Ireland - Subject Cards H-M 

History - Ireland

MCCXIX The same year died William Marshall the Elder, Earl Marshall & Earl of Pembroke, who by his wife, the daughter of Richard Strongbow, Earl of Stroygul, had five sons; the eldest was called William, the 2 nd Walter, the 3 rd Gilbert, the 4 th Anselm, & the 5 th Richard, who lost his life in the War of Kildare. Every one successively enjoyed the earldom of their father, & all died without issue. So the inheritance devolved to the sisters, namely the daughters of their father, who were Maud Marshall the eldest, Isabel de Clare the 2 nd, Eva de Breous the 3 rd, Joan de Mount Chensey the 4 th, and Sibill, Countess of Firrars, the 5 th. Maud Marshall was married to Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, who was Earl Marshall of England in right of his wife.

- The Annals of Ireland in Britannia, Vol. 3, 1753 (Mil. Lib.)

This book also has a long account of the Revolt of the Earls of Ulster under Elizabeth & the defeat of the rebels by Montjoy.

- Britannia, or a Chorographical Description of Great Britain & Ireland

Together with Adjacent Islands, written in Latin by William Camden,

Clarenceux, King at Arms; & translated into English with Additions &

Improvements; revised, digested, & published by Edmund Gibson

_____ late Lord Bishop of London, MDCCLIII

Irish Aristocracy - Fall of

Dermot MacMurray -

Here (Ferns-Wexford) lies the ruins of the memorable castle of Dermod M'Morragh, King of Leinster, whither, as his principle residence he retired with the beauteous & fatal Dervorgal, daughter of O'Malfechlin, King of Meath, & wife of O'Rorke, Prince of Breifny, now denominated the county of Leitrim, from whom, by every wily contrivance, he is said to have seduced & persuaded her to elope with him, which eventually produced one of the most momentous epochs that occurs in the history of Ireland, producing a complete & total change in its laws, customs, government, & proprietors. ...This libertine & licentious deed introduced the adventuring Anglo-Norman chiefs... for Dermod, odious as notorious for other acts of tyranny & violence, attracted by this flagitious crime, the aggravated execration & resentment of Roderic O'Connor, the reigning monarch, as well as of all other chiefs & princes of the land; who, making common cause against the execrable outrage, forced him out of the island, whither he ere long returned, introducing those invaders (from one of whom I am myself descended) who ultimately succeeded in its utter reduction. Hence it cannot be fantastical to deem in similitude, Dermod the Paris, Dervorgal the Helen, Ferns the Troy, and the Anglo-Norman adventurers, the Greeks of Ireland; and were there another Homer in existence, he might rejoice in having a second equivalent subject to display anew his powers."

- Edward Hay, Esq. (a participant in events in Wexford), History of the

Irish Insurrection of 1798; Boston: Patrick Donohue, #23 Franklin St.), p. 56-57[1]

[This is obviously a new printing of an old book but no dates are given. Marguerite McCann has this copy. It must have been first published not too long after the events narrated.][2]

"The fate of the once-formidable clan of MacCarthy is similar to nearly all the ancient families of Ireland: the descendents in the direct line may often be found working, as day laborers, around the ruins of castles where their forefathers had ruled; & as in many instances, a period of a little more than a century & a half had passed between their grandeur & their degradation, it can incite no marvel if, at times, they indulge the idea that what was swept from them by the strong tide of conquest, the eddy of events may bring back to them again. We have ourselves seen the legitimate heir of one of the ancient rulers & owners of West Carbery pause, as he delved the soil, lean on his spade, & point to the mountains & valleys, stretching far as the eye could reach, and speak as if they were still his own, of the wide districts of which his great-grandsire was the chief... "Forfeited estates," in Ireland are to be encountered as frequently as old Irish names... The county histories are full of such expressive sentences as this: "He joined the Irish, & forfeited his estate"... the partisans, English & Dutch, of William III divided the properties of the "mere Irish;" & perhaps in the whole country, there are scarcely a dozen of the descendents of families, antecedent to the Anglo-Norman invasion, who hold an acre of land that once belonged to their ancestors."

