A cartoon from the ‘Lepracaun’. Illustration courtesy of Dublin City Public Libraries

Before the actual shooting of Ireland’s revolutionary period began, to paraphrase Declan Kiberd, there was a preliminary war in which the weapons were(...)

The cult of St Fechin is now growing in Britain too, thanks to ‘Father Ted’

Driving up the M1 at the weekend, I took a detour through Drogheda and headed towards the coast on the R166. I was confident this was the right road, (...)

A rogue “l” was implicated.

I have written here before about that bane of an Irish Times journalist’s life – the treacherous lower-case “l” that goes missing from certain words i(...)

Liam Clancy: his version of the ballad ‘Aghadoe’ has helped keep the name of John Todhunter alive. Photograph: Alan Betson

The name of John Todhunter, poet and composer, is all but forgotten in Ireland today, nearly a century after his death. But thanks to Liam Clancy, at (...)

Dante. “And as we boarded a boat to cross, I realised that the terrible noises were from a man playing guitar nearby.”

I was reading Dante’s Inferno one night recently, while eating cheese. And it must have been this combination that, later, gave me an appalling nightm(...)

“Even with Con Houlihan as a guide to who and where all the local singers were, Munnelly’s work proved, as it often did, slow and frustrating.”  Photograph: Alan Betson

Old songs, as folklore collectors know, can be like rare animal species. Countless numbers of them have died out over the centuries, unrecorded. And f(...)

Certain classes of people – PR consultants are a high-risk group – are now wont to get ‘incredibly excited’ or ‘incredibly proud’

Has anyone else noticed a big upsurge of late in the number of people claiming to be “incredibly excited“? The latest example I’ve seen was the singer(...)

Margaret Barry and Brendan Behan in 1961. Photograph: Gordon Standing

I never witnessed the phenomenon that was “street singer” Margaret Barry in action. She died in 1989, and her performing heyday had long passed by the(...)

The ‘Wilhelm Gustloff’ had 10,000 refugees on board when it was torpedoed

In Tramore for many years there lived a man named Paul Vollrath, a German-born veteran seaman who washed up in Ireland after the second World War, fou(...)

As for the exercise-longevity ratio, those who hate running might be unimpressed

There’s a well-established theory that for every hour of vigorous exercise you take, you add two hours to your life. That’s the general principle anyw(...)