Student: Yulia Bezborodova , Lvovsky School №4, Podolsk.    

Teacher: O.V. Travkina 


The population of Ireland is 4.8 million. Although the number is not quite big, their impact on the world culture is really great. The Irish are considered to be one of the most literate nations. Irish literature is known to be the third oldest in Europe after the Greek and the Roman ones. Its founder is Saint Patrick who wrote “Confession” in Latin. Three Irishman are Noble Prize winners in Literature. The Irish like to read books. Some of them write poems and even publish them. Studying Irish Literature it is possible to understand their spirit and points of view better.

The purpose of our research is to define the Irish character by studying their folklore. The object of the study is the Irish folklore and quotes. The subject of the study is their sayings, idioms, proverbs concerning life, ideology, outlook. The tasks of the research are

1.To find and study different pieces of folk literature on this topic.

2. To analyze their peculiarities and to define their essence.  

3.To point out common and distinctive features of Russian and Irish folk pieces on the theme.

4. To find out the attitude of learners of English in our school to the Irish and Irish folk pieces.

5.To find  out the historic events that influenced the development of peculiar Irish traits.

We suppose that the historical background formed such features as bravery, patience, resistance, dignity, tolerance and wisdom. Some features should be similar to the Russians’. 

The working methods are:

1.The study of Irish folk pieces and quotations;

2.A definition of their essence, and meaning;

3.The comparison with the Russian ones;

4.A survey of students;

5.An analytical study.

The relevance of the work is conditioned on the fact that knowing the peoples’ views it is easier to deal with them productively for mutual benefit and to avoid some misunderstanding or even conflicts. It is very important in the modern turbulent world. The results of the study may be used at the lessons of English and for extracurricular activities. 

The Irish folklore contains a unique phenomenon known as Irish blessings. They are all thoughtful, insightful, full of kindness and empathy. They are also very wise. Here is one by an unknown author that can help to understand the essence of blessings.

I do not wish you a pathway free of troubles,

Nor a life of ease on a bed of roses.

I do not wish that you should never feel pain,

Or endure the bitter pangs of sorrow and regret.

I do not wish you these.

For they are not things that matter.

My wish for you is

That you find courage in times of trial

When the skies darken

And the outlook is bleak,

When others load their burdens on your shoulders

And even blame you for their woes,

When all seems darkness,

May you always find the ray of light.

And may all the gifts God   gave you grow and flourish.

May you always have friends Who are worthy of the name,

Who will help in times of need and share your time of joy.

And may you always offer friendship in return

As you enrich the lives of all you meet.

But this is not all…

One more wish I have for you.

In every moment of every day

May you feel God’s love and be inspired.

That is my wish for you and all who are dear to you

That is my wish for you now, always and forever.


These wonderful words teach us not to look for instantaneous joys and happiness. They point out the real values such as real friendship, close family relations, dignity and independence. They inspire to be hardworking, patient, brave and ready to overcome obstacles. These words are surely created by the people who had lived a hard life. Through the ages of hardships they obtained true wisdom which let them define the main principles how to live and communicate. 

Irish blessings are also very poetic and beautiful. The Irish have been considered good at blessings since ancient times. Some researches claim that they date back to the time of druids and bards famous for their oratorical skills. Blessings are usually recited at weddings, family reunions and other special occasions. There are different blessings for different events. However, the main idea of all of them is to see everything that is possible in a negative situation and to mark the best moments. To my mind, the hardships of the life through the history made people think so. 

The most popular Irish blessings are said to belong to St. Patrick. There is no evidence that Patrick actually wrote these poems. Nevertheless, they surely contain his ideas, theory and his doctrine. That is why Irish blessings are similar to the prayers. However, they ask not for themselves but for others. These prayers are very wise and impressive. Here is one more example, which was used to bless the nearest and dearest:

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

The role of proverbs and sayings in our life can hardly be overestimated. Nowadays there are a lot of ways to keep and transfer information. A lot of years ago the only way to gain the experience was our language. The most brief, informative and perhaps the most frequently used messages are proverbs and sayings. These messages are very wise as well. They contain the knowledge how to live and how to behave, underlining the real values in life. 

We compared some Irish and Russian proverbs. We found a lot of similarities (table 1). We decided that similarities can be explained by some historical peculiarities. In Russia we had a Mongol Tatar yoke for several centuries. Ireland fought against Great Britain for its independence. Northern Island is still its part. 