- Halls, Vol., I, p. 50-51

With William's victory (1699), 3/4 of a million acres passed to new owners.

"Thus the 3 rd conquest of Ireland within a century was achieved. The most illustrious names of the Irish nation disappeared from their country by attainder, death, or voluntary exile. Those that remained owned only about 1/7 of the soil. The middle classes suffered exclusion from corporations, trades, & professions, & the penal laws began with acts of the Dublin Parliament in 1695 & '98, which debarred conscientious papists from wearing arms, teaching publicly, & practicing law."

Ency. Brit., p. 609

1 Edward Hay, History of the Irish Insurrection of 1798, Giving an Authentic Account of the Various Battles Fought Between the Insurgents and the King's Army, and a Genuine History of Transactions Preceding that Event. New York : J. Kenedy, 1846.

2 Brackets in original.


(na cealla beaga - "the little churches")

Pop. - 724

Houses - 126

On the plantation of Ulster, 200 acres of land were granted by James I to Roger Jones, Esq., on condition he lay out the site of a town, building 20 houses with lands for Burgesses, & assigning convenient spots for marketplaces, a church, a churchyard, a public school & playground, & 30 acres of commons.

Is the head of a coast guard district with a force of 4 officers & 56 men (distributed in 7 stations), under the control of a resident inspecting commander.

A constabulary police force is located here.

The harbor is nearly circular in form, well-sheltered, & accessible to ships of considerable burden.

When the town was disenfranchised with Union, the 15,000 pounds compensation went to Henry, Earl of Conyngham.

There is a spacious & neat R. C. chapel.

About 250 children are taught in two public schools, of which the parochial school is supported by the Co. Robertson Fund. There are also 3 private schools, in which are about 140 children.

[Topographical] Dict[ionary of Ireland?]

Legal System

[see also Penal Laws; White Boys & Other Vigilante Groups]

The law in Ireland, said Lord Denman in a famous phrase, was "a mockery, a delusion, & a snare."

- Geo. Potter, To the Golden Door, (1960), p. 62 ( Ind. Lib.)

Habeas Corpus Act

Suspended in Ireland after Union in:






[- no citation given for this entry]

The Irishman had sound practical reasons for distrusting the complex of English law. The local justices of the peace were the English landlords or their agents. These officers were a good deal less than disinterested, & their rulings often arbitrary. The Irish took their private quarrels to them only if one party or the other had some reason to hope for favoritism. Otherwise they preferred to settle their own disputes among themselves... The Irish had equal grounds to distrust the workings of the higher levels of English jurisprudence. The Irish courts were the neglected dumping-ground & patronage hutch of the English judicial system. Many of the judges had bought their way onto the bench. They were often ignorant or brutal men. During one term of a judicial circuit in rural Ireland, the judge heard 100 criminal cases, found 98 defendants guilty of capital offenses, and 97 of them were hanged.

- Wm. V. Shannon, The Am. Irish, p. 11


Mayo (County)

Agriculture & Land Use

Population (1839)

1821 - 293,112

1831 - 367,956

Area (1839)

1,355,048 A[cres]

871,984 A cultivated

424,124 A mountain & bog

57,940 underwater

Wheat is grown in the southern & champaign (flat) parts; potatoes, oats, barley, & flax in the more elevated districts. But the greater portion of the latter division is under pasture, as the grass is found to be suitable for rearing young cattle, though it is not rich enough to fatten them. ...The plough is an implement little used in the boggy & mountainous parts... the slide car is nearly extinct even in the mountains... Wheat is cultivated to some extent, but potatoes & oats are the main crops; flax is raised only on the headlands or corners of a field for domestic use... Pigs do not enter into the rural economy of the small farmer to the same extent as in other counties. Draining & irrigation are little practiced... So late as 1675 the county was well-wooded, but in the winters of 1778 & '79 the last extensive woods were felled. The Marquess of Sligo has planted trees to a large extent in the neighborhood of Westport... Ironworks have been discontinued for lack of fuel... Linen is extensively manufactured, chiefly in the cabins of the poor, many of which, particularly in the mountains, are furnished with a loom... Kelp is made in large quantities on all parts of the coast. The establishment of corn buyers (oats for Liverpool) has given rise to a considerable trade at, among other places, Westport.

- Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.

Customs & Culture

It was written of the Mayo peasantry in 1836 (P. Knight), "Their whole thought seems to be going to fairs"... It was at the fair that a man proved his adult status by his ability to hold his own at buying & selling, & a favorite theme of the stories that raise a laugh at the fireside concerns the simpleton who exchanged his cow for a worthless trifle. ...Some things traditionally were not sold. In Mayo milk might be given away but would be sold only in secret, & it used to be an indelible disgrace for a woman to sell butter; it was regarded as a sign of abject poverty.

The pilgrimage of Croagh Patrick is the most celebrated of those held at the end of July, involving the assent of high mountains & marking, by tradition, the close of the summer & the beginning of harvest. In 1845 the Parliamentary Gazetteer said, "No place in Ireland is the scene of more superstitious observances or a more popular resort of pilgrims & devotees, or the site of more numerous small memorials of superstition, or the subject of more credited legends of hagiology. Vast crowds of miserable human beings...swarm all over its summit & sides & skirts; one grand current legend is almost everywhere believed in the teeth of all credulity, that St. Patrick gathered hither & swept hence all venomous creatures in Ireland.

- E. E. Evans, Irish Folkways

Economy & Conditions - General

1820 - serious disturbances arising from abuses in the levying of taxes & county & parish

rates. Insurgents took the name of Ribbonmen & kept the county in alarm by their nocturnal depredations; two years later they were suppressed by the law.

1822 - famine when potato crop failed, but help was sent from all parts of England through a

London committee.

Aughaval Parish - Westport - population of parish: 13,921; Westport: 4,448. Three R. C. churches, one at Westport, spacious, with an ornamented front. At Westport there are 4 free schools & an infants' school in which about 330 boys and 200 girls are taught; and there are also 17 private schools, in which are about 860 children.

Westport - an excellent harbor. Total number of houses 617, most well-built & roofed with slate. A spacious & handsome hotel, erected & splendidly furnished at the expense of the Marquess of Sligo, who assigns it rent-free to the landlord.

The trade of the port is of comparatively recent origin, consists of the exportation of agricultural produce, particularly corn, & the importation of timber from America & the Baltic, & of articles of British manufacture. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1834 was 6; 4 foreign vessels & 97 from British ports entered inward, one foreign vessel & 153 to British ports cleared outward.

The herring fishery is still carried out here, tho not so extensively as in 1780, when the port was first established for its use; the number of boats employed and the quantity of fish taken vary considerably. In the neighborhood are 3 productive salmon fisheries, and the market is plentifully supplied with all kinds of fresh-water fish throughout the year.

Excellent warehouses capable of containing 40,000 tons of grain. The customs house is well arranged. The amount of duties paid in 1836 was €577.8.4. An extensive distillery established in 1826, producing annually 60,000 gallons of whiskey. A brewery established in 1800 has much declined since the reduction of the duty on spirits. Both concerns employ about 150 men. A tannery employs 30 men in summer & 60 in winter. Flour & oatmeal mills built in 1808. At nearly Belclare a cotton mill, with 26 looms employing 30 men & a considerable number of women & children. Two miles from town a linen & cotton factory of 24 power looms affords constant employment to 50, & when in full operation, to 200, men.

A branch of the Bank of Ireland.

A chief constabulary force in town, also the coast guard head of the area (6 stations in district), employing 6 officers & 52 men.

Commodious barracks that can take care of 5 companies of infantry.

The R. C. church, on the Mall, erected in 1820 by Dr. Kelly for $6,000; the altar is emblemished with a fine painting of the Crucifixion.

Two large free schools, one under the direction of the National Board, the other a free Protestant school, built & supported entirely by voluntary contributions of inhabitants.

"The remarkable peak of Croag Patrick rises from the southern shore of Clew Bay to an elevation of 2,530 feet."

- Topographical Directory of Ireland, 1839

There is an extensive & detailed article on fishing off the coast of Co. Mayo in the Topographical Dictionary, Vol. II, p. 356-57.

