Posts Tagged With: Ireland

The Anglo Perspective


Now in my 3rd year of New Media and English, it’s hard to grasp how the time has slipped away so suddenly. My final year closing in, many of the modules I’m now doing reflect that and the workload has, naturally, increased.

One such module is Irish Literature. Each semester I’ve chosen this module consciously so as to have an adept understanding and study of English literature in Ireland. This has benefited me too in the fact that much of the coursework reflects back on previous works and literary movements covered in past modules.

Last year was the centenary of the 1916 Rising, something I would take great pride and interest in. As this module covers Irish literature from 1930 to 1990, much of the aftermath of the rebellion and the Irish civil war is discussed. It’s fascinating to see how real life events, many of which were experienced first hand by the authors, inspired incredible works of fiction.

Recently, I just finished a close reading assignment on the last September by Elizabeth Bowen. The text explored the extinction of the “Big House” lifestyle that was enjoyed by the Anglo-Irish Aristocracy for centuries up until the turning of the Irish War of Independence in 1919. In the novel, Bowen explores the relationship between the native Irish, the English Crown and the Anglo-Irish juxtaposition between the two, somewhat precariously at that.

Personally what I found the Anglo-Irish perspective most interesting, as much of the previously works we studied was from a native one. The sheer ignorance perpetuated by many Anglo families in Ireland to the rising tensions was startling. An “if we ignore it, it won’t affect us” attitude, which Bowen seems to put to fear more than anything.

The house and its grand estate is described as like an island in the text, cut away from the rest of Ireland. Indeed, while grand, the lifestyle they enjoy seems rather solitary and lonesome.

I found Bowen to be fair in her descriptions to be fair of both sides of the conflict. However, I was shocked to learn that the Irish revolt came as a shock to the Anglo characters, when it was a strikingly clear course of action for the native Irish in the text. This in itself was thought-provoking and only further highlighted the disengagement between the lives of the characters in the text.

Though a work of fiction, I feel it excellently portrayed not just the mood of the time, but the sentiments, humanising the conflict full circle.

Modules like this are why I chose to do my degree in New Media and English and allow me to not only improve my writing and understanding of literature, but of my country and its history too.



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History Corner: Battle of Dysart O’Dea 1318

I’d like to take a slight detour from my usual blog topics and write about the battle of Dysart O’Dea 1318. As you may have noticed, my second name being O’Dea, I’ve taken a particular interest in this topic. Though one of the lesser well-known battles in Irish history, it had monumental implications on Norman rule, leaving Thomond an autonomous kingdom free of any Anglo influence until its disestablishment in 1543.

The Battle of Dysert O’Dea took place on the 10th of  May 1318 at Dysert O’Dea near Corofin, in The Kingdom of Thomond.

Kingdom of Thomond at its full extent.

Kingdom of Thomond at its full extent.

The Anglo-Normans had been clashing on and off with Thomond since the day their arrival in Munster. Thomond was a kingdom stretching across North Munster, ruled by the successors of the great Brian Boru and attained its independence where so many Gaelic kingdoms had not.

However, by the time of the Norman invasion, its borders had shrunk to present day County Clare. On its borders the Norman forces of Richard De Clare resided in Limerick City and the townland of Bunratty in South Clare.

However, by the time of the Norman invasion, its borders had shrunk to present day County Clare. On its borders the Norman forces of Richard De Clare resided in Limerick City and the townland of Bunratty in South Clare.

The Gaels and Normans had co-existed in uneasy truce with one another and adopted the “live and let live” sentiment between them. Simply put the Normans lacked the military strength to topple Thomond, while Thomond was unwilling to risk an open siege on Limerick or confrontation with Norman forces. Instead, the Normans opted for an alternative method of asserting influence over Thomond in the form of supporting one claimant to the throne over the other.

Gaelic Kingdoms lacked the stability of Norman dynasties in that it wasn’t of primogeniture (first-born males’ inheritance). Rather, in these kingdoms the new leader would be elected through the backing of smaller clans within the region. This meant that there was never an easy handover of power after the death of a ruler and left Gaelic kingdoms in constant conflict. Richard De Clare hoped that by backing one faction over the other he would either put a friendly face on the throne or weaken the kingdom as a whole.

Norman Knight (foreground) with typical mixed infantry (background) dawning both chainmail and typically Gaelic woolen armour.

Norman Knight (foreground) with typical mixed infantry (background) dawning both chainmail and typically Gaelic woolen armour.

13th century Gaelic warriors with Kerns (right) skirmishers.

13th century Gaelic Gallowglass heavy infantry with Kern skirmishers (right).


This particular conflict over the throne was between two individuals, Donough O’Brien and Murtough O’Brien. De Clare backed Donough, whom though having the initial success was quickly on the lower hand after a crushing defeat to his rivals in the Burren. After relentless cattle raids by the O’Deas on De Clare’s stocks, he was provoked into a response. He assembled what forces he could; made up of spearman, some archers, light cavalry, with the main bulk of the force consisting of footmen supplemented by Donough.

These were experienced frontier soldiers who had some knowledge of the terrain and a considerable experience fighting the Irish. Heading north past Ennis, De Clare began pillaging what he could along the way, determined to knock Murtough off his feet by removing the main backing force of his campaign from the face of Thomond, Conor O’Dea.

dysert o'dea battle map

Map illustrating the battle

Confident of victory, De Clare split his forces into three divisions, the left towards Magowna with the right towards Tully, spreading out to continue to pillage and raze, providing a guard to the flanks of the main force in the centre. Meanwhile in the centre column, De Clare and his son took the direct route to Dysert O’Dea Castle; determined to destroy O’Dea’s forces.

As De Clare approached Lough Ballycullinan, North East of Dysert, he came upon a party of O’Dea’s men, the Irish account describes it as “a well ordered detachment of horse and foot” – driving a herd of cattle across a ford. The Normans upon seeing this easy prize made charge and De Clare in his haste separated from the main body of his units. At first the Irish seemed full of flight, but it was a trap. O’Dea was no fool, and all too aware that his troops would have little chance of matching De Clare’s in open combat. O’Dea’s men quickly turned around after luring De Clare close enough and began skirmishing the Normans with showers of darts, sling-stones and hand-stones. De Clare grew rash and charged into the forces.

In the midst of the long standing skirmish, Conor O’Dea reputedly felled De Clare with his axe; “the O’Deas killed both himself and every man with him”. The Gaels began to slowly retire towards the woods as De Clare’s troops ensued their pursuit. Upon reaching the treeline, De Clare’s men were immediately bombarded by O’Dea’s main body of units, hidden amongst the trees and found themselves being assailed from both front and rear.

Dyart O'Dea Castle a later 15th century addition to where Conor O'Dea made his stronghold.

Dyart O’Dea Castle a later 15th century addition to where Conor O’Dea made his stronghold.

Site of the ford where the ambush and subsequent skirmishing took place.

Site of the ford where the ambush and subsequent skirmishing took place.

The Normans were holding their own remarkably well despite the loss of their leader, closer to victory than the Irish and remaining disciplined enough to continue the fight with vigour. Both rears of the Norman units were reinforced by the arrival of the two other bodies of Norman forces and joined up into a central column. O’Dea’s forces were relieved with the arrival of O’Connor’s and O’Hehir’s forces who charged swiftly down Scool Hill to the West. Conor O’Dea’s men cut their way through and joined the reinforcements outside the wood.The fight became a melee and the Irish became engulfed in a surging, hacking mass as the Normans reformed to counter. The Irish forces became compacted by the overwhelming forces and formed into a phalanx and held their ground as the Normans struggled to break through. Individual warriors came out and fought one on one and it is said that De Clare’s son was slew by O’Connor.

Through the determination of the Irish forces with the leadership and remarkably use of the geography to their advantage by Conor O’Dea, victory was made possible, but not yet ensured. Murtough and his forces were still outside of combat. It was their intervention that was decisive. Murtough followed the burning countryside over Spancil Hill from North-East Clare in such a hurried piecemeal fashion that they were at first mistaken for Norman reinforcements. The weight of Murtough’s forces tipped the balance. The Normans still fought with equal vigour and discipline but were trapped between the two Irish forces, collapsed and were slaughtered, “so dour the hand-to-to hand work was, that neither noble nor commander of them left the ground, but the far greater part fell where they stood”.

Modern re-enactment of Norman light cavalry, these would have provided the rear and front guard of De Clare's party

Modern re-enactment of Frontier light cavalry, these would have provided the rear and front guard of De Clare’s party


Site of the battle with Spancil Hill (background) where Murtough O'Brien's reinforcements arrived from.

Site of the battle with Spancil Hill (background) where Murtough O’Brien’s reinforcements arrived from.










The battle was decisive, 400-500 of De Clare’s forces including him and his son were slain in comparison to only 80 Irish forces. Murtough pursued the retreating survivors to Bunratty Castle where he found the castle and settlement set aflame by order of De Clare’s wife who had fled to England by boat upon hearing of her husband’s death. Thomond remained independent of foreign rule and influence for the next 200 years until the intervention of Queen Elizabeth in Ireland.

