The changing natal mores of the Irish nation over the centuries

The changing natal mores of the Irish nation over the centuries
Birth and the Irish: a miscellany edited by Salvador Ryan (Worldwell,€25.00/£22.00)

Salvador Ryan is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. This new book completes a trilogy begun with Death and the Irish, (published in 2016 by Wordwell Books). The sequel, Marriage and the Irish, appeared in summer 2019. And now we are given Birth and the Irish, running to nearly 400 pages, into which he has gathered together some 78 contributions, of the most wonderful variety, celebrating and also exploring some darker corners too, among the customs and attitudes and beliefs of  the Irish nation over some 1,500 years.


When the book on marriage was complete, he realised there was a perfectly natural sequel. Realising he had to complete the trilogy he sent out an appeal for contributions. Of the 78 articles, the last discusses the Mother and Baby Home Report of 2021. This very essential piece rounds out the spectrum where Denis Casey provides an imaginative exploration of a short entry about the living birth of four calves to a cow in 657 in the Annals of Ulster. The beginning and end are wrapped around a most varied and insightful collection of essays. They head in many directions, and will provide stimulating encounters for many students, academics and indeed ordinary readers.

It would be both unfair and impossible to single out any particular one. A reviewer can only heartily commend the book to readers with interests in many topics. It is a vivid demonstration of just how vital the subjects of social, psychological and historical inquiry have become in Ireland.