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St. Patrick of Ireland… And anywhere else the Irish have a home…

March 17th –St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is, in North America, a bit like Christmas. It is always coming. But St. Patrick’s Day is about so much more than green beer and leprechaun dolls. For the Irish-diaspora, especially the Irish in America, St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of heritage. But it is also about making new traditions. You can use St. Patrick’s Day to focus on tradition, or art, or just having a good time. But fundamentally St. Patrick’s Day in America is a celebration of how the Irish came into their own in America. How they helped build America, and how the American experience remade what it meant to be Irish. By making St. Patrick’s Day such a grand and public celebration –a day when truly anyone could feel Irish in America– the Irishmen and women of a century ago showed the world that the Irish emigrants who had helped build so many American cities had also become, truly, garishly, grandly and loudly America. So today we wish you the best to all of you sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of the Irish diaspora and to all of you Americans who feel Irish today. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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National Tartan Day –April 6th A Day to Remember…

April 6th –National Tartan Day
In both the United States and Canada April 6th is recognized as National Tartan Day in recognition of the contributions of the descendants of Scotland who helped build both countries. In the United States National Tartan Day has a special poignancy because the date chosen is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. The Declaration of Arbroath –also known as the Declaration of Scottish Independence– includes the lines: “As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we under any conditions be brought under English rule. For we fight not for glory nor for riches nor for honor, but only and alone for freedom, which no good man surrenders but with his life.” Some historians claim the Declaration of Arbroath was an inspiration for the American Declaration of Independence. It is likely this theory is wishful thinking. However, although the Declaration of Arbroath was signed by the nobles and magnates of Scotland, it includes the revolutionary idea that common men –not kings– can change the fate of their own nation and demand a form of self governance.

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National Tartan Day –A New World Nod to Old Scotland…

April 6th –National Tartan Day
In both the United States and Canada April 6th is recognized as National Tartan Day in recognition of the contributions of the descendants of Scotland who helped build both countries. In the United States National Tartan Day has a special poignancy because the date chosen is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. The Declaration of Arbroath –also known as the Declaration of Scottish Independence– includes the lines: “As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we under any conditions be brought under English rule. For we fight not for glory nor for riches nor for honor, but only and alone for freedom, which no good man surrenders but with his life.” Some historians claim the Declaration of Arbroath was an inspiration for the American Declaration of Independence. It is likely this theory is wishful thinking. However, although the Declaration of Arbroath was signed by the nobles and magnates of Scotland, it includes the revolutionary idea that common men –not kings– can change the fate of their own nation and demand a form of self governance.

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Adam Smith –Romance, Economics, Scotland & the 18th Century…

March 9th –Anniversary of the Publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations in 1776

We look back at 18th century Scotland as a romantic period, but it was also a period when a handful of Scottish thinkers –including Adam Smith the father of economics– gave birth to the Scottish Enlightenment –the business world, and the world in general, would never be quite the same again. A revolutionary thinker –although definitely less political than David Hume– & a brilliant and influential writer, Smith invented the concept of the “invisible hand” to explain his arguments for an economic system that would develop naturally as the result of individual choices rather than strict bureaucratic control & two hundred and forty years later he is still celebrated as the father of economics.

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Piran of Cornwall –the early Celtic Cornish Saint of Tinners

March 5th –St. Piran’s Day a.k.a. St. Perran or Pyran.
A 6th century Irishman who literally washed ashore in Cornwall, Piran is credited with bringing Celtic-style Christianity to Cornwall. The Cornish Saint is also dear to our hearts at Nagle Forge & Foundry because he is the patron saint of tinners –tin being one of the primary products of Cornwall and the primary component of pewter! Beloved by the people of Cornwall Piran’s banner of a white cross on a black background –light shining from darkness– is the flag of Cornwall today.

