When I was in Ireland this past spring, we went through the town of Lisdoonvarna, County Clare.
I was familiar with the town, which is well known throughout Ireland for its matchmaking festival. (There’s also a dreadful earworm of a song by Christy Moore that celebrates the town. Since I don’t want to spread an earworm, I’ll spare you a link to it.) But, even though I am a single gal, I don’t give much thought to Lisdoonvarna.
Other, apparently, do, making Lisdoonvarna – population 739 – a major tourist destination each fall when the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival takes place.
The Festival doubles as a country music festival, country music being wildly popular in Ireland. And let’s put to rest any thought that this is just about bachelor farmers chipping the cow dung off their shoes and heading down from the hills to find love. This year’s festival – which, according to different places on their web site – will attract 40,000 or 60,000 visitors – will include:
The Outing’ LGBT festival – the world’s only LGBT music and matchmaking festival – featuring pop-up clubs, drag acts, comedy and live music.
Ireland has, indeed, come a long way, baby. (They also passed, through direct vote, the legalization of gay marriage.) Nonetheless, the traditional elements are the Festival still hold. According to Willie Daly, the last of the Irish matchmakers – he’s been at it since he was a teenager, and estimates that he’s been instrumental in 3,000 marriages over the years:
“Rural Ireland can be a lonely place. There’s a lot of lonely men, farmers left behind, while a lot women are based in the cities, so the festival is a great place for them to meet up”
The Festival has been going on for more than 150 years. And if rural Ireland is lonely now, I can only imagine how lonely and bleak it was 150 years ago. There was definitely a reason my great-grandparents – John Rogers, Margaret Joyce, Matthew Trainor, and Bridget Trainor (yep, they were some sort of cousin, but they married in the States, not in Ireland) – all packed their bags, kissed their mothers goodbye, and lit out for Amerikay on some crummy ship.
Anyway, perhaps because she thought it would be a good Pink Slip topic, my cousin Ellen sent me a link to an article that just appeared in The Chicago Tribune. Or perhaps because she thought I might want to head back across the pond and find me one of those bachelor farmers. (She did advise that I should check the teeth of any prospective husband). Willie Daley (who comes from a long line of matchmakers) was, naturally, featured in the article:
“Matchmaking is all magic, that’s what I believe,” said Daly, who’s in his 70s. “A lot of my pairings are by instinct, once I know what a person wants. It may be physical attraction or a roof over their heads.” (Source: Chicago Trib)
Willie uses a method similar to that of Match.com, only he does it in his head and on paper, hanging out in one of the town’s hotels to meet with those longing to make it to the altar. Where’s the magic?
Daly brings the family heirloom to the festival: a shabby, dog-eared book that contains the personal details of couples matched over the past century. The tome has magical qualities, according to Daly. He says anyone who touches the cover of his lucky book will be partnered within six months.
What grand craic it would be to take a look through that book and see those personal details.
Anyway, Willie Daly’s fees are modest, running around $100 a match. But he’s been known to do some selective pricing, charging the well-heeled (Mercedes driver) more than those with less in their pockets (bicycle riders).
Festival attendees will come from near (Ireland) and far (South Africa, Poland, and, of course, the US). Alas, I will not be one of them. Although it would be tempting to see what Willie Daly had on offer for me. (The Mercedes driver? The bicycle guy?) I suspect he’d tell me that I’m out of my feckin’ mind.
So, thanks, Ellen for the hint, but I’ll be staying home this September. If Mr. Right is out there, I won’t be finding him in Lisdoon, Lisdoon, Lisdoon, Lisdoonvarna.