Ireland – the Original Game of Thrones (Episode 1)

Beautiful illustration of a shamorck and a monk or bard inside a 131 Irish history book

Some people love golf, others love watching the hooves of horses gallop past, I love second hand stores and antique shops. Stepping inside those that brim with past possessions and history smothers you. The history of every individual item in there leaps at me.

From the day it was shiny and new to the people who touched it to its final journey here in a dust filled forgotten corner, history and life drips from every article.  It was in such a shop here in Melbourne that I found it.  A stunningly arresting book, over a hundred years old on the other side of the world.

‘The History of Ireland’ in gold leaf embossed across its cover, surrounded by a gilded frame with a round tower and crannog arched by a blazing sun.  It was marketing from 1882 and it still caught my eye 131 years later.

Inside the visual poetry continued. ‘The Siege of Limerick from 1690 etched out in dramatic black and white and a voluptuously colourful page that outlined the author as Martin Haverty and bestowing its full title as the ‘The History of Ireland – From the earliest period to the present time – Derived from native annals and researches of eminent scholars.’ I had to have and I did and since then I have been poring over page after page.

Chapter one on the first inhabitants of Ireland, reads like George Martins’ Game of Thrones. That same raw beastly life powers through the pages.

Under a leader by the name of Parthalon the first inhabitants of Ireland was a colony who arrived from Macedonia in South East Europe the book reveals. Parthalon had fled from his own country where he had been guilty of parricide and landed at Inver Scene, now more commonly known as Kenmare estuary.  He, his three sons and their wives and a thousand followers were the first who cleared any part of Ireland of the primeval woods which covered it.

In A.M 2820 Parthalon and his entire followers would all perish in a plague however on the plain in which Dublin now stands. For thirty more years Ireland would remain empty until the next colony would arrive.

Led by a chief called Nemedius (pronounced Nevy) this colony would build raths across Ireland and occupy the country for 200 years. Nemedius and his followers were constantly engaged in a battle for survival with a race of pirates called the Fomorians, who infested the coast. Eventually they would meet in a ferocious battle on the beaches of Tory island in North West Donegal. The battle waged for so long that those not mutually slaughtered died by drowning of the incoming tide.

After this great battle that decimated both sides Ireland was again abandoned to its wilderness.  The remains of Nemedius’s followers fled to Greece where they were kept in bondage and compelled to carry burdens in leather bags thereby obtaining the name of Firbolgs or Bagmen. Determined to return to Ireland they seized the ships of their Greek masters and returned to Ireland around A.M 3266.

The Firblogs then divided the country among their give leaders, the five sons of Deala, each of whom in turn ruled over the entire island.  The names of the brothers were Slainghe, Rury, Gann, Geanann, and Seangann and from the first of them the river Slaney in Wexford is said to have derived its name.

Several tribes were engaged in this expedition. One of them the Fir Domhan landed on the coast of Errie in Mayo where they became very powerful, giving their name to the district, which has been called in Irish, Iarras-Domhan, that is the western promontory of the Damnonians.

Another tribe distinguished by the name of Fir-Gaillian, or Spearmen, landed on the eastern coast, and from them the province of Leinster has been named.

The Firblogs only enjoyed possession of Ireland for eighty years according to the chronology of the Four Masters when their dominion was disputed by a formidable enemy.

The new invaders were the celebrated Tuatha de Dananns, a people of whom such strange things are recounted that many wondered if they were just a mythical race or concede to them a real existence.

In the next episode we discover the life of the Tuatha de Dannanns and their leader, Nuad of the Silver Hand….

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