                                                                                                          Table 1.






Health is better than wealth


A healthy man is a king


The herb that cannot be got is the one that brings relief

Не спрашивай у больного здоровья


There is no fireside like your own fireside

В гостях хорошо, а дома лучше

God and devil

Man talks but God directs

Мы предполагаем, а Бог располагает

God never closes one door but he opens another

Бог даст день, даст и пищу.

Всё перемелется – мука будет.

Never bid the Devil good morrow until you met him

Не буди лихо, пока оно тихо

Needs must when the Devil rides



You can’t put a wise head on young shoulders


There’s no wise man without fault


Everyone is wise till he speaks

Молчи - за умного сойдёшь.


If you dig a grave for others you might fall into it yourself.

Не рой другому яму – сам в нее попадешь

We found different ideas in the proverbs as well. Firstly, the attitude to life is a bit different. The Irish admire life. They say, «Life is sweet”, “Life is precious”, “We live as long as we’re let”. However, they consider that they can change it themselves. On the contrary, the Russians are sure that the main aim of life is work and humility:   «Без пользы на свете жить-лишь землю тяготить», «Жить горько да и умереть не сладко».

The proverbs about education are also different. For example, the Irish say “Better knowledge of the evil, than the evil without knowledge”, whereas the Russians associate education only with mercy and goodness. The Russians cannot associate it with evil: “Плохое учение — душе пагуба “, “Сытое брюхо на ученье глухо “, “Не стыдно не знать, стыдно не учиться”. However, both nations underline the power of education. There are such Irish proverbs as “The pen is mightier than the sword – but only in the hand of a just man”, “A scholar’s ink lasts longer than a martyr’s blood”. The Russian ones are: «Кто знаниями обладает, тот везде побеждает», “Ученье — свет, а неученье — тьма”, “Ученье — красота, неученье — слепота”, “Ученье лучше богатства”, “Ученый (умный) водит, а неученый следом ходит”.

The attitude to the means of learning and the fact that learning is a hard job have the same essence: “Труд при учении скучен, да плод от учения вкусен”, “Ученье горько, но плоды сладки”, “Learning is a light burden”, “The schoolhouse bell sounds bitter in youth and sweet in age”. There is also a wonderful Irish saying “If you keep giving your children comics they’ll never read War and Peace”.

To our mind, the differences are caused by the religious reasons. The Irish are Catholics, Russians belong to Orthodox. The historical and geographical differences must also be taken into consideration. However, there are still more common features. It proves the similar outlook of the Irish and Russians.

In Ireland you can see notices everywhere: in shops, cafes, kitchens and on postcards. A lot of them contain some pieces of advice and make us think of the real values:

Tell the truth – there’s less to remember.

Get on your knees and thank the God you’re on feet.

Friends like angels – you may not see them, but you know they exist.

Dance as if no one were watching.

Do not resent growing old, many are denied this privilege.

Some of them are a kind of blessing:

May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.

Almost all these quotes are quite funny and point out a great sense of humour. Nevertheless, they are quite philosophical and thoughtful. For example, 

There are only two things to worry about -

Either you are sick or you are well.

If you are well, there is nothing to worry about.

If you are sick, there are only two things to worry about -

Either you live, or you die.

If you live, there is nothing to worry about.

If you die, there are only two things to worry about -

Either you go to heaven or hell.

If you go to heaven, there is nothing to worry about.

If you go to hell,

You’ll be so busy shaking hands with friends.

You won’t have time to worry

So, why worry? 

But some others try to support in a difficult situation, for example: “Remember – No Rain – No rainbow”, “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us on a path to the best  things that will ever happen to us”.

The Irish can laugh at themselves as well. As our famous humourist and writer Michail Zadornov said, wise and clever people differ in the following. Clever people laugh at others. Wise people laugh at themselves: “The Irish climate is wonderful, but the weather ruins it”, “I’m an atheist, thank God”, “An Irish politician is a man of few words but he uses them often”, “Some people don’t like The Irish, but we are very popular among ourselves”.

All these quotations demonstrate that the Irish are very witty, honest, wise, intelligent and warm – hearted. At the same time they are bright, good- tempered and wit. They can remain cheerful even in difficult situations and are always ready to help. The Irish are men of character. Their wisdom and the ability to joke at serious things amazes. We can find a lot of traits similar to the Russians. It proves that we can understand each other well.

