Monday, December 31, 2012

Knights Templar

The Templars were founded around 1119 by Hugh de Payens for the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land. Initially guided by the Rule of St. Augustine they later adopted Cistercian practices under the influence of St. Bernard. After securin g ecclesiastical approval at the Council of Troyes (1129), the order spread rapidly and increased in wealth, prestige, and influence.

The earliest reference to the Templars in Ireland occurs about 1180 when Matthew the Templar witnessed a deed whereby Henry II granted them the vill of Clontarf as their principal Irish foundation or preceptory. Five other preceptories were established by the end of the twelfth century as well as nine smaller houses (Camerae). Though more military than monastic in appearance, these preceptories functioned as religious houses in which the Divine Office was celebrated, novices were recruited and trained, and to which older members retired. Like the Hospitalers, the Templars recruited almost exclusively from the Anglo-Norman community and sided with the colony in its struggles against the native Irish population.

As part of the general campaign against the order, fifteen Irish Templars were tried in St. Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin in 1310. In 1311, three preceptories were assigned to accommodate the Irish Knights for the rest of their lives while the rest passed to the Knights Hospitaler after 1312

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Medieval Irish Science

Seventh-century Ireland was well-known as an island of saints and scholars. But what of science? In fact, Ireland in the Early Middle Ages led the way in terms of serious scientific engagement with the physical universe and the attempt to understand the nature of the created world. The famous studies of Archbishop James Ussher in the seventeenth century have their antecedents in the efforts of Irish scholars, 1000 years before him, to offer rational explanations of the natural phenomena that they observed around them in their everyday world. More than anywhere else in Europe at that time, the Irish in the seventh century succeeded in figuring out ‘how things worked’ in the universe. They did so not only in the field of technical chronology (in which they were THE masters), but also in those areas of study that the modern world calls Science. 

Saints, scholars and science in early medieval Ireland – Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, NUI Galway

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Irish Wolf

There are a considerable number of Irish place names associated with wolves A few of these are in English, for example, Wolf Island in Lough Gill, but the vast majority of them are embedded in Irish place names. This is because there are a number of Irish words for wolves, including Mac-tire, e.g. the townland of Isknamacteera in Co Kerry; and faolchu, e.g. Feltrim Hill, Co Dublin. There are also numerous place names containing breagh and its variations, e.g. Breagh (wolf field) in Drumcree, Co Armagh, and Breaghva (wolf field) in Kilrush, Co Clare. - Dr Kieran Hickey

Image: Portrait of a wolf by Finbarr O’Connor

Monday, December 24, 2012


The name "Guinness" is derived from "Mag Aongus" meaning son of Aongus who in mythology was a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann and probably a god of love, youth and poetic inspiration. Aon = one and gus = choice thus literally meaning one choice but more accurately translated as 'chosen one'. In Irish orthography "Mac" meaning "son of" changes to "Mag" when the following name begins with a vowel. When the name is vocalised in speech it sounds like Ma'gaon-gus or ma'gan-gus which in turn is phonetically rendered to English as MacGuinness. During the 17th century under pressure from the English authorities many Irish families dropped the prefix "Mac" to make their name sound more "English".
In 1518 a town statute declared "Neither O nor Mac shall strut nor swagger through the streets of Galway."

Consequent of such pressures, the use of Mac and O’ was dropped by many families. Although some families have since revived the O or Mac, while others never did. This explains variations in surnames like Mahony and O’Mahony, Neill and O’Neill but each variant has a common history. Many old Gaelic names became Anglicised. Sometimes the Anglicised version was a translation, sometimes a phonetic spelling of the Irish, sometimes a mixture of the two.

The proprietor of the Guinness brewery Benjamin Lee Guinness chose the harp motif in 1862 and registered is a a trademark shortly after the passing of the Trade Marks Registration Act of 1875. Could Benjamin's choice of logo have come from the Aongus stories who had a harp that made irresistible music and his kisses turned into birds that carried messages of love.

Certainly Guinness (the product) is irresistible to some and without it (I surmise) many would not have been able to find love!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Commonplace Irish Words

The Irish language in everyday usage. - Mac is the Irish language word for son sometimes abbreviated to Mc in surnames. McIntosh is a transliteration of ‘Mac an Taoiseach’ which in turn translates as son of the chieftain. Nowadays however i t would translate as son of the prime minister for ‘Taoiseach’ is the title given to the Irish Prime Minster. The source of the McIntosh surname is from the Gaelic regions of Scotland.

