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Heroes and Villains Tour

A tour of any country, nevermind Ireland, will throw up the same binary problem. The folk we talk about will roughly fall in to two categories courtesy of history: hero or villain. They say that history is written by the victors, but as I travelled around Ireland again and again, it got me thinking. Being victorious sure as hell doesn’t ensure hero status – just ask King Billy or Cromwell!

A foot in both camps?

These fellows are heroes depending on where you ask of course – down the Sandy Row or at Westminster. However, King Billy’s Battle of the Boyne enemy doesn’t fare much better having garnered the dubious sobriquet of ‘James the Shit’ by the Irish for his dereliction. How does this come about? Is history completely subjective? We’ll weigh up the pros and cons, but there will be no fence sitting, we can assure you!

The story of Ireland

Back in the 19th century, writers like Standish O’Grady elevated the forgotten heroes of Irish mythology back into the public consciousness. Many baton carriers of the Irish cultural revival went with it from Yeats to Lady Gregory, Maud Gonne to Ella Young. In looking at epic warriors like Fionn MacCumhaill and Cú Chulainn, they saw new poster boys for Irish nationalism. However a closer look at any of the key figures from Irish mythology definitely deserve a revisit as they are well and truly barking mad!

Hagiography Blues 

The best thing that a tour guide can offer you are the facts – without getting you on a downer of course! Irish history can be tough going, especially around The Troubles. Or should the 1916 revolution be regarded as a sacred event or in truth an accidental success. It is about weighing up the information and going from there. Had Collins a deathwish? Was Paisley a monster and so on. The original Irish bogeyman, Oliver Cromwell, when giving his portrait painter instructions said to paint him ‘warts and all’ and so it shall be on this tour, but trying to remember we need to come up for air and some degree of levity. Brace yourselves!

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