The condition & appearance of the peasantry differ much in different parts (of Co. Mayo). In the districts about Westport & Newport the people were formerly in comfortable circumstances, uniting the occupations of farmer, weaver, & fisherman; but for several years the change in their circumstances for the worse has been very great, which has been attributed to the decline in the linen trade, the subdivisions of farms, & early & improvident marriages... Their habitations are built are built in some parts of uncemented stone, in others of sods or mud on a stone foundation; they are roofed chiefly with bog timber, which is never of sufficient size to furnish rafters except for the smallest cabins; the price of foreign timber prevents its use. Their cabins hence have an appearance even more miserable than in other parts of Ireland. In the mountainous districts & on the borders of the bogs the habitations are particularly wretched, indicating the greatest poverty. The fuel is universally turf; the food potatoes, oaten bread, milk, and herring; and the clothing chiefly a dark-colored frieze manufactured by themselves, with thicksets (a kind of fustian resembling velveteen, mainly used for men's work clothes), and cotton occasionally. The women were formerly clothed in home-made stuffs, flannels & friezes and, like those of Galway, the short jacket & petticoat was of red; the jacket has in most instances given way to a cotton gown, but the deep crimson petticoat is still worn throughout the greater part of the county. The Irish language is generally spoken by the old inhabitants, but young people almost everywhere speak English.

- Ibid., p. 358

"Mayo gives the titles of Earl & Viscount to the Burke family."

- Ibid., [p. #?]

Devon Commission Report (1845)

In Co. Mayo 95% of the population lived in mud cabins, for food, any change from

potatoes & meal stirabout, a thin porridge, was unusual; milk was scarce; butter in

some places unknown.

- Brian Inglis, Story of Ire., p. 136

Co. Mayo - "The most overpopulated, poverty-stricken, rack-rented, and eviction-prone of all (in 1879).

- Ibid., p. 147

Co. Mayo - the herring fishermen were too poor to buy salt with which to preserve a catch.

- Woodham-Smith, Hunger, p. 32

Housing in Connaught ([from] 1841 census):

Total # of families - 255,694

Living in mud houses of more than 1 room - 100,979 (39.5%)

Living in mud huts of 1 room - 125,058 (48.5%)

- [or] 88% [living in some type of mud house]

- statistics from Halls, Vol. III, p. 444


The finest fishing ground in Mayo was off Portulin, a small fishing village in Erris... Fine cod & ling abound off Portulin, but at the time of year when the fish are most abundant the weather was uncertain & dangerous (in 1847). (This is on NE coast, far from Westport.)

- Ibid., p. 290

"Along the whole coast are remarkably fine fishing banks, abundantly supplied with all kinds of fish. The Inniskealing bank, extending 8 leagues to sea, is usually from May to August. The great sunfish bank is about 30 mi. off the coast. The best season for the fishery is during the last week in April or the 1 st of May. In this season the uncertainty of the weather & the heavy swell often baffle the fishers. Should a fine day occur, from 30 to 40 may be killed, but on the death of a few the rest retreat. They are taken with a harpoon. Many fish are struck without effect, in which case the spear & line are lost. It appears to be an unprofitable business: the outfit of the number of boats engaged in it cannot be estimated at less than €2,000 in the season, & the value of the fish caught, even in a favorable year, has never been above €1500. The fishing is now followed chiefly by the few decked vessels that can stand out waiting for good weather. The whole fishing trade, with this exception, is carried on in open boats. There are few decked vessels. The deficiency is owing partly to the poverty of the district, partly to the want of harbors except at Westport, Newport, & Killala, & partly from the construction of open boats being most convenient for carrying on the coasting trade in turf, in which those residing on the shores are engaged in the intervals between the fishing seasons; the number of boats for both sailing & rowing is very great."

[- no citation given here]


"The houses of Achill Island are described by several writers about 1840 as circular or oval in shape, built of boulders without mortar, & having the thatched roof continuous with the walls. They had neither chimneys nor windows, and the single door was sometimes not more than four feet high."

