19 June 2019

After this book, we may
never think of Irish marriage
in the same way again

With Professor Salvador Ryan of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and Dom Colmán Ó Clabaigh of Glenstal Abbey at last night’s book launch in the Royal Irish Academcy

Patrick Comerford

I was at the launch of a new book, Marriage and the Irish: a Miscellany, on Tuesday evening [18 June 2019] at the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street, Dublin.

The book was launched by the art historian, Dr Rachel Moss, of Trinity College Dublin, and many of the contributors were there to celebrate this new publication.

Marriage and the Irish is published by Wordwell and is edited by my friend and colleague, Dr Salvador Ryan, who is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

There last night in the RIA were many of the contributors, including Professor Raymond Gillespie of Maynooth, Miriam Moffitt of Maynooth, and Dom Colmán Ó Clabaigh, a monk of Glenstal Abbey and a mediaeval historian.

This new book follows the success of Death and the Irish: a Miscellany (2016), and is the second volume in a series, ‘Birth, Marriage and Death among the Irish,’ exploring the institution of marriage in Ireland from the seventh century to the present day.

The book includes 80 papers or articles by 75 writers, who are scholars from a range of academic disciplines, including History, Art History, Celtic Studies, English Literature, Theology, Sociology, Archival Studies, and Folklore, along with practitioners working in both religious and humanist ministries.

Our short chapters reflect on Irish marriages over the centuries, both at home and among the Irish diaspora.

My two three-page contributions are:

15 – John Leslie, the ‘oldest bishop in Christendom’, and his eighteen-year-old wife (pp 50-52); and

47 – Four Victorian weddings and a funeral (pp 163-165).

But more about these at another time.

The other topics covered include: Early Irish marriage law; secrets of the mediaeval Irish bed; why romantic trysts in churches had become so common in the later Middle Ages; 16th century Irish court cases concerning impotence, drunkenness, and dowries; domestic violence in early modern Ireland; a case of bigamy among the Irish in 17th century Portugal; clandestine marriages; ‘mixed’ marriages; a runaway romance in mid-19th century Sydney; the 19th century honeymoon; murder at a wedding in Knocknamuckly in 1888; the tale of the aristocrat and the actress; marriages during World War I; marriage and the introduction of the children’s allowance; marriage divination; marriage in Irish folklore; weddings among Dublin’s 20th century Jewish community; desertion and divorce ‘Irish-style’; marriage among Presbyterian and Methodist communities in Ireland; weddings and the Travelling community; finding one’s future spouse in the Farmer’s Journal; the Woman’s Way guide to successful marriages in 1960s Ireland; humanist weddings; and the introduction of marriage equality.

And there is much more.

The publishers promise this anthology may yet become an indispensable resource for everyone interested in the social, cultural, religious and legal history of Ireland. They even say that perhaps we may never think of Irish marriage in the same way again.

‘Marriage and the Irish’ is edited by Professor Salvador Ryan of Maynooth and published by Wordwell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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