A Brit in Ireland

15th November 2018

We have been here for just over a year now. It is fascinating to be a Brit in Ireland during Brexit (albeit I’m of distant Irish descent via a great, great grandmother born in Dublin c. 1816, who emigrated to the East End of London before the Great Famine, otherwise I might not be here).

I’m a Brit with an obvious English accent, living mostly in this rural part of the West of Ireland.

Local Irish folk here have been very friendly & welcoming, for which I’m eternally grateful.

Ireland is the third most popular destination for UK citizens choosing to migrate and settle in other EU member states. Estimates of how many UK citizens live in Ireland range from 140,000 to 300,000, while about 400,000 Irish citizens live in Britain.

There’s been a sharp rise in the number of British nationals looking to become naturalised Irish citizens – a five-fold increase. 529 British nationals became naturalised Irish citizens last year, a jump from just 51 people in 2014.  This is thought to be due to Brexit – Brits wanting to keep a foot in the EU.

The cost of buying almost anything and the general cost of living in Ireland is higher than in the UK. The cost of household insurance, car insurance & road tax for a van or car is much higher. There is no free banking with the exception of one account offered by EBS Bank; banking services are charged for, and VAT is 23% compared with 20% in the UK.

In small local shops in rural Ireland the service is friendly, very helpful, and charmingly slow (everyone likes to chat).  You can be five to ten minutes waiting to pay for your groceries while the old lady in front of you at the till finishes her conversation with the shop keeper. An Irish friend commented that this is because everyone is nosy and wants to know all about you, particularly if you a new ‘blow-in’, a recent incomer.  As in villages and small rural communities in England – and in fact anywhere – you need at least 3-4 generations behind you to be considered ‘local’.

However, in supermarkets the concept of customer service is a little behind the U.K. – don’t expect anyone to offer to help with packing your bags, if you do a big shop.  And customer service with companies you phone up can be infuriatingly bureaucratic, if is possible to get through at all – which in the case of Eir Telecom – IT IS NOT!

There are other things about Ireland which I am reluctant to discuss, in case I sound like a stereotypical patronising Brit, which  is one of the worst crimes a Brit can commit in Ireland.  So apologies if any Irish sensibilities or scruples are ruffled, but there is little point in writing this unless I am honest in recording what I notice.  There are things about Ireland that can best be described as overly bureaucratic or positively arcane, though I’m not clear how much of this is due to over diligent enforcement of EU regulations and how much (no offence), to a sort of  Irish, possibly Celtic, vagueness and cultural obscurantism, which could be considered endearing.

The Irish are refreshingly disrespectful of authority (particularly anything reminiscent of British colonialism & the Anglo-Irish ascendancy).  At the same time there is in the Irish character a cheerful, matter-of-fact practicality which can appear to be a shrugging  ‘nothing-to-be-done’ fatalism,  perhaps originating in the Roman Catholicism of the country, or from the Celtic mists of Ancient Ireland.   Of course, any generalisations about people or national characteristics are just that – generalisations – and the same no doubt applies to generalisations about the English.  In America at least, the English seem to be regarded either as upper-class toffs  with stiff upper lips or cheerful cockneys who like to say ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ a lot.

There certainly are some Irish people who are no more sanguine about EU rules & regulations than the British who voted Leave – and would even like to see Ireland out of the EU – but what are the alternatives? Is abandoning the EuroZone to return to the Irish Punt even an option?

A closer relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the UK also seems understandably unthinkable after Brexit, considering the hundreds of years of English and British colonialism towards Ireland and the Irish, culminating in the 1916 Uprising and the Irish War of Independence, the setting up of the Irish Free State and then the Irish Republic.

The thread above was stimulated by a podcast called “We need to talk about the British in Ireland” from a series called “Brexit Brits Abroad”..A contributor  to this was Professor Mary Gilmartin of Maynooth University.

My next post will be appearing soon, including details about my new podcast venture. 

Wow.  Cool eh?

Beyond The Pale

Welcome to Beyond The Pale

Hello there, and welcome to you all, in Ireland, the U.K., Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and around the world.

I  blog here and on Twitter about history, prehistory, politics, philosophy, society, culture, education, science, gender, religion, music, literature, poetry, and a few other things. Many world shattering insights, honest discussion, and pictures of beautiful beaches & countryside in the West of Ireland, North Derbyshire and the Peak District of England. Also antiquities, archeological sites, National Trust mansions, medieval churches, and dogs, especially Border Terriers like @BorderRoxy.

#FollowMe on Twitter @ambergoth, @AnBhoireann, @BorderRoxy@peakeasy@burywebs, @eBooksUK@Kpleb@BoltonGran, @CunkPhilomena


Doolin Harbour at four o’clock in late November

A warm sea mist lies low on the surge
Like a mother cat feeding her white-tipped young
Grey roiling tide licks and curl and spits
Against black rocks born in ancient seas
Now scattered by a giant paw on Doolin’s shores.

I am a piece of amber

I am a piece of amber
Lying on some Baltic beach
Washed up from the seas of time.

An insect inside me
Moving too slow to see
Gnaws and squirms
Not done yet
Itching with ancient life
Unready and angry
Soon too
Too soon
To be frozen in time.

Mad world

Whence came you
From what quantum catastrophe
Did you begin
You are no more real
Than a hang nail
Or the footprint of a fox in snow.

