Families are welcome!

Gael Agus Gall are always looking for new members. We are especially keen to promote family membership, and as long as there are parents or guardians on site, the group allows members of all ages to participate.

If you would like some more information about the group, send an email to us and we will get back to you with details.

See you on site!

Living History... his story

You Wooden Believe It...

Declan Kenny

I have threatened for some time now to try and shed some light on that strange hobby that I indulge in called historical re-enactment. This website is as good a place as any to do so, so let's get to the heart of the matter and explain why a session of dressing up should certainly be recommended for everyone at least once in their lifetime. The traditional Irish dress of the well-to-do in Gaelic Ireland from a thousand years ago consisted of a knee-length linen leine, or tunic, and brat, which was a woolen cloak that could be wrapped around the body several times (the longer the cloak, the more wealthy the wearer).

As a man, this probably translates as your only chance to be seen in a frock, unless you're a transvestite or a priest.

The feeling of contentment after a day on site in your 10th Century kit is hard to describe. Not least, the arches of your feet are going to discover muscles hitherto unfound as you wander about in soft leather shoes. There is also an “attached-to-the-earth” quality that can only be achieved by giving your feet a chance to feel the natural contours of the ground.

I know if my Dad was reading this, he would remind me of his childhood days spent in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains when his mother would keep them home from school (and the required five mile cross-country walk) if their shoes were “letting in”. In fact, not unlike what I might be found doing of an evening with my historical reproduction footwear, my paternal grandfather would have a spare piece of leather for on-the-spot shoe repair. I think (unconfirmed as of yet) that my Dad finds my hobby a little unusual. Having said that, I might get him into kit one of these days. My role in the group is a wood-turner, and I have recently fashioned a reasonably accurate pole-lathe in order to demonstrate my craft. I know my father is keen wood-worker, so that, coupled with the fact that we occasionally get to travel to interesting venues, means it should only be a matter of time before we see him on site.

The purpose of this strange activity is to portray life from a given period in history to the public. Our group, Gael Agus Gall, focus on Irish history from a time frame known as The Viking Age, which roughly translates as 795 A.D. to, in our case, 1014 A.D. - the Battle of Clontarf, a notably misconstrued event in Irish history. The displays of crafts are ideal for a hands-on approach to explaining a range of questions: what did we eat? what did we wear and how did we make clothes? what were the houses like? The public will of course get into the swing of things, and will also ask some strange questions.

On the whole, I have found children to be the most inquisitive once they get over the initial concern at the broadsword strapped to your side. I was once beaten by a young boy at hnefatafl - a board game of Norse origin - and this after only explaining the rules in brief five minutes previously! Kids are without shame and will ask the most pertinent questions, like what did a Viking use to wipe his bottom, amongst others.

It is the older generations who rarely fail to amuse and astound with their range of enquiries. Mary, who handles the food display, is frequently asked “if we had eggs back then...”

This applies to other foodstuffs, like mushrooms, bread and cheese.

However, the best I have heard to date came from a show in England when one re-enactor, spotted carving a piece of timber, was asked the immortal line:

“Did they have wood in those days?”

We do have to be careful of course. Just when you think you can relax and enjoy the day without too much of your mind occupied with the finer points of leather tanning, a perfectly normal looking lady will casually ask you what is the best mordant to use if you're dyeing with woad!

You might also be told that the antler you have carefully carved into a knife handle is from the Fallow Deer, and not the Red Deer, and is hence probably not quite right for our time frame.

Little moments like this keep you on your toes.