Isle from time immemorial has been the home of merry sport and gladsome enjoyment. Its people are hotheaded and quick to resent offence, generous to a fault, and forgiving to a degree, superstitious, devout and easy going.
The celebration of Hallowe'en, the 31st of October is a festivity that is looked forward to with keenest anticipation by all the young people of Ireland. Numerous are the games played. For instance apples are placed in a tub of water and each in turn tries to pick one out with his teeth. If successful it predicted luck in matters of love.
Another Hallowe'en game is Apple and Candle. On a stick 18 inches long, an apple is fastened at one end, and a lighted candle at the other. The stick is suspended from the ceiling by a string and then the string is swung backward and forward, while the players one by one try to catch the apple in their teeth.
Who shall describe the Irish jig. Into its engaging movements and attractive energy is infused much of the national spirit.
A peculiar sport of the Irish, and one very characteristic of the humor of the race is that of the "Greased Pig." Such an animal is anointed so that his hide is extremely slippery. He is then started to run amuck through the ranks of those participating in the play. These attempt to catch and hold his pigship with their hands--a difficult task. He who succeeds, walks off with the prize the squealing cause of the tumult and hilarity.
The Irish are famous boxers. Boxing is the art of using those natural weapons--the hands, in assault and defence. To be a good boxer one must be quick of eye, self-possessed, ready of device, agile and good-tempered.

There is no shortage of traditional Irish music and we're happy to continue enjoying it with this post of The Dubliners' definitive version of the 17th century song, Whiskey In The Jar:

We conclude with another Irish literature quiz. Can you name the author? The book title?

Andreas put his hand up to shade his eyes and, at the same time, a cloud passed overhead. It wasn’t as clear as it had been before. He must indeed have been mistaken. But now he must pull himself together. He had a restaurant to run. If people came all the way up the hilly path, they would not want to find a mad man, someone crazed by the sun fancying disasters in a peaceful Greek village.

He continued fixing the red and green plastic-covered cloths with little clips to the long wooden tables on the terrace outside his taverna. This would be a hot day, with plenty of visitors at lunch time. He had laboriously written the menu on the blackboard. He often wondered why he did it... it was the same food every day. But the visitors liked it; and he would put ‘Welcome’ in six languages. They liked that too.

The food was not special. Nothing they could not have got in two dozen other little tavernas. There was souvlaki, the lamb kebabs. Well, goat kebabs really, but the visitors liked to think they were lamb. And there was moussakas, warm and glutinous in its big pie dish. There were the big bowls of salad, white squares of salty feta cheese and lush red tomatoes. There were the racks of barbouni, the red mullet waiting to be grilled, the swordfish steaks. There were the big steel trays of desserts in the fridge, kataïfi and baklava, nuts honey and pastry. The chilled cabinets of retsina and local wines. Why else did people come to Greece? People came from all over the world and loved what Andreas, and dozens like him, could provide.

He always recognised the nationality of any visitor to Aghia Anna and could greet them in a few words of their own language. It was like a game to him now, after years of knowing the way people walked and reading their body language.


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