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The Brehon Laws

Law was important in public and private life in ancient Ireland and the native legal system was in existence before the ninth century. The Danish, Anglo-Normans and English managed to disturb the native laws somewhat, but the Brehon Laws continued to be used till fully abolished in the seventeenth century.

the-celtic-druid-power1-4362289In Ireland a judge was called a ‘brehon‘ and so the native Irish law is known as the “Brehon Law“: but its proper designation is Fénechas i.e. the law of the Féine or Féne, or free land-tillers.

In the very early days every file or poet was also a brehon or judge and it is believed that the laws were written in verse. In later years then become a brehon a person had to go through a regular, well-defined course of study or training. A man who had been through this could set up as a brehon or a judge proper, a consulting lawyer, an advocate or a law-agent. A brehon also qualified as a shanachie or historian and the profession was held by a family through generations.

In very early times the brehon was regarded as a mysterious half-inspired person, and he could not deviate from justice. “When the brehons deviated from the truth of nature there appeared blotches upon their cheeks.”

The brehons were a very influential class of men. Some were attached to chiefs and had free lands for their maintenance, which, like the profession itself, remained in the family for generations. Those not so attached lived simply on the fees of their profession and many eminent brehons became wealthy. The brehon’s fee (fola) was one twelfth, of the property in dispute, or of the fine in the case of an action for damages. He had to be very careful because he was accountable for his own mistakes.

The legal rules set forth in the Law Books were commonly very complicated and mixed up with a variety of technical terms; and many forms had to be gone through and many circumstances taken into account, all legally essential; so that no outsider could hope to master their intricacies. The brehons had the absolute interpretation of the laws in their hands. These law collections were all written in the oldest Irish dialect called the Bérla Feini, and this was so difficult that even some of those destined to become brehons had to be specially instructed in the language.

O’Donovan and Curry, two Irish scholars translated the laws in 5 printed volumes and it took them a life time to do this. The translation is not perfect.

From ‘A Social History of Ancient Ireland‘, P. W. Joyce, Vol, I, 1913:

The Brehon Code formed a great body of civil, military and criminal law. It regulated the various ranks of society, from the king down to the slave, and it enumerated their several rights and privileges. It was was treason for English settlers to use the Brehon Code. English settlers living outside the Pale abandoned their own law and adopted the Brehon Code, to which they became quite as much attached to it as the Irish themselves, this included those of all classes. The Anglo-Irish lords of those times commonly kept brehons at their service in the same way as the native Irish chiefs. Even the Butlers, who of all the great Anglo-Irish families were least inclined to imitate the Irish adopted this Irish custom.

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Tony Allen Irish Inventor of the Spidercatcher

Tony Allen created the Spidercatcher because of his son’s arachnophobia.

Tired of his wife’s complaints about the ‘splat’ marks on the wall and frustrated by the smart spiders who hid in the corners of the room out of reach of the dreaded newspaper, he knew there had to be something better. His solution – the Spidercatcher. It uses two rings of concentric bristles, which gently scoops up the spider, even from the narrowest corner, allowing the spider to be released safely outside, completely unharmed.

Tony realised that the only way to bring this product to market was to do it himself, even though he had no experience in the retail market. This is exactly what he did do picking up all the skills he needed as he went along.

The Spidercatcher now sells worldwide through the internet, TV sales and stores such as Walmart in the USA. It even sells in the Natural History Museum’s Gift Shop in the UK!

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The Children Of Lir

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This haunting story has inspired Celtic jewelry makers for many years now as the swan theme embodies traditional Celtic designs and Celtic symbols.

A long time ago in ancient Ireland lived an Irish Chieftain named Lir. He was married to Aobh daughter of King Bodhbh (also called Bov the Red) of Lough Dergh. They had four dbeautiful children; Fionnula, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. Unfortunately Aobh died giving birth and Lir was devastated with grief.

When King Bodhbh heard of Lir’s loss he offered another one of his daughters to Lir in marriage. Lir choose Aoife as his new wife and stepmother to his children. At first, all when well with the marriage, Lir doted on his four children. Soon Aoife became intensely jealous of her stepchildren. She even pretended to be sick for a whole year in order to look for special attention. One day Aoife told the children that they we going with her to visit there Grandfather King Bodhbh, as they had done many times before. Along the way they stopped at Lough Dairbhreach (lake of the oaks) and Aoife ordered the children to wash themselves in the lough. Once they were in the water, Aoife cast a magic spell turning the four children of Lir into beautiful white swans. Fionnuala cursed her but implored her to put some limits on the spell. Aoife regretting what she had done agreed to allow them keep their beautiful singing voices. But the spell still imposed a harsh sentence on the swan children. They were to spend 300 years on Lough Dairbhreach, 300 years in the Straits of Moyle and the final 300 years at Erris. They spell would only be broken when they heard the first bells of Christianity and when a King from the north marries a Princess from the south.

