Ireland’s 1976 Tidy Town winner, “Ireland’s Best Kept Town,” casts its Broad Street past thatched-roof cottages. The rural homes of Adare in Limerick County maintain the same thatched style of a century ago (see the pictures below). Gathering wheat straw, reeds, heathers and sedges into thick clumps, the townspeople built their thatched roofs to be resistant to quickly spreading fires and to serve as a homey countryside setting for tourists and locals alike.

One Irish tradition, still in practice today, involves organized gatherings at the foot of an Irish historian or storyteller. Called a seanchaí (or shanachie), the captivating storyteller mimics the style of ancient bards, who would not read the community’s tales of old but rather recite the laws and history of the people in long lyric poems that had been converted to memory. Here’s the beginning of such a story by a contemporary Irish storyteller:

Storytelling is said to be unlucky in the daytime, except for fishermen when they’re waiting to pull in the nets. “Storytelling—” the biggest farmer in our parish told the servants when he caught them listening to the storyteller the day of the threshing, “storytelling,” he said, “is a nocturnal pursuit.”

And so it ever was. When people finished working in the field and collected in the rambling houses at night, be telling was as common [as a salute] … and the man that didn’t have a story to tell, he’d be as welcome there as a drop of holy water in the devil’s whiskey.

Listen to the rest of the story below: