Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Redshank and His Pay

Gaelic Redshank (this is is by Angus McBride)

The above illustration is of a Gaelic warrior from the west Highlands and Islands.  These warriors were often call Redshanks.  They were a well known component of Irish armies in the 1500s.  Generally, the Redshanks, would travel to Ireland for employment under various Irish chiefs. It was a straight forward business arrangement.  They were mercenaries, but within the framework of traditional Gaelic society.  The Ó Neill and Ó Dónaill clans were the largest employers. Redshanks were popular among the Irish chiefs as they were elite troops and were more numerous than the famed Gallóglaigh. There are other factors that made them so popular, but I will post on that topic at a later time.  This short article will address the business aspect of the Redshanks. 

The Redshanks, traditionally, returned back to the Highlands and Islands after a campaign... however, this paradigm changed.  In the mid to late 1500s some of the Redshanks began to settle in parts of Ulster, especially in east Donegal and Tyrone, and in north Antrim. These Redshanks came from the same Gaelic clans as had the famous Gallóglaigh during the previous two centuries.  The Mac Leóid, Mac Giolla Eáin, Caimbeul, Mac Aodh, and related and allied families, supplied these Redshanks to the Irish chiefs.  Clann Chaimbeul was especially adapt at brokering Redshank deals with the Irish chiefs.   

Gaelic Scot drawn from life, de Heere 1570s

The Redshanks took service in Ulster and in other places in Europe for the money. Being a Redshank soldier was profitable. Most of the Redshanks came from Argyll, Lennox,  and the Hebrides, but some came from the west Scottish Lowlands. In the sixteenth century, during their heyday, the pay was good and grew in the second half of the century as the wars in Ulster between the Irish and the Elizabethan English grew in size and scope.

By 1575, a Redshank Consapal (constable or 'captain') was on the same pay-scale as a Gallóglaigh captain according to the Calendar of State Papers concerning Ireland.  The pay-scale during this time was on the increase because demand for Redshanks was greater than the supply.  In 1553, a Gallóglach received the equivalent of 4d (pence) per day, but by 1562 the pay had risen to 8d a day.  The Consapal received considerably higher wages.  This was done via deadpays, or the wages of a soldier in a córugud (company) that went consapal.  The standard córugud was 100 men on paper, but the actual number of men would normally be circa 87 and the pay of the absent men would go to the consapal as deadpays.    

The consapal received his pay and 13 addition soldiers' pay which was a substantial wage in that day.  The pay was received in a variety of ways. It could be cattle, or goods, or food, etc., or coin realm. If in coin realm there was considerable difference between pay in Scots coinage, Irish coinage, and English coinage.  Scots money in particular was considerably debased and worth much less than English money.  

Redshanks late 1500s
The Redshanks adopted the kilt, or féileadh, as part of the unique dress in the 1500s.  In 1595, Lughnaidh Ó Cléirigh described a troop of kilted Redshanks in County Derry in the service of the Ó Dónaill clan. Redshanks were in very high demand as the wars against the Elizabethan English escalated.  Here is an example of daily wages of soldier in the mid to late 1500s:

Captain 8s ($390)   
sub captain 4s ($192)
Leeche (medic) 4s ($192)
sergeant 1s ($48)
soldier 8d ($32)

For perspective, the yearly income of a country squire at this time was around 100 to 150 pounds.  A Redshank consapal could expect at least 72 pounds for a half year's work, plus would often have other benefits, such as a horse to ride, a pack horse, and arms, supplied to him.  This would put him on par with the gentry of his age.  A particularly well placed and successful Redshank consapal could earn more than this figure and rise to the ranks of an elevated country squire or more.

The Redshanks are a interesting aspect of Irish history, one that should be studied more.  They had a great impact on Irish society.  Their dialect of Gaelic influenced Ulster Irish and their descendants are still found in Ireland, easily recognised by their surnames.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Billy the Kid Was an Irish Speaker

Two years ago, my brother sent me an interesting magazine article on Billy the Kid.  The article was written by Chuck Usmar, a writer, historian, and scholar, on the life of Billy the Kid.  I learned from the article that Billy the Kid was a Gaelic speaker.  Usmar discovered this fact in reading primary sources which included interviews with people that knew Billy the Kid. 

