Sources for Irish Re-enactors
Mairead Dunlevy. Dress in Ireland. 1989:
The most recent work on Irish clothing by then curator of the Texiles, Ceramics, and Glass exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. Still the best book on Irish textiles currently in print.
Timothy Severin. The Brendan Voyage 2000: Modern Library Exploration Series.
This book is an experimental archeologist’s dream! It is about a bunch of guys in 1976 who decided to retrace the steps of St. Brendan the Navigator and they sailed from the West Coast of Ireland to America in a ox hide curragh. They accomplish the voyage and it proves that St. Brendan and 14 of his monks could have beat Leif Erikson to the New World by over four centuries. To quote from the book: “In a strange way I was reassured. It occurred to me that what a medieval boat-builder might have lacked in his knowledge of naval architechture, he gained in the quality of the materials he used, materials which he had selected critically then prepared with the utmost care… Of our modern materials, only the best stainless steel, the solid plastic, and the synthetic ropes were standing up to the conditions. It was instructive that whenever a modern item broke, we tended to replace it with a homemade substitute devised from teh ancient materials of wood, leather, and flax….” Yay natural fibres! I especially love the part when they find out that the flax thread with which they’ve sewn the oxhide hull together is stronger wet and it’s stronger in the leather because it’s picking up some of the tannin from the leather tanning process.
David W. McCullough, ed. Wars of the Irish Kings: A Thousand Years of Struggle from the Age of Myth Through the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 2000: Crown Publishers.
If you can’t afford to buy copies of Keating’s History of Ireland, The Annals of the Four Masters, The Book of the Dun Cow, The Yellow Book of Lecan or other period source works, then this book is like “One Stop Shopping” for you! This book (actually an anthology of exerpts from the books listed above, among others) is a compilation of contemporary writings about Irish Kings and battles from ancient times to the end of Gaelic rule in the early 17th century. The stories aren’t always historical fact, but they give a great insight into how the writers of history shape history. Englishman Fynes Morrison’s description of an Irish fort as “a trench with a wall around it” and The Annals of the Four Masters description of the same fort as a castle with ramparts really makes you think about perspective. A must for anyone who wants to delve into primary and secondary source information about pre-modern Ireland.
Cyril Falls Elizabeth’s Irish Wars 1997: Syracuse Univ Press, Syracuse, NY.
A superb survey of the Elizabethan period in Ireland with major participants and events covered in considerable detail. The documentation is superb but lacks sufficient maps.
Steven G. Ellis Ireland in the Age of the Tudors, 1447-1603 1998: Longman History of Ireland.
A detailed study of the period with numerous superb maps and specific citations. Events as well as major players are addressed in this book with a very heavy reliance on primary source documentation. This is a scholarly work, however and is not to be considered light reading.
Seán O Faolain The Great O’Neill 1997: Dufour Editions.
This is a reprint of a book first published in 1942 and so is written in what seems a very archaic style. The author covers the events of Eoghan Rua Ui Neill’s life in detail, however, it is difficult to tell how much is fact and how much is legend. Matter of fact, he makes mention of the fact that his book is written for the “general reader” and not scholars. Therefore, there are no citations as to sources or maps included. If you just want a taste of the life of the man who gave Elizabeth a scare, it’s a great book. For the reasons stated, however, it is not the best source for research.
Henry Foster McClintock. Old Irish and Highland Dress. 1950: Dundalgan Press Ltd., Dundalk.
An exhaustive and fully documented study of Irish dress. McClintock is probably the first author who gathered every possible source into one place and looked at them as a whole. The result of this is an excellent description of 16th century Irish dress. Among other things, this book disproves the existence of an Irish kilt as well as the idea that “saffron” is some kind of brownish colour. No re-enactor should undertake Irish living history without first reading McClintock.
Henry Foster McClintock. Handbook on the Traditional Old Irish Dress. 1958: Dundalgan Press Ltd., Dundalk.
It appears that McClintock took issue with the adoption of the “saffron kilt” by Irish pipers and male Irish dancers. He wrote this pamphlet to reiterate his findings in the above work and suggest an alternative.
Gerald of Wales, John O’Meara (Translator). History and Topography of Ireland. Penguin Books.
P.W. Joyce, M.A., LL.D., T.C.D.; M.R.I.A. A Social History of Ancient Ireland. 1908:
W. R. Wilde, M.D., M.R.I.A. A Descriptive Catalog of The Antiquities of Animal Materials and Bronze in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy. 1861: Hodges, Smith, and Co., Grafton Street, Dublin.
Robert A. MacAlister. Ancient Ireland : A Study in the Lessons of Archeology and History.
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