• News Snaps from Ireland
  • Famous Irish Family Names: Doyle
  • Memories - A Poem by Thomas Shea
  • Fergus O'Mara and the Air-Demons by P. W. Joyce
  • Gaelic Phrases of the Month
  • Monthly Free Competition Result
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Hello again from Ireland where there are further developments in the battle by relatives of the 1916 Easter Rising rebels to secure the important Moore Street battleground site - see the news articles below.

This month we examine the history of the Viking Doyle surname, have a poem remembering Tralee town and another great story from old Ireland.

Until next time,


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Reports from property portals Daft and MyHome suggest that the Irish property market is set to increase by an average of 5% in 2016.

Social Housing Campaigners

There was a big disparity in the locations of the price rises with the Daft report indicating annual price hikes of as much as 13.3% in Galway compared to 3.6% in Wicklow.

Prices nationally are up 35% since the depths of the property crash in 2013. In Dublin the price inflation is even greater with a 46.5% increase since the bottom of that market in 2012.

The author of the Daft report is Ronan Lyons who is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin. He points out that the Central Bank rules that were introduced to try to limit the demand in the housing market are working. The regulations are designed to prevent those people who cannot afford large mortgages from actually getting them (without first providing a substantial cash down-payment).

The reports are sure to put extra focus on the issue of homelessness with thousands of people unable to afford to either buy or even rent a property, especially in Dublin. Many of these families end up in temporary hostels or even Hotel accommodation.

Dr. Lyons suggest that the ultimate solution to the social housing problem may be to reduce the cost of building a home (typically through tax incentives) although he foresees a possible boost for first-time buyers being a politically expedient offering in the next annual Government 'Budget'.

Ireland operates a 'social housing' policy whereby the State is committed to providing accommodation for anyone who needs it. The goal is to provide affordable housing for families with lower incomes to enable them to buy a home. In cases where there are no homes available then privately owned hostels, B&B's and even Hotels are used by the State agencies to house homeless people.

The real problem lies with the overall lack of supply of suitable houses and apartments. In the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008-2010 the Irish economy contracted dramatically. Building projects were shelved as property developers and the banks went bust. 'Ghost Estates' of half-finished housing projects dotted the Irish landscape, reminding the Irish people of their folly.

The rules introduced by the Central Bank of Ireland were designed to prevent a huge property bubble ever happening again and to that extent they are working. But the problem is that, when affordability is put beyond the reach of first-time-buyers then they have no choice but to rent.

Rents have soared hugely in Ireland and especially in Dublin which has the knock-on effect of forcing some people either onto the streets or into a Hotel or B&B accommodation. For those with mental health and/or drug and alcohol addiction problems the issues are even more acute and these people are very much more likely to end up 'sleeping rough'.

Homelessness in Ireland

Niamh Randall is the national spokesperson for the Simon Communities:
Rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg, there's lots more difficulty going on and it's all this hidden homelessness, like people couch-surfing or staying on a floor, and we see that a lot more in rural areas.

They will look for anywhere that means they are in out of the cold and the rain and so they feel safe whether it's rough sleeping, staying in a shed or staying in squats.'

Pat Doyle is CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust:
(regarding homelessness in rural districts) 'Those less fortunate are sleeping in wheelie bins, hay sheds and cars across the countryside.'

Of course the problem is solved only by the provision of more housing units and this is where property developers play their part. Lamented as criminals during the economic downturn it is likely that once again the cranes and vans will become fixtures in Irish towns and cities, but perhaps not to the same extent that caused the economy to collapse.

Lets hope so.

In what is becoming an increasingly bizarre situation the Irish Government is to use funds from the 1916 Easter Rising commemorations to challenge a ruling by the Irish High Court that granted 'historical battlefield site' status to Moore Street in Dublin.

Moore Street Protesters

Moore Street was the scene of fighting during the Easter 1916 rebellion. It is the principal location where the rebels in the GPO escaped to and ultimately from where they surrendered.

The decision by the High Court has scuppered plans by the Government to turn houses number 14 to 17 on Moore Street into a commemorative center.

The dispute between the protesters, many of whom are relatives of those who fought in 196, and the Government centers on the degree to which the site should be preserved. Many of the protesters believe the entire area should be preserved while the Government has reluctantly agreed to develop only those houses it deems as relevant to the battle. And this is a century after the event.

It is ironic or scandalous, depending on your viewpoint, that the funds set aside to commemorate the sacrifice of the people of 1916 in Dublin are now being used to fund the legal fight to destroy what many consider to be historic and near-sacred buildings.

