Dúchas #34 #cong19


Who are your people, where are you from?

A journey to find my birth mother.

A journey to find my genealogy
– Gaelic, Norman, Cromwellian.

Irish Ways and Irish laws.
– How power worked in Gaelic Ireland.
– How Community worked in Gaelic Ireland.

Ideas from Gaelic Ireland that we can steal for our 21st Century Communities

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. We don’t conform, we are better off when we refuse orthodoxy and embrace diversity
  2. To be powerful we don’t need to be unitary. We should embrace Subsidiarity a system where decisions are made at the appropriate level and not at the centre.
  3. Blood is thicker than water. If you are lucky enough to have parents, learn from them who your people are, where you come from.
  4. If you are lucky enough to have kids – make sure they know who their people are, make sure they know the stories and myths that anchor them to where they come from.

About Frank Hannigan:

Frank Hannigan is a Dublin born economic migrant in Cork.
A Business Graduate of Trinity College, University of Dublin.
A Founder of StrategyCrowd Business Advisors
Father of two Cork teenage sons and married to one Tipperary wife, Betty.
I am fascinated by how individuals, businesses and countries compete.

Contacting Frank Hannigan:

You can follow Frank on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or check out Strategy Crowd

By Frank Hannigan

In June 2018 I decided it was time to find my birth mother.

I wanted to say
Everything worked out, I had a great childhood and I am well on my way to being a mature adult.
I wanted to say
You did the right thing

I was a bit scared but what could possibly go wrong?

It did not take too long for me to find her – calling Bishops House in Wrexham every day helped, a DNA test with Ancestry.com sealed the deal.

On the glorious 12th of July I met Claire for the first time.

I worried that she might be a victim, damaged and hurt. Not a chance.

Claire is a 77-year-old Spitfire, self aware, curious and full of energy.

The year before she had sailed down the Mekong from Vientiane to Ho Chi Minh City, She had travelled the Garden Route and visited Kruger National Park.

Knowing her, knowing how she thinks about and how she deals with life is magic.

It is a perspective that makes sense of me, how I think and feel, what I think and feel.

So, that’s the first part of my journey.

That journey included a manic learning curve about Genealogy.

Genealogy is addictive.

I researched my adopted and blood lines.

My blood is Gaelic with a healthy dash of Norman Irish.
My adopted family is Gaelic with a healthy dash of Cromwellian Irish.

Of the three strands that make up our people, Gaelic Ireland is a bit of a shocker!

First of all we are not Celts
Our DNA soup settled down 4k years ago – most of us came in waves since 12,500 years ago from Galicia and the Basque Territory.

Second, Gaels were pretty wild and anything but the Victorian constructs of Yeats and Pearse.

Third, Gaelic culture was globally connected and was a advanced culture when it came to Medical Research, Law, Social Rights, Property and Power.

They had and we retain their healthy disrespect for orthodoxy.

Let me introduce you to two characters from the period:

Let me introduce:

Turlough of the Wine O’Donnell

  • He earned his nick name
  • Was a devout Christian
  • Had dozens of children with at least 10 wives.

Grace O’Malley

  • Became the Chieftain of her tribe despite having a brother
  • She had two husbands and a shipwrecked lover
  • 1,000 head of cattle and a clatter of Castles and lands.
  • She parlayed with Elizabeth 1st in Latin and as an equal

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this society:

Immediate familes were a Clan.

Each clan belonged to a kin-group known as a fine.
This was a large group of related people supposedly descended from one ancestor.

Tuath was a kingdom – like Donegal

There was a High King – but typically Irish – He never even dreamed about having 100% support and he was a first among equals.

Power and property in Feudal Europe was simple:
God anointed Kings, Kings anointed Land owners, both pass their property and power to their first born male child.

Gaelic Power and property was not centralized:

  • A Taoiseach was elected by a broad gathering of family members:
  • The ability to make war and manage diplomacy mostly decided who won.
  • There were other pillars of power:
  • Bards and Clerics, Lawyers, Physicians, Scholars, Skilled Craftsmen and Musicians. All were political actors
  • Freemen who owned farms and Cattle and freemen worked on the land of others – all had a say on legislation and policy
  • Until 1200AD at the bottom of the heap were slaves – criminals paying back a debt or prisoners of war.

Side bar

  • Slaves were a small part of Gaelic Ireland – but a big part of Viking Ireland
  • Dublin became wealthy as the biggest slave market in Western Europe.
    • 40% of the founding population of Iceland were Gaelic Slaves
    • In 950 15% of Western Europeans were slaves, many travelling through Dublin and Limerick to their captivity

Back to the Gaels

Gaelic ranks were not set in stone.
It was possible to rise or fall depending on individual effort.

Brehon law had no prisons and almost no capital offences

Most convictions required a payment even murder

  • If the person could not pay for the crime
  • His family becomes responsible for the payment
  • If his family could not pay for the crime
  • The broader Kin Group becomes responsible for the payment

By the 8th Century women’s position in society far outreached their sisters in Europe – “in most respects, quite on a level with men” according to Patrick Weston Joyce.
The Irish were Christian but they kept their own law while to a great extent ignoring Christian mysogeny.
Women and men for example had easy access to Divorce and multiple partners.
Women owned property directly and indirectly.

Monks and Priests up to the 11th Century were also a la carte Christians commonly having wives and extensive families.

This was not an insular society – The Irish traded with most parts of Europe and Northern Africa – The O’Donnells for example, were known as the Fisher Kings, one of the largest exporters of fish to Europe.
New ideas and culture were weaved and warped into Irish life for thousands of years.

So as we skitter without a rudder towards a united Ireland, what can we takeaway from all this to inform community on the island?

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