Funny Irish Poems

When one speaks of funny Irish poems most likely they are referring to limericks. They take their name from County Limerick in southern Ireland but why exactly we are not sure. One possibility is that because an early form of the poem had a standardized line inviting the hearer to visit the place. Limericks became popular from the 1840’s onwards when Edward Lear (who was actually English) popularized them through his work A Book of Nonsense. Limericks follow a set pattern: five lines of verse where the first, second and fifth, and the third and fourth, rhyme together. They are often but not always obscene. But they are always (or aspire to be) funny.

Below is a sample collection of Limericks by Edward Lear from his A Book of Nonsense.

There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!

There was an Old Man on a hill,

Who seldom, if ever, stood still;

He ran up and down,

In his Grandmother’s gown,

Which adorned that Old Man on a hill.

There was a Young Lady whose chin,

Resembled the point of a pin;

So she had it made sharp,

And purchased a harp,

And played several tunes with her chin.

There was an Old Person of Burton,

Whose answers were rather uncertain;

When they said, ‘How d’ye do?’

He replied, ‘Who are you?’

That distressing Old Person of Burton.

I hope you enjoyed those clean and funny Irish poems. If you want to read more of Lear’s poems click here.

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Facts About Irish Immigration

Here are some facts about Irish immigration. The population of Northern Ireland stands at about 1.8 million; that of the Republic at nearly 4.5 million. Yet, around the world there are over 60 million people who claim ancestry from either the northern or southern parts of the island. Of these the vast majority reside in the United States but there are also numerous in Canada, Australia and New Zealand with smaller communities in other countries. In Australia nearly two million claim Irish ancestry (9% of the total population) while as many as 30% have some ancestral connection to Ireland. In Great Britain 10% of the people have one Irish grandparent and as many as one quarter have at least some Irish ancestry that they are aware of. How did this come about?

Northern Ireland and the Protestants

During the centuries when Ireland was part of Great Britain Protestants faired better in Ireland than Catholics and perhaps felt less of a need to immigrate. Nonetheless, relatively large number travelled to America mostly in the 18th century in order to escape hardships at home. Most settled in rural areas and took up farming. They were quickly assimilated into the fabric of then mostly Protestant American society. According to estimates those of Protestant Irish ancestry number more than 5 million. Read on for more facts about Irish immigration, this time from the Catholic population.

Irish Catholics Travel to the US

Irish immigrants travelled to America in small numbers even before the declaration of American independence. Numbers increased from about 1800 onwards. One of the reasons may have been the fact that in Ireland they were considered as second class citizens while America promised freedom and a more tolerant environment. Another reason was the opportunity for work. Ireland had a relatively large population. Some estimate it at 5 million at the beginning of the 19th century growing rapidly to as much as 8 million by the middle of the century. Work was not easy to find at home. By contrast, America promised better work opportunities. Some of the major projects of the early 1800’s like the opening of the Erie Canal required large number of laborers and the Irish swiftly moved in to fill that role.

More Facts About Irish Immigration: The Great Famine

The flow of immigrants from Ireland to America turned into a flood with the Great Famine of 1845-1848. Irish peasants lived on small plots of land and depended mostly on potatoes for food. Beginning in 1845 blight attacked the crop. As much as 50% of the crop was destroyed that year. While Ireland had had bad crops in earlier times, things became more complicated because the 1846 and 1847 were also disastrous. Within three years Ireland lost two million people. About one million died and another million immigrated, mostly to America, but also to Britain.

Even after the famine immigration continued at a steady pace with Irish Catholics sometime accounting for 50% of immigration to the US. Unlike Irish Protestants, Catholics settled mostly in cities. Between 1820 when immigration records began to be kept, and today, 4.8 million Irish have immigrated to the US.

According to the 2000 US census, 34.5 million Americans claimed Irish ancestry, which is about 12% of the total population. In the state of Massachusetts the Irish contingency stands 24%, double the national average. These facts about Irish immigration are indicative nor only of the large scope of immigration, but of the tenacity of identity. Third and fourth generation immigrants still remember fondly their land of origin.

They have left their mark

If we were to try to name all the famous Americans of Protestant or Catholic Irish ancestry it would probably take several book volumes. I remember a friend and amateur historian from Larne telling me that no less than six US presidents hailed from the vicinity of Larne. I have not taken the time to debunk or confirm this account but I would not at all be surprised if it were true.