Jef Raskin employed by Apple computers envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer and he wanted to name the computer after his favourite type of apple, the McIntosh. However, the name had to be changed for legal reasons for it was too similar to the ‘McIntosh audio equipment’ brand. Hence the Macintosh brand name but mostly marketed as the Mac.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Magic - Biblical Wise men

The English word 'Magic' is derived from the Magi or the story of the wise kings from the nativity. Similarly the Irish word for 'magic' is 'draíocht' formed from draoi + -acht meaning Druid like. Originally, like the Druids in Ireland like the Magi were the priests of an ancient religion. Sometime in the course of the fifth century BC the Greeks started to use the term for those engaged in occult arts and private rituals. Magic like so many words in the English language was borrowed from French through the Normans.

Image - The Adoration of the Magi (central panel) - Pieter Aertsen (1508-1575)

Newgrange Winter Solstice

Once a year, at the winter solstice, the rising sun shines directly along the long passage into the chamber for about 17 minutes and illuminates the chamber floor. This alignment is too precise to be widely considered to be formed by chance. Professor M. J. O'Kelly was the first person in modern times to observe this event on December 21, 1967. The sun enters the passage through a specially contrived opening, known as a roofbox, directly above the main entrance. Although solar alignments are not uncommon among passage graves, Newgrange is one of few to contain the additional roofbox feature. The alignment is such that although the roofbox is above the passage entrance, the light hits the floor of the inner chamber. Today the first light enters about four minutes after sunrise, but calculations based on the precession of the Earth show that 5,000 years ago first light would have entered exactly at sunrise.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Viking longboat project

A photo of a replica Viking longboat, which was launched in Waterford city on the 25 Nov 2012. The vessel is modelled on one of the famous Viking ships found at Roskilde, in Denmark. An analysis of the wood used in its construction shows t hat one of these ships (Skuldelev 2) came from the Dublin area in Ireland with timbers felled in 1042-1043 AD. In about the year 1070 the inhabitants of Roskilde scuttled five ships in the narrow mouth of their fjord, in an attempt to barricade themselves against attacks by their fellow Vikings.

The project was aided by the Irish State agency with responsibility for training and skills which afforded participants opportunities for learning and to develop and fine tune the traditional skills required for building the longboat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scandinavian Dublin

Fine Gall (literally, kindred of the foreigners) was the name given to a stretch of territory north of the River Liffey that was ruled by the Scandinavians of Dublin. It thus developed after the foundation of the longport in 841, at the hei ght of the Viking incursions. Today the name "Fingal" still applies to the area north of the city from the River Tolka to the Devlin River near Gormanstown.

Several place names reflect the Viking history of the area. The names Howth, the Skerries, Ireland’s Eye, Lambay, and Holmpatrick found along the coast north of Dublin contain Norse place-name elements. While it is likely that Vikings settled in the district, archaeological evidence (for example, from the excavations at Feltrim Hill in North Dublin) indicates that an Irish population continued to flourish under Viking control. It is also clear that there was a high level of interaction between Gaelic and Scandinavian culture in the area.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Medieval Music

Visitors to medieval Ireland often marvelled at the skill of the Irish at playing music. In Gaelic Ireland, there were at least ten instruments in general use. These were the Cruit (a small harp) and Clairseach (a bigger harp with typically 30 strings), the Timpan (a small string instrument played with a bow or plectrum), the Feadan (a fife), the Buinne (an oboe or flute), the Guthbuinne (a bassoon-type horn), the Bennbuabhal and corn (hornpipes), the Cuislenna (bagpipes - see Great Irish Warpipes), the Stoc and Sturgan (clarions or trumpets), and the Cnamha (castanets). There is also evidence of the fiddle being used in the 8th century.

Image: Galway Early Music Festival takes place every year in the month of May.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Connacht Flag

A Dinnseanchas (topographical) poem named "Ard Ruide" describes the kingdom of Connacht thus. “Connacht in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement. (a translation from Old Irish)

The flag of Connacht is a heraldic banner of the arms of Connacht, a dimidiated (divided in half from top to bottom) eagle and armed hand. The arms of are recorded as such on a map of Galway dated 1651, now in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

These arms closely resemble those of the Schottenkloster or Irish monastery founded in Regensburg, Bavaria, in the 11th century. However, it is unclear how the arms of the Schottenkloster located deep in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire came to be associated with the province of Connacht in Ireland.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Geraghty Surname

