Tag: Ireland

Informal acts of weightlifting in Ireland

That stone had lain in that place as long as the oldest traditions in the village could remember. And from time immemorial it had been the custom of the young men of the village to test their strength by lifting it …[i]

Liam O’Flaherty, 1937.

Simply titled, ‘The Stone’, Liam O’Flaherty’s short Irish story from 1937 centres on an unnamed elderly man wandering the outskirts of his coastal village. Struggling to accept his mortality and loss of vitality, the protagonist stumbles across the village’s ‘challenge stone’. Readers are told that ‘from the time of the most remote ancestors of the people’ men from the village challenged one another to lift the stone to the chest and prove their strength. Far from a meaningless act of bravado or spontaneous play, the stone served as an important social signifier. Accordingly, O’Flaherty’s protagonist claimed that

Ireland’s First Bodybuilding Show

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Since beginning my study of physical culture several years ago, I have been fascinated by  the extent of Irish physical culture. Part of the British Empire in the early twentieth century, Ireland was very much influenced by the broader spread of physical culture in Great Britain. So close were the two regions that the Irish physical culture industry was largely predicated on what was happening in Britain, but more specifically, in London.

Thus in the late 1890s and early 1900s numerous Irishmen, of all age ranges, began writing in to British physical culture periodicals seeking advice, support and kudos for their interest in purposeful exercise. Without simplifying things too much, Irish physical culture at this time was very much a poor imitation of broader British developments. When a British Amateur Weightlifting Association was founded in the early 1900s, a smaller Irish branch was opened the same year. Where Britain had physical culture magazines, Ireland had physical culture newspaper columns. What Britain did, Ireland followed and this extended to bodybuilding competitions.

Sandow and Stout: An Irish Story

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The Irish alcohol industry has, at its core, always been particularly adept at marketing. From Whiskey to Guinness, sellers have used a variety of inventive advertisements to flog their wares to a thirsty public. Illustrating this is today’s post about a strange encounter between Eugen Sandow, a Prussian born strongman and Murphy’s Stout based in County Cork, Ireland.

The above image depicting Sandow lifting a horse overhead was one of many used by the brewing firm in the early years of the twentieth-century to promote their stout.

So how did Murphy’s come to secure the image rights of one of the world’s most popular figures? The answer seems to have come down to sheer serendipity.

Sandow and Stout: An Irish Story

murphys2-210x300

The Irish alcohol industry has, at its core, always been particularly adept at marketing. From Whiskey to Guinness, sellers have used a variety of inventive advertisements to flog their wares to a thirsty public. Illustrating this is today’s post about a strange encounter between Eugen Sandow, a Prussian born strongman and Murphy’s Stout based in County Cork, Ireland.

The above image depicting Sandow lifting a horse overhead was one of many used by the brewing firm in the early years of the twentieth-century to promote their stout.

So how did Murphy’s come to secure the image rights of one of the world’s most popular figures? The answer seems to have come down to sheer serendipity.

The State of Ireland’s Health

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Earlier this week, the Department of Health in conjunction with Ipsos MBRI launched the Healthy Ireland Surveyan all-encompassing report looking at weight management, diet, mental health and physical activity.

Not since 2007 has a survey of this kind been attempted in the Republic of Ireland, and considering the (ahem) considerable changes in Irish society in the past eight years, it’s fair to say the survey was sorely needed.

The results showed remarkable delusion on the part of the Irish people regarding their health. As a nation we have become unhealthy, a message that has yet to embed into our psyche. 

The Sandow Story in Ireland

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During the prime of his career, Eugen Sandow was known for having ‘the perfect physique’ and for being one of the foremost proponents of physical culture. Physical culture being broadly understood as the social movement concerned with health and strength that swept across Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. A man built to a Grecian ideal of beauty and presented as the ideal of what good health should be, Sandow toured the world performing and lecturing the masses about the importance of physical and spiritual health. Such was Sandow’s mass appeal in the late 19th and early 20th century, that some commentators have credited him with launching the body obsessive societies of today. His influence stretched from America to Australia and many places in between. Much has been written about Sandow’s time in Great Britain and the United States, but few have examined Sandow’s time in the south of Ireland in the late 1890s. His time in Ireland was brief but it was to leave lasting results.