When King Bodhbh found out what Aoife had done to the children of Lir, using a Druids rod he turned her into a “Witch of the air”. As the legend goes Aoife still blows in the howling wind and her screams can be heard when a storm blows.

Over the years Lir and many others continued to visit the swan children. They listened to their enchanting, magical singing that was said to calm even the most savage beast.

Over the 900 years of the spell they faced extremely harsh weather conditions. Near the end they traveled to Inish Gluaire where they first heard the Christian bells and met a Christian missionary called St. Mochaomhog. They told him of their plight and that they were the children of Lir. At this time a King from the north King Lairgnean was due to wed Deach, a daughter of the southern Muster King. King Lairgnean had heard of the swan’s lovely singing voices and wanted to give them to his wife as a wedding present. But while King Lairgnean was trying to capture the swans he touched one of them and the spell was broken. The swans turned back into their human form, but they were very old and Withered looking. Fionnula the oldest asked St. Mochaomhog to baptize them and soon after they died. They were buried the same way they lived, together. Later that night St. Mochaomhog dreamed that he saw four beautiful white swans flying over the sea straight up to heaven.

This beautiful Celtic myth has inspired Irish gifts makers over the years to create wonderful works of art. Many Irish jewelry manufactures have incorporated the 4 swan theme into many stunning pieces of children of Lir jewelry.

About the Author: Paul Gibney is a co-founder of http://www.claddaghstore.com one of Ireland largest online Celtic Jewelry Stores.

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Our Ireland

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Halloween is a pre-Christian ancient Irish Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced sow-hen). Samhain celebrates the time of year between summer and winter when spirits pass through to the ‘next life’, and the living and dead can sometimes cross…

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Katie Taylor the current Olympic, World, European, European Games and European Union lightweight champion was selected as the Best Female Athlete in all sports from the inaugural 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan last…

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Separated at birth? 32 year old photographer from Glasgow, Neil Douglas, meets his doppelganger when seated next to him on a from Stansted to Galway. Robert Stirling, 35, was travelling to Ireland for a…

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Visitors to Ireland wishing to explore the country would be wise to consider their transport options in advance. Using public transport is usually a good way of getting around in the towns and cities…

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Easter, 1916 I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless…

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James Martin Irish Inventor of the Ejector Seat

James Martin from Co. Down Ireland invented the world’s first ejector seat. The first test of the ejector seat was held in 1945 using a crash test dummy. Later in 1946 the first live test subject, Bernard Lynch, was launched into the air landing without injury.

Ejector seats were launched into the broad popular public domain through science fiction movies and comic books. Fictional British secret agent James Bond had an ejector seat in his Aston Martin car that was used to launch unwelcome passengers high into the sky should they become a problem.

Today all military fighter planes are equipped with ejector seats that are used in times of danger to safely propel the pilot out of the plane at great velocity.

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Queen Maeve – Irish Warrior Queen of Connaught

Queen Maeve’s Tomb sits high above the town of Sligo, Ireland on a low mountain named Knocknarea (“Mountain of the Moon”). Legend states that it is good luck to bring a stone up the mountain to place on the large cairn, but that it is bad luck to remove a stone. This would explain it’s formidable height.

From the center of town, the mountain looks anything but daunting. It looks like another one of those beautiful hills that Ireland’s Northwest is so well known for. Look a little closer however, and you’ll notice a bump on the top of this relatively flat-topped hill. This bump is of course, the tomb of Queen Maeve herself.

queenmeave-9779558In Celtic mythology, Queen Maeve was known as the Warrior Queen of Connacht. Unfortunately, the queen had a reputation of being quite unkind, having murdered her own sister Eithne with the intent to covet Eithne’s husband. She also seems to have made her way through a number of husbands, disposing of each by murder. She figures prominently in “Táin Bó Cúailnge” or the Cattle Raid of Cooley. In an argument with her then-husband King Ailill over whose wealth was greater, they were almost entirely equal. However, she was found lacking in only one commodity. Ailill owned a bull, the strength and brute of which Maeve’s own could not match. Maeve soon learned of an even more impressive bull in Ulster, but was not granted permission to borrow it. Thus, she gathered an army and launched an invasion on Ulster. Her men were driven out of Ulster by Cúchulainn, but she was successful in capturing the bull. She brought it home to Connacht where it fought and killed Ailill’s bull, and then found its own way back home to Ulster.

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Queen Maeve was considered victorious in this feat. However, previous misdeeds would come back to haunt Maeve, most notably, the murder of her sister. Eithne’s son sought revenge on his wicked aunt and is said to have killed her with a slingshot filled with hard cheese.