It is necessary to point out a great sense of humour of the Irish. One can’t help thinking of the tale about a Tatar leader who ordered to leave a village where people had stopped crying and started to laugh. He said that they had nothing more then. The same happened to the whole nation. Positive thinking and laughter helped them survive.

Now we would like to analyze some quotations of famous Irish people.

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) was a clergyman admired for his wit, and a satirist feared for his merciless tongue. Here are some of his wise and thoughtful ideas, “May you live every day of your life”; “Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old”; “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”, “Every dog must have his day.” These quotations are very Irish indeed. They contain the same philosophy that we have observed in Irish proverbs and sayings.

Oscar Wilde is one of the best cited writers in the world. His quotations are well – known and popular, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much”, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” 

Gerry Adams, Irish politician, wrote, "Making peace, I have found, is much harder than making war”. Here are the words of Padraig Pearse, famous Irish writer,” We are ready to die and shall die cheerfully and proudly, you must not grieve for all of this”. Oliver Goldsmith said,”Life is a journey that must be travelled, no matter how bad the road and accommodations”. Samuel Becket noted, “You’re on earth. There’s no cure for that”. 

The list of wise quotations by the famous Irish people can be endless. But it is already evident that they had absorbed the atmosphere and the ideas of their homeland and kept to them. Their philosophy is full of Irish honesty, dignity, directness and humour. They commented serious items easily. 

The similar ideas can be found in the quotations of the Russian writers. Here are some by Anton Chekhov,” Замечательный день сегодня. То ли чай пойти выпить, то ли повеситься»; “Берегите в себе человека”; “Для того, чтобы ощущать в себе счастье без перерыва, даже в минуты скорби и печали, нужно: а) уметь довольствоваться настоящим и б) радоваться сознанию, что могло бы быть и хуже”; “Когда любишь, то такое богатство открываешь в себе, столько нежности, ласковости, даже не верится, что так умеешь любить”.

Ivan Turgenev wrote,“Счастье — как здоровье: когда его не замечаешь, значит оно есть», “Горе сердцу, не любившему смолоду!”,“Когда переведутся донкихоты, пускай закроется книга Истории. В ней нечего будет читать”, “Хочешь быть счастливым? Выучись сперва страдать.”

Here are the wonderful words by Boris Pasternak, “Человек рождается жить, а не готовиться к жизни”, “Надо ставить себе задачи выше своих сил: во-первых, потому, что их всё равно никогда не знаешь, а во-вторых, потому, что силы и появляются по мере выполнения недостижимой задачи”, “Я не люблю людей, безразличных к истине.”

Thus, we can find similar ideas in the quotations of famous people of both nations. All of them claim that love, friendship and honesty are above all.

We conveyed a survey. 84 pupils of our school took part in it. It is interesting that most of them imagine an Irishman as a Viking depicted in cartoons and films (diagram 1).


Diagram 1.

Speaking about the Irish character most students pointed out such traits as kindness, sociability, joviality and wisdom. We suppose that they made such a conclusion after the meetings with Irish teachers who came to our school and after speaking with the students who visited Dublin. However, 10 pupils called the Irish aggressive and rude. We suppose that they judged by Conor McGregor as he was shown on TV (diagram 2).

Diagram 2.

 While comparing Irish and Russian people, 42 children found the similarities caused by the geographical position in the North and historic necessity to defend all the time. They said that both nations are kind, sensitive and ready to defend. Some students consider that we look alike. 

Only 4 pupils could quote Irish proverbs. However, we consider that most students just do not know the origin of different proverbs.

 The most surprising result was the following. Almost half of the students think that all the Irish are redheaded, although our students and teachers who visited Ireland claim that it is false. It’s a common stereotype. Besides, 15 pupils consider the Irish to be drunkards although those who were in Ireland persuade that they had not seen drunk people in the streets of Dublin. It reminds us of a stereotype of Russians who are always depicted as drunkards with a bottle of vodka and a balalaika in the hands. We are to break these stereotypes.

While studying the Irish blessings, proverbs, sayings and quotations we tried to define the Irish character. The pieces of literature prove that the Irish are brave, independent, kind, patient and tolerant. There are two traits, which must be distinguished as the main – wisdom and a great sense of humour. We should also point out that most of their outlook is similar to those of Russians. Thus, we can make a conclusion that our hypothesis was true. Besides, our nations can communicate quite well without any difficulties. 


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