What makes Ireland special? Interesting county facts

By Barry Lord   @Bazneto

Next time you hear of a proposed ‘boycott’ and wonder where that word originated from, you’ll find the answer is a lot closer to home than you think.

Do you want to know which Irish county enchanted no less a cinematic icon than Charlie Chaplin? Again, look into local history.

Or if you simply want to know which county has the distinction of being the most miserable place in the country, the answer may surprise you.

Yes, many of our counties have colourful pasts and plenty of interesting facts to share. But if you had to make a short list, the task might not be as simple as you think because this island can boast quite a few of them.

Ireland Today has put together our own list of personal favourites.

The word ‘Boycott’ originated in Co. Mayo.

The word is derived from Captain Charles C Boycott, who was a 19th century British land agent for an absentee landlord, Lord Erne.

The growing resentment of tenant farmers towards wealthy landowners led to the formation of the Irish Land League in 1879, which sought to reduce rents and block evictions.

During this time of hostility, Boycott was frozen out by his local community in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo during the Irish Land War as a part of the Irish Land League’s campaign of ostracism.

Charles C Boycott
Charles C Boycott

Chaplin and Co. Kerry: A perfect match.

In his 1921 film The Kid, Charlie Chaplin warmed the heart of many a film-goer with his portrayal of the Tramp. But seemingly the cockles of the actor’s heart were warmed by Co. Kerry.

The silent film star, whose last wife, Oona O’Neill (daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill) had Irish ancestry and found the perfect family abode in Waterville, Co. Kerry.

Chaplin, who died in 1977, was a frequent traveller with his family to Waterville throughout the 60s and 70s, often staying at the Butler Arms Hotel – a home last summer to the Star Wars cast incidentally.

His small physical stature looms large today with a statue of the great man overlooking Ballinaskelligs Bay in Waterville, and every summer the town is host to the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival.

So you paid too much? Blame those Vikings in Waterford!

You’ve heard the expression “Paying through the nose” for something. It can refer to property but could easily apply to your next cinema trip when, after purchasing a ticket, you see how much you have to pay for a hot dog. But where did it come from? The answer is lovely Waterford.

The Vikings established ports across Ireland between 800-1169. They arrived in Waterford and proved such a fierce opponent to the normally lethal Déise tribe that they soon caved in and paid Airgead Sroine (or “nose money”) in order to keep their noses on their faces. Hence the expression “to pay through the nose!!!”

Jack the Ripper’s only Irish victim hailed from Limerick.

Gruesome death: Jack the Ripper's Irish victim, Mary Kelly
Gruesome death: Jack the Ripper’s Irish victim, Mary Kelly

On a grislier note, Limerick native Mary Jane Kelly was murdered in 1888 in London’s Whitechapel area and is believed to be the fifth and last of Jack the Ripper’s victims.

Reports described her as a “fairly attractive” and “buxom” young lady, with implacable hair colour, which led to her numerous nicknames – Fair Emma,” “Ginger” and “Black Mary”.

The most miserable place in Ireland is…

County Longford has the unfortunate distinction of being the most miserable county in the country, according to a story in the Irish Sun, which reported that an online survey conducted by Census of the Heart found that respondents from the midland county “ranked lowest in a number of domains” compared to their nearest neighbours.

Why the long face Longford? Or is this all a bridge too far?
Why the long face Longford? Or is this all a bridge too far?

People did not feel positive about their life potential or were not empowered enough to bring change to their lives and did not feel safe and happy in their homes.
By contrast, in the same report, Leitrim was declared the happiest county in the country, with people more content and assured with their lot in life.

And if you really want to hear just why Longford isn’t miserable at all, watch this local man tell you why!  Spoiler alert – this is hilarious!


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