Her unsavory reputation thus led her to be buried in County Sligo, far from the royal capital of Connacht in Roscommon. Many believe that this was an attempt to keep her spirit a safe distance from the people she once ruled. Within the tomb Maeve is believed to stand upright in full royal regalia. She has been buried there since neolithic times.

Knocknarea is easily reached by car from Sligo Town. It is located on the Strandhill Peninsula, about 4 km from town. The hill offers a car park and an information sign outlining the significance of the neolithic cairn. Climbing the hill (Approx. 1080 ft.) takes about 45 minutes, and you can expect to be greeted by more than a few bleating sheep along the way. There isn’t one specific pathway, so be sure to wear a good pair of sneakers or hiking boots to navigate the sometimes rough terrain. The summit of Knocknarea is nothing short of fascinating, offering views of the town and surrounding county. However, it is at this point in the climb that you will realize the slight bump on the top of the mountain was not so slight afterall, as the top of Maeve’s cairn itself stands a sharp 40 ft from this point. Millenia of visitors depositing stones for good luck certainly does add up!

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Bob Embleton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Campers frequent the mountain, which means you are likely to find a few appropriately placed logs or large rocks to relax on and enjoy a packed lunch at this point. Climbing the final 40 feet in this expedition will make you glad you wore your sneakers, as the loosely deposited rocks can make this part of the hike a bit difficult at times. If you were impressed by the mountain’s summit, you will be in awe once you reach the top of Maeve’s cairn. To feel that you are standing on something so large not only physically, but historically as well, brings a sense of reality to Ireland’s well known mythical past. How to get there: Taxis abound in Sligo, and the charge should be reasonable for a lift to the hill’s carpark (About 10.00 Euro). However, you’ll want to either arrange a time for the taxi driver to pick you up again or make sure to put the cab company’s number in your mobile phone, so you can call them when you’ve finished the trek.Where to Stay:

Sligo is quickly growing as a tourist destination for all types of travellers, but it has always been a particular gem for student travellers and backpackers. There are a number of Bed & Breakfasts and Youth Hostels located in town, and more information can be found at http://www.sligotourist.comsligo-town-3581196

© Jamie L. O'Hanlon 2006

Jamie O’Hanlon holds a B.A. in History from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Tourism Development Studies from Niagara College. She is an avid traveler and recently returned from working abroad in Great Britain and Ireland. She will be returning to Ireland in the coming spring with the hopes of expanding her travel writing portfolio.

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Irish Coddle or Dublin Coddle

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Irish Coddle History in Brief

Irish Coddle is a hearty and nutritious food that probably originated as an alternative to traditional Irish stew recipes in urban areas where mutton was not as affordable or readily available compared with rural Ireland.

Preserved salted bacon would have been widely available and contributes to the signature salty flavour of Irish coddle. Coddle is predominately a Dublin dish and is sometimes referred to as Dublin Coddle. In fact, I have yet to meet a person living outside of Dublin who has heard of coddle.

Hilarious Alternative Coddle History

Check out this sort history about the origins and ‘weird use’ of the homemade Irish Coddle. Some viewers may find some scenes disturbing, but delicious…

Cooking Irish Coddle

Irish coddle ingredients include long pork sausages, bacon in chunks or as thick rasher (the fat left on), potatoes, carrots and whole onions. Peas or barley are sometimes added. Salt and a little pepper are added during cooking and the dish has a strong salty flavor. Sometimes potatoes are cooked separately as they tend to fall apart in the pot and make the soup too thick.

* Tip: Coddle is best served with crispy bread rolls smeared with thick chilled butter to dip into the soup. Delicious! 

traditional-irish-cooking-books1-2308921Coddle Recipe:

  • Potatoes
  • Pork sausages
  • Bacon chunks or rashers with the fat
  • Two medium whole onions pealed
  • Thickly chopped carrots
  • Garden peas
  • Salt (go easy, the bacon can be very salty) and a pinch of pepper
  • Mixed herbs, thyme, parsley, and garlic if you like

How To Cook Dublin Coddle:

To be honest, if you want to taste coddle, you’ll have to have a homemade Irish coddle, because you just can’t by this feast in restaurants (shocking I know!). Luckily it’s pretty easy to prepare and cook, just follow the follow simple cooking instructions and you’ll be enjoying a coddle in a couple of hours or so.

  • Add 3 /4 pints of boiling water to a lidded pot.
  • Add all the ingredients (except the peeled potatoes).
  • bring back to a rolling boil and add vegetable stock.
  • Add black pepper, thyme, mixed herbs
  • Add potatoes depending on how you like them. Soft, fluffy potatoes will ‘fall apart’ and make a thicker soup if you add them too early. You might like it like this, but my personal preference is for the potatoes break up a little to thicken the soup, but mostly hold their form.
  • Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.

* Tip: Coddle is ALWAYS best eaten the day after it is prepared.

