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Film and fun facts about Ireland

Eccentric and surprising Irish facts. Ireland on the silver screen. Snippets of fun from the land of exaggeration.

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Guinness is good for you; sign on County Carlow pub.
Guinness: No more free stout for blood doners.
Below is a selection of fun facts about Ireland.

Because the country loves to live up to its reputation for exaggeration, eccentricity and storytelling, there's an ever-changing bank of amusing Irish facts to choose from. My selection is small, quite random and entirely personal. I update it whenever I come across something that tickles me.

See also my top 10 of Irish film locations further down the page.

10 surprising and fun facts about Ireland

  • Until June 2010, a pint of Guinness was available free to blood doners. The decision to break the tradition was made by Diageo, the Guinness Group parent. Making the announcement, a company spokesperson said: "We no longer want to promote alcohol as a medicine, or to imply it can be used as a treatment or a cure."
  • The ancestors of Davy Crockett, the so-called King of the Wild Frontier, were Huguenots who settled in Castlederg, the most westerly town in Co Tyrone (population 2800 in 2002), Northern Ireland. The town now has a residential quarter named Crockett Park.
  • A genealogy nightmare! There were 453 John Murphys living in Dublin, according to the 1911 Irish census.
  • A hoax plaque on O'Connell Bridge hit the headlines in 2006, nearly three years after pranksters secretly set it into the stone masonry. Clearly visible to passers-by, the plaque commemmorated one Father Pat Noise who, so the bronze plaque said, died in suspicious circumstances when his carriage plunged into the Liffey on August 10th, 1919.

    Dublin officials had red faces when they learned that the plaque, with its tale of the ficticious priest, had been residing on one of the city's most prominent landmarks without their knowledge for so long. The public responded by placing spoof RIP notices, flowers and candles beside the fake memorial. After much debate, a decision was taken to leave the plaque in situ, as a monument to eccentricity.

  • Dustin The Turkey, a glove puppet celebrity known to a generation of TV-watching Irish kids, represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008. He was unceremoniously knocked out in the first round.
  • In 1864, the year civil registation of births started, one in three baby girls was given the first name of Mary. A century later (1965, to be precise), Mary was still the most popular name for new-born girls. Today, while Mary is still popular as a middle name, it has fallen from favour as a first name. According to official ( statistics, only 91 infant baby Marys were recorded in 2015.... less than one in 354 new daughters born in the Republic.
  • 'It's a long way to Tipperary' was written by an Englishman. The writer was a music hall entertainer called Jack Judge whose grandparents came from the great Munster county of Tipperary but he, himself, was born in Worcestershire, England, in 1872.

  • Father Pat Noise hoax memorial
    Click for a larger view.
  • The mummified right arm of Ireland's 19th-century bare knuckle champion, Dan Donnelly, went on a world tour in 2006. Having been kept in the bar of the Hideout Pub in Kilcullen, co Kildare, for many years, the arm is now one of the highlights of an exhibition called Fighting Irishmen: a celebration of the Celtic warrior. Between 2006 and August 2010, the arm was exhibited in New York, Boston, Belfast and Dublin. Donnelly (1788-1820) was as famous for his hard-drinking as for the extraordinary 90" reach of his arms.
  • In July 2015, the Republic of Ireland became the last nation in the EU to introduce a national post code system. Prior to this date, only areas of Dublin had a code (D2, D8 etc.). Outside of the cities, there were typically no street or house names or house numbers. Addresses were, therefore, very simple. Here's an example: Sean and Mary Sullivan, Ballymacadam, Cahir, Tipperary. That's it. No street name. No code. The postcode system introduced in 2015 provided each property with a unique code. It is not widely used other than by couriers and emergency services.
  • The inventor of the caterpillar track, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, lived at Edgeworthstown in County Longford. This invention developed from one of the labour-saving devices he introduced to his family home. These included sideboards on wheels (the first hostess trolley?), leather straps to prevent doors slamming, and a water pump that not only carried water to the cisterns in the house but also dispensed halfpenny coins to the poor in return for a half an hour turning the handle. He also produced 25 children (some sources say 24) by his four wives (bequeathing a genealogy marathon to his descendents!)

And 10 film fun facts about Ireland

  • Although set in Scotland, most of the battle scenes in the 1995 film Braveheart were filmed in Ireland, especially the western Wicklow Mountains (where there is now a Braveheart Scenic Driving Tour) and the Curragh Plains of Kildare (the Battle of Stirling Bridge). Trim Castle in County Meath had a starring role, too, pretending to be the English monarch's York and London strongholds.
  • A village called Hollywood nestles in the Wicklow Mountains.
  • The opening scenes of Excalibar (1981) were set in the grounds of the Norman Cahir Castle, County Tipperary. However, most of the filming was done in Childer's Wood, Roundstone, County Wicklow.
  • The classic John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara film The Quiet Man was filmed in the village of Cong in County Mayo, although the story is set in the neighbouring county of Sligo.
  • Kilmainham Gaol is a popular filming location. It was used in the brilliant 1969 version of the Italian Job, in the 1993 film In the Name of the Father and the 2007-2010 lavish made-for-tv production of The Tudors.
  • A number of locations in Trinity College and Belfield Campus (UCD) were passed off as settings in an English University in Educating Rita. Pearse Station and People's Gardens (in Dublin's Phoenix Park) also starred in the 1983 film, alongside Michael Caine and Julie Walters.
  • Amongst other locations, The Tudors (2007) starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers was filmed at Powerscourt, Enniskerry, co Wicklow and Phoenix Park, Dublin
  • The roaring lion at the end of MGM movies was born at Dublin Zoo and was called Cairbre.
  • Ballymore Eustace in co Kildare posed as Hadrian's Wall Fortress in the 2004 film King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley.
  • Laws of Attraction, the 2004 comedy romance starring Pierce Brosnan, was partly filmed at Humewood Castle, Kiltegan, County Wicklow.

Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, view from south side of pond.

Film locations of Ireland:
Powerscourt, co Wicklow - star of The Tudors

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin.

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

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