In 2009 I was staying with my wife and two young sons at a lovely B&B in Liscannor, Co. Clare. When we asked our innkeeper where to go for a horse trek, she directed us to the horse farm of one Willie Daly in nearby Ennistymon. “He’s also a famed matchmaker” she added.

irelands top matchmaker willie daly“Matchmaker?” We weren’t too sure what that meant in the modern world. Focused on having a ride, we located Mr. Daly’s horse farm in it’s secluded rural location, and found him to be a very amiable, quietly eccentric sort of fellow. I remember him wearing a horse riding helmet, cocked oddly to one side, as a way of showing us the importance of wearing protective headgear. Our lazy horse trek through the surrounding area was a pure delight.

A Big Reputation
We never asked about matchmaking, but in the years since then I’ve realized that Mr. Daly enjoys an outsized reputation in the field. Several half-page articles on him have appeared in The New York Times, most of which have focused on the growth of an event he stars in each year in Lisdoonvarna, called the Matchmaking Festival. Once a brief event in late September, it has now stretched out into a longer affair that runs from late August into October.

With some 40,000 people showing up, aged anywhere from 19 to 80, the festival is now billed as “Europe’s largest singles event.” Promoters admit that while matchmaking events once attracted lots of lonely farmers, nowadays many of the participants are there to enjoy dancing, music and carrying on in pubs.

But Mr. Daly, now with the help of his daughter, does receive a long line of singles each year ready to pay the small sum of $15 for his advice on finding a mate. He recieves them in the pub he owns, appropriately called “The Matchmaker,” and adds information on them to a huge book he keeps, passed down to him from his matchmaking father.

One has to wonder how long Mr. Daly will stay in the matchmaking game. He was allegedly born in 1943, though he’s not sure about the date because the priest who created the record of his birth was “very fond of drink.” The validity of his work never ends, he says, because “We are all looking for the simple thing of love.” He claims to have set up over 3,000 marriages in his career.

More on the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival here.

Fun article on Willie Daly in the New York Times here.

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