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By Whitney Snyder
SNEEM, Ireland — Culture is something that the Irish people feel strongly about. The Irish have customs and norms they follow in order to reflect that importance. And sharing and experiencing that culture in a local pub is a certainty.
Indeed, Ireland is known for its pubs, having approximately 10,000 pubs that stretch all over the land about the size of the state of Wisconsin.
Locals are fond of the pub culture. But it would be a mistake to assume that going to the pub means little more than consuming alcohol.
The pub culture has a positive affect on the local culture because it fosters unity within society.
Timmy O’Sullivan, a Sneem resident summed it up well. “It’s just a way of life here,” he said. “When I come in and have a pint, the bartenders don’t even have to ask what I am drinking. It is quite nice.
“I never leave without seeing a handful of friends either; the pub is a common ground for a lot of people here in Sneem and I find that to be quite nice.”
Although the Irish pubs are culturally based, some people here believe the authenticity of Irish pubs is in decline. The once-authentic pubs are now being restored and redesigned in order to meet the expectations of tourists. Dublin is known for having several genuine pubs, but they too are restoring their locations due to tourists as well.
Not only are the pubs in Ireland being changed, but several pubs are also being exported to different parts of the world, and the true face of the Irish meaning has diminished.
Another local stated that they truly enjoy when tourists come to Sneem because it allows for them to have a feel for the authentic pub culture.
The pub is not just a route to see who can get intoxicated first; it is a way of life. Some may take it more seriously than others, but it remains true to the Irish name.
By Luke O’Brien
O’Brien’s Castle at the Cliffs of Moher was constructed in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien. He built the tower as a view point for visitors, which even then was a tourist attraction.
This Urban-style graffiti art sits in the famous Eyre square in Galway. It gives a playful jab at the city’s propensity to receive rain on a daily basis. It was raining when this picture was taken.
This poor local man tries to make a living any way he can. Here is with a bay lamb, red deer and a puppy which are all only a few weeks old. Tourists hold the newborns and take pictures with them, giving the man some spare change.
Proof the “wee folk” or leprechauns do exist. A small home is constructed at the base of a large tree. It is too small for any human but a nice size dwelling for the gold guarding creature that is infamous in the Emerald Isle.
Staigue in Ireland was built between 200 B.C. and 400 AD. It boasts 12 foot walls and a strategic location at the foot of the mountains. It is the oldest one of its kind in Ireland.
This classic automobile was one of many to grace the small village of Sneem. The locals say it is not uncommon for these impromptu car shows to pop up in the village square on nice afternoons.
By Chris Mueller
In the center of Galway lies Eyre Square and JFK memorial park, one of the city’s most vibrant and open places. Over the street hang the flags of the 14 original tribes to inhabit the area
All over Ireland are tons of crosses and statues. The memorials demonstrate the great work of St. Patrick and his influence on the widespread movement of Christianity throughout the land
Ireland has made increasing efforts to “go green” and maintain their status as one of the most unpolluted countries in the world. But even with their large movements, the sacred tradition hasn’t diminished with old-style trashcans like this one
A demonstration of the lush green vegetation Ireland possesses that can’t be experienced anywhere else in the world
Poverty remains an issue Ireland must deal with as thousands of homeless roam the area in both urban and rural areas. But at the same time, these poverty-stricken individuals contribute to the rich tradition of the country with their music playing in the streets and valleys
A look through an alley in the heart of Galway City with vast amounts of colors being displayed from the local pubs
By Brooke Smith
SNEEM, Ireland — Students from multiple American universities and colleges annually invade this small Irish village for multiple days.
Sneem, located in County Kerry, has a population of just over 350 and sees a dramatic increase of people during the months of May and August; and that’s due in large part by the work of Sneem resident and former teacher, Batt Burns.
“I have affiliations with a lot of American universities, but mainly Robert Morris and Kent State are the two that bring students,” explained Burns.
When students visit, it would be and is easy for them to stand out. Here are a few tips from residents of Sneem on how to blend in and make the most out of your time in their town:
–“Go out and talk to the locals, it’s fun to just sit and talk with them for a bit,” explained one resident.
–“Explore the walking trails, and visit the pubs,” said one bartender at D O’Shea’s. They also added it’s important “to have fun while in the pubs, just be smart about it.”
While it would be easy to just spend most free time relaxing, it’s also important to out and see the sights and talk with people in the village.
Sneem Hotel general manager Nicola Duggan says college student groups make up a good percentage of hotel guests.
“We see a good number of college students during the months of May and August,” explained Duggan. “That’s in large part to the work that Batt Burns does, he’s the main contact between us and the universities.”
For Duggan, it’s also a welcome sight to have college students at her new café, Gossip.
“It’s good for business. We enjoy having students in town,” said Duggan.
While students can make whatever they want out of the experience, it’s safe to say that RMU students are having a great time in the village.
“I feel that Sneem is a very cozy small town. Everyone here is welcoming to me,” said RMU journalism student Jenna Vidic. “The people are so friendly, they will stop and talk to you for hours. It’s a nice difference from what I’m used to in Pittsburgh.”
