Popular Recreation in Nineteenth-Century Ireland

  • Elizabeth Malcolm


In 1852 Sir William Wilde in his delightful little book, Irish Popular Superstitions, lamented the recent disappearance of many traditional beliefs, customs and recreations. ‘The old forms and customs … are becoming obliterated,’ wrote Wilde,

the festivals are unobserved, and the rustic festivities neglected or forgotten … [the peasants’ balls and routs], do not often take place when starvation and pestilence stalk over a country…. The faction-fights, the hurlings, and the mains of cocks that used to be fought at Shrovetide and Easter … are past and gone these twenty years…. It was only, however, within those three years that the waits ceased to go their rounds upon the cold frosty mornings in our native village at Christmas…. The native humour of the people is not so rich and racy as in days of yore…. Well-honoured be the name of Theobald Mathew — but, after all, a power of fun went away with the whiskey…. The pilgrimages formerly undertaken to holy wells and sacred shrines for cures and penances have been strenuously interdicted…. The fairies, the whole pantheon of Irish demigods are retiring, one by one, from the habitations of man to the distant islands where the wild waves of the Atlantic raise their foaming crests, to render their fastnesses inaccessible to the schoolmaster and the railroad engineer … [1]


Eighteenth Century Irish Society Ordnance Survey Irish People Religious Festival 
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Copyright information

© Oliver MacDonagh 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Malcolm

There are no affiliations available

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