Old Irish Proverbs and Sayings 1832

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Dundrum Castle - Dublin Penny Journal
Dundrum Castle – Dublin Penny Journal

The Dublin Penny Journal

The Dublin Penny Journal was a weekly newspaper published in Ireland from 1832 to 1836.

On November 10th 1832 the paper published an article on common Irish sayings and proverbs. The author/ editor was, its fair to say, not a fan of the pithy sayings in common use. Indeed these were introduced with the words “the proverbs of the Irish are the most vulgar, awkward, incoherent, and ridiculous…

The proverbs were described as lacking in wisdom and generally “of the lowest order, and rudest nature“.

Were the proverbs totally devoid of wisdom? Why not read the selection below and judge for yourself…

Irish Cottage
Irish Cottage

Disparaging Remarks/ Insults

“His eyes are like two burnt holes in a blanket”.

” She is like a Mullingar heifer, beef to the heels”.

“Even a fool has luck”.


“A blind man is no judge of colours”.

“A mouth of ivy, a heart of holly”.

(The leaves of ivy being soft and smooth while those of holly are
rough and prickly)


“Fierceness is often hidden under beauty”.

“A good dress often hides a deceiver”.

“It is difficult to tame the proud”.


“Every dear article is woman’s desire”.

“A beetle buries himself in dung”.

“An ignorant king is a crowned ass”.

” He’d skin a louse, and send the hide and fat to market”

Cottage Kitchen
Cottage Kitchen

Observations on Life… and Death

“Hope consoles the persecuted”.

“The satiated forget the hungry”.

“Sickness is the physician’s feast”.

“If you wish to be long-lived eat cold and flee”.

(Advice offered to outlaws – waiting for hot food may be fatal)


“Woe to her whose husband is a surly fool”.

“Death is the physician of the poor”.

High Street Belfast 1786
High Street Belfast 1786

Other Sayings

“The historian’s food is truth”.

“Tis as bad as cheating the devil in the dark, and two farthing candles for a halfpenny”.

“The rare jewel is the most beautiful”.

“When the cat is out, the mice dance”.

“There is often anger in a laugh”.


“Fame is more lasting than life”.

“Whatever knowledge, education, or learning.
The clown, son of the low-bred man, acquires.
His own congenial nature still appears,
After passing through every course”.

“Force overcomes justice”

“Long sleep renders a child inert”.

“Idleness is the desire of a fool”.

“The end of a feast is better than the beginning of a quarrel”.


“The memory of an old child is long”.

“Learning is the desire of the wise”.

“Character is better than wealth”.

“Flattery procures friendship”.

“No man is wise at all times”.

“Wisdom exceeds strength”.

“Wine is sweet ; to pay for it bitter”.

“Sleep is the image of death”.

“Wisdom exceeds riches”.

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