by Jean Henry Mead
'Tis that month again in the Emerald Isle when matrimonial hopefuls have spouses chosen for them at the Matchmaker Festival in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare.
The ancient art of matchmaking has regained popularity not only in Ireland, but around the world. The custom of having a third party match people for marriage has gained new momentum and those looking for a perfect partner are also seeking the perfect Irish matchmaker.
Lisdoonvarna’s Willie Daly is the one who matches up the bachelors and bachelorettes. "The 65-year-old charmer is the third generation in his family to practice the art of matchmaking," according to the online bulletin, Irish Central.
“Willie has drawn on his extensive files, notebooks and ledgers, on his remarkable memory, and applied his highly attuned antennae to offer hope to the thousands who ply him with their details,” according to the Matchmaking Festival’s web site, MatchmakerIreland.com.
Those who are seeking matrimony make the pilgrimage to County Clare for the annual Matchmaking Festival. Touted as “Europe’s biggest singles festival,” the event began on August 28 in the world capital of matchmaking, the small, scenic Irish town of Lisdoonvarna.
The annual 5-6 weeks festival is one of Ireland's oldest traditions. Matchmakers were known to be found in nearly every Irish town for hundreds of years but the practice is now limited to the Matchmaker Bar in Lisdoonarna during the months of September and early October.
Although matchmaking services are available in Lisdoonvarna all year round, the Matchmaking Festival has been transformed into an event more about music, dance and good old-fashioned "Irish debauchery."
During September, the dances take place from noon each day until the wee hours of the following morning. There are also fortune tellers who reveal hopeful lovers' fates, Irish set dancing exhibitions and live Irish music in most of the local taverns.
September has always been a traditional month for matchmaking because it was then that harvests were stored and bachelor farmers traveled to County Clare in search of a wife.
Lisdoonvarna is a small spa town on Ireland's west coast, 250 km from Dublin and 35 km from Ennis. Inhabited by some one thousand residents, the population swells each September to nearly 40,000 romantic hopefuls. A now-defunct music festival, which took place near the town until the early 1980s, is currently celebrated in a song of the same name, written by Irish folk singer, Christy Moore.
The present town is a comparatively new one by Irish standards, dating mainly from the eighteenth century. Lisdoonvarna developed as a tourist center when a Limerick surgeon discovered the beneficial effects of the area's mineral water, which is rich in magnesium, sulphur and iron. The water's curative ingredients were purported to provide relief from symptoms of various diseases such as rheumatism and glandular fever.
There are no guarantees that you'll find a mate in Lisdoovarna, but there are those who have attended the festival who will tell you that while enjoying the craic, they found their perfect mate. If you find yours, please let us know.
If you're interested in attending the event, you can call the Irish Tourist Board at 1-800-223-6470 or Marcus White at the Hydro Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland at 011-353-65-74405; Fax 011-353-65-74406. You can travel there by air, landing at Shannon Airport. Bus connections can then be made via Ennis or Limerick.