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St Patrick and Connemara

Maumean or Mám Éan – ‘the pass of the birds’ – is one of the two main passes through the Maumturk mountain range, the old boundary between Connemara proper and Joyce Country in Co. Galway. According to legend, St Patrick was travelling through the Maam Valley, on his return from Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo, [...]

St Patrick’s Goat in Galway

In early biographies – reflecting the biases of the writers – St Patrick was said to have blessed some Irish families and cursed others. This tendency was carried over into folklore, often in humorous fashion. And so, the residents of one locality would tease their neighbours about the fact that St Patrick had never visited [...]

St Patrick’s Parasomnia

Parasomnia is a word used to describe unusual or erratic behaviour while sleeping. In 1937, the Irish Folklore Commission recorded a fascinating story about St Patrick’s parasomnia from James Reagan (c. 1855-1937) of Tonranny, Gort, Co. Galway. In the story, entitled Naomh Pádhraic a’ Rámhailltigh (St Patrick Rambling), a weary St Patrick tells his servant-boy [...]

St Patrick the Snake Driver

St Patrick is famous for driving snakes out of Ireland, and he is commonly depicted in art with his foot on a snake or pointing snakes in the direction of the sea. Yet, the Roman geographer Solinus noted – some two hundred years before Patrick – that there were no snakes in Ireland. So where [...]

The Ballad of Michael Hoade

‘The Ballad of Michael Hoade’ was composed by Tommy Farrell of Carraun, near Belclare, Co. Galway sometime in the 1920s. It recounts the story of Michael Hoade, a Caherlistrane shopkeeper, who was killed by members of the Crown forces on 22 January 1921, during the War of Independence. Tommy Farrell (c.1898–1982) of Carraun From the [...]

TREATY 100 Project

On 6 December 1921, a party of Irish and British delegates signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London. The Treaty and circumstances around its signing were the subject of enormous controversy. Sinn Féin TDs debated the Treaty in a series of private and public sessions between 14 December and 7 January; the ruptures that emerged during [...]

Bealtaine & Butter

Bealtaine or May Day was once an important landmark in the Irish calendar. The first day of summer, it heralded the start of the fresh grass season and cattle, which had been sheltered in byres over the winter and spring, were put out to pasture. By this time farmers had completed their spring work, such [...]

Children’s Games

Children have always played games. This famous oil-painting by Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder is entitled Children’s Games. Painted in 1560 – more than four-and-a-half-centuries ago – it depicts a town square filled with children of all ages playing games. More than eighty different games have been identified in the painting.  Do you [...]

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