Local and Global Cultures
Like every country, Ireland is heavily influenced by the provinces surrounding it. England has probably changed Ireland more than any other country because of their early colonization of the Irish and their lasting settlements, which remain even in rural areas. Today, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and being there earlier this week, it did seem to have a more English or British feel to it. Among other things, the border is policed and the primary currency is pounds (also known as sterling).
Another country that seems to have had a strong influence on the Irish is the United States. Mora, our tour guide in Bundoran, pointed out several impacts that American society has had on the small surfing community, including the water park that they built a few years ago. In addition, many styles of clothing here are very similar to the styles popular in America. This was surprising to me because the climate is so different here. I wasn’t expecting to see so many short shorts, rompers and sumer dresses. Even though it is summer, it is still much cooler here than in the Southwestern United States.
An interesting examination of the rural Irish lifestyle is displayed in the old documentary we watched, called “The Man of Aran.” Being able to visit and explore Inis Oirr was a great experience because it allowed me to compare the modern reality to the foreign perception of the islands in the 1930s. The film portrayed the people living there as a primitive community, but their lifestyle is well-adapted and appropriate for the environment they live in. They haven’t hunted sharks for nearly 150 years, and now have many modern accommodations, thanks to cargo ships that deliver supplies to them daily. Still, it is a very small and rural community, with about 500 people living on the island. The residents make a living by farming and fishing, and there are ruins scattered around, dating as far back as the 10th Century.
One aspect of Irish culture that is hugely affected by other traditions is the music and instruments. According to Eugene, a talented musician that has been playing his whole life, the only instruments originally used by the Irish were the harp, the pipes, and the penny flute. All other instruments, such as the guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and piano accordion are additions. In contrast to music in America and other regions around the world, the player or singer doesn’t receive as much credit for performances. Instead, the composer of the tune is the person people remember. The singers are simply a vessel used to tell a story through song.