We at Nagle Forge & Foundry do not make anything with a specifically "Cornish" motif. We have also never made a piece dedicated to St. Perran. However, tin is the primary component of pewter and we use over 1,200 pounds of tin in a given year so we like to think that most of our pieces are a tribute to Pirran.
We at Nagle Forge & Foundry do not make anything with a specifically “Cornish” motif. We have also never made a piece dedicated to the Cornish Saint. However, tin is the primary component of pewter and we use over 1,200 pounds of tin in a given year so we like to think that most of our pieces are a tribute to the Cornish Saint Pirran.
Daffodil Brooch

St. David, Patron Saint of Wales…

March 1st –St. David’s Day
The Feast Day of St. David, patron saint of Wales. A 6th century Welsh monk who praised –and lived– a simple life. David is something of a folk hero for the Welsh. In life he ministered to the Welshmen who defended Wales against the Saxon invaders –and is linked to the tradition of displaying leeks on March 1st as a symbol of solidarity. In prophecy, David, like King Arthur, is said to return in spirit whenever Wales is in danger. Today the three recognized symbols of Wales are the Welsh Dragon, the Leek and the Daffodil. Hardy as a Daffodil is –and generally in bloom on St. David’s Day– Daffodils make poor cut flowers and, like all flowers are not permanent. If you would like to give a year round nod to Wales, St. David and the Daffodil may we suggest our hardy bronze Daffodil Earrings?

Daffodil Earring 2
Inspired by the symbolic first flower of Spring we at Nagle Forge & Foundry painstakingly crafted the miniature daffodil models for this pair of earrings. Each pair of earrings consist of a left and right daffodil “bouquet” cast from high quality jeweler’s bronze. Garnished with perfectly faceted petite Citrine stones and lustrous cultured freshwater “coin” pearls. Sterling silver hooks, because your ears deserve nothing less. A quiet homage to the Patron Saint of Wales.
Irish County Ship Pin --Kildare

St. Brigid of Kildare –the “Lady with the Lamp”

February 1st –The Feast Day of St. Brigid of Kildare

February First is traditionally celebrated as the Feast Day of St. Brigid –or Brigit– of Kildare.

Born to an enslaved mother and a pagan Irish chieftain sometime in the 5th century, Brigid was raised among Druids. Early in the Christian Missionary period she was Baptized & dedicated her life to charity & education eventually founding an art school as well as a convent in Kildare. Often depicted as the “lady with the lamp” –the lamp symbolizes Brigid’s role as a teacher and “bringer of light”– Brigid is celebrated as the protectoress of newborns from ignorance as well as harm.

 

Brigid’s birthplace –once the Kingdom of Kildare, now the County–  is an inland county, just west of Dublin, Beautiful Kildare is woven through with some of Ireland’s most important rivers –including the Barrow, the Boyne and the Liffey. Once a part of the Kingdom of Leinster, Kildare already had an ancient history –stretching back to at least the Bronze Age– when St. Brigid founded a religious community there sometime in the early sixth century. Later in the ninth century Kildare’s rivers made it easy for Viking raiders –moving inland from Dublin– to establish an area of settlement known as the Dyflinkarskiri. However, famous as Kildare is for its fish it is even more famous for its horses and, in recent centuries, its horse races. (In the early 20th century Kildare was also the site of one of Ireland’s first motor races.) Kildare will always be most famous for its most celebrated daughter, St. Brigid of Kildare.

Burns Posey Ring 1

The Bard’s Birthday –Remember Robbie Burns…

January 25th –Burns’ Night

The Bard’s Birthday. The author of Auld Lang Syne, Tam o’ Shanter, The Cottar’s Saturday Night, and the mournfully romantic Mary in Heaven, as well as hundreds of other classics Robbie Burns, the rustic “ploughman poet,” was beloved by lords and ploughboys alike in the late 18th century.

Despite his fame, Burns’ died near the edge of poverty before his fortieth birthday. But his friends –and his own work– wouldn’t let the rebellious, sarcastic, romantic poet be forgotten and began a tradition of celebrating his birthday every year with a haggis dinner, whiskey toasts and ritual readings of the Bard’s works. Over two hundred years later the tradition endures and “Burns’ Night” is now a global event for the Scottish community.

So on this, the 25th of January, remember remember Robbie Burns… A kilt and a glass of the good stuff and a toast to the man who made the rural Scotland of the late 18th century live forever through his words.