- E. E. Evans, Irish Folkways, p. 43 (1957)

"In Clare Island, Co. Mayo, there were at the turn of the century only 5 or 6 houses of the total of 120 into which the cattle & pigs were not taken at night."

- Ibid., p. 41

Grace O'Malley

The Halls report [O'Malley] as "a great name in Mayo."

" Clare Island is of considerable size & contains above 1600 inhabitants. Here was the great seat of the dominions of the famous Grace O'Malley. The island & the adjacent district are still fertile in legends concerning her carriage, prowess, & activity... A square tower, the remains of her once-formidable castle, still exist; & the bay in which she moored her warships is pointed out, & to this day is famous for security & shelter. She appears to have been a sort of lady-pirate, who existed during the 16 th century. She was the daughter of Owen O'Malley & the wife of O'Flahertie, powerful chieftains of Connaught. She married a second husband, Sir Richard Bourke, called MacWilliam Oughter, who also left her a widow in 1585. While a 'lone woman' she is believed to have played her pranks upon the ocean; & it is affirmed that she visited England in order to be introduced to Queen Elizabeth; or rather, to afford the Queen an opportunity of being introduced to her; for the representative of the O'Malleys was, at least, as proud & imperious, in her own realm as absolute, as the descendent of the Tudors. Her name, Grana Uiale, Grace of the Islands, has been made famous in Ireland, in consequence of its being supposed that she resisted the Saxon rule; such however does not appear to have been the fact. It was consequently at one time made the watchword of a party; the Irish Boadicea is the theme of many an old song."

- Halls, Vol. III, note 405

Schools & Education

School[s] in Newport - This is a wild district, with none of the advantages of the near residence of a landlord able & willing to provide for his dependents. Yet in no part of Ireland have we seen better schools. There are 3 schools under the superintendence of the Rector and funds are provided partly by the Diocesan and part by the "Church Education Society for Ireland." Above half the pupils were Roman Catholic; the teachers were members of the Church of England, and the authorized version of the Scriptures were read daily, in fact all the objections commonly urged against schools established by the Established Church exist here in full force; yet the parents had sent, & continue to send, their children, although there is a Roman Catholic school, & a school in association with the National Board, in the immediate neighborhood. The education given is "sensible & sound"; the teachers are able & well-paid (house plus other benefits & 80 pounds per annum). This is the secret of success - the parents, in spite of opposition, will send their children to the best masters. "The pupils were in few instances of the lower classes." "There was no evidence of proselyzing."

- The Halls, Vol. III, p. 386-87

[Schools in] Westport - "Two large free schools have been erected, one of which is under the direction of the National Board, the other is a free Protestant school, built & supported entirely by voluntary contributions of the inhabitants."

- Topographical Dictionary of Ireland

( Newport is 5 1/2 miles from Westport.)

Literacy in Connaught (1841 census):

Population - 1,418,859

Can read & write - 200,677 (14%)

Can read only - 142,636 (10%)

- statistics from Halls, Vol. III, p. 444


" Westport is the most lauded of Mayo towns. Designed by a French architect for its landlord, it did not just spring up as a fairy mushroom... Westport presents us with a portrait of a benevolent & enlightened landlord of long ago, in which there is hardly any reflection of the plain people."

- Stephen Rynne, All Ireland, p. 164-65 (Milw.), 1956[1]

"The two principal streets run parallel on either side of the stream, which, before entering the town, passes through the adjoining demesne of the Marquis of Sligo. There are two good hotels. Dr. J. Johnson, a rather severe critic by the way, thus describes his first impressions of the town: "In Westport I observed symptoms of the national character - an itch for greatness amid nothingness. Here is a hotel that would do credit to Sackville St., with an avenue of trees before the door, and a beautiful purling stream running in front of the hotel, calculated to lull a traveler to repose after a journey through Connamara. Here the wharves & warehouses are on a scale quite large enough for Dublin, or Ireland itself! The town has certainly an air of neatness & cleanliness superior to that of the generality of towns of the same size in Ireland." There is a parish church situated in the Marquis of Sligo's demesne, a handsome Roman Catholic chapel, and also a Presbyterian & a Methodist meeting house in the town. From the upper part of the town there are magnificent views of the mountains in the neighborhood, and the spacious Clew Bay, with its numerous islands.

