Willie Daly is the last of the traditional Irish 'matchmakers', matching lonely couples from around the world at the Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival. Now his daughters are taking over the business, run from his farm in County Clare, in the west of Ireland. Next to the wedding invitation, sitting under the light with a crucifix filament, is a letter just arrived from England. It reads something like this: I am looking for companionship in a respectable and responsible husband.
Age and looks are of no particular concern, only that he must be a gentleman. Please "Irish matchmaking tradition" you help? I shall be visiting Lahinch in October. The Irish Matchmaker Willie Daly is the last of the traditional Irish 'matchmakers', matching lonely couples from around the world at the Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival. The land grows dark as I speak to the last of the Irish matchmakers. For 27 years Daly has been matching couples. Twenty seven years on a 63 acre farm, living with his wife, seven children and 30 head of cattle,
Irish matchmaking tradition on all sides by the Irish matchmaking tradition farmers of Irish matchmaking tradition Clare.
The phone hardly ever stops ringing as we sit and talk in the casual squalor of his kitchen. Daly launches into Gaelic Irish matchmaking tradition answering each and every call. Everyone wants, it seems, to speak to "The Matchmaker". In the massive ledgers and files scattered around his house, under the beds, tables, and on the floor, are contained the names of thousands of men and women, lonely, looking for a spouse.
The names come not only from Ireland but from America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and, of course, from "across the water. With the recent death of Dan Paddy Andy O'Sullivan in County Kerry, said to be the greatest matchmaker and accredited with putting together marriages in his lifetime, Willie Daly is the only traditional matchmaker left in Ireland.
It has brought him fame. Yet he is not the driving force behind matchmaking. The real problem facing many of those living in rural Ireland, particularly men holding to the land, is that the younger generation have by and large departed for the city.
The farmers are left behind, living alone with their parents - living in a pres era. These rural men can grow up lacking the social skills
Irish matchmaking tradition to court a partner, leaving city women to refer to them as "mammy's boys". For example, Daly has a neighbour on the next farm, in his seventies and still living with his 96 year old mother. A potential match appeared to be going well until the neighbour came up to him one day with a sour look on his face.
Daly asked what was wrong: The famous Irish playwright John B Keane once summed up this blighted life, saying: In earlier times these bachelor farmers would have relied on the services of an uncle, brother-in-law or some other male relative to arrange a marriage with a local girl. However, farmers who were dependent on the death of their parents for the inheritance of a small farm were often unable to marry young.
Irish matchmaking tradition gave rise to the adage: In addition, many small holdings were too isolated for the men and women to meet members of the opposite sex. Hence the matchmaker would be called in. Each county would support perhaps three or four of these individuals.
The matchmaker would be a knowledgeable man almost never a woman perhaps poorly-educated, but nonetheless well-versed in local lore and traditions.
He would certainly know each and every family within a 15 mile radius. Negotiations would take place to settle the size of a dowry, whether one set of parents or a brother or sister would still live with the newly weds, the amount of land Irish matchmaking tradition into the deal and the cut or fee taken by the matchmaker.
The resulting marriage would be very similar to the arranged marriages of the Hindu or Jewish religions, and to those taking place in Korea, where a professional matchmaker can charge thousands of pounds for his services.
The couple might only have met once or twice before. Matchmaking is, and was, a male oriented business and it would not have been uncommon for a Irish matchmaking tradition to be made between a 60 or 70 year old man and woman in her late teens or early twenties.
One of the locals on Daly's books, 72, had not slept with a woman since he was 12! It once transpired, remarks Daly, that a young man of 20 married a woman in her sixties, purely for her land and her money. Unfortunately for him, she lived until well into her nineties! True matchmaking was felt to have died out during the s. Only the 'tinkers', or traditional travellers, really carried on the practice. This was an attempt to keep their bloodline pure.
However, it often meant being paired up with a first cousin "Irish matchmaking tradition" other relative!. When the era of the "big dances" arrived, Nature was allowed to take its own course. Young people were able to meet one another and the need for a matchmaker fell away. This was during the mids, when Ireland underwent mass emigration.
However, a brief glance through the "matchmaking" columns in Dublin's Evening Herald, the Evening Press. The advertisements may lack the lusty nature of many of our "personal" columns, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of them in each paper. Many are from bachelor farmers, a smaller number from city folk or women. A typical ad reads: This is Daly's home territory. Although more of a tourist spectacle now, it still draws thousands from across Ireland, some in search of Irish matchmaking tradition spouse, as it has done for the past years.
Daly says he goes mainly for the "craic", the Gaelic word for fun and conversation. He also explains, with a casual shrug of his thick farmer's arms, that besides himself, a priest has recently opened a "marriage bureau" in Knock, County Mayo.