Burns Posey Ring
And if perchance you may desire a harder more silvery reminder of Burns’ Night may we suggest our Robbie Burns’ inspired Sterling Silver Poesy Ring? With so many Burns’ favorites to chose from it was hard for us to chose the perfect phrase of the Bard to inscribe in silver. But Highland Mary won out. This lovely romantic poesy features the words Robbie Burns used to describe (and court) his “Highland Mary.” An excellent gift for the love of your life, or yourself….
Rope Quadrant

Ireland & the Celtic Cross –The Making of an Icon…

The Irish Celtic Cross

While the High Crosses of Ireland are Medieval in their pageantry –covered with Saints and symbols, incised with intricate knotwork– at heart the Celtic Cross is a simple design that almost certainly predates Christianity by a millennium or more. The original meaning of those early Celtic Crosses has been lost. Is it just a variation of the Lug –the music loving Celtic sun god– wheel symbol? Or is it older? An early solstice symbol built into the land itself when Neolithic tribes carted stones across the plains to build the standing circles that still awe us today? The inherent mystery of the circle is always the mystery of what lies in the center… An element of that mystery was retained thousands of years later when newly Christianized masons carved crosses on the ancient standing stones of their ancestors. The earliest crosses –some carved long before Patrick’s first mission– are often very plain, but have perfect geometric proportions. Proportions made all the more perfect by the realization that what is not depicted is as important as what is depicted. Is it the arms of the cross that truly transect the circle? Or is it the spaces in between that hide the meaning? Are the corner stones the anchor of the cross, or simply a frame for the sacred center?  That ancient combination of solid mass and sweeping space, meaning and mystery is reflected in the design of this brooch. The cross –or is it a wheel?– is massive, almost primitive. The corners are studded with four brightly colored cabochon cut gemstones, but the sacred center is unadorned –a window to another world.  Wreathed with the looping dot and curl patterns that decorate the gold rims of the great Calling Horns of ancient Ireland, this brooch has a tactile appeal. A beautiful piece of stylized Celtic art, this piece calls out from a time of legends and heroes to our own time.

Scottish Star 1

A Star in Scotland: Rome, the Celts, the Scots & the Jews

This magnificent Plaid Brooches features a bold Star of David surrounded with a traditional Celtic ring of shields inlaid with blue glass Millefiori. As always… a Nagle Forge & Foundry original….

Between them Edinburgh and Glasgow have seven Synagogues. Today the vast majority of Jewish Scots can trace their ancestry to 19th century Poland. The pogroms that decimated many of the Jewish villages of Poland and Russia at the end of the 19th century coincided with the industrial boom of Scotland and, just as hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Pale fled Europe for America, tens of thousands of their cousins fled mainland Europe for the religious freedom of Scotland and the then booming industrial city of Glasgow.

However, while the modern story of Jewish Scotland is rooted in the 19th century, the origins of Scotland’s Jewish community are probably lost somewhere in the bloody shadows of Scotland’s Middle Ages –and may in fact date back to the Roman occupation of Britain.

Mildenhall Star
Our “Mildenhall Star” is inspired by a Star of David from the last years of the Roman occupation of Britain.

The Diaspora is generally thought of as a “modern” phenomenon. However, even before the Judaean Wars chronicled by Josephus it is estimated that roughly 50% of all Jews lived outside of Judaea and up to 10% of the population of some of the new cities established throughout the Empire to house the veterans of Rome’s armies were Jewish. When the remnants of Romanized Britain finally fell to the invading Angles and Saxons at least some of the families that fled the coast of what would become England (the land of the Angles) were Jewish.

Hordes of heavy household goods buried in the late 4th and 5th centuries around modern day Mildenhall and discovered in the early 20th century included some Jewish ritual objects. Over the next thousand years the story becomes increasingly murky. “Historic” Scotland –stripped of mystery, legend, opinion, conspiracy theory and pseudo-fact– is almost devoid of any significant written record prior to the 15th century and we are left with scattered images and fragmentary stories.

In honor of the Jewish Scots who have contributed so much to the history of Scotland we at Nagle Forge & Foundry make seven different sash pins and plaid brooches that feature a Star of David.

Scottish Star