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A Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!

March 17, 2014

This month’s Read Watch Play theme is #reelread, and it set me thinking of lovely things spun, knitted and woven by hand. So I invite you to join me as I spin a few tales of things made in Ireland.  We will start with a reel and end with a reel!

I love old newsreels and I have discovered a few good sources on the web, if you don’t mind the preview versions. So we start with St Patrick’s Day in New York 60 years ago today.

Time machines.  You can lose many an hour to the past here and in the British Pathe and HBO Archives. Fast forward to colour and 2014 and a film made to celebrate St Patrick’s Day by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Fáilte Ireland.

Outrageously immodest, undeniably true.   Did I mention I was Irish?  I love “almost 5 million people live here but 70 million call it home”!

Share it #IrelandInspires.

So, to things made by hand.  #reelread made me think of the journey of wool, the whole story from the sheep in the fields to the finished garment, and all the skilled hands along the way that make it happen.

When we came to Australia my Aunt made all of us children Aran jumpers for the long trip by sea.  Little woolly coats of armour knitted by someone who loved us and did not want to see us go.

And I have always loved the intricate patterns of Irish knitting – echoes of the Atlantic, Celtic art and wild places.  How amazing to coax wool into something that complex, practical and beautiful – but I did not know until now that they can be “read”.    Watch as Michael explains what you can tell about a man by his jumper!

In my travels looking into spinning, weaving and knitting, I found some lovely Irish documentaries that I had not known existed and now hope to see in full.  In the 1970s and ‘80s filmmakers David and Sally Shaw Smith travelled Ireland to document craftspeople at work.  It was a way of life that was disappearing.  They made a series of films for Irish broadcaster RTE called HANDS featuring tailors, weavers, wool spinners, lace-makers, embroiderers, beekeepers, spinning wheel makers, candle-makers and other artisans.

Recently, and now aged in their 70s, they revisited six of the original craftspeople to film a follow up series called IN GOOD HANDS.

An excerpt of one of the original films was featured in an online St Patrick’s Day film festival by Wyllie O Hagan.  It looks at three brothers, weavers in Donegal in north west Ireland.  It is a lovely piece, poetic and touching.

But it is high time we made something ourselves and I have chosen something simple and easy.  Wild Irish smoked salmon and chive pancakes.  I can only get Danish or Tasmanian salmon locally, but that is our little secret!

And as promised we end with a reel.  Listen to a live recording of The Teetotallers playing The Munster Reel and two other pieces:

Music to whisk those pancakes to!



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