John Derricke’s Images of Ireland, 1581 AD

Below are a selection of images taken from John Derricke’s  The Image of Irelande, with a Discoverie of Woodkarne, which was published in 1581 AD. Dedicated to Philip Sidney, the book is largely a pro-English propaganda piece which praises the deputy-ship of Philip’s father Henry Sidney and his military campaigns in Ireland. Although it casts the Irish in a less than favourable light, the book does afford a relatively rare insight into the dress and appearance of Ireland’s late 16th century inhabitants (as well as contemporary English military equipment). Today only one copy of The Image of Irelande, with a Discoverie of Woodkarne  survives and this is stored at Edinburgh University Library.  


A soldier holding a battle-axe hands a spear to an Irish chieftain in full dress, with a page holding the chieftain’s horse.


An armed company of the Irish soldiers (kerne), carrying axes and pikes attack and burn a farmhouse and drive off the horses and cattle.


 The Mac Sweynes seated at dinner and being entertained by a bard and a harper


The Irish chieftain receives the priest’s blessing before departing to fight the English, who are shown in full armour

The English solders return in triumph, carrying severed Irish heads and leading a captive by a halter

Sir Henry Sidney, Lord-Deputy, accompanied by an armed force, sets out from Dublin Castle for a progress through Ireland. A number of rebel heads can be seen impaled on spikes above the castle gates. 


The English army is drawn up for battle, while Sidney himself parleys with a defiant messenger from the Irish

Sidney and the English army on the march with standards and trumpets

The English army puts the Irish army to flight. The piper is cut down with his pipes beside him


Rorie Oge, a wild kerne and a defeated rebel, in the forest with wolves for company

Turlough Lynagh O’Neale and the other kerne kneel to Sidney in submission.

3 thoughts on “John Derricke’s Images of Ireland, 1581 AD

  1. Why is there so little depictions of Ireland from that period? It’s amazing when you compare it the amount of details there are of Tudors from the same time, same as other parts of Europe.

  2. What a great collection of printings! More should be published and studied about the period and this set of images in particular considering the objectives and vision of the Sidney campaigns.


  3. So interesting to look at the amazing detail. However pictures 4 and 5 are the same with different headings. No one is pictured being led by a halter as in the description of picture 5. Not a criticism but an observation.

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