To compare to an American experience, this is the equivalent of a shopping mall being built on 'Little Round-Top' at Gettysburg while an interpretive center is built on top of 'Cemetery Hill'. Easter 1916 was a much smaller-scale battle of course, but just as important historically to everyone of Irish descent, as Gettysburg is to all Americans.

In a sure sign that the niche business of micro-brewing and the manufacture of 'craft beers' is still booming in Ireland, Carlow Institute of Technology is offering a four-year degree curse in brewing beer!

Craft Beer Industry in Ireland

The new Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree programme in Brewing & Distilling reflects the degree to which brewing and distilling have become massive business in Ireland. Over 95% of this niche sectors manufactured output is exported. Currently there are 28 distilleries in Ireland while the number of micro-breweries is expected to soar to as many as 100 by the year 2025.

Dr. Patricia Mulcahy is the President of IT Carlow:
the course was..'designed to support the brewing and distilling industry, which is a key growth sector and one undergoing a major renaissance.'

That's putting it mildly!



Viking influence in Ireland is still very much in evidence and acknowledged but perhaps not more so than in the continued use of those surnames that are derived from Viking settlers.

The Vikings harassed and plundered Ireland in the ninth and tenth centuries and had particular success in coastal towns where they could attack using their superior knowledge of the sea-faring tradition.

Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Waterford and Limerick became those towns most attacked by the Vikings but also later benefited from Viking influence and power, growing into the largest towns and cities in the country.

Vikings in Ireland

Most of the Vikings hailed from Denmark and Norway, traversing the seas around Scotland before descending on the unsuspecting Irish towns and Monasteries. They were thus seen as a dark and brooding force that arrived from the north. They were 'dark foreigners' or 'dhubh ghall' in the native Gaelic tongue.

It is easy to see how these words pronounced 'dove-all' could be anglicized through the centuries to 'Doyle'. It can also be noted that while the Danes were dark-haired the Norwegians were of lighter-colored hair.

Other Irish names were similarly treated. McAuliffe (the son of Olaf), McBirney (the son of Bjorn), Reynolds (from the Norse name Ragnall), O'Loughlin (from the word 'Uigín' meaning 'Viking'). All of Viking descent.

The defeat of the Vikings at the battle of Clontarf in the year 1014 marked the end of their dominance in Ireland. In the years that followed there was settlement of many Viking families in the previously conquered towns while inter-marriage between the native Gaels and the Vikings began in earnest.

Thus the Viking families settled and integrated into Gaelic society so completely that these families are regarded as being thoroughly Irish in origin. A similar wave of new surnames arrived in the wake of the Strongbow invasion from the year 1169 onwards with names such as Power, Savage, Roche, Nugent, Griffith, Blake, and many others again fully integrating into the native Gaelic fabric.

The same cannot be said about the subsequent great wave of immigration with the 'Plantation of Ulster' with the many Scottish Presbyterian imports retaining and fighting to maintain their own individual identity.

Doyle Coat of Arms

The main variant of the name Doyle in Ireland is MacDowell who were Galloglasses from the Hebrides who settled in County Roscommon. In the Hebrides their name was MacDugall.

The name Doyle is recorded as Ó'Dubhghaill in the ancient manuscript 'The Annals of the Four Masters' from the year 978 to 1013. It is after this time that the name was adopted by the settled Viking families and then anglicized to its current form of Doyle in later centuries.

Perhaps the most famous bearer of the name was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the creator of 'Sherlock Holmes' and whose great-grandfather was John Doyle (1797-1868), of Dublin, a writer for the satirical magazine 'Punch'.

Famous People Named Doyle

Patrick MacDowell (1799-1870), was a renowned sculptor from Belfast. James Doyle (1786-1834), was the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin who campaigned for Catholic emancipation and built the Cathedral at Carlow.

Father Willie Doyle (1873-1917), was described by WWI General Hickie as 'one of the bravest men who fought or served out here'. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during an assault on the village of Ginchy. He died at Langemarck in 1917.

Jack Doyle (1913-1978), was a world-famous boxer from Cobh who was known as 'The Gorgeous Gael'. He fought for the British Boxing championship and was a Hollywood actor and singer.

Roddy Doyle (born 1958), is a Dublin author who wrote 'The Commitments', 'The Snapper' and 'The Van' and who won the Man Booker prize in 2010 for 'Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha'.

The video below is from 'The Vikings in Ireland', a documentary series. Any Doyles or relatives of Doyles will be interested to know just what their ancestors got up to!


