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  • Irish Colony in Medieval Spain!? July 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Irish Colony in Medieval Spain!?

    ***Thanks to Invisible for this piece*** Not every day brings with it really bizarre history, but here is a cracker. An American and a Galician scholar, respectively, James Duran and Martín Fernández Maceiras have gone on record as claiming that a mysterious fourteenth-century inscription on a north-western Spanish church (Betanzos, Galicia) is Irish. Now really […]

    Migration, Inundation… Top Scorers July 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Migration, Inundation... Top Scorers

    Migration – seasonal, circular, forced, permanent… – is as old as history. Folks from one community cross the river and go and live with folks on the other side. They work together, live together and eventually have children together. This stuff has been going on for tens of thousands of years. However, in modern times […]

    Nobs and Plebs in Irish Courts July 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Nobs and Plebs in Irish Courts

    Nineteenth-century Ireland was a rum place. The vast majority of the population was poor, Catholic and uneducated. The ruling, largely Protestant minority also described themselves as Irish: and many died and fought in the cause of Ireland. But the gulf of communication between these two worlds was immense and this was rarely so evident as […]

    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland? June 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Prehistoric
    African Ape in Iron Age Ireland?

    So here’s a teaser. The Barbary ape is an African primate whose only toehold on the European continent is at Gibraltar, where a tiny population has survived into modern times. How, then, did a Barbary Ape get to Co Armagh in Northern Ireland in the Iron Age? Archaeologists have waxed lyrical over the find of […]

    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland May 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Slaughter Hounds in Celtic Ireland

    A recent story on the supposed archaeological discovery of shuck – [sorry can't give links, wordpress playing up] – has set me thinking about large violent dogs in history, the way that ancient and medieval peoples used these animals and one particularly evil-sounding example: the Irish archu or slaughter hound. First, though, some background. Dogs, of […]

    Facts, Myths and Jean McConville May 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Facts, Myths and Jean McConville

    The Jean McConville case is now history in as much as it took place over forty years ago: but it is living, bleeding history and in the last days it has landed an important Irish politician in the cells and rocked the peace process in the six counties. For non-British and non-Irish readers, who may […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

    Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World April 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    Migrating Birds and the Edge of the World

    Year in year out birds follow migratory routes from north to south and from south to north. These travelling birds have long intrigued humans who have looked amazed as waves upon waves of birds fly to destinations unknown. These birds have entered human legend: the storks going to Africa to fight the pygmies, the wild […]

    Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Unofficial Law and Order

    Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

    Fairies, Arson and Banknotes in Co. Donegal March 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fairies, Arson and Banknotes in Co. Donegal

    One of the great things about fairies in traditional communities is that they make for the perfect alibi. If someone pushes down the landlord’s fence then, of course, it was the fairies that did it. If a man is a beaten out walking along a midnight lane then the fairies did it. If a boy […]

    Review: Walter Starkie, An Odyssey February 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Walter Starkie, An Odyssey

    Walter Starkie is an in between figure. Born to the last of the Anglo-Irish in 1894, he added to his initial liminal state by: marrying an Italian (one of his better decisions); living abroad in Spain, Italy and the US; dividing loyalties between some of the twentieth-centuries less attractive regimes (Fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain) […]

    History and Earthquakes February 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    History and Earthquakes

    I’ve recently been wasting my time reading about earthquakes in British and Irish history. This does not reflect a new interest in geology, or local plate tectonics. It has rather to do with my perennial fascination for the way that historical sources are utterly unreliable and utterly skewed. When do earthquake records begin? Well, as […]

    A Forgotten (Fairy?) People: the Ranties February 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Forgotten (Fairy?) People: the Ranties

    Early medieval historians estimate that there were perhaps two hundred separate tribes or kingdoms in Ireland c. 500 but that these tribes were slowly subsumed or at least yoked to the growing Irish monarchy (and foreign successors) that reached an apogy under Brian Boru in the eleventh century. However, long after those times, the memory […]

    Horror and Scarcity: Reading Supernatural Fiction January 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Horror and Scarcity: Reading Supernatural Fiction

    Yesterday the postman brought three beautiful volumes of Sheridan Le Fanus’ short stories (Ash Tree Press). They are exquisitely made, not so much books as orgasms between covers, and they have exceptionally good introductions by Jim Rockhill. They were also expensive, particularly once you factor postage to another continent and the Italian’s government’s banditry in […]

    The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The British and Invasions

    I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

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