The Thing Sites: A Norse - Celtic trail


A Thing or þing in Old Norse and Icelandic was the form of governing assembly found in the Scandinavian world that was also introduced into some Celtic societies. It is an assembly of the free men of a country or province and is located in specific sites identified for that purpose. At ‘the thing’, decisions were made  and disputes settled. Although presided over by a king or chieftain in theory it was a democratic assembly in that each person had a vote. The decisions made were recited by the speaker to everyone at the thing. Probably the most famous thing site in existence today is the Manx Tynwald (Manx Gaelic: Tinvaal) said to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world. The name Tynwald is derived from the Old Norse word Þingvǫllr,meaning the field of the thing.

The 1918 Irish General Election and formation of Dáil Éireann

Charles Stewart Parnell

The 1918 General Election was of crucial significance in the struggle for Irish independence. In 1918 Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The 105 Irish Members of Parliament sat in the British parliament (House of Commons). So at that time the Irish general election was held as part of the United Kingdom general election. Prior to 1918 the majority of Irish MP's sat in the House of Commons as the Irish Parliamentary Party (Páirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann). 

The Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), which had been formed by Charles Stewart Parnell (27 June 1846 - 6th October 1891) in 1882, was the official nationalist party in the House of Commons. It superseded the Home Government Association formed in 1870 and the Home Rule League formed in 1873. The IPP under Parnell had became a very disciplined organisation that was an important factor in carrying forward pressure for Irish home rule.

The issue of Irish Home Rule dominated the politics between Ireland and England. The first Home Rule Bill in 1886 was rejected by the House of Commons. Seven years later came a second Home Rule Bill, which although passed in the House of Commons, was vetoed by the House of Lords. The third Home Rule Bill was eventually passed in 1914 but was formally postponed for a period of twelve months after the outbreak of the First World War.

Redruth Cornish Language Group Library Collection Boosted by Grant

Redruth Cornish Language Group Library Collection

Redruth Cornish Language Group Library Collection continues to thrive after another generous donation from the Redruth Charity Trust.

This grant will enable the group to purchase some more of the new books which are being published on a regular basis as the cost of books is prohibitive. In addition to new books, the group are constantly searching second hand book stores and even auctions for the sometimes rarer editions to add to their shelves.

The Group has been lucky in that some books have been donated from deceased persons’ estates and with the current contribution of money the number of their books will have risen to a figure in excess of 240 volumes.

Perhaps the public are unaware of the uniqueness of this library, its availability to the general public as a reference library, and the increasing use made by the public of this growing resource. The books managed are of three main types, and firstly these are the technical teaching books, dictionaries, grammars and detailed text books.

Magic moments on the East Neuk of Fife

On the East Neuk of Fife (Neuk is the Scots word for corner or nook) is the attractive village of St Monans, sometimes spelt as St Monance. It's name is taken from Saint Monan, also referred to in Ireland as Saint Moenenn. Little is known of this 6th - 7th century Saint, although a history of his life is recorded in the Aberdeen Breviary, which gives short accounts of various Scottish saints and was printed in Edinburgh in 1507. The feast day of St Monan is on March 1st. The Aberdeen Breviary is mostly the work of William Elphinstone (1431 - 25 October 1514). He was Bishop of Aberdeen from 1483 until his death in 1514. He was also the founder of the University of Aberdeen.

St Monans village with it's beautiful buildings gathered around a small harbour area was once home to a thriving fishing industry and a centre for salt production. The village is located on the Fife Coastal Path and looks southwards across the Firth of Forth towards North Berwick and the Scottish Natural Heritage run nature reserve Isle of May (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Mhàigh). To the west of the village stands the Old Kirk of St Monans that originally dates from the thirteenth century. A beautiful building standing within it's kirkyard and overlooking the sea. King David II (Scottish Gaelic: Dàibhidh Bruis) of Scotland, who reigned from 7th June 1329 - 22 February 1371, had the church enlarged after his life was saved during a violent storm after he had offered prayers up to St Monan.

Who were the Picts?

Abernethy Pictish Stone

Although remains of Pictish art, language and society can be found throughout north and eastern Scotland in many ways the Picts remain a mystery. Piecing together the available information to get an accurate picture of these people has been the cause of discussion and debate for many years. Any written records used to gain information can only be found from those who had little sympathy for the Picts, such as that from Angle or Roman sources. So they have to be viewed with great scepticism. Even the name Pict seems to appear for the first time in a Roman poem from the 3rd century AD.

Although the Picts were never conquered and drawn into the Roman Empire, it could be said that they had certain positive influences on Pictish society. In that the Roman invaders in southern areas of the British Isles and the threat they posed, brought together the Picts, who were until that time fragmented tribes and often in conflict with each other. This uniting for defensive purposes formed the Pictish lands into a fledgling kingdom.

