Lisdoonvarna is a small spa town in Ireland, home to well under 1,000 residents. But each September, more than 40,000 eligible Irish farmers descend on this little village. This matchmaking festival is Europe’s largest singles event, and it has been in the making for more than 200 years. It’s a veritable love fest.
During the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, romantic hopefuls meet up under the guidance of local love guru, Willie Daly. He’s a third-generation matchmaker, and many say that he is the last of his kind in Ireland. He’s one of a long line of men who both trade horses and broker marriages – an unlikely but not entirely inconceivable combination.
Matchmaking is an ancient tradition in Ireland. It began in Lisdoonvarna after the town became famous in the late 1700s for its mineral springs. In those days, lonely farmers would caravan down to the town in September, after all of their crops had been brought in for the year. Local matchmakers introduced them to eligible candidates, and a robust tradition was born.
Matchmaking: An Evolving Tradition in Ireland
Men greatly outnumber women at this event, and many of them really are farmers, even today. That said, women make a strong showing here. In the past few years, internationally acclaimed singer, Sinéad O’Connor, came in search of love. Willie Daly also says he’s currently being contacted by a number of Chinese nationals hoping to find love with an Irish farmer. It’s a worldwide event.
The matchmaking process has changed over the years. Daly explains that, centuries before, eligible men came with their mothers, who actually did most of the talking. Today, potential lovers meet at one of the daily dances staged for the entire month of September and the early part of October. These social events continue on until 2 a.m. each night, giving potential matches plenty of time to get to know each other.