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by Thomas Shea

There's a narrow road in Erin
White and dusty winding down
Through the hills of blooming heather,
To a quaint old Irish town,
Nestling close beside the harbor,
Facing out upon the sea,
Looking westward o'er the waters
Stands the town of old Tralee.


Down that narrow road and dusty
In the days of long ago
Have I traveled without sorrows
That I now have come to know
In the nooks along the wayside
Was the primrose given birth
And the hawthorn petal fluttered
As the snowflakes to the earth

From above the misted mountain
In a soft unending roll,
Came the lark song out of heaven
Bringing rapture to the soul,
And in answer down the valley
Came the cuckoo-call so clear
From the wood of Ballyseedy
In the springtime of the year.

I can almost smell the perfume
Of the blessed month of June,
I can almost hear the blackbird
Piping out his glorious tune,
Could I fly away tomorrow
Where my heart has flown today
I would soon forget my sorrows
In that town beside the bay.

I would rest upon a moss bank
At the crossroads looking down
On the vale that lies in beauty
'Neath the silent hills of brown.
I would hear the vesper bell note
On the breezes borne to me
From the holy friars' chapel
In the town of old Tralee.


by P. W. Joyce

OF all the different kinds of goblins that haunted the lonely places of Ireland in days of old, air-demons were most dreaded by the people.

They lived among clouds and mists and rocks, and they hated the human race with the utmost malignity. In those times lived in the north of Desmond (the present county of Cork) a man named Fergus O'Mara. His farm lay on the southern slope of the Ballyhoura Mountains, along which ran the open road that led to his house. This road was not shut in by walls or fences; but on both sides there were scattered trees and bushes that sheltered it in winter, and made it dark and gloomy when you approached the house at night.

Beside the road, a little way off from the house, there was a spot that had an evil name all over the country, a little hill covered closely with copsewood, with a great craggy rock on top, from which, on stormy nights, strange and fearful sounds had often been heard—shrill voices and screams mingled with loud fiendish laughter; and the people believed that it was the haunt of air-demons.

Fergus O'Mara and the Air Demons

In some way it had become known that these demons had an eye on Fergus, and watched for every opportunity to get him into their power. He had himself been warned of this many years before, by an old monk from the neighbouring monastery of Buttevant, who told him moreover that so long as he led a blameless upright life he need have no fear of the demons; but that if ever he yielded to temptation or fell into any great sin, then would come the opportunity for which they were watching day and night. He never forgot this warning, and he was very careful to keep himself straight, both because he was naturally a good man, and for fear of the air-demons.

Some time before the occurrence about to be related, one of Fergus's children, a sweet little girl about seven years of age, fell ill and died. The little thing gradually wasted away, but suffered no pain; and as she grew weaker she became more loving and gentle than ever, and talked in a wonderful way, quite beyond her years, of the bright land she was going to. One thing she was particularly anxious about, that when she was dying they should let her hold a blessed candle in her hand.

They thought it very strange that she should be so continually thinking and talking of this; and over and over again she made her father and mother promise that it should be done. And with the blessed candle in her hand she died so calmly and sweetly that those round her bed could not tell the exact moment.

About a year after this, on a bright Sunday morning in October, Fergus set out for Mass. The place was about three miles away, and it was not a chapel, but a lonely old fort, called to this day Lissanaffrin, the fort of the Mass. A rude stone altar stood at one side near the mound of the fort, under a little shed that sheltered the priest also; and the congregation worshipped in the open air on the green plot in the centre. For in those days there were many places that had no chapels, as the Penal Laws prohibited the celebration of Mass; and the people flocked to those open-air Masses as faithfully as we do now to our comfortable stately chapels. The family had gone on before, the men walking and the women and children riding; and Fergus set out to walk alone.

Just as he approached the Demons' Rock, he was greatly surprised to hear the eager yelping of dogs; and in a moment a great deer bounded from the covert beside the rock, with three hounds after her in full chase. No man in the whole country round loved a good chase better than Fergus, or had a swifter foot to follow, and without a moment's hesitation he started in pursuit. But in a few minutes he stopped up short; for he bethought him of the Mass, and he knew there was little time for delay. While he stood wavering, the deer seemed to slacken her pace, and the hounds gained on her, and in a moment Fergus dashed off at full speed, forgetting Mass and everything else in his eagerness for the sport.

But it turned out a long and weary chase. Sometimes they slackened, and he was almost at the hounds' tails, but the next moment both deer and hounds started forward and left him far behind. Sometimes they were full in view, and again they were out of sight in thickets and deep glens, so that he could guide himself only by the cry of the hounds. In this way he was decoyed across hills and glens, but instead of gaining ground he found himself rather falling behind.