Kernow - Land of the Saints - or perhaps not?

Cornubia - Land of the Saints

Like so many other Celtic Nations, Cornwall's folklore is rich with tales of giants, of ancient kings, of little people, Druids and pagan beliefs and so on.

Almost to balance much of its ancient folklore, it has also been frequently called 'the Land of the Saints' so profuse are the hamlets, villages and towns named for a plethora of Celtic Saints. Indeed, the magnificent painting in Truro Cathedral by the late John Miller and entitled 'Cornubia - Land of the Saints' portrays the peninsula bathed in Heavenly light, with rays of sunshine reflecting across the many churches and with a host of angels approaching from the Isles of Scilly.

But to this day, many in Kernow see things slightly differently, perhaps through Celtic eyes, and in a recent survey of spiritual beliefs, pre Christian and related pagan beliefs ranked a remarkable third. Alternative Spiritual beliefs are all around in the Duchy and are accepted as being completely normal by many indigenous Cornish folks as well as by those who have made the place their home recognising that special sense of place.

The Faeries of the Cornish Tin Mines – Cousin Jack and the TommyKnockers

Cornwall coastal mine

The tin mines of Cornwall have an ancient history that extends back into the mists of time.  Cornish trade links with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, which pre-date the arrival of the Romans in Britain, are documented by Greek historians.  Around 2500 BC a trade started growing in tin and copper with these foreign traders exchanging bronze tools and gold ornaments for the minerals.

Faery faith and folklore has enjoyed a central role in the foundation and development of Celtic culture and Celtic Cornwall has many myths and legends involving Faeries which include a particularly Cornish variant in the form of the Faeries of the tin mines. These strange subterranean residents of Cornish mines are known by various names, one of the most common being Knockers (TommyKnockers). Over the centuries the legends surrounding these creatures became imbedded in the folklore and Faery faith of the Celtic miners to a remarkable degree. These folkloric traditions then followed the Cornish immigrants as they fanned out as prized mine workers around the world.

Irish National Land League - Conradh na Talún

Evictions in Ireland

In Irish history the Land War refers to a period of civil unrest in Ireland from the 1870’s until the early 1900’s which saw the rise of the Irish National Land League.  The background to this period of conflict in rural Ireland was the depression in producer prices, high rents and bad weather which had a catastrophic effect on the poor tenant farmers of Ireland. It once again exposed the unfair system of land tenure and the power of the landowners, many of whom were absentee landlords. It also highlighted the manner in which many of these owners had unjustly acquired Irish land.

In the 16th and 17th century the English crown undertook a programme known as Plantation and the aim was to plant people in Ireland who would be loyal and bear allegiance to England.  The campaign amounted to one of denying the Irish Catholic population ownership of land in their country.  It was seen as a way for England to conquer and subjugate Ireland. The historical legacy of which can be seen in six of the nine counties of Ulster in the north of Ireland. Here a Protestant majority was created which later led to the establishment of the artificial state referred to as Northern Ireland. However, the Plantation reached all parts of Ireland where land was confiscated by the British Crown and colonised by settlers.

Kannerezed noz – The Washerwomen of the Night in the Celtic mythology of Brittany

In the Celtic folklore of Brittany there are many creatures of the Otherworld, that mystical land occupied by spirits and deities who are rarely seen by humans. Many of these supernatural beings are benevolent and only deem to appear when and if absolutely necessary. Others simply want to be left alone to exist in the way that they have for thousands of years, long before the time of humankind. For some their role is to protect the environment and try and control the most damaging excesses of man. There are those who will deliberately seek out and help humans who care for the land of Brittany, cherish its ancient borders and protect its ancient traditions. However, amongst all of these creatures there are some who will, if encountered, be a harbinger of doom. They are to be avoided at all costs.

Amongst these darker entities of Breton mythology is the tall, skeletal, foreboding figure of Ankou. Dressed in black, carrying a scythe, he is accompanied by a cart pulled by black horses. Ankou is a night traveller that gathers the soles of the newly dead. Then there is the Nain who guard the ancient megaliths, stone circles and cairns that are found all over Brittany. Their faces are demon like with horns upon their head and their eyes are a glowing red. Dancing around the ancient stones and monoliths of Brittany they chant out the days of the week ‘dilun, dimerzh, dimerc'her, diyaou, digwener', but not the days of ‘disadorn and disul’ for these two days are held as sacred to the fairies. The night of ‘dimerc'her’ is their special night though, particularly the first one of the month of May. Ill fortune will befall those humans that should chance across and interrupt their ceremonies.

Subscribe to Transceltic - Home of the Celtic nations RSS