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In Hiberno-English and Ulster-Scots, culchie is a term sometimes used to describe a person from rural Ireland. In Dublin, it is often used to describe someone from outside the Dublin Region excluding certain commuter towns in the Greater Dublin Area like Maynooth and Bray. Likewise, in Belfast the term refers to anyone from outside the Greater Belfast area. It usually has a pejorative meaning, but is also reclaimed by some proud of their rural origin.
The term is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "One who lives in, or comes from, a rural area; a (simple) countryman (or woman), a provincial, a rustic". It is sometimes said to be a word derived from the remote town of Kiltimagh, County Mayo. However the more likely origin of the term is the Irish coillte meaning "the woods", to describe people who lived in the woods. A further explanation is that the word derives from the word agriculture, highlighting the industrial/agricultural divide between rural and urban populations.
Another potential derivation is an old Gaelic term "cúl an tí", meaning the back of the house. It was, and still is to a certain extent, common practice in rural areas to enter a neighbour's house through the back door rather than the front, which was used for more formal visits. Thus the term cúl an tí or culchie was applied to these people. Also, many city dwellers from Dublin tenements had to work as servants. The servants were not permitted to enter the house from the front but had to use the back door or servants entrance. It became common practice in Dublin to use the term in a derogatory manner. Over time as the numbers of servants dwindled away the term was still kept in everyday use.
The word “culchie” is derived from the Irish word “coillte”, the plural of coill, the Irish word for “wood”, an area of growing trees. It was used, mainly in Mayo and Galway, by townspeople as a condescending or pejorative reference to people from rural areas. It came into use in Dublin in the mid sixties as a counter to the country people’s use of the word “Jackeen” for a Dublin person. The “culchie” spelling is a media one and is the result of their lack of understanding of its derivation.
Dublin GAA fans call supporters of any other of the county teams from Ireland as culchies; fans from counties in the north are called nordies. Dublin's fans are themselves called Jackeens in retort. David McWilliams coined the term Dulchies to describe Dubliners who decide to live in other counties of Leinster or Ulster. This subgroup of people often live in urban areas like Navan, Kells and Naas. Characteristics include preference for outdoor activities, reduced status consciousness, a higher priority placed on quality time over money, and involvement in local organizations.
The comedian Pat Shortt has made a successful living out of being a culchie comedian. He has his own television series, Killinaskully, based on a theme of culchie in a village in rural Munster. The Christmas episode of Killinaskully receives viewership figures that place it in the top three most viewed television programmes in Ireland, on an annual basis.
Culch.ie is a popular Irish Pop Culture blog derived from the term.
The Culchie Festival started in 1989 in Clonbur, County Galway. The Festival has taken place in many towns and villages throughout Ireland in its search to find "The Culchie" or the "Village Character" as he was known years ago. The true culchie has the ability to entertain at will, whether on stage or TV.
The festival is held in late October of each year after regional heats held throughout Ireland and other overseas Irish communities to select contestants. The final consists of various challenges such as tractor racing, nappy changing, sandwich making, potato picking, knitting and karaoke. The 2008 winner was Adrian McCabe from Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan. The village of Ballyjamesduff County Cavan, hosted the 2009 Culchie Festival 23–25 October.
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