Apart from the big and the famous the Irish had played their part in everyday life. St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most celebrated holidays in the US while American Country music has clear points of contact with Irish music.

There. We hope these facts on Irish immigration have been useful. While here feel free to browse through some of the other interesting pages.

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Enniskillen Castle

Enniskillen Castle is one of the famous castles of Ireland and a landmark site of the beautiful city of Enniskillen. Compared to other Irish castles it is not as old and battle scarred as the 12th century Carrickfergus Castle nor as new and elegant as the 18th century Belfast Castle. The earliest reference to the castle comes from 1439 and the Annals of Ulster. It was reportedly built by Hugh ‘the Hospitable’ Maguire for the Maguire family who had been chiefs of Fermanagh since 1302. Hugh died in 1428 so if indeed he was the builder then the castle dates from well before his death. Hugh was the younger brother of the famous King Thomas Maguire. The castle was built for defensive purposes since the clans of the O’Rourkes and the O’Donnells posed a constant threat to the Maguires. The choice of location was excellent since it guarded one of the very few entrances to Fermanagh. Initially only a small tower house, it was subsequently expanded.

In the 17th century it came under the control of the English and subsequently served as barracks for different regiments including the famous Enniskillen Fusiliers (more correctly, Royal Inniskillings Fusiliers).

The Castle Today

Today it is a tourist attraction and one of the landmarks of the city of Enniskillen. It is located on a beautiful spot next to the river Erne at the heart of Enniskillen. It is without doubt one of the best preserved of the older castles in Northern Ireland. It consists of several structures.

First is the outer wall. A characteristic feature not is the double tower that overlooks the main entrance. Beyond that, the wall is in a great state of repair (given its age). Attached to the wall on the inside is the Barack Range that follows the curvature of the wall, the 19th century main barracks and the Barracks and Coach House.

Within the castle there are several other buildings that served the Fusiliers in different ways. Today they house museum exhibitions. The exhibitions span a broad spectrum of topics from Enniskillen. Part of the museum has exhibits from the history of the Fusiliers. There are also permanent exhibitions on Fermanagh’s history, its wildlife and its landscape. Apart from these permanent exhibitions there are special exhibitions that deal with the cultural, historical and archaeological heritage as well as art.

Contact Information

Fermanagh County Museum

Enniskillen Castle

Castle Barracks


Co Fermanagh

N. Ireland

BT74 7HL

Tel. +44 (0) 28 66 325000

Fax +44 (0) 28 66 327342


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Cavehill: Belfast’s Splendid Views

Cavehill Country Park (more correctly Cave Hill Country Park) is a part just outside Belfast that is popular with locals and visitors. On its slopes is built the majestic Belfast Castle. But whereas the castle lies at a height of 400 feet (120 meters) the hill reaches a whopping 1200 feet (365 meters) and as such affords much better views not only of Belfast, but of the whole surrounding area. The park is easily accessible by both car and local transportation so there is no excuse for you not to visit.

Walkers Paradise

Cavehill has eight walking trails both for novices and for the more demanding ramblers. Perhaps the better known is the circuitous path that begins at Belfast Castle and returns to the same spot (though being circuitous route it can, of course, be joined at a number of other places, some of which offer good car parking facilities).

It covers 4.5 miles (7.2 km) mostly over broken or uneven terrain. It takes in most of the places of interest on the hill and offers spectacular views but will test your feet and endurance if you are not used to hiking. it will take between two and a half and three hours. If you prefer something less taxing, you may opt for one of the shorter paths that will still keep you happy and healthy.

A Sense of History

While walking and admiring nature are the main preoccupations of those who visit, Cavehill is not without its history. It was originally called Ben Madigan from a local chieftain who died in AD 855.

On the top of the hill is McArt’s Fort an ancient ráth type of fortification. It consists of flat ground protected on one side by a steep drop and on the other by a ditch 10 feet deep (3 meters). Ráth or Ringforts were used from possibly the Iron Age until early medieval times and several thousand have been found throughout the island. They were very basic constructions, mostly dirt, rock and wood. Some ringforts were simply large farms with basic defensive features while others had bigger functions. There are other ráths on the grounds of the Country Park but not as spectacular or well known as McArt’s Fort. There is also a crannog (an dwelling place in a lake) at Hazelwood.

