Giant tapestry to tell tale of Cattle Raid of Cooley

Mythology of Táin Bó Cúailnge will be woven by 50 volunteers across five counties

It has been described as the most famous tale in Irish mythology and now about 50 volunteers working in five counties are set to recreate the Táin Bó Cúailnge (the Cattle Raid of Cooley) on a giant tapestry.

The Táin Tapestry, an inter-county community arts project, is being led by five textile artists, each working with a team of talented volunteers, who will unveil their creation at the launch of the Táin March festival in spring 2022.

Each team will produce a standalone tapestry but together they will recreate the entire story of the Táin Bó Cúailnge.

Queen Medb

The project was the idea of Mary Claire Cowley, the audience development manager at An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk who collaborated with Mel O'Loan from the Táin March Festival in finding a novel way to tell the story of Queen Medb's battle with the warriors of Ulster led by Cúchulainn.

Cowley said as well as creating a beautiful piece of art, those sharing their skills in the five counties were enjoying the collaborative aspect of the project, after a time when many people around the country had experienced isolation.

Louth-based Sophie Coyle is the lead artist on the project which has been funded by Creative Ireland, and she is working with five artists who are guiding the work of a local team of sowers.

‘Shared goal’

The artists include Frances Crowe in Roscommon, Catherine Gray who is leading the Longford volunteers, Claire Delabre in Westmeath, Ina Olohan who is at the helm in Meath and Una Curley who is in charge of the Louth effort.

“Part of the action takes place in each of these counties,” explained Cowley. “Each group is working separately, telling their county’s part in the epic. But they have a shared goal.”

"It is a wonderful project which will result in one very large stitch tapestry," said Crowe who leads a team based in the Rathcroghan Visitors Centre, believed to mark the home place of Queen Medb.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland