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  • Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or…? November 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or...?

                    There is a general consensus that chess came out of the east, that it arrived in Europe through the Arab Mediterranean and that from there it made its way to the royal courts of France and Germany. Certainly, by the fifteenth century a game that we recognise […]

    Newgrange and a Hundred Generations November 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    Newgrange and a Hundred Generations

    Newgrange, standing near the Boyne, is one of the great treasures of Ireland and, indeed, of Europe. Built some four thousand years ago by the first Gaels it is mysterious and, when the mist comes in, vaguely malevolent. It is also exclusive. Each year a tiny group of fortunate men, women and children – chosen […]

    The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito October 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito

    Mario Esposito (obit 1975) was a talented medievalist born to an Italian family in that glittering Dublin of Joyce, Yeats and Beckett. ME got involved with the struggle for Irish independence, was a keen mountaineer, but above all published on Irish manuscripts. His first academic article was written when he was 18, a rather misinformed […]

    Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers September 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers

    ***Thanks to Tom W*** Beach has lived through a couple of death bed scenes and what he remembers most from those dreadful occasions is the immense sense of peace. But in history, it seems, there is anything but peace in the final minutes of life. Indeed, the most extraordinary things are always happening to the dying. […]

    Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times September 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times

    When we think of hostages today we tend to think of men with pistols using some poor innocent as a human shield. But in the ancient and medieval world hostage-taking was formalised. Conquered territories would give up children of notables who would be conveyed to an enemy capital or castle and who would then be […]

    Accidental Hanky Panky in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland August 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Accidental Hanky Panky in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland

    This was a cute little story that turns up in a late nineteenth-century folklore collection from Ireland. A visitor is out and about looking for the ‘bed’ of ‘Dermot and Grania’, the mossy bower where a mythical couple from Irish legend escape to love and live away from society. Dermot for those who have never […]

    Ireland the Great and White Man’s Land August 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    http://www.nicolaasart.com/art_series_deep_blue_above.php

    Beachcombing woke up this morning with Vikings on his mind – a migraine coming? – and so thought that he would visit one of his favourite northern stories/legends/cobblers: Great Ireland. The reference appears in Landnámabók the thirteenth-century ‘ancestral’ codex of Iceland. How much is history and how much is legend in the Landnámabók is much […]

    Two Red Letter Books August 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Two Red Letter Books

    Here is a little historical puzzle: This account comes from northern Scotland. The least dilapidated of the chapels was dedicated to St Regulus, and there is a tradition that at the Reformation, a valuable historical record belonging to it, the work probably of some literary monk or hermit, was carried away to France by the […]

    Headless Coachmen and Crime August 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Headless Coachmen and Crime

    In the Middle Ages they had the wild hunt, the insanely nasty cavalry that rode across the sky. Then, come the early modern period, when everyone had ‘grown up a bit’ and men with shag and swords were so, well, ‘medieval’, that they moved on. They started seeing, instead, headless horsemen out on the toll […]

    The Terror of the Cow Charmer August 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Terror of the Cow Charmer

    A cute fairy post from the west of Ireland in the nineteenth-century. The narrator is a visiting sportsman. I heard, when passing the porter’s lodge, that the gate-keeper’s cow was ill. As she was a fine animal, the loss would have been a serious one to the family, and hence I became interested in her […]

    The Cow-Man of Wicklow and His Sad End July 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Cow-Man of Wicklow and His Sad End

    A paddy-bashing story from one of the nastiest Irish-haters of them all: Gerald of Wales. In the neighbourhood of Wicklow at the time when Maurice Fitzgerald got possession of the country and the castle, an extraordinary man was seen – if indeed it be right to call him a man. He had all the parts […]

    The Christian Wolves of Ossory July 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Christian Wolves of Ossory

    We all know that medieval chroniclers and sensationalists love wonder stories. Beach has a private rule that even if a medieval tale takes place with a ‘reliable’ witness in living memory, then he still looks the other way. But the following story clearly ‘happened’ (though there may be a way to reread it) in that […]

    The Triumph of the Dilettantes: Top Ten Fairy Books July 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Triumph of the Dilettantes: Top Ten Fairy Books

    Beach has spent this summer putting together a bibliography of fairy texts. And while doing so he found himself wondering ‘what are the best of these hundreds of titles?’ The question has, in fact, been building up in him and after some reflection he has jotted down here ten books that offer the most entertaining […]

    St Columba: A Medieval Clairvoyant? July 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    St Columba: A Medieval Clairvoyant?

    ***Dedicated to Paula de Fougerolles whose new book on Columba is the best historical novel on the Dark Ages since T. H. White laid down his pen*** St Columba of Iona (obit 597) is perhaps the most interesting of all the medieval Gaelic saints: and given the  strange holy fauna running around the Irish jungle […]

    The Leprechauns of Liverpool and the Bowling Green from Hell May 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Leprechauns of Liverpool and the Bowling Green from Hell

    Beachcombing has been spending some time in the last few days looking at the fairy lore of Irish immigrants: spurred on by his continuing failure to find the New York changeling case. Not surprisingly the city of Liverpool stuck out: Liverpool was flooded by Irish workers in the nineteenth century, particularly after the horrors of […]

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