Shanore News

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What Lurks Beyond the Pale?

Jackeens and culchies and boggers, oh my!  Is the real Ireland Dublin’s fair city, the nation’s capital, or is it out there beyond the Pale?

courtesy of Flickr user Stacy
courtesy of Flickr user Stacy

People often use the phrase ‘beyond the Pale’ without having the slightest notion of what ‘the Pale’ is.  They usually know the phrase refers to something beyond civilized standards of human behavior, something so bizarre it is beyond comprehension, something unacceptable and even vaguely menacing.  ‘Beyond the Pale’ is used as a warning, a reminder that once you get past a certain point, you have no way of knowing what sort of insanity lurks.  Few people know that historically, the Pale was a place, and at a certain point the Pale ended.  That point is now generally acknowledged as being the M50 motorway circling Dublin city and its surrounding suburbs.  Beyond that border lies another Ireland entirely.

courtesy of Flickr user William Murphy
courtesy of Flickr user William Murphy

In that other Ireland out beyond the Pale, people are not convinced that Dublin, aka the Big Smoke, is actually the center of the universe.  The Pale, they point out with perhaps a smidge of contempt, was the area under British rule.  More tame and docile than civilized, they might sneer as they look out across their rolling, green hills dotted with sheep and framed with low dry stone walls.

courtesy of William Murphy
courtesy of Flickr user William Murphy

Dublin, some claim, is not the real Ireland at all.  It is a parallel universe of endless traffic jams, rudeness and high density homes where all sorts of depraved criminals roam the streets.  It’s so bad, they say, that people have to lock their doors.  How civilized is a place where you can’t leave your purse in your unlocked car while you pop into Sunday mass?  Not very, according to those who live beyond the Pale, and they would frankly prefer that Dubs stay in Dublin instead of bringing their flashy, criminal lifestyles and fancy pants coffee drinks to spoil the bucolic paradise that lies beyond the Pale.  Bloody blow-ins swanning around the place with notions.

Culchies and Boggers vs. Jackeens

courtesy of Flickr user David Williams
courtesy of Flickr user David Williams

Dubliners on both sides of the Liffey are united in their love of the countryside and horror of the people who live there.  The vast expanse beyond the city limits is lovely to visit on a staycation and the housing prices are alluring… but it is impossible to live out there without encountering those dreaded creatures known as culchies and boggers.

The term culchie is used to describe rural Irish people in general, and is widely believed to be derived from the Irish phrase cúl an tí, which means the back of the house.  In rural Ireland, friends and neighbors still use the back door when visiting each other; the front door is considered more formal.  Bogger, of course, relates to the bogs that dot the midlands of Ireland and provide turf, which is an important heating fuel even today.  Many rural people own a small patch of land they harvest turf from annually to heat their homes over the winter.

courtesy of Flickr user Care SMC
courtesy of Flickr user Care SMC

Culchies are not overly impressed with jackeens, although they acknowledge the term covers a broad spectrum of people from drug kingpins to vapid girls shopping in malls to pompous fools who have no idea how to operate a shovel.  While the term jackeen isn’t likely to cause grave offense, it is generally agreed to refer to Dublin’s association with British rule – symbolized by the Union Jack.  The suffix –een is added to both Irish and English words to indicate smallness by both jackeens and culchies.  A father might refer to his daughter as his wee girleen, for example.  Dubliners are not too bothered by this term because they can easily refute it by simply saying “1916.”

Pale Garden
Dublin Garden of Remembrance courtesy of Flickr user William Murphy
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