“There was a time, after all, when it was still acceptable to use the term ‘Scotch’ of Northern Britons, as well as of their whisky and terriers. But such has the word’s stigmatisation over the centuries, by the English mainly, this is no longer the case.”

An Irishman’s Diary about adjectives and whiskey

“The new €169 million brewhouse doesn’t suggest a company in retreat. And the investment should add to Dublin’s economic health, however Diageo pronounces it.” Photograph: Frank McNally
Burning the toast

An Irishman’s Diary about Guinness, Dublin history and Jonathan Swift

“Billy Brennan’s Barn is up for sale. Yes, in what may be another sign of renewed confidence in the Irish property market, the famous outhouse, backdrop to Kavanagh’s 1936 sonnet Inniskeen Road: July Evening, has been placed on the market.” Photograph: myhome.ie

An Irishman’s Diary about poetic properties

“Contrary to the poet’s view, I would argue that there was no job to compete with being up on the platform, feeding sheafs of wheat and barley down into the jaws of the machine.”
No trouble at mill

An Irishman’s Diary about Patrick Kavanagh and threshing

The incident set me thinking about Ireland’s strange relationship between time and meteorology, which is enshrined even in Irish grammar. There, we use to the same word (aimsir) to mean both “weather” and “tense”. Which among other things gives rise to an excellent joke on TG4, where the Aimsir Láithreach (“present tense“) is also the title of the weather forecast.

An Irishman’s Diary about Hiberno-English

The story goes that, in September 1914, the veteran general Joseph Gallieni, based in Paris, devised a dramatic plan. Commandeering every available taxi, he rushed thousands of men to the front overnight. The subsequent counter-attack stopped the German advance, and a grateful city hailed its taxi fleet as saviour.The truth, as you may suspect, was more complicated.

An Irishman’s Diary about the First Battle of the Marne

Paper boys head onto the streets with the Connacht Tribune hot off the presses  in the late 1950s.

An Irishman’s Diary about a threatened species of street vendor

 Fans at the Electric Picnic. “Who knows? Maybe Kevin O’Higgins or his Blueshirts-founding brother would have enjoyed the spectacle.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

An Irishman’s Diary about Stradbally

Tom Barry. “The same things that made Barry such a brilliant military leader make him a poor storyteller.  His bombastic prose, black-and-white characterisations, and a tendency to plead righteousness on all questions of war-time morality (some of them still fiercely contested) are a bit wearing. He was the sort of man you’d want beside you – or in front of you, ideally – in the trenches. But I doubt he was great company anywhere else.”

An Irishman’s Diary about theatrical surprises

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