Perhaps occasionally I sleep

These winter days of gales and rain
Perhaps occasionally I sleep
The proof is in my dreams

A grandson stares up at me

A grandson stares up at me
In wonder at this older being
Carrying wrinkles and memories
Seeing me maybe
For whom I am
Once was
Still might be
For the first time.

Our children

Our children:
Amazing people
Crashing through life as we did
Big, able people
In full strength and vigour
Like oak trees full grown
In young summer
Parting the dimensions
With sturdy limbs
Leaving their mark on time.


I wear red lipstick
As they sit before me
I knew the risks
Contradicting cowards with penises
They planted a bomb In my hotel room
An Afghan woman
Making history
An independent person
A woman with agency
I love life
They fear me.

A stove lies in the outhouse

A stove lies in the outhouse
Forgotten, cold and grey
It listens to the winter winds
And slowly rusts away

January 2018

Saturday 6th January. A peerless cold day in Lisdoonvarna, the sun shining all day, the biting wind in the shade of the fir tree plantations and high hedgerows blowing from the North, enough to make the head ache.

I took the dog for a walk up through the village, as she refused to walk up the lane into open country. I have never seen Lisdoonvarna so full of people, all making their way to the Catholic church. It was as if half of West Clare had turned out. The main street in Lisdoonvarna had cars parked on both sides, and still more were coming. Most of the people seemed elderly, and dressed smartly.

What could it be? There was no service scheduled on a Saturday, according to the board outside the church. Was it some local community meeting? Or perhaps it was an election, and they were all coming to vote? Or Trump had launched all-out nuclear war and the Russians or Chinese had got dragged into the conflagration in defence of the Crimea or North Korea?

No, it was a funeral. This is how they do funerals in the rural West of Ireland. Wow.

Later, I noticed a small elf waving at me from the thicket at the top of the back garden.

My East End of London Ancestry

George Mason

George Mason (my great, great grandfather) was almost certainly born in Holborn, London.  Tragically, it looks like he died in the workhouse at the age of 82.  He’d been taken there by his friends, presumably because he couldn’t manage any longer on his own, after a very, very hard life living in the East End of London and working as a dock labourer.

To survive until he was 82 in those days, when cholera, typhus, typhoid, smallpox, scarlet fever, tuberculosis (‘consumption’), measles, mumps, rubella and diphtheria – were rife, was no mean feat (his wife Mary Halliday (see Irish Ancestry) my great, great grandmother, an Irish washerwoman, was similarly long-lived.)

They would both have witnessed the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858 – when so much undiluted sewage was flowing in the Thames that it finally made the MPs in Parliament do something about it, as they feared the smell would kill them in their debating chamber overlooking the river!  (They were about as useless as MPs these days.)

They were both born at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815-16 and both died 1898-9.  They must have been incredibly tough, tenacious and hard-working, to have survived and raised a family in 19th century Dickensian Whitechapel, in the East End of London (in Mary’s case, two families, as she had several children by her first husband, Purcell),

My Irish Ancestry

Mary Mason (Mary Purcell by her first marriage; nee Holliday or Halliday), my great, great grandmother, an Irish washerwoman, was born in Dublin c. 1814-16)  She emigrated from Ireland to the East End of London.

She must have been incredibly tough, tenacious and hard-working, to have survived and raised a family in 19th century Dickensian Whitechapel, in the East End of London (in Mary’s case, two families, as she had several children by her first husband, Purcell),

Cáit’s Blog

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This blog is about life in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland.
It will also feature poems and my general observations and comments about history, politics, religion, world events – whatever I feel moved to write on.

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I moved to Lisdoonvarna, the only spa town in Ireland, in early October 2017, and have been settling in with my wife Jane; and with Roxy, our 6 year old Border Terrier.

Lisdoonvarna is just 6 miles from the North Atlantic Ocean in North West Clare; a lovely little town that hosts an annual Matchmaking Festival. Lisdoonvarna is also the gateway to the Burren, an area with many prehistoric sites, Celtic high crosses, rare wild flowers, limestone pavements, and enormous skies…

Doolin Harbour at four o’clock in late November

A warm sea mist lies low on the surge
Like a mother cat feeding her white-tipped young
Grey roiling tide licks and curl and spits
Against black rocks born in ancient seas
Now scattered by a giant paw on Doolin’s shores.

It’s early days in our Irish cottage, and there is quite a lot of work needs doing to it, mainly to sort out the heating and a bit of damp, probably mostly caused by condensation. There is no mains gas in this rural part of Ireland; the cottage has in an out-house a very old, rusty, oil-fired central heating boiler that keeps switching off for no reason – we have a man coming on Wednesday to service it and see whether it needs a new pump.  If it can’t be fixed, we will have to get a new boiler fitted.  We always seem to get caught – we have had to put a new central heating boiler into every house we have ever bought.

We are also installing a little Henley Thames multi-fuel stove in the living room, on which logs or peat can be burned.

It turns out the oil-fired central heating boiler had been wired up wrong, which is why it kept switching off. The radiators are now red-hot and keeping all the rooms warm, and we have the new multi-fuel stove burning logs in the living room – lovely and homely!

I have found loads more on the Internet about my Irish ancestry at ancestry.co.uk which will help with my family history research.

I have started a separate post about this: My Irish Ancestry.

Also I will be posting separately about my ancestry from the East End of London, including Whitechapel:  My East End of London Ancestry.

Lisdoonvarna Town Square

Road to Fanore Beach on the Wild Atlantic Way

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