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Colourful Ireland, Part 2

By Jean-Jacques Segalen (jjacquesSeptember 30, 2013
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Recently, I took us to Ireland (where I was lucky enough to travel this summer and introduced you to the many colours of this country which is not restricted to the sole green of clove leaves. The attention was brought on colours in nature, from flowers to landscape and sheep so today’s article will take you into cities and towns where colours are vivid.

Gardening picture


  Anyone who visits Ireland cannot avoid the bright and happy painted doors, windows and even whole buildings (especially pubs) which are present in any town, village, hamlet and even lonesome houses lost in peat bogs. Lemon yellow, electric blue, scarlet, acid green, deep purple, amazing arrangements of bright colours can be seen all over the country bringing a generous contrast when the weather decides to put on a dull grey costume.

  Yes, it does rain in Ireland and even in summer the sky can easily turn into a menacing black assembly of heavy-weight clouds ready to smash any unprepared tourist dressed in T-shirt and short pants. Although this will not go on for a long time and sun will soon dry up both tourist and landscape the coloured doors and walls seem to stand guard so as to remind one that even under the worst heavy shower life and its procession of colours are still there!

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In need of colourful haircut?
Or a visit to Mc Red
An then to Mc Purple...

   Now, this is not India nor Mexico so one may wonder why people here make such a large use of brushes and rollers, pots, tubs, tanks and trays of oil based alkyd enamel or polyurethane if not acrylic paint, not to mention the cleaning, scrubbing, sanding, the need of white spirit and other thinners! Are the Irish so deprived of colours that the darkness of Guinness beer makes them want to live in a rainbow?

  Well, there are official theories about it; one is that when the Queen Victoria died (in 1901), people were told by the English government to paint their door black in a sign of mourning, and the Irish who have some resentment towards the United Kingdom decided to do all the opposite and painted them in all sorts of colours except the required one. A second explanation is that Irishmen tend to over-express their attachment to national beers and whiskeys and get a hard time finding the right house door some evenings, so a pink door set in a green frame would not be mistaken with a blue door set in a green frame.

  One story even goes as far as to say that a drunken man opened the wrong door and went into the wrong bed and the next morning, Irish women decided to customize doors in such a way their husbands could not make such a confusion again! Another one refers to the writers George Moore and Oliver St-John Gogarty who lived next door (no joke!) in Ely Place in Dublin and Moore painted his door green so that Gogarty when drunk would not step into his neighbor's place. Gogarty of course reacted, by painting his own door red.  A less funny reason is that it all began because the very strict urban rules forbade the house owners to make any modification on the Georgian and historical houses but allowed them more freedom about the door and so they took advantage of this.

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Shopping in dream-land...
Ad hatter you said?
It's on harbour street, you can't miss it!

  But why are pubs and stores also brightly painted? I mean when a whole façade is blood red or spring green you usually know you are not entering a police station or a hospital. One theory is that Ireland not being a very wealthy country they had no money for signs and neon lighting so instead they painted them in bright colour so when you walk down the street you cannot miss your goal.

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Indeed, vintage pub!
Relaxing at Lowry's
Ready for a pink beer?

  Whatever the reason it gives a very special ambiance when walking around in urban Ireland and even driving through villages I sometimes stopped on my tracks to park the car and take a few pictures would it be a single orange door, a decayed blue window with shattered glass or a newly painted smart green and black pub. Usually doors are the main target of photographers (the famous painted doors of Dublin are on numerous postcards and posters) but as an arborist I am used to walking with my head tilted back to check for broken branches and trees in need of pruning so it allowed me to spot quite a few interesting windows!

  Obviously if Irish people started by painting doors they soon moved to other pieces of woodwork and some windows definitely deserve attention, not only because they often are adorned with flower pots but they also give detailed data on the owner's sensitibilities. Are they not compared to the eyes on a face?

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Choose your colour
but make sure
you can be seen!

  If this short article has given you pins and needles in the fingers with an urge to paint your brown door a much happier tone you can freely inspire yourself from one of the images illustrating it and if this is not enough then make a trip to Ireland where people have brightly coloured spirits as well!

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Now, let us not forget
that green is
Ireland's colour!


  About Jean-Jacques Segalen  
Jean-Jacques SegalenI am a Parisian born professional horticulturist specialized in tropical seeds producing, living on Reunion island (just between Mauritius and Madagascar) for 22 years . I spend a lot of time gathering seeds in the wild, the ones I do not grow that is. Also a dedicated Tai-Chi practitioner and fully certified arborist-tree surgeon Just released my first book on tropical plants and fruits, check it out at barbardine.com

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
A very colorful study! Cville_Gardener 10 31 Oct 4, 2013 5:26 PM
You've Captured Ireland Again! LeafPeeper 1 6 Sep 30, 2013 10:17 AM
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