The Irish Folklore Centre

Providing a focus for the whole Irish folk tradition

Story of the chief of Onaght O Donechu

Three men had to make their way past the gatekeeper to the Underworld. They were in order the Earl of Desmond, his cousin the Lord Fitzmaurice and last in line Rory Mor of Ross, the Chief of Onaght O Donechu. When the Earl of Desmond was told to declare himself when he reached the Gatekeeper, […]

The Coming of the Gael

How and why one saga became three with All roads leading to Kerry.  A great read by Tighe O’Donoghue/Ross, first published in The Kerry Magazine 2015     THE COMING OF THE GAEL HOW AND WHY ONE SAGA OF INVASION BECAME THREE All Roads Lead to Kerry Tighe O’Donoghue/Ross First published in The Kerry Magazine […]

The rapparees

Submitted by Tim Donohue Rapparees or raparees (from the Irish ropairí, plural of ropaire, meaning half-pike or pike-wielding person) were Irish guerrilla fighters who operated on the Jacobite side during the 1690s Williamite war in Ireland. Subsequently, the name was also given to bandits and highwaymen in Ireland – many former guerrillas having turned to […]

The hags of the long teeth

This tale is from Douglas Hyde’s (1890) collection.  As described in Chapter 17, the hag is a very ancient character, but in this Roscommon story there are curious features which Alfred Nutt (1890) says are unparalleled in the rest of Ireland.  The inclusion of vultures and an arch-judge, a court role from ancient Egypt (web), […]

The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu or Uisneach

This is the third of ‘The Three Sorrows of Storytelling’, and has a great variety of English titles and story-lines.  It is a classic and Jeffrey Gantz (1981) describes it as ‘the most stunning tale ever written in Irish’.  The earliest surviving text dates to the ninth century, followed by expanded versions in the fourteenth […]

The Death of the Sons of Tuireann

This is the first of the ‘Three Sorrows of Storytelling’.  The main elements of this story were contained in a number of versions from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, but there are some substantial differences in the detail.  The themes in this version are shapeshifting, inter-clan strife, an honour-fine and retribution for a terrible deed […]

The pursuit of the Giolla Deacair and his horse

This is an early modern tale, probably from the fifteenth century.  It centres around a journey to the Otherworld accessed by a magic well, where mortals participate in local battles, and everyone gets home in the end. During the first half of every year Fionn and his men hunted each day with their dogs and […]

The Battle of the White Strand

This story possibly dates from the twelfth century, but is only available in a fifteenth century version.  It is Ireland versus the rest and contains some extraordinary imagery.  The themes are all battle related: single combat, cutting off heads, one conquering many, giant champions, magic weapons and boy warriors The King of the World, Dáire […]

Diarmaid and Gráinne

This tale is redolent of the sad story of Deirdre and Naoise and is probably the most travelled of the Irish romances.  It became well-known in Europe and is thought to have been the source of the story of Tristan and Isolt.   An older man’s love for a younger woman, elopement, love versus honour, a […]