Unique St. Patrick’s Day Island Traditions

14th March 2023

People all over the world join in the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th. Yet nowhere celebrates Ireland’s national day quite like we do here on Inis Meáin, with a Cead tournament. This ancient ball game is played only on Inis Meáin and only on St. Patrick’s Day, no matter what the weather. (And practising on any other day is against the rules.)

Like so much about Inis Meáin, Cead is unique. A small wooden stick – the cead – is placed against a flat stone in the middle of a field. Using only a second piece of wood as a bat, players must hit the cead into the air and then again, fast and hard, over the far side of a rope over thirty metres away. It’s a game of skill and precision, and, to the delight of the spectators, several teams battle it out all day long. When the World Cup (the title is used proudly, and without irony) is presented to the winners, celebrations continue long into the March evening.

Above: Photographer Bill Doyle captured renowned poet and storyteller Dara Beag Ó Fátharta playing Cead almost fifty years ago. Dara’s Aran sweater features classic Aran cabling, which continues to inspire our contemporary Aran knitwear designs.