The Historian as Detective

Uncovering Irish Pasts. Essays in honour of Raymond Gillespie


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ISBN: 978-1-84682-999-4
October 2021. 316pp. Large Format. Colour Ills.

This collection of short essays presents the fruits of painstaking investigations conducted by over eighty scholars of history, early Irish, nua-Ghaeilge, archaeology, osteoarchaeology, forensic anthropology, geography and classical studies who have delved into Ireland’s past and pieced together fragments of evidence to uncover the fascinating truth behind an array of curious tales about intriguing characters, events and vestiges of by-gone days. Beginning with the missing martyrs in fourth- and fifth-century Ireland and ending with an overview of how TCD’s exciting ‘Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury’ project is engaged in reassembling the archival collection destroyed in the attack on the Four Courts (1922), this volume features an eclectic set of stories about misfits, mayhem and murder in medieval Irish monasteries; the theft of records from Trim Castle in the 1490s; the reputation of Hugh O’Neill, second Earl of Tyrone; the collapse of the earl of Sussex in the 1560s; the mystery surrounding the death of Archbishop Richard Creagh; Irish Franciscan chicanery at a Roman funeral in 1626; shape-changing at dawn on a May Day in Clare; cannibalism at Knocknamase Castle during the 1641 rebellion; Baptist enchantment and spectral detectives in Cromwellian Ireland; five Baptist Loobys in Cork and Antigua; the Irish smuggling trade in the eighteenth century; the murder of Anne Eustace: an early eighteenth century cause célèbre; the mystery of the Irish bard; Georgian deceptions – the curious case of the conjuror, the boxer and the giant; a possible hermit of Muckross; Theobald Wolfe Tone’s burial at Bodenstown; searching for Ireland’s workhouse Famine emigrants in Canada; a murder in Madrid in 1889; the burning of Moydrum Castle, County Westmeath during the Irish War of Independence; catechetical ignorance and its celebration in Irish folklore; the ghost of Laheen House, County Leitrim; the mystery of a six-foot woman excavated at Drogheda in the early 1990s, and many more.

The chronological span and multidisciplinary nature of the contributions in this volume attest to the breadth of Raymond Gillespie’s curiosity, interests, expertise and influence, which have always transcended conventional boundaries.


Terence Dooley is Professor of History (Maynooth University), Mary Ann Lyons is Professor of History (Maynooth University) and Salvador Ryan is Professor of Ecclesiastical History (Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College Maynooth).