The name is unique in the variety of ways in which it is spelled. The original Mag Oireachtaigh name has variously been spelled as McGeraghty, McGarrity, Geraghty, Garrity, Gerrity, Garritty, Heraghty, Gerty, and quite a number of other spe llings. Mag Oireachtach, translates as "the son of a member of the Assembly (of Ireland). Oireachtach is the ablative form of Oireachtas which in turn is used as the name for the Irish National Parliament. It consists of the President and two Houses: Dáil Éireann (the House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Seanchas Tradition

The seanchas tradition in late medieval Ireland- The art of writing history was a long-established one in medieval Ireland, and the status of the historian in contemporary society was high. Mícheál Ó Cléirigh and his fellow scholars Fearfea sa Ó Maoil Chonaire, Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh and Cú Choigcríche Ó Duibhgheannáin all belonged to families from the north and the west of Ireland who had practiced the arts of history and poetry throughout the late medieval period.

These families, and many others throughout Ireland, were members of the courts of the medieval Irish aristocracy. They sustained important schools of learning, were hereditary keepers of medieval churches, and possessed extensive lands and other wealth as a consequence of their profession and the nobility that accrued to it. An essential element of the art of preserving and writing history in this world was an understanding of the concept of seanchas, a word deriving from sean ‘old, long-standing’.

The practitioner of seanchas was known as a seanchaidh ‘a historian’. Seanchas consisted of the many traditions that related to the Irish as they were perceived in the medieval period – their origins and genealogies, their saints and their landscape. Briefly defined, seanchas was the memory and narrative of Irish history as preserved and written from the early medieval period to the writing of histories of Ireland in the seventeenth century. -Edel Bhreathnach

Monday, December 3, 2012

Imperator Scottorum - Ireland the land of the Scots

The Book of Armagh declares the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru to be “Imperator Scottorum” or “Emperor of the Irish”. Ireland was named by the Romans “Scotia” and its people Scoti. The invasion of Irish tribes of northern Britain led it to acquiring the name “Scotland” or land of the Irish. 

A 9th century philosophiser working on the continent writes his name as Johannes Scotus Eriugena - John the Irishman born in Ireland (Ériu-gena/born) as opposed to Scotland. Almost three centuries before Isadore of Seville wrote that Ireland and Scotland were the same country. Later the lands were distinguished as Scotia Major (Ireland) and Scotia Minor (Scotland). Hibernia is also a Roman term for the Island of Ireland and can be translated as “the land of eternal winter” or “wintry”. It is sometimes claimed that the name Hibernia derives from the ancient Greek name for the island Iouerníā (written Ἰουερνία) an alteration of the Q-Celtic name Īweriū. A variant Ierne was also used; Claudian 395 AD says “When the Scots put all Ireland in motion (against the Romans), then over heaps of Scots the Icy Ierne wept”. In other words many Irish were killed when they attacked the Romans in Britain. Image: Sculpture of King Brian Boru, Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle

Monday, September 24, 2012

Medieval female professions

Women in early medieval Ireland were not limited to the traditional housewife role, though many women did in fact follow this path. Instead, a woman could choose to pursue a professional career, often by learning her father's trade, especially if he had no sons. In this way, a woman earned honour separate from her husband's status, and she could advance very highly in the ranks of society. The ancient legal codes explicitly lay out several of the roles women could maintain, including most notably: banfili (woman poet), banliaig tuaithe (woman physician), embroideress, or hostpitaller.

The Ardagh Chalice

The Ardagh Chalice is the finest example of eighth century metalwork ever to have come to light. Standing six inches high it is made of silver, bronze and gold; the design and decoration indicating technical proficiency of the highest order.

According to the book Treasures of Early Irish Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 1977):

"A wide range of materials have been used to create a work of perfection. The silver bowl, provided with handles for lifting, is linked by a gilded collar to a conical silver foot, made more stable by a broad horizontal flange … on the chalice, where decoration is used, it is sumptuous. Ultimate LaTene scrolls, plain interlace, plaits and frets abound. The techniques employed are engraving, casting, filigree, cloisonné and enamelling. Below the horizontal band of gold filigree on the bowl the names of the Apostles in shining metal standout in sea of stippling."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hiberno-Romanesque Style

Hiberno-Romanesque style. The richly decorated south doorway of the ruined late medieval church at the monastic site of Dysert O'Dea, near Corofin, County Clare, West of Ireland.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Derrynaflan hoard

The Derrynaflan hoard is thought to have been deposited during the ninth century.

