Tag Archives: Meath

Winter solstice at Newgrange: watch it live, anywhere

Fáilte Ireland and the state’s Office of Public Works are live streaming the winter solstice at Newgrange, County Meath, the mornings of Wednesday, 20 December, and Thursday, 21 December, from 8.30 a.m. local time.

Subscribers to the tourism agency’s “Ireland Ancient East” YouTube Channel will get alerts to tune in at the appropriate times. The livestream will also be embedded to watch at http://www.irelandsancienteast.com/ with more context about Ireland and the nearby Boyne Valley.

Newgrange is a 5,200-year-old passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers. It is world famous for the illumination of its interior chamber by the winter solstice sun. As Newgrange.com explains:

Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. This baffling orifice held a great surprise for those who unearthed it. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year, around December 21st, the winter solstice. At dawn, from 19-23 December, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber.

As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9 a.m. The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.

The intent of the Stone Age farmers who built Newgrange was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the new year. In addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.

Newgrange, Co. Meath.

Fields of green: baseball in Ireland

MLB spring training baseball is in full swing here in Florida, and my wife and I attended our first game of the season on Saturday in Lakeland, watching the “home” Detroit Tigers beat the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates 4 -1. The game-time temperature was 57 F (14 C) under breezy, partly cloudy skies. Year-round Floridians such as ourselves bundled against the “cold,” while the Detroit and Pittsburgh visitors (and most players) seemed to take the weather in stride.

I was thinking about baseball in Ireland, having recently come across the Field O’ Dreams website though my Twitter feed. The New York-based Baseball United Foundation is raising money to build a baseball field in Ashbourne, County Meath.

Baseball in Ireland isn’t as new or as rare as you might think. The sport has been played in the Republic and Northern Ireland since the late 1980s. Here’s a history from Baseball Ireland, the sport’s governing body

Back in the summer of 1990 I donated a baseball glove to the pioneers of baseball in Ireland through my good friend Scott Cronenweth, a technology marketing copywriter then doing work for Lotus Development Corp, now part of IBM. At the time, many US software companies were opening development offices outside Dublin to advantage the well-educated, English-speaking workforce and Irish tax breaks. In a recent email, Scott picked up the story of his trip and first-hand encounter with early Irish baseball/softball:

Many of the [software] companies had softball teams and played one another. The Irish folks were very determined, but of course terrible because they hadn’t played as kids. They also didn’t really know the rules. Fielding in particular was really poor, resulting in astounding scores like 78-56. They’d just keep playing, inning after inning, til it got dark around 10PM and then go to the pubs.

Baseball and softball in Ireland have come a long way since then, but the sports still need help developing decent fields and obtaining adequate equipment. Spring training is already underway for the 2013 Adult League season, which begins March 23. They play for love of the game, and in Ireland they are not bothered by a little brisk weather.


Aerial view of O’Malley Fields in Dublin.