Other students noted that Sneem is “way better than they could’ve ever imagined.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this trip,” said RMU photography major Amy Shubilla. “I had seen a lot of photos and heard about it from students that went on the trip in previous years. It’s much better than I ever expected. It’s great to meet locals, but it’s also an amazing place to take a lot of great photos.”
Most, if not all, students from RMU will be sad to see their time in Sneem come to an end. While it will be fun to move on to Dublin and see the sights there, Sneem will always hold a special place in our hearts thanks in large part to the people we’ve met and places we’ve seen.
By Katie Abramowich
SNEEM, Ireland — Before radios and televisions, there was storytelling, passed down from one generation to the next. For the people of Ireland, the storytelling tradition dates back 2000 years; as such, it is rooted in the nation’s heritage.
Unfortunately, as the generations become more interested in other means of entertainment, the art of storytelling is being lost. To those that see the importance of this tradition, it is vital to make any attempts to save it.
Batt Burns’ life was built upon storytelling. Burns calls himself one of the few seanachies, or storytellers in Gaelic, left in Ireland. As a young child, he listened to his grandfather’s stories in awe. Tales about the Wee Folk, fables with happy endings, and even stories about his grandfather’s life could last hours around a fire or kitchen table.
Now, Burns spends his time telling stories of his own. He has even authored a book, a collection of new and old Irish tales.
Burns is passionate about the dying art of storytelling, which was so important during his childhood. For this reason, he helped to host the Sneem International Storytelling and Folklore Festival on Nov. 9-11, 2012.
He explains that the November dates have historical significance. “We picked the time very specially because in the olden days the story telling season began on the first of November.”
It was around this time that the farmers had gathered the last of the harvest, and the workload decreased drastically until planting resumed in March. This free time transformed the farmer into a seanachie.
At this gathering, Burns collected some of the best storytellers – from Ireland and the United States – in hopes of sparking a renewed interest in storytelling. The event included storytelling, music, and special events for children.
Burns hopes that a renewed interest in storytelling will preserve the Irish heritage. He believes that by letting such a vital piece of history fade away, Irish natives are sacrificing a piece of their own character. He says, “You lose part of what makes you different. Listening to the stories develops the imagination, and the Irish are supposed to be imaginative and good storytellers.”
The outcome was surprising to Burns and the other storytellers. Nearly 200 people filled the seats at each of the two shows. The positive reaction was enough of an initiative to hold the festival again next year. However, the revitalization of the storytelling tradition lies in the hands of the younger generations, as Burns feels that getting young people interested is key to this cause.
Batt Burns conducts a storytelling workshop to a group of Robert Morris University students
Storytelling, once a possible major at some colleges in Ireland, is no longer a mandatory part of the elementary curriculum. Life has also changed. Radio and television were surfacing when Burns was a teenager. Now, not enough time is spent apart from television and Internet entertainment, so storytelling is irrelevant to 21st-century children.
In order to involve children, Burns frequents the local elementary school in Sneem. “We have a deal now, I go in for one visit and I tell them a story. And the next visit, they tell me a story.”
Sometimes, he gives them scripts to read, but Burns finds it most enriching when the children are required to find their own stories by asking parents and grandparents.
Preserving this tradition will keep a significant piece of Irish heritage alive. Hopefully, Batt Burns and other storytellers’ efforts can reverse the diminishing Irish seanachie population.
By Sara Dinwiddie
SNEEM, Ireland — Batt and Maura Burns are among the most interesting people in Sneem, and with every reason.
These individuals are both full of a long, rich history famous in the area. Everybody seems to know Batt’s name, and his wife is just as legendary in some parts. The Burns’ are a household name, but some may ask why?
Why does everyone know Batt Burns and his talented wife and their seemingly famous backgrounds?
Maura Burns, originally Maura O’Dwyer, is from a small town just south of Sneem. Her parents met in Detroit. Yes, that Detroit. Her parents were musicians, and together they built and ran a dance hall. After returning to Ireland, they raised five children together. Surprisingly, all grew up to become musicians.
Maura has been playing a little instrument called the concertina since she was young. The concertina resembles a miniature accordion. There are two different types of concertina: an Anglo concertina- which is what Maura plays- that has the ability to play multiple melodies at once; and the English concertina, which has keys like an accordion and has a different sound. Maura still plays the concertina to this day, despite her ongoing battle with ALS.
Batt had an equally interesting upbringing. He was one of nine children with his family in Sneem. His mother was a teacher for the small local school. Batt’s siblings all grew up and emigrated, but Batt spent a great chunk of his time at his grandparents’ house.
That is where Batt first learned how to tell stories. Batt eventually became a teacher at the very school his mother used to work. Here is one of the places Batt got to practice his story telling.
He has traveled internationally to tell his stories and was asked a few years back to turn the stories he knew into a book. The storytelling tradition is being lost in Ireland and the culture needed to be preserved. Batt did write the book, now available and titled The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales, which was a New York Times bestseller not long ago. Batt is clearly an influential character.
Between the two of them is a lot of history and rich Irish culture- many stories to be told and many songs to be sung. These characters are always willing to show the willing a good time in Ireland. As Batt Burns once said, “Grab the moment! Don’t turn down an opportunity.”
Seize the day, embrace culture, and never forget where you came from. Batt and Maura Burns are the perfect examples of such a lifestyle.
They have four children who live in Ireland.