Americans flock to Irish town for husbands
Matchmaking festival unites lonely hearts
Single and looking for love somewhere outside the confines of your local club scene or the internet?
Marketed as “World’s biggest singles festival,” the festival kicked off this weekend in the world capital of matchmaking – the small, scenic Irish town of Lisdoonvarna (made famous by the song from Christy Moore).
Singles, including many American women longing to be hit by Cupid’s arrow flock the festival, which takes place over a period of six weeks.
Matchmaking is one of Ireland's oldest traditions; hundreds of years ago, you could find a matchmaker in almost every Irish town.
These days, all of Irish matchmaking takes place in Lisdoonvarna during September and early October.
September is a traditional peak month for matchmaking. It was then, when the harvest was safely in, that Irish bachelor farmers headed to Clare in search of a wife.
Today, Lisdoonvarna’s Willie Daly, the only remaining Irish matchmaker, takes care of the bachelors and bachelorettes. The 65-year-old charmer is the third generation in his family to practice the art of matchmaking.
“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,” says the Matchmaking Festival’s Web site, MatchmakerIreland.com.
Though matchmaking services are readily available in Lisdoonvarna, the festival has transformed into an event more about the music, dance and good old-fashioned Irish debauchery.
During September, dances run from noon each day and carry into the small hours of the next morning. There are also Irish set dancing exhibitions, fortune tellers available to reveal hopeful lovers’ fates and live Irish music in most of the local pubs.
But though the official matchmaking doesn’t occur on as wide of a scale, many past festival goers will tell you that sometimes, while enjoying the craic, you’ll find your perfect Irish mate.
Meanwhile, Willie has been dispensing his wisdom to the Irish Times and told reporter Brian O’Connell what the current state of matchmaking is.
“A newfound independence arrived into matchmaking in the last 15 years, stemming from people in very comfortable situations. It gave women a lot of confidence to look for what might have been absent in marriages before, where the emphasis was on a house and a man being financially secure. In the last year and half, we seem be getting back to where romance was originally.”
American ladies and quiet men
“With many American women, they first married their childhood sweetheart. It might have been rosy for x amount of time. In their second marriage it might have been one of his friends. If there was a third, they might be financially secure, but a certain amount of hurt would exist. They come to Ireland and fall in love with the landscape and character. They like men who don’t put emphasis on clothes and hair. They have money, so need someone to help them enjoy it. Most Irish men might go to America with them. When they come back, the hair is trimmed; they have new teeth and clothes. They even smell different.