Tourists may visit without restriction the beautiful demesne of the Marquis of Sligo. It is well-planted & intersected with walks.

- Black's Guidebook for Tourists: Ireland (1860)

1 Stephen Rynne, All Ireland. Photographs by J. Allan Cash and others. London : Batsford, 1956.


[All together]

Once in the late 1700s there was a big storm. The turf had been cut to use for roofs of buildings, so the sand was open & dry. With the big wind the sand shifted and in one night 46 houses were buried. No one was killed - all the people escaped. You can still see the tops of some of the houses in the sand. When Mr. Boyle (my informant) was a boy, after a storm they used to go there & pick up pockets full of George the Third pennies.

In the 1788 uprising one of the ships of the Wolfe Tone expedition with French soldiers came into the harbour at Rutland. Mr. Boyle's great-grandfather was one of the 2 local pilots that always rushed out to pilot ships in. When he got on board he looked up & saw the black flag at the mast. Nappertandy (NAPPERTANDY or NAPPERANDY, according to my informant), the captain said, "Do you know what that means?" "Yes, it means I'm a dead man if I don't pilot you in safely." They stopped the mail boat & confiscated the mail from which Nappertandy knew he was betrayed. When he turned to sail out, British warships completely blocked the way.

When they came over they sailed directly from Rutland. It took 3 months & they had to take their own food, which was oatmeal & potatoes. For water they depended on catching in old sails spread on the deck.

Rutland was the important town - there was only one house at Burtonport. Here was the English customs house. Once they confiscated the tobacco from ships that came in & burned it. The daughter of one of the English officers (about 16) tried to save some to give to the old people by fishing it out of the burning pile. She got out 5 bars but she was apprehended & they were tossed back in, "Wasn't that mean?"

John O Boyle <-------------He wants Pat Bonner to write him. He lived right by the Bonners on Rutland.

Rutland Island


Co. Donegal

The trip over from Burtonport is in a small open boat (I hope it doesn't rain going back). You are not in open water at any time, Rutland & the mainland being close. It takes about 15 minutes. You land in a lovely sandy cove. The land is high but a gentle slope, cultivated in fields. It looks more fertile than around Burtonport. There is a palm tree in the front yard of the Glen Hotel - small but still a palm.

Church - beamed ceiling - Byzantine Madonna on right side of altar, "S. Maria de Perpetua Succursu." Nice wood altar rail.

John Bonner was "Black John" because he was dark. This is either Pat's father (who emigrated) or his grandfather.

The father of Catherine McBride, who married Andrew Roddy was a schoolteacher on Rutland.

John J. O'Boyle - Burtonport

In Arranmore there was a pound. "Charlie" was the landlord & he was mean. The government bought the land from "Charlie" & portioned it out, building fine fences. Then the people paid each year a reasonable amount until it was all paid out. There was nothing but praise for the way this was done.

Tammy - someone came back from Beaver Island & told how fertile the land was - the great amount of potatoes that could be grown in a small plot.

There was a Dunlevy on Arranmore who was a cobbler.

I met a Green (a young woman). She had an old uncle, on Owen Green, a bachelor who lived to be 90+ & probably was related to & remembered those who came to B. Island.

Capt. Jack the Glen (Boyle)



The Banshee is the wildest & grandest of all the Irish superstitions. The spirit assumes the form of a woman, sometimes young but more generally very old; her long, ragged locks float over her thin shoulders; she is usually attired in loose white drapery, & her duty upon earth is to warn the family upon whom she attends of some approaching misfortune. This warning is given by a particularly mournful wail - at night - a sound that resembles the melancholy sigh of the wind, but having the tone of a human voice, & distinctly audible at great distance... She is sometimes seen as well as heard; but her form is rarely visible except to the person upon whom she more especially waits. This person must be of an old stock - the representative of some ancient race; & him or she, she never abandons, even in poverty or degradation. Thus the McCarthys, the O'Sullivans, & the O'Reardons, and other se__ts, now reduced to the grade of peasants, have each their Banshee. Few, indeed, of the old families of Ireland are without such an attendant spirit, & the stories of them are to be gathered in every part of the country.

