The “Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival,” more than 160 years old,  is the doyenne of all Irish festivals.

The small town of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland is located 40 minutes by car from Shannon International airport. Although for the best part of the year it is a quiet town with a population of around 750 habitants, from the first weekend of September to the end of the first week in October, the town is inundated with visitors during the famous matchmaking event, which is Europe’s longest-running and largest singles festival. Of course, like other festivals, the 2020 Lisdoonvarna festival was cancelled due to public health concerns.

On Sunday 7 February, Willie Daly Zoomed into Paris to chat with Irish ex-pat Sharon Masterson about his work as Ireland’s famous third-generation traditional matchmaker.

At his inaugural Zoom appearance, people listened with bated breath as the matchmaker and 21st-century 'shenachie’ happily paid homage to modernity while gingerly circumnavigating it with his bulging 167-year-old matchmaking ledger tucked firmly under his Zoom arm. Along with revealing the old secrets that can still lead to finding love in the 21st century, Willie made us laugh and cry, regaling us with stories, and also sang a song and played the tin whistle. He reassured us that “love is still stronger than COVID” and gave tips on how to find the perfect partner in these challenging times.  

Willie is a man steeped in the old Irish oral tradition, whose stories continue to entertain. I was delighted to see that he was as good on Zoom as in real life where he holds court at his “office” in the snug of the Imperial Hotel bar, handily located just beside the Imperial dance floor, on which so many have found love.

The 78-year-old matchmaker has already made over 3,000 matches and hopes to make many more.

Willie knows Paris well and spent a lot of time in the “City of Romance” in his youth. He was touched to hear that Sean Byrne, an Irish Haute Couture designer based in Paris, will design the “Lisdoonvarna Dress” this year. Kim Bernardin designed the 2019 "Lisdoonvarna Dress", which was a big hit on the catwalks of Paris and New York.

Sean’s creation will be called the “Lisdoonvarna-Lido” dress and in 2021, the 111 anniversary of the birth of Margaret Kelly, “Miss Bluebell", we will lift our glasses to that incredible Irish woman who left a sizzling mark on Paris.

“Miss Bluebell” along with being a fantastic dancer, choreographer, and founder of the mythical “Lido Bluebell Girls” troupe, overcame internment in a prisoner of war camp, being questioned by the gestapo. She protected her Jewish husband from the clutches of the Nazis, hiding him for two and a half years in an attic and all in the name of love. Her life was a real testament to her love of dancing and to Love.

The love link between Paris the “City of Romance” and Lisdoonvarna “the Town of Love” is dear to many a Paris based ex-pat’s heart. When we eventually go back out dancing at the second Lisdoonvarna-Paris Irish ball, we’ll think of “Miss Bluebell” when we kick up our heels. We hope Willie will come back to Paris to accompany a beautiful Paris based, Irish showgirl dancer, onto the mythical Parisian ballroom floor.

After his fantastic Zoom broadcast success from the “City of Romance”, Willie is now ready to take the world on with a “Love in Lockdown” Zoom for Saint Valentine’s Day! Might Cupid “virtually” strike for some subsequent to, or even during, Daly's love tips on 14 February?

❤️❤️❤️ SAVE THE DATE! ❤️❤️❤️ For anyone who is missing Lisdoonvarna or never been this will be a bit of craic with...

Posted by Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival on Monday, February 8, 2021

Julie Carr, PR for the Lisdoonvarna festival, is optimistic. She said “for anyone who is missing Lisdoonvarna, or who has never been to the 168-year-old Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, the 14 February zoom will be a bit of craic and Willie will also be accompanied by his daughter Elsha, 4th generation matchmaker.

"They will speak about how to find love and keep love alive in lockdown and amid COVID restrictions, intermingling the love chat with lots of banter, stories, and songs about Lisdoonvarna”.

Julie, who already propelled Willie onto the front page of "The Wall Street Journal” and the prestigious pages of “The New York Times,“ is now busy helping Willie and Elsha gear up to Zoom love all around the world.

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day than in the company of Willie and Elsha, who will demonstrate that love clearly conquers all, even in the midst of the global health doldrums.

Are you ready to “sit up” for Love with Willie and Elsha on Sunday 14 February at 5 pm Irish time? To book your hot seat, email lisdoonmatchmaker@gmail.com.  Tickets cost €10 - a small price to pay for love!

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