Historic Tales

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...Read More »

Archaeologists find the Memories for Everyone

I asked my seven year old daughter why archaeology is important…..I liked her answer a lot

Archaeology is important because when archaeologists find something, they can see how things used to be in another time.
Like a memory.
Old people can remember when...Read More »

'Tonight I fear not the Vikings', An Early Irish Poem

Bitter is the wind tonight

It tosses the ocean’s white hair

Tonight I fear not the fierce warriors of Norway 

Coursing on the Irish sea

(A translation by Kuno Meyer)

This anonymous poem is written in...Read More »

Traditional thatched cottages, Kilmore Quay, Wexford

Today I spent a lovely morning in Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford. This picturesque fishing village is famous for its thatched cottages, many of which date from the 19th century. These traditional buildings are mainly of mud-wall construction and are thatched with...Read More »

16th century images of Irish people

A collection of images depicting 16th century Irish people. Although the majority of figures illustrated are soldiers and warriors, there are also some fine pictures of women, especially by the Flemish artist, Lucas d’Heere. 

‘Irish as they stand accoutred being at the...Read More »

Some Irish words with Norse Origins

The year 795 AD  saw a new force arrive on the Irish political scene, the Vikings. These seaborne warriors were to have a significant impact on Irish life....Read More »

A Satirical Chamberpot from 18th century Dublin

In the late 18th century an English writer, Richard Twiss caused consternation in Ireland when his book, ‘A Tour in Ireland in 1775‘, was published. It painted the country and its inhabitants in a very poor light and was widely condemned...Read More »

The River Liffey, its ancient name

Although now called the Liffey[i], in ancient times Dublin’s famous river was known by a different name, An Ruirthech. This loosely translates as ‘the stampeding one’[ii], a name which reflected...Read More »

Pangúr Bán

Pangúr Bán is probably the most famous surviving poem from Early Ireland[i]. Composed by an Irish monk sometime around the 9th century AD, the text compares the scholar’s work with the activities of a pet cat, Pangúr Bán. It is now preserved in the Reichnenau Primer at St. Paul’s Abbey...Read More »

The Curious Tale of the Mouse, the Skull and the Saint's Curse

Clonmacnoise today (source)

In 1070 AD[i] the forces of Turlough O’Brien (Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain), king of Munster, raided the great monastery at Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly[ii].  The target of their attack, however, was...Read More »

Sacred Trees in Early Ireland

I recently described how the forces of Brian Bóruma, king of Munster, attacked and destroyed a sacred grove of trees  belonging to the Vikings of Dublin. This wood appears to have been associated with Thor, the Viking god of thunder, and its destruction by Brian Bóruma was probably...Read More »

16th century Irish Hipsters

I recently spotted what appeared to be remarkably modern looking haircuts in Albrecht Druer’s woodcut of 1521 AD[i]. This image shows a group of Irish soldiers[ii], most likely mercenaries, who were fighting on the European continent during the early 1520s. I soon discovered that,...Read More »

Braigetóir: An Unusual Medieval Jester

In medieval Ireland there was a jester known as Braigetóir[i]. How did his entertain his lord? By passing wind, the man was a professional farter[ii].

[i] O’Kelly, F. 2005. A Guide to Early Irish Law. Dublin Institute for...Read More »

Thor's Wood, a sacred grove near Viking Age Dublin?

In late December 999 AD Brian Bóruma, king of Munster, decisively defeated the Viking’s of Dublin[i] at the battle of Glen Máma[ii]. This bloody contest was a severe set-back for...Read More »

Treasure into ashes: A 19th century cist burial discovery

A cist and urn burial (courtesy of Know Thy Place)

I recently came across an interesting 19th century account describing the discovery of a Bronze Age cist burial at Mullaun, Co. Wexford. Written byRead More »

Old photos of Ireland, Series 2

This is the second in our series of old photos of Ireland taken from the Library of Congress Collections.  The images, which date from between 1890 and 1900, give a glimpse of how Ireland looked on the cusp of the twentieth century....Read More »

Dublin's Medieval High Cross

Market Cross, High Street, Dublin (Source: UCD Library, see References)

This image shows Dublin city’s medieval ‘High Cross’ as drawn by John Simons in 1784. The panels on the shaft contain scenes of the Crucifixion, Descent from the Cross and the Passion.  It formerly stood near...Read More »

Photos of Ireland in the 1930s: The past is a foreign country

This amazing collection of colourised photographs was taken by an American photographer Branson DeCou (1892-1941) between 1932 and 1935.  DeCou spent nearly thirty years travelling the world and his images of Ireland give us a rare glimpse into a way of life that has long...Read More »

The death of an elephant, Dublin, 1681

I stumbled across a curious 17th century account of an elephant in Dublin city recently. Yes, you read right, an elephant. This exotic import was owned by a Mr Wilkins who kept it in a specially constructed ‘booth’ near the Custom House on Parliament Street/Essex Street. Here members of the...Read More »

Early photos of Ireland's iconic heritage sites

This fantastic collection of old photographs documents some of Ireland’s most iconic archaeological and heritage sites. The photographs date from between 1890 and 1900 and are from the Library of Congress Collections.

1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow:...Read More »

Hurling, its ancient history

A history of hurling. On the weekend of the All-Ireland hurling final it seems only fitting that the history of Ireland’s national game are discussed. Hurling is arguably the fastest field sport in the world and quite possibly the oldest. It is played with sticks called hurleys,...Read More »

Bones of the Vikings: when raiding goes wrong

The ninth and tenth centuries saw the arrival of a new force on the Irish political scene, the Vikings. These Scandinavian warriors were attracted by the wealth of the Irish monasteries and they came in search of booty and glory. The initial attacks were mainly confined to the coastline,...Read More »

Mayday and the Celtic festival of Bealtaine

In Ireland Mayday is surrounded by a rich folklore tradition, most of which dates from 19th century. These beliefs give an insight into the mindset of a earlier, more rural Ireland where the spirit world and superstition...Read More »