Edward Gibbon: punchy and  elegant style

In a triumph of optimism over experience recently, I bought a copy of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. No, not the(...)

Ite O’Donovan. Photograph: Frank Miller

A 250th anniversary is called a sestercentennial, as you all know.  But I’m fairly sure there’s no word in English for a 260th. So, for that and (...)

“There were no beer taps on the makeshift counter, only bottles. Whiskey was measured by hand.”

The village of Drum in Co Monaghan is entirely dry these days, but 20-odd years ago I spent a memorable evening in its last surviving licensed premise(...)

  The Irish people have a fierce affection for county boundaries, an affection not afforded to any other relic of English rule

It’s to be hoped that the current tensions along the Roscommon-Westmeath border can be resolved peacefully, despite the dark mutterings in the former (...)

The swearing of the burning party, from William Carleton’s Traits and Stories.

When I last wrote about the saga of Wildgoose Lodge, in 2009, a Sligo reader sent me an extraordinary letter that had been in her family for generatio(...)

“The Red Hand, that ubiquitous symbol of Ulster, straddles the political and sectarian divide.” 

The question of which foot you use while digging has in Ireland long had a significance that goes beyond matters of horticulture. But during a visit t(...)

 William Shakespeare: in certain circles, the Bard of Avon’s impending 400th will provoke conflict

The centenary of the Rising will not be the only anniversary to provoke contention this coming April. In 1916, Easter Week coincided with the tercente(...)

Detail of a sign on a pub in London’s Mayfair

In London’s Mayfair, there is a pub with a very odd name – The Only Running Footman. That’s the shortened version. The full, even odder title is “I am(...)

Christy O’Connor Jnr celebrates on the final green after winning his match in the 1989 Ryder Cup. Photograph: Getty images

There were readings from the prophet Isaiah, the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel according to St Luke. But the funeral missal also made room for a(...)

C Wing of Crumlin Road Gaol. Photograph: crumlinroadgaol.com

My dentist has spent some time in jail, as he admitted recently while we were waiting for my jaw to freeze. In fact he showed me a picture of himself (...)