The Caves

Cavehill takes its name from five caves that dot the slopes. The caves are man made and some speculate that they are ancient mines.

Napoleon’s Nose

The high point where McArt’s Fort lies is also known as Napoleon’s Nose. If you are standing there you will not know why. But as you are driving towards the Country Park or leaving it, take a careful look and the rock outcrop looks like a human nose which some suggest inspired Jonathan Swift in his work Gulliver’s Travels.

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Belfast Castle: a Jewel on the Hill

Belfast Castle is a magnificent building on the slopes of Cave Hill overlooking the city and offering splendid views of both the city, the harbor and the surrounding areas. There is free parking, free entrance, walks and play areas nearby so if you are staying in Belfast for more than a few hours make sure you visit. And it is rarely crowded.


There had been a castle in Belfast from as early as the 12th century built by the Normans who came as conquerors. The original castle was located in what is today the city center. In 1611 a new castle was erected to replace the obsolete Norman construction. The new one was built of stone and timber and belonged to Baron Chichester. But this castle too was long, in a large fire in 1708. The only reminder is roads like Castle Street.

Belfast remained without a castle until the 19th century. In 1863 the 3rd Marquis of Donegal, a descendant and heir of the Chistester family, decided to built a castle in the present location, which eventually became the current Belfast Castle. The original budget was £11,000 and the Lanyon family and architectural firm responsible for the plans and construction.

Construction proved a bit of a white elephant for the Marquis eating away at his fortune until he lost it nearly all. Thankfully, Lord Ashley, heir to the Earldom of Shaftesbury and nephew of the Marquis completed the project in 1870. On the death of the Marquis the castle passed to the Shaftesburys, a well respected and fondly remember family of philanthropists. They in turned gave it over to Belfast Council in 1934. Since then Belfast Castle is run by the city Council.


The castle is built is the Scottish Baronial style. The style is a revival of earlier Gothic medieval styles. Other examples are the Newark Castle in Glascow, the Craigievar Castle near Aberdeen, and the Balmoral Castle also in Aberdeenshire which popularized the style and influenced the design of the Belfast Castle. Though called a castle, Belfast Castle was never, of course, intended for war. It is an exquisite mansion much like most of the castles built from the 17th century onwards. In the 1980’s it underwent a refurbishment program and has been open to the public again since 1988.

What to do on a visit

The first thing to do is park your car and enjoy the splendid views. The castle is built on the slope of Cave Hill at a height of about 400 feet (120 meters). Part of the city of Belfast is hidden by the mass of the hill itself but most of the town center can be seen. Look for the harbor and the large yellow cranes that stand next to the place the Titanic was built. Look out at the Belfast Lough, the large natural gulf that protects the shores of Belfast from big Atlantic storms and ensures Belfast harbor has quiet waters. Depending on the hour of the day, you might see the large boats that connect Belfast with Scotland and England leave or enter the harbor.

Opposite you, on the other side of the Lough you can see the north coast of County Down with some spectacular places itself like Bangor (not visible from the castle) and Crawfordsburn, a splendid park and scouting camp.

In the Castle

In the castle you will want to visit the visitor center on the second floor. Entrance is free. The visitor’s center will give you a lot of information about the castle itself and Cave Hill. If you have time you may want to sit and enjoy a meal at the Cellar Restaurant. Otherwise, just walk around the rooms and hallways (where permitted of course) imagining that you are a Victorian nobleman or woman about to attend a ball with the mighty and the powerful.

Once you finish daydreaming walk to the lovely gardens, sit on one of the benches and enjoy the peace and serenity. And look out for the cats. Well, sort of. The Shaftesburys apparently loved cats. In their memory, during the 1980’s refurbishments, nine cats were added to the landscape in this like mosaics, small statues etc. Some are well hidden so see if you or your children can find them all.

Beyond these, if you are a tourist on a tight touring schedule you are probably ready to get in the car and head to another place of interest. But if time is not an issue, you may want to enjoy a walk through the woods, let your children play in the play area or head for the top of Cave Hill and enjoy even more splendid views.

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