Mass was all over and the people dispersed to their homes, and all wondered that they did not see Fergus; for no one could remember that he was ever absent before. His wife returned, expecting to find him at home; but when she arrived there was trouble in her heart, for there were no tidings of him, and no one had seen him since he had set out for Mass in the morning.

Meantime Fergus followed up the chase till he was wearied out; and at last, just on the edge of a wild moor, both deer and hounds disappeared behind a shoulder of rock, and he lost them altogether. At the same moment the cry of the hounds became changed to frightful shrieks and laughter, such as he had heard more than once from the Demons' Bock. And now, sitting down on a bank to rest, he had full time to reflect on what he had done, and he was overwhelmed with remorse and shame.

Moreover, his heart sank within him, thinking of the last sounds he had heard; for he believed that he had been allured from Mass by the cunning wiles of the demons, and he feared that the dangerous time had come, foretold by the monk. He started up and set out for his home, hoping to reach it before night. But before he had got half-way, night fell, and a storm came on, great wind and rain, and bursts of thunder and lightning. Fergus was strong and active however and knew every turn of the mountain, and he made his way through the storm till he approached the Demons' Rock.

Suddenly there burst on his ears the very same sounds that he had heard on losing sight of the chase—shouts and shrieks and laughter. A great black ragged cloud, whirling round and round with furious gusts of wind, burst from the rock and came sweeping and tearing towards him. Crossing himself in terror and uttering a short prayer, he rushed for home. But the whirlwind swept nearer and nearer, till at last, in a sort of faint shadowy light, he saw the black cloud full of dimly defined frightful faces, all glaring straight at him, and coming closer and closer.

At this moment a small bright light dropped down from the sky and rested in front of the cloud; and when he looked closely he saw his little child floating in the air between him and the demons, holding a lighted candle in her hand. And although the storm was raging and roaring all round, she was quite calm—not a breath of air stirred her long yellow hair—and the candle burned quietly. Even in the midst of all his terror he could observe her pale gentle face and blue eyes just as when she was alive, not showing traces of sickness or sadness now, but lighted up with joy.

The demons seemed to start back from the light, and with great uproar rushed round to the other side of Fergus, the black cloud still moving with them and wrapping them up in its ragged folds; but the little angel floated softly round with the light in her hand, still keeping between them and her father. Fergus ran on for home, and the cloud of demons still kept furiously whirling round and round him, bringing with them a whirlwind that roared among the trees and bushes and tore them from the roots; but still the child, always holding the candle towards them, kept floating calmly round and shielded him.

At length he arrived at his house; the door lay half-open, for the family were inside expecting him home, listening with wonder and affright to the approaching noises; and he bounded in through the doorway and fell flat on his face. That instant the door—though no one was near—was shut violently, and the bolts were shot home. They hurried anxiously round him to lift him up, but found him in a deathlike swoon.

Meantime the uproar outside became greater than ever; round and round the house it tore, a roaring whirlwind with shouts and yells of rage, and great trampling, as if there was a whole company of horsemen. At length however the noises seemed to move away farther and farther off from the house, and gradually died out in the distance. At the same time the storm ceased, and the night became calm and beautiful.

The daylight was shining in through the windows when Fergus recovered from his swoon, and then he told his fearful story; but many days passed over before he had quite recovered from the horrors of that night. When the family came forth in the morning there was fearful waste all round and near the house, trees and bushes torn from the roots, and the ground all trampled and torn up.

After this the revelry of the demons was never again heard from the rock; and it was believed that they had left it and betaken themselves to some other haunt.

But if Fergus no longer feared the demons of the rock he thought to himself that there were other demons, noiseless indeed, but quite as dangerous, who were quietly watching their opportunity to tempt him from his duty and get him into their power.

And from that time forth he was more watchful than ever to keep himself on the straight path. Above all, he was so fearful of losing Mass that he never could be persuaded to wait for his family, but was always seen striding vigorously along the mountain path that led to Lissanaffrin, even before the rest of the congregation had started from their homes.
(this story is continued at the online edition - click here)

PHRASE: Ni lia duine na tuairim
PRONOUNCED: nee lee-ah dinnah nah toor-im
MEANING: Everyone has their own opinion
PHRASE: Ni lia tir na nos
PRONOUNCED: nee lee-ah tear no-iss
MEANING: Every country has it's own customs
PHRASE: Is leir don saol e an firinn
PRONOUNCED: iss lair dun sail a on firr-inyeh (a as in a,b,c)
MEANING: Everybody knows the truth

View the Archive of Irish Phrases here:

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I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.

by Michael Green,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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