Posts Tagged ‘ireland’


This week’s word is forage. I was chatting about hedgerow harvesting this morning with Scout friends (it’s part of our Backwoods badge) and then couldn’t resist thoughts of foraging while walking. When I returned home I pulled out recipes for gorse wine and hawthorn blossom liquer. Foraging is addictive.

Hedgerow jam – damson & blackberry

Foraging entered the English language c. 1200s from Latin. Foragium was the Anglo-Latin word for fodder or food for horses and cattle. Around the same time it was in Old French as fourrage or fuerre which meant hay or straw, typically for animals. Frankish and old German had fuotar, fodr and fodr which all related to fodder or food.

Nettle soup anyone?

By the 1400s the word had moved on in meaning and related to plundering or pillaging. By the late 1400s that had changed to encompass the idea of roving around in search of provisions. From the 1700s onwards the notion had acquired a military twist. Foraging for provisions for the army’s beasts and soldiers was a vital skill when moving through the countryside. Those with the ability to live off the land were more likely to survive a campaign.

Plantain or Whitefoot – perfect for nettle stings

Luckily I don’t have to feed an army, although my teenage son gives me some insight into that particular challenge, but I love being able to use the environment around me to vary my diet and continue local traditions and folklore. Each year I add one or two new items to my foraging menu. If you’re interested there are great resources on Pinterest (you’ll find me and my foraging board there as GraceTierneyIRL) and the book “Wild and Free Cooking from Nature” by Cyril and Kit Ó’Céirín is a great starting point if you’re foraging in Ireland or the UK. There’s so much more out there than a few blackberries in the autumn.

Primrose – edible flower

Until next time happy reading, writing, wordfooling, and foraging,



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I finally made a visit to the National Maritime Museum of Ireland in Dun Laoghaire last weekend, with family in tow, so it’s time for another entry in Wordfoolery’s Nautical Series – tonne.

anchor When over-burdened with shopping (or an anchor like this lovely example outside the museum) I’d often say that it weighed a tonne. However I’ve edited the phrase out of my writing because I couldn’t get clarity on the correct spelling (tonne or ton?).

Imagine my surprise to find a detailed explanation of the phrase when researching for my coastal novels in the museum. Tonne comes from the idea of a ship’s tonnage but has little to do with the weight of the ship. Tonnage, or as it was originally know tunnage, was measured for tax purposes and related to the number of tuns of wine the ship could carry. All good ships transport nothing but wine, of course.

One tun held 252 gallons of wine (tax-men despise even numbers) which is approximately 1,150 litres or 2,2,40 pounds of weight. So when I said my bags weighed a tonne, I should have said they weighed a tun, although I’m not strong enough to lift 2,240 pounds of groceries, or wine!

Pirate Captain Grace

Pirate Captain Grace

If you want to get into nautical detail the gross tonnage of the ship is the volume of its cargo space while deadweight tonnage (DWT) refers not to – “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” – but to the total weight of passengers, cargo, fuel, stores minus the weight of the ship herself.

As for the origin of tun as a word, that has the fingerprints of many languages – Old English tunne, Old Frisian tunne, Middle Dutch tonne, Old High German tunna, German tonne, Latin tunna, Old French tonne and possibly even Middle Irish tunna and toun (meaning hide or skin). I’ve noticed that words relating to ships often have a mixed source like this. I assume this is because the ships and their sailors moved around, pilfering words from languages when it helped them communicate with their polyglot crews and traders. Seas are fertile places for creating vocabulary.

If you’re visiting Dublin, I can heartily recommend a visit to the maritime museum in Dun Laoghaire (just hop on a DART train out from the city centre) – there are great hands-on exhibits for the kids and it’s small enough for the whole family to avoid museum fatigue. Run by volunteers (hence the reasonable entry fee), it is crammed with details on the huge and varied contributions made by the Irish to seafaring life – inventing submarines, founding several nation’s navies, shipwrecks, polar exploration, Atlantic cable-laying, the Beaufort scale, and I discovered Marconi had an Irish mother.

Museum Teddy wasn't sure about this whole breeches buoy thing

Museum Teddy wasn’t sure about this whole breeches buoy thing

They were even kind enough to indulge my curious children by showing how the museum’s teddy travels between ships by breeches buoy.

Until next time, happy reading,writing, and wordfooling,


Please don’t forget to vote today for Wordfoolery in the Arts&Culture section of the Irish Blog Awards – thanks!


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Great news, Wordfoolery has made the shortlist of the Arts&Culture section of the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards Ireland 2016, hurrah!

Moving from this stage to finalist is based 80% on judging and 20% on public vote – which is where you come in. The public vote is open today (Monday 22nd) and tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd) until midnight. Just press the button below. You’ll need to pick Wordfoolery from the Arts & Culture shortlist and create an account to vote but it’s pretty easy.



Thanks for your support, Grace (a.k.a. Wordfoolery)

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This week’s word is folly. I have always loved architectural follies and this blog is dedicated to fools, or more specifically word-fools, so follies fit here.

Folly (pronounced foll-ee) is a noun meaning 1. foolishness or foolish actions and 2. a useless, extravagant structure. Sadly the grounds of my own garden are far too small for such an edifice. I don’t have the resources of the Victorian estate owners who constructed them to create a focal point for their gardens. But I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many follies in my travels. The grounds of the former Guinness house in St. Anne’s Park, Raheny wasn’t too far from my childhood home and I loved the classical follies along the stream there. In fact they are planning a follies trail there in what is now a large public park.

Spire of Lloyd

Spire of Lloyd

I also studied the nearby Casino at Marino in art class at school. It’s accessible by guided tour only but is worth a trip if you’re in Dublin. Every time I visit my in-laws  in Cavan we drive past my personal favourite – the inland lighthouse, the Spire of Lloyd at Kells. Built to provide a landmark for the returning hunt it sometimes has a beam from the top to complete the picture.

I’d love to visit the cast-iron biscuit barrel of a tomb which is the Dennis Mausoleum of Clonbern in Co. Galway for it’s sheer oddness. Next weekend I’m off to Kilkenny so I’ll be keeping an eye out for Stroan Fountain and its oddly spherical enclosed stone fountain on the way. I also yearn to see the island mini-fort of Gibraltar in the gardens of LarchHill, Co. Kildare.

The Follies Trust say that follies are joyful little buildings that aim to please. I think we need more of them and should rejoice in the ones we have. They are quirky, architecturally fun, and enhance the landscape. It’s claimed that Ireland has more follies per square mile than anywhere else in the world and that makes me ridiculously proud. Have a look at their website for a small selection of photos of follies they’ve visited/restored – places like the pyramid in Co. Mayo, or the Jealous Wall at Belvedere House Mullingar (it is really very convincing in real life).

May your week be full of follies,

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


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I just spotted this listing over at Funds for Writers and wanted to pass it on to any Irish Writers (I think it may be open to international poets also, please check their site for full terms and conditions).

Entry fee is €5
Prizes of  €4,000, €2,000 and €1,000 for an unpublished poem in English not exceeding 70 lines.

In addition the ten short-listed poets are invited to read a selection of their work at the festival for a reading fee and traveling expenses totaling €400 (approximately £380 / $640).

Deadline is 5th of February 5 2010 so get writing.

happy reading and writing,


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