The Book of Mulling

The Book of Mulling, (Circa 650AD) is preserved along with its jewelled shrine in Dublin at Trinity College Library. It is an Irish pocket Gospel Book that was probably copied from an autograph manuscript of St. Moling. The text includes the four Gospels, a service which includes the "Apostles' Creed", and a plan of St. Moling's monastery. The script is a fine Irish minuscule. The decoration includes illuminated initials and three surviving Evangelist portraits: those of Matthew, Mark and John (depicted f. 193).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The book of Dimma

The book of Dimma was written at St. Cronan’s Monastery, Roscrea sometime in the late 8th century. The book is a copy of the four Gospels written in Old Latin and a blessing to the sick and dying, which was added in the 10th or 11th century. It is one of the ten Irish manuscripts written before 1000 AD that have survived in Ireland.

The gospels other than John are "written for the most part in a rapid cursive script", while John is "by a different scribe, in neat minuscule bookhand". It was signed by its scribe, Dimma MacNathi, at the end of each of the Gospels. Legend says that Dimma wrote the book in forty days and forty nights without rest, food or water and because he did it like this Dimma thought he had done it in one day. Studies however by Dr R.I. Best show that the book was written by many hands. The Book is now housed in the library of Trinity College.

Image: The Eagle symbol of St John the Evangelist from the Book of Dimma folio 104v. (Dublin, Trinity College, MS.A.IV.23)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Purple - the colour of high status.

Purple (corcur in Irish) the royal or imperial colour. The ancient Irish were acquainted with the art of dyeing purple using a rock lichen and shellfish like cockles. Heaps of shells have been found, all broken uniformly at one particular tip, inside which was situated an elongated little sac containing the purple colouring matter. Evidently the shells were broken in such a manner that the object was the extraction of a precious little globule.

The purple dyestuff, however obtained, was produced in very small quantities, so that it was extremely scarce; and the colour was excessively expensive in Ireland as elsewhere: on the Continent in old times it was worth thirty or forty times its weight in gold. Partly for this reason, and partly for its beauty, purple was a favourite with kings and great chiefs, so that writers often designate it a royal or imperial colour.

Image: Book of Kells Folio 32v shows Christ enthroned. Note the purple garment indicating high status.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Donegal Sun Palace

Ailech, or the Grianán of Aileach, (sun palace) was the caput, or principal royal seat of the early medieval Northern Úi Neill kings of Cenel nEogain, until they moved their headquarters to Tulach Oc in the kingdom of Airgialla at the beginning of the eleventh century. The place-name Ailech was also used as the distinguishing sobriquet of the Northern Úi Neill dynasty. Ailech is popularly identified as a large multi-period fortification situated on Greenan Mountain at the southern end of the Inishowen Peninsula, County Donegal. However, Elagh, which is an Anglicized form of "Ailech," in nearby County Derry, could also have been the location of the historic Northern U Neill capital. The chronicles note the destruction of the Grianán of Ailech by the army of Muirchertach Ua Briain, king of Munster, in 1101. It was demolished in revenge for the destruction of the Úi Briain stronghold at Cenn Corad (Kincora), Killaloe, County Clare, which had been destroyed by Domnall Mac Lochlainn of the Northern Úi Neill in 1088.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Irish Romanesque Architecture

At Clonfert in Co. Galway a mighty medieval cathedral stands which was founded by St. Brendan, often known as St. Brendan the Navigator, in 557 A.D. over which he appointed St. Moinenn as Prior and Head Master. St. Brendan was interred in Clonfert in 577 A.D. at the age of 93 and his feast is on 16 May. Here you will find one of the most highly developed examples of Irish Romanesque Architecture in the form of a magnificent doorway. It consists of six large arcs containing many stylistic motives. Above them is located a big triangle filled with ornaments and heads.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Irish illuminated manuscripts

A distinctive feature of Irish illuminated manuscripts are huge ornamented capital letters. Here is an example from the Stowe Missal with the letters INP joined together to start the page with the words in principio (in the beginning).

The Stowe Missal, strictly speaking is a sacramentary rather than a missal. It is written mainly in Latin with some Irish and dates from c. 750AD. In the mid-11th century it was annotated and some pages rewritten at Lorrha Monastery in County Tipperary, Ireland. Also known as the Lorrha Missal, it is known as the "Stowe" Missal as it once belonged to the Stowe manuscripts collection formed by George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham at Stowe House. When the collection was bought by the nation in 1883, it and the other Irish manuscripts were handed over to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where it remains, catalogued as MS D II 3. The cumdach or reliquary case which up to this point had survived together with the book was later transferred, with the rest of the Academy's collection of antiquities, to the National Museum of Ireland (museum number 1883, 614a). The old story was that the manuscript and shrine left Ireland after about 1375, as they were collected on the Continent in the 18th century,but this appears to be incorrect, and they were found inside a stone wall at Lackeen Castle near Lorrha in the 18th century.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oldest form of writing in Ireland

Ogham is the earliest form of writing in Ireland, it dates to around 4th century A.D. and was in use for around 500 years. The Ogham alphabet is made up of a series of strokes along or across a line. Ogham is sometimes referred to as the "Celtic Tree Alphabet" as most of the letters are linked to old Irish names for certan trees. The alphabet was carved on standing stones to commemorate someone, using the edge of the stone as the centre line. They normally read from the left hand side bottom up, across the top and if need be, down the other side.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ancient maternity leave

Maternity leave was a feature of Medieval Ireland. The Brehon Laws state that in the case of a pregnant servant of the household who was unable to fulfil her workload the man who caused the pregnancy had to provide relief for the pregnant woman by means of a replacement worker. The prescribed time period granted was one month ante-natal leave with a further month for post-natal recuperation.

c.f. Ni Chonaill, B. Child-centred law in medieval Ireland. In Davis, R. and Dunne, T. (Eds) The Empty Throne: Childhood and the Crisis of Modernity. Cambridge University Press (2008)

Burren Law School

Close by Newtown Castle, seat of the O'Lochlainns - Chiefs of the Burren, is the site of the O'Davoran Law School, one of the three law schools situated in the Burren. Between the years 1563 and 1569, Domhnall O'Davoran and his pupils compiled the manuscript now known as Egerton 88, containing an invaluable glossary of Brehon Law and a variety of law texts, one dating back to the 8th century. The annual Burren Law School, held the first weekend in May, aims to recreate the tradition of legal learning associated with the Brehon Law Schools, allowing the past to illuminate the present in what is characteristically a very stimulating weekend. It is of interest to the public at large as much as to members of the legal/ caring professions, historians and relevant interest groups.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Human Rights Legislation

1167 years before the signing of the first Geneva Convention in 1864 a law protecting non combatants in war was passed in Ireland at the Synod of Birr in 697AD. It is regarded by many as the first piece of human rights legislation. Cáin Adomnáin sometimes called the Law of the Innocents signifies the beginning of the enormous Christian movement to minimize social violence, a movement that has continued until the present day. It is important to note that Adomnán wrote the law to be upheld by both religious and secular leaders as well as across country lines, demonstrating his early commitment to the idea of international moral law. Many regard the Law of the Innocents to be a precursor to the Geneva Convention, an agreement that shows the considerable progress of international standards of justice in war.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brehon Laws - Mental Health

The Ancient Irish had laws on mental health and disability. Heavy fines were imposed on anyone mocking the disabled. Below is a relevant extract from “Medicine and early Irish law” by F. Kelly

The Brehon laws distinguish between a person who is mentally retarded (drúth), deranged (mer) or violently insane (dásachtach). The law texts contain no references to specific treatment for mental illness. Their main concern is that such individuals should not be exploited: one text states that “the rights of the insane precede all other rights”. Hence a contract with a person of unsound mind is invalid, and anyone who incites a drúth to commit a crime must himself pay the fine.

A man who impregnates a deranged woman is solely responsible for rearing the offspring, as is anyone who mischievously allows two insane persons to mate. In most circumstances, responsibility for crimes by the insane devolves on his or her guardian, generally a close relative. Society must be protected from the dangerously insane, hence a dásachtach should be tied up when he poses a threat to others. An epileptic (talmaidech) enjoys full legal competence, provided he is of sound mind. However, he must be watched over by a guardian to prevent injury to himself or to others during fits. A heavy fine is levied on anyone who mocks the disability of an epileptic, a leper, or one who is lame, blind or deaf.  