- Halls, Vol. II, p. 106-07  



The superstitions of the Catholic Irish peasantry were characteristic of the intense folk life of a people steeped in tradition & ancient culture. In the backwash of a Europe that had been transformed, on an island shut off from modern influences by the English conquest, denied access to education, isolated rural Ireland kept the memory, unbroken, & in direct succession, of its older life. Oral tradition, uncontaminated by books & undiluted by alien ideas, conserved the old beliefs from generation to generation...

The fairies that dwelt in Ireland - "the grass is full of them," a piper said - were a projection of the character of the people - mischief-loving, fond of dancing & singing, great at sports, gentle until aroused, full of wiles & tricks, called the "good people," who themselves liked to be called "the gentry." Of course they spoke Irish. "What else would they talk?" a woman replied to Lady Gregory. While there were malevolent & malignant creatures among the invisible hosts, the Irish fairy world stands forward by the absence of grossness & sinister apparitions which other races have conjured up in their experience. The witch, for example, was rare, & the devil had no place in the fairy universe. "Fallen angels" was the characterization by the Catholic Irish of the spirits, although their origin was pagan.

The grace & delicacy in the concept of the little creatures represented an idealization of the invisible world, rather than a fearful perversion of human characteristics. Their little forms were so lithe that when they danced upon a dewdrop it trembled & did not break. Fairy music, once heard, haunted the mind with its loveliness; & the highest praise of a fiddler was that he snatched his art from the wee folk: the people could dance all night without tiring to his tunes...

[e] things happened in Ireland. Fairy raths, or forts, fairy kings & fairy paths were involiate ground, & if a road took an unnecessary turn in building it was because the people refused to cut through a traditional fairy path.

- G. Patton, To the G. Door, p. 95-97

The people believed [that the fairies?] followed the emigrant to America...but in the crowded slum tenement houses, by the looms, boilers, & forges of factories, along the canals & railroads, amidst the bustle of city streets, the fairies of the pleasant countryside, the ruined castles, the furze-covered hills & open skys, found (& wanted) no haven in America.

- ibid., p. 100

Did the Irish really believe in fairies, or were they up to their old pastime of treating the absurd seriously? One woman made a classic answer: "Oh, I wouldn't believe in fairies, but it is not harm to believe in fallen angels." Or the characteristic instance told by Sean O'Faolain of the West Cork woman who, when asked if she believed in fairies, replied, "I do not, but they are there!" Devout Roman Catholics though they were, a corner of their minds kept room for the paganism that was older than Patrick.

- ibid., p. 101

"She was dressed in red flannel (in Galway), the costume of all mountain peasantry of that country, & this color they tell you is chosen to keep the fairies away."

- Ireland's Welcome to a Stranger, p. 187


"The elves, which in their true shape are but a few inches high, have an airy, almost transparent body; so delicate is their form, that a dew-drop, when they dance on it, trembles, indeed, but never breaks. Both sexes are of extraordinary beauty, & mortal beings cannot be compared with them.

They do not live alone or in pairs but in large societies, they are invisible to man, particularly in the daytime, as they can be present & hear what is being said, the peasantry never speak of them but with caution & respect, terming them 'the good people,' or 'friends,' as any other name would offend them. If a great cloud of dust rises on the road, it is a sign that they are about to change their residence & move to another place, & the invisible travelers are always saluted with a respectful bow. They have their dwellings in clefts of rock, caves, and ancient t__muli."

- Halls, Vol. IV, p. 238


"The Fear-Grota (Man of Hunger) is an emaciated phantom that goes through the land in famine time, begging an alms & bringing good luck to the giver."

- Yeats, Irish Fairy & Folk Tales, p. 85.[1]

Experiences with

Told by a woman, "Mollie the Wise," who had spent 7 years with fairies.