Misconception About Coddle Recipes

The main misconception that I’ve read on a number of websites is that there is not real coddle recipe, no real method to cooking coddle. This is absolute nonsense, and it seems apparent those articles must have been written by people who never tasted a coddle, never mind cooked one, in their lives. Follow my recipe for traditional Dublin Coddle, and it’ll change your life (don’t forget the crispy bread rolls and chilled butter!) Enjoy!

See the full list of traditonal Irish Recipes

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Sally Gardens

by Admin · July 26, 2011

It was down by the sally gardens, my love and I did meet She passed the sally gardens, with little snow-white feet She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree

But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.

In a field down by the river my love and I did stand And on my leaning shoulder, she laid her snow-white hand She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs

But I as young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Down by the sally gardens, my love and I did meet She passed the sally gardens, with little snow-white feet She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree

But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.

Tags: Sally GardensSally Gardens Lyrics

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Hill of Tara

by Admin · June 28, 2011

Rising battlements and ancient stones that can reveal the true King of Ireland populate the well-visited Hill of Tara.

This is an ancient site that draws modern day visitors who wish to take in the landscape that was settled by ancient people. Before getting behind the wheel to make the trip to the famous forts, car owners ought to get their car insurance Ireland policies up-to-date, so they have peace of mind while travelling. Evidence shows that the country’s residents were living their daily lives on the site and using it for religious and practical purposes thousands of years ago.

What strikes the majority of visitors first, are the gently undulating earthworks making up the forts that decorate this part of County Meath. The Royal Enclosure sweeps across the landscape and bears features revealing it to be an area of significance in the lives of those who lived in the Stone Age and beyond. Surrounded by grassy banks, the circular enclosure is dotted with a selection of other attractions.

These include Cormac’s House, which can be described as a fort within a fort that was erected to keep local populations safe. Another interesting feature is the King’s Seat, or Forradh. Commonly referred to as a ring barrow, this ancient construction is made up off round-shaped earthworks that shrink in size until they reach a central platform.

The middle of the King’s Seat holds a scared stone that past people thought could identify Ireland’s Kings. It would do this by screeching loudly once the heir placed his hands on its surface. Historians report that ancient civilisations linked the forts with other worlds and considered them to be passageways for other beings and humans who have died. This is backed up by another feature of the landscape called the Mound of Hostages, which is also named Dumha na nGiall.

The site reveals that hundreds of people have been laid to rest within the passage tomb. These are found in other locations within Ireland and generally feature a corridor leading towards an internal chamber that is topped by a dome-shaped roof. This tomb is smaller than better known ones, such as Newgrange, measuring approximately 15-metres in diameter.

As with other similar sites, its construction allows for the sun to light up the internal area on a few days throughout the year that have significance in the pagan calendar. It is also decorated with art produced by Stone Age man, which is a common finding in these kinds of sites. Visitors keen to take in more ancient constructions can also pay a visit to the nearby Rath of the Synods or Raith na Seanadh. Surrounded by three banks, this site has given rise to Roman artefacts, indicating the landscape has been trodden by man from many different eras.

Tags: Cormac’s HouseDumha na nGiallForradhHill of TaraKing’s SeatTara

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Discover Our Ireland

Whether you are fourth generation Irish American, or native to Co. Kerry, Our Ireland’s growing archive of Irish related articles will be of interest to you and your family.

This site is for you, the Irish community of the world. It’s a solo project that I’ve worked on for many years and I look forward to providing you with much more Irish related information for many to come. Failte isteach!

brian-boru-high-king-2260766Brian Boru High King Of Ireland

Discover the story of Brian Boru and his battles against the Vikings and his assent to power as Ireland’s one true High King.

map-of-ireland-150x150-7462624FREE map of Ireland

You can copy and use this free map of Ireland for your personal website, just remember to link back to the page!

Irish Quotations and Proverbs

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“The lying man has promised whatever thing he could, the greedy man believes him and thinks his promise good”

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Traditional Irish Recipes:

Have you ever tasted Coddle, or a real Irish Stew? What about Boxty? Check out our Irish Recipes.

Driving In Ireland:

Find out everything you need to know about driving in Ireland. From passing the NCT to getting insurance, to day trips for tourists. Motor over to out driving in Ireland now.

Irish Airports:

A list of irish Airports and contact details for each. Fly into Ireland here.

Videos Made By Visitors To Ireland

Cool Video found on You-Tube. I’ll be changing these regularly so call back soon for more, hope you enjoy!!!

Our Irelands Goal

The aim of this website is to provide Irish related material for the worldwide Irish community. ‘Our Ireland’ will feature content including Irish Mythology, Irish History, Current affairs, Irish genealogy, Irish services and products.

If you’re new to Our Ireland (Welcome!) you’ll get a better understanding of what this project is about by reading the About Us page.

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