Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search


Tales and Anecdotes from Irish Manuscripts

Thursday, 16 May, 9am – Friday, 17 May 2019, 10am

Tales and Anecdotes from Irish Manuscripts

A conference organised by Trinity Department of Irish and Celtic Studies.

Storytelling is at the heart of Irish literature from the early medieval period right up to today. A story well told has the efficacy of a prayer, and we know that a prayer or a psalm can release the unfortunate damned soul from the pains of Hell, even if it is merely rhymed off without any great concentration! The colophon following the Táin Bó Cúailnge in the twelfth-century Book of Leinster in TCD gives a blessing on all who would memorise the version of the tale presented in that manuscript, and not tolerate any modification to it (Bendacht ar cech óen mebraigfes go hindraic Táin amlaidseo 7 na tuillfe cruth aile furri). More interestingly, we are told regarding the story Altram Tige dá Medar—featuring the stunningly-beautiful Eithne of the Túatha Dé Danann and her Christian credentials—that Saint Patrick ordered that no one was to sleep or speak while it was being recited, but that its recitation would guarantee the story-teller a happy and fruitful marriage, the pub-goer a peaceful evening in his local, the traveller a safe journey, a taoiseach his re-election, a prisoner his release from bondage and so on. For reciting a story in the late sixteenth century as guest at the home of Maol Mórdha Mac Sweeney, Tadhg Dall tells us he received as payment four treasures (an each ballach ‘dappled steed’, aonrogha chon Cláir Dá Thí ‘the choicest wolf-hound of Dá Thí’s plain i.e. Ireland, mionn leabhair ‘a precious book’ (containing stories of the type tána ‘cattle-raids’, tochmhairc ‘wooings’ and toghla ‘destructions’) and cruit ollamhan fhola Búrcach ‘the harp of the poet of the Burkes’); not bad work if you can get it! More recently, stories could be traded for food, in Inishmaan in 1934!

The celebrated sagas in Irish literature are well known. In this conference we will be shining a light on some less-well-known material, ranging from the ‘story’ or ‘story within a story’ to the ‘anecdote’, to the ‘marginal’ comment or verse. Scholars of Old, Middle and Modern Irish from Trinity College, Dublin, and further afield, will share some of the choice stories and anecdotes they have discovered in the course of their research with a view to highlighting the richness, variety, importance and artistry of Irish literature over more than a millennium and a half and the wealth of work that remains to be done on this literature. Whether any of this will save the souls of attendees and participants is not certain, but it will entertain, and be good for the soul!

Thursday 16 May
9.30 –9.40 Opening address by Prof Damian McManus
9.45–10.10 Dr Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh: ‘The border wall of bones: a bardic prophecy’.
10.10–10.35 Dr Christina Cleary: ‘Wrathful wives in medieval Irish literature’.
10.35–11.00 Deirdre Nic Chárthaigh: ‘An bodach agus bean an bharúin; eachtra imeallach’.

11.00–11.45 Coffee break

11.45–12.00 Marginalia Medley (1) Verses
12.00–12.45 Prof. Liam Breatnach: ‘Marginalia in TCD MS H 3. 17’.

12.45–2.30 Lunch break

2.30–3.00 Dr Mícheál Hoyne: ‘Merchants and monkeys in medieval Ireland’.
3.00–3.25 Dr Katharine Simms: ‘The exception of the cat in the larder: adultery justified - the dindshenchas of Inis Saimér’.
3.30–4.00 Prof Cathal Ó Háinle ‘A lost story from the banks of the Shannon’.
4.00–4.15 Marginalia Medley (2) Scribal notes

Reception. 4.30

Friday May 17th
9.00 –9.30 Prof Damian McManus: “Body and soul: tales from ‘this’ and the ‘other’ side in medieval Irish literature”.
9.30–10.00 Dr Andrea Palandri: “Salamanders or Asbestos? The ‘horizon of expectation’ in the Irish Marco Polo”.
10.00–10.30 Peter Weakliam: ‘An scéal laistigh de na scéalta: scéal na teicneolaíochta i bhficsean Phádraig Uí Chíobháin’.

10.30–11.00 Marginalia Medley (3) Verses

11.00–11.45 Coffee break

11.45–12.15 Dr Eoin Mac Cárthaigh: ‘An scéal laistiar de nóta imill in Stonyhurst A II 20 (imleabhar 1)’.
12.15–12.40 Dr Nike Stam: ‘Céile Críst’s adventure in Rome’.
12.40–1.00 Ariana Malthaner: ‘The intersection of literature and law: the saga of Fergus mac Léti’.

1.00–2.15 Lunch break

2.15–2.40 Philip Mac a’ Ghoill: ‘Coimirce, marú agus bagairt aoire: Díbirt Chú Choigcríche Uí Chléirigh, 1546’.
2.40–3.10 Dr Chantal Kobel ‘Peripheral voices: scribal marginalia in TCD MS H 3.18 (1337)’.
3.10–3.25  Anecdotes Medley

3.45–4.30 Prof. Joseph Falaky Nagy: ‘Stories Cú Chulainn tells in Tochmarc Emire’


To register please email with your name and affiliation (if applicable). Payment may be made upon the first day of the conference in cash only. Receipts will be issued by via email upon request.

Campus LocationTrinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Accessibility: Yes
Room: Neill Lecture Theatre
Research Theme: Identities in Transformation, Making Ireland, Manuscript, Book and Print Culture
Event Category: Arts and Culture, Conferences, Lectures and Seminars, Public
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: One day €40 (Concession €20); Two days €50 (Concession €30)

Support Trinity Long Room Hub

Click Here