Irish Folk History: Tales from the North

Irish Folk History: Tales from the North

Irish Folk History: Tales from the North

Irish Folk History: Tales from the North


Made of the words of the people who live today in the beautiful, embattled countryside of Ulster, Irish Folk History is, in essence, the people's own statement of their past. In story, song, and spontaneous essay, these texts, selected from Passing the Time in Ballymenone. tell of the coming of Christianity, of endless war, of the hardships and delights of rural life.

During a time of trouble, Henry Glassie came into a community of active story-tellers in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, and in this book he sets their voices -- their chuckles, whispers, and anger -- before us. The words of Hugh Nolan, Michael Boyle, Peter Flanagan, Hugh Patrick Owens, and their neighbors echo from the page to present a tale that is at once the story of their tiny community and the story of all of Ireland.


Dark mountains lie along the western horizon, and the land falls, soft and green, rippling over little hills. Atop gentle ridges and around low domes, white houses stand against the wind from the west. Hedges thick with trees cross the upland, colliding and splitting the grassy slopes into meadows and pastures. To the north, the clay hills descend through trim gardens on the moss ground and melt into the brown expanse of the bog. Southward, the land slides along the bottoms to the Arney River running east to Upper Lough Erne. the hills follow, tumbling into the lake, then rising into islands. Around the island-hills of Upper Lough Erne, placid waters shimmer north, widening, narrowing, encircling the compact town of Enniskillen, flowing toward the sea beyond the western mountains.

Here in County Fermanagh, seven miles north and nine miles east of the border breaking Ireland, people pass their days, following the cows over the braes, sweeping their kitchens clean, and wielding spades below, turning the moss ground, stripping the banks of the bog. At last the sky thickens and lowers, night falls, and they walk the deep lanes searching for neighborly hearths, sparks in the dark, places to gather with tea and talk in calm scenes called ceilis. By day and night, people work to build their place on the hills.

Space had been divided and named before their coming, broken into "townlands." Each townland centers on the upland and expands, descending to meet its neighbor in the dips between the drumlins. Townland names hint of the past. Drumbargy, they say, means Hill of the Bargains. a fair was . . .

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