...Molly lived with the fairies for a number of years. She was taken when she was crossing a lake with her father & uncle because the failed to make the sign of the cross when they crossed a place in the water where a boy had been drowned (Molly says taken by the fairies), years ago. "It was lilting of a song I was; & my father & uncle paused just as the boat was gliding over the place, & they said they were looking at me that minute, and thinking how purty the moonlight was settling on my face, & the next I was gone." ..."At times she would describe the fairies as the most benevolent "little craythers" in the world, and lament bitterly that she had ever left them. She had, she would say, while with them, "white bread and fresh butter, and cruddy cream, & beautiful flowers, and loads of sweethearts, and everything but the grace of God."

- Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall, Vol. III, p. 258

Isle of the Blessed

It may be regarded as a distinguishing feature in Celtic mythology that its views of the spiritual world are not so gloomy & terrific as those of the Gothic, & we do not find any idea of a place of punishment among its cheerful dogmas. Hence there is no indigenous word in the Irish language to express Hell; whereas the word for Heaven is strictly indigenous, & literally signifies "the isle of the noble," Flath


This island is said to be situated off the western coast of Ireland and generally invisible, except to some gifted individuals, who occasionally descried it through the grey mists of the ocean. It is said to be a region of perennial spring & endless pleasure.

- Halls, p. 395

Fairies - Raths (Mounds)

There is no object which the peasants regard with so much superstitious dread as the rath, from the belief that it is the special property of the fairies. It is almost impossible to find a laborer who can be tempted by any reward to put his spade into one of them. They have consequently remained undisturbed for ages; & often a large space is therefore suffered to continue in unprofitable waste in the center of a fertile meadow. Stories in abundance are told of punishments that have followed attempts to open or level these raths, & of scenes & objects witnessed by persons who have unconsciously slept beside them, or passed them in the night.

- Halls, Vol. I, p. 375 note

"Fairy hill back of Salty's house"

Fairy & Folk Tales

"In the Parochial Survey of Ireland it is recorded how the story-tellers used to gather together of an evening, & if any had a different version from the others, they would all recite & vote, & the man who had varied would have to abide by their verdict. In this way stories have been handed down with such accuracy, that the long tale of Dierdre was in the earlier decades of this century, told almost word-for-word, as in the very ancient MSS in the Royal Dublin Society. In one case only it varied, & the MS was obviously wrong - a passage had been forgotten by the copyist. But this accuracy is rather in the folk & bardic tales than in the fairy legends, for these vary widely, being usually adapted to some neighboring village or local fairy-seeing celebrity."

- Irish Fairy & Folk Tales, edited by W. B. Yeats, in the introduction

Land of Promise - Mannan

In Irish mythology Manannan is King of the Land of Promise. The Land of Promise is sometimes identified as a supernatural region in the sid-mounds, the great barrows of the dead; sometimes as approached over the sea or a lake. It is a land where there is naught but truth; without death or decay, or sadness, or envy, or jealousy, or hate, or gloom, or pride, a land of plenty, of flocks & herds, of the ever-young, of flowers & fruits.

P. 150

Irish mythology is a strange world of the imagination...remote from the world of the Middle Ages. The Irish gods are neither "little people" nor "fairies," but tall & beautiful & fair; in all their physical strength and power & fairness of countenance, & even dress, they are superior to human men & women... There are no witches or devils, no puerile miracles or mere vulgar displays of magical powers. The supernatural & the marvelous are invested with restraint & dignity. No question of guilt, or punishment, or judgement in the afterlife ever disturbs the serenity of what Gerard Murphy has called the "strange loveliness" of Celtic mythology. It is this "strange loveliness" of "the otherworld atmosphere which gives its special beauty to the Irish mythological cycle.

  • Dillon & Chadwick, The Celtic Realms, p. 158[2]


The old people of Ireland took the greatest delight in repeating their legendary tales to the children, by which constant repetition their old stories became in fact hereditary, & I dare say neither gained nor lost a single sentence in the recital for 100 years. The massacres of Queen Elizabeth were quite familiar to them."

- Sir Jonah Barrington (1769-1834), Personal Sketches (1827), p. 28

1 William Butler Yeats, Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. New York : Boni and Liveright, Inc., 1918.

2 Myles Dillon and Nora Chadwick, The Celtic Realms. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967.