John Scottus Eriugena

John Scottus Eriugena produced all kinds of vocabulary: useful Latin-based coinings like donula for little gifts, gluttosus for greedy, disceptatiunculae for a friendly debate, dilapidatrix for a female asset-stripper, or the noun anhelantia for the roaring of a fire; as well as more abstract items like deiformitas for congruence to God, the metaphorical accolorare, meaning to gloss over, or angulositas, used metonymically to mean the property of unifying at a fundamental level. Then there are his straight loans from Greek like anax for king and acherdus for a kind of wild pear tree, as well as technical philosophical terms like anomia (meaning disparate elements), and calques on Greek like decursatiuus on διεξοδικός for multiplex or adnarratio on παραδιήγησις for corroborative discourse. Furthermore he carries out inventive semantic adaptations of existing words, such as the use of exalienari to mean to migrate (of animals), or the sensitive etymologizing of what were in fact misreadings, such as excolicum for Late Latin et scholicum, in a manner worthy of real words (in this case, as the opposite of Classical Latin incola, and so meaning alien or not of this world).

Anthony Harvey, Editor, Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources (DMLCS)

Monastic City of Clonmacnoise

The Monastic City of Clonmacnoise and its Cultural Landscape is located in Counties Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath in the centre of Ireland. It is an unparalleled and outstanding example of a relict early medieval Insular monastic city unobscured by modern building development. It is set within a superlative semi-natural landscape that deepens it spiritual qualities, adding greatly to its authenticity and integrity. The interaction between man and the natural environment in Clonmacnoise is of unique universal value. The architectural ensemble at Clonmacnoise represents an outstanding example of an early medieval Insular monastic city. It represents a significant stage in the development of early medieval Christianity in the North Atlantic. Archaeological excavation coupled with exceptional documentary sources has demonstrated that Clonmacnoise was a civitas in reality as well as in name, unlike many other Irish sites, and, moreover, its dates are relatively early in the chronology of urban development outside the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. It is therefore highly significant to our understanding of the development of urbanism generally in Atlantic Europe, as well as clarifying non-Viking urbanisation in an Irish context.

Sport in Medieval Ireland

Field games in Medieval Ireland were generally held on the greens of a fort or enclosure. Early Law Tracts describe penalties for injuries to participants and damage to structures while playing on public greens. Evidence from saga tales suggests that assemblies and fairs were the most common settings for field games, often with spectators present. Field games were clearly violent affairs and injuries were common. Descriptions of both injuries and penalties are common. Field games are also commonly described as an appropriate means of settling quarrels and disputes, in many cases ending in injury or death.

French Invasion of Ireland!

Of the most common words in use in the English language today 70% are French in origin. Anglo Saxon apologists seek to dilute this percentage by including obsolete words from the largely defunct old English language. The 'English' King Richard Coeur de Lion (the Lionheart) could not speak a word of English. The Statutes of Kilkenny (1366AD), were a set of regulatory laws which prohibited, (among other things) the use of the Irish language in public dealings in favour of the English language. However the "English" language which the statutes are written in looks suspiciously like French! It was after all apart from Irish, the only language the Irish Norman nobility could understand.

Christmas night raid on Glendalough.

Christmas night in the year 835AD the pagan Vikings raided two of the great monasteries of Ireland; the monastery of St. Kevin at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow and the monastery of St. Mogue at Clonmore, Co. Carlow, near Hackettstown.

Glendalough upper lake
The Vikings expected that by carrying out raids on Christmas night that valuable relics of the monasteries would be removed from their secret hiding place and placed display as part of the Christmas celebration. Of course the added bonus for the Vikings is likely that more people will be in the church boosting the number of potential prisoners that can subsequently sold as slaves. Indeed history records that at Clonmore the Vikings burnt the monastery and carried off a large number of prisoners into slavery. Wile at Glendalough they burned the oratory but there is no mention of prisoners. Raids are also recorded to have taken place in Connacht the same night. Just two years later the Vikings were to establish a permanent settlement in Ireland at Dublin.

Photo: The upper lake at Glendalough.

Irish Wolfhounds

Irish Wolfhounds are one of the oldest breeds of dogs recorded in the history of man. They appear in early Irish law tracts under the name "Cú" (modern Irish word for hound). The dogs are known as the "gentle giants" of the canine world expressed in the breed slogan, "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked". Wolfhounds also appears on the coat of arms of early Irish kings and were revered by the ancient Irish and remain a revered symbol of Ireland to this day. The name "wolfhound" is relatively new. In times past the dogs were refereed to as Cú (c.f. Chúlainn) and Conn. The latter term appears in many modern Irish Surnames like O'Connor, Conaire, Conolloy etc. Through the centuries they were referred to by many other names including the Irish wolf dog, Irish greyhound, or Irish war dog.