Conor O’Dea had utilized the best tactics available to him – ruse, concealment, goading and ambush and a new found hardness, which allowed his forces to stand against the Normans through the thick and thin of the battle. Luck may well have played a significant role in the series of events that happened during the battle as it does in any battle. But regardless, O’Dea’s skill as a tactician, ability to hold his nerve where De Clare was incapable, and quick thinking is a credit to him and the victory.

Thanks for reading and if you’ve any suggestions for my next historical post be sure to comment below!

All the best,


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The Ever Meloncholic Damien Rice.

Every generation has their musical hero, someone who’s much more than just the voice of a generation, but their sound.

Rory Gallagher, the voice and sound to a generation.

Rory Gallagher, the voice and sound to a generation.

Ireland had Rory Gallagher in the 80s and the world had Nirvana in the 90s. Growing up in 21st century Ireland, I was blessed to have listened to and experienced some incredible, emotional and ever erotic music from the likes of Irish born Glen Hansard to international and cult giants, Queens of the Stone Age. Through my teenage years music was my escape and freedom to express otherwise intangible and confused emotions in a world we all sometimes feel we don’t belong in.

I remember it well, the first time I felt music truly describe the penance of emotions within me. It was a cold night and I struggled to keep even one eye shut, with thoughts crawling upon my mind. I turned to my dresser and grabbed the Walkman I had temporarily stolen from my sister. There was a tiny lcd screen and “Cold Water – Damien Rice” fluttered across it. The low resonance of the tick tock overpowering the keys of the piano instantly took me into the song, as the echoing of “Lord can you hear me..can you hear..or am I lost?” enveloped my feelings into something translatable.

Rice's first solo studio album, O.

Rice’s first solo studio album, O.

From that night on, I began to listen to Rice daily, especially when I struggled to express my woes or angers. There is a quality to his voice like no other, one which is so honestly damaged and vulnerable, something anyone could relate to. It’s this brutal honesty of emotion and passion in his music which gives Rice something truly ‘otherly’ to his music.

Rice and Hannigan during the recording of O

Rice and Hannigan during the recording of O

The relationship between Rice and Lisa Hannigan, a former member of his band, is synonymous with his music. ‘O’ and ‘9’, Rice’s first two international albums, serves as a voice to express the passionate yet  ever turbulent relationship between the pair. It deals with the failed expectations and pain which every couple face to some degree. It never holds back and is as much as an emotional rollercoster as it is a musical one. Both these albums are very dear to me, ones which I will always cherish and adore getting me through many o’ teenage relationships and allowed me to deal with my problems by venting them through Rice’s music.

I leave you with “I remember it well”, telling the story of when Rice and Hannigan first met and then breaks into the current state of their relationship, a sample of the sheer force of emotion and music found in Rice’s work.

Thanks for reading!


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Identity in the 21st Century.


“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.” – Doug Cooper.

Identity is something which is hard to define as a constant as it’s an ever changing value. The Oxford Dictionary attempts to defines it as “The fact of being who or what a person or thing is”. Exactly what someone is or is not is an ongoing experience so often we can all find ourselves lost in who we exactly are. Often I find it easier to figure what I am not, rather than what I perceive myself to be, “I’m not the best at forgiving” rather than “I’m not forgiving”. 

In the 21st century we are finding ourselves with more and more free time to lend to thought and reflection in our lives. Often this leads to individuals pursing dreams or goals, such as a trip to a far away land, buying a fast car or completing a marathon, in order to find a sense of themselves during the journey. These acts generally secluded to middle aged individuals, often described as a “midlife crisis”.

But a crisis of identity should never be assumed to be a problem of older generations, more and more we’re seeing young people, particularly teenagers, in conflict with who or what they are. Trends such as the Flower Power Movement, Gothicism and even more recently Hipsterism, have given weight to the problem.

Prime example of Hipsterism.

Prime example of Hipsterism.

In a Capitalist  21st century world, where less and less believe in any faith, consumerism is King and people set to define themselves by the label on the back of their shirt or skinny jeans. Ironically, while trying to set themselves apart from the herd, Hipsters are in fact overindulging themselves to the ascribed universal faith of “You are what you consume”.

While we are all guilty of this in some form and I am certainly no exception, I have found  some solace. As an Irishman I take pride in my country and people, it’s something I can identify with and feel a part of. Closer yet, I (as anyone who knows me) take great pride in my own surname. To me it signifies that I’ll always belong to something and knowing the history of the name and where I’m from invokes a great sense of pride and comfort. Often when I feel lost I head there, the Burren, where I find both peace and comfort in my being.

Black Head, The Burren. Home.

Black Head, The Burren. Home.

Though one can never truly find their full worth or substance as an individual in others and must embark on that journey alone, having a sense of place or belonging is detrimental to begin the journey of finding oneself.


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