There were a lot of Irish and Scottish immigrants on the frontier in those days and Gaelic speakers were common in the Old West.  This Gaelic heritage is still around of course.  For example, Butte, Montanan, had at one time a Gaelic language newspaper.  Eamon DeValera visited Butte in 1919 and Irish President Mary McAleese also visited there in 2006.  Butte today has a very active Gaelic language organization that sponsors yearly immersion Gaeltacht seminars for Gaelic language learners and speakers.  Personally, I can not imagine a better location to practice one's Gaeilge than Montana... cowboy culture, slow cooked barbecue beef, excellent beer and ale, beautiful mountains, dry cool air, and the opportunity to speak Gaelic.

Mining, railroads, homesteading, and ranching, brought many Irish immigrants to the West.  In Butte the large Irish population came mostly from Counties Cork, Wicklow, and Donegal.  In August each year Butte enjoys a large outdoor Irish festival. 

Irish Gaeltachtaí 1870 (Gaelic Speaking Areas)

But, back to Billy.  Billy the Kid's real name was Henry McCarty and he was born to an Irish immigrant family that lived in New York City on 17 September 1859.  His early years are still elusive to historians, much is known, but elements of his early life are still unknown.

By 1872 his family had moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico, and this is where the legend of Billy the Kid begins.  Billy was a good looking young man, he stood 5' 8" tall, had blond hair, and a smooth complexion.  And, he was drawn into an event called the Lincoln County Wars which involved cattle, land, water rights, and armed cowboys.  His history is well known, so I will not go into further detail, but will turn to his Gaelic language abilities now.

Three Rivers area, New Mexico

Billy sold cattle to another Irish immigrant, cattle rancher, business man, Pat Coghlan.  He was born in Clonakilly, County Cork in 1822 and arrived in New Mexico in 1874. Pat ran the Three Rivers Ranch which was located north of Tularosa, New Mexico.  It is a beautiful, wild, area, still to this day.  Billy often stayed at the Three Rivers Ranch because of his business connections with it.  Pat Coghlan had the US government contract to sell beef to Fort Stanton, where from there it was prepared and taken to the Mescalero Indian Reservation. 

Billy the Kid (to the left) on the Three Rivers Ranch, north of Tularosa

In the late 1870s Mary Coghlan, Pat's niece, came to live at the Three Rivers Ranch.  She came straight from Ireland and did not know English at all, her only language was Gaelic.  Pat Coghlan did not have enough Gaelic to speak with Mary and her having no English made for a difficult time.  Pat asked Billy the Kid to act as interpreter as Billy knew both languages fluently.  On interest, Billy could also speak fluent Spanish, so he was a handy man to have around.  Writer Chuck Usmar discovered Billy's Gaelic language ability while reading through interviews with people who knew the Coghlans and Billy.  It is another interesting piece of Old West lore.

© 2018 Barry R McCain

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Mi Dieta Paleo

the Ouachita Mountains © 2018 Barry R McCain

Estoy en la dieta Paleo durante siete días. Estoy haciendo esto como parte de mi projecto Neurogénesis, pero diré, me encanta cómo me hace sentir. Mi pensamiento es muy claro, mi memoria es muy buena. Tengo buenos niveles de energía. Es una buena cosa.  Un efecto secundario, perdí nueve libras en una semana. No tengo sobrepeso cuando comencé el protocolo ... sin embargo, ahora soy más refinado y más pequeño.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Banshee in America

County Meath

I often write about Celtic Faerie lore from a point of view of that lore that migrated to the New World along with the people of Ireland and Scotland.  There is very little academic literature on this topic and I have had to scratch and tear bits of data from what primary sources I can find... usually from a family's oral history.  One of the most resilient and enduring entities that appears in the New World is the Banshee.  This entity is known in both Canada and America from Colonial times to the present.  As a young boy, I heard tales of the Banshee, and this back in the 1950s. 

Banshee is a anglicised form of Bean Sí, which literally means Woman of Peace, and the inferred meaning is a Faerie Woman.  Bean Sí is said like the phonetic anglicised form, Banshee.  For you students of Gaelic grammar, Bean Sí is a non lenitied form.  Bean (woman) is a feminine noun and normally would take lenition, i.e. An Bhean, but it is an exception to the rule in this case.  A Faerie man is a Fear Sí.  

In Gaelic lore the Bean Sí is a Faerie woman, one of the Tuatha De Danann, who appears with fore knowledge of some important event.  Often the event is a death, but the Bean Sí can also be a portent of outrageous good fortune.  While the term Bean Sí means Faerie Woman, it has taken on an additional meaning in lore.  So a Bean Sí can specifically mean that female entity who is a harbinger of events or can just mean a generic Faerie woman.  

The Bean Sí is fairly well known in the New World in areas where people of Celtic ancestry have settled.  I am most familiar with them in the South and there are legends about them.  Many people in the past, and the present, have seen or heard a Bean Sí.  And, just in case you think a Bean Sí could not get any more spooky... there are legends of a Bean Sí going bad.

There is a type of Bean Sí who is called in Gaelic, a Baobhan Sí.  The Baobhan Sí is a murderous, often blood sucking, Faerie woman.  The Baobhan Sí appears as a beautiful, fair haired, woman, dressed in white.  In the South, there are dozens of stories about The White Woman. She is charming and uses spells to render the victim defenseless.  The Baobhan Sí uses her delicate hands, and sharp finger nails, to put deep cuts in her victim, and proceeds to feast on his blood.  Hunters are especially vulnerable, it is said, because she smells the blood on their hunting clothes. 

There are several variations of the lore concerning The White Woman, but they all involve the death of some unsuspecting man, lured to his demise, by a beautiful, young woman, dressed in white. 

A famous Bean Sí, inhabits the banks of the Tar River near Tarboro, Edgecombe County, North Carolina.  North Carolina was largely settled by Scots-Irish, Scots, and Irish, and it is no surprise to find a Bean Sí in that area.  The Tar River Bean Sí first appeared in 1781.  On this occasion she did so in the customary role as harbinger of a death, of Dave Warner, who was attacked and drowned, by British troops.  After the murder of Dave Warner, the soldiers were haunted.  The Bean Sí was heard keening (caoineadh to cry or weep) outside their quarters... and she told them that they would all soon be dead.  This came to pass when they were indeed killed in a skirmish with North Carolina militia.  The Bean Sí did not stop there, she was seen about the Tar River where Dave Warner had been killed and on occasion, her sorrowful wail has been heard. 

the Bean Sí

Another well known Bean Sí incident happened in Marrtown, West Virginia.  Thomas and Mary Marr with immigrants from Scotland and made a life for themselves in western Virginia, now in West Virginia.  Thomas on several occasions noticed a robed figure riding a white horse. The face of the rider was obscured by the hood of a cloak, so that he never had a clear view of the rider's face.  When he tried to approach the rider, the figure would disappear into the morning mists.  In February 1878, the white horse and rider approached the house of Mary Marr while her husband was away.  As the rider came close, Mary could see the face of a veiled woman, who spoke to Mary, 'I am here to tell you Mary Marr, that Thomas Mar has just died, Say your prayers, Lady, I bid you well.'   The Bean Sí made one more appearance upon Mary passing.  Mourners at the funeral heard the keening of a unseen woman. 

A Bean Sí normally follows a family, from generation to generation.  Occasionally, a Bean Sí will cross to water to follow the fate of her host family.  There are Bean Sí sightings from specific families in both America and Canada.  In the busy post modern world, with endless distractions devoid of heritage and culture... there are very few recent accounts of the Bean Sí.  Sadly, many people do not even know their ancestors and have lost connections with them.  For them, the continuum is broken. There are still families that have managed to keep their cultural continuum with their ancestors alive and for them the Bean Sí still lives.    

© 2018 Barry R McCain

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Omega 3s and Blueberries

Five months and two weeks, feeling well, in Bright Sun

El sol está brillando hoy. Tenemos un clima muy agradable.  Tá an ghrian ag soilsiú inniu. Tá aimsir an-deas againn.

I am five months and two weeks into recovery from two strokes I had in late September.  It has been an interesting road I have travelled in recovery.  As all stroke survivors and neurologists will tell you, every stroke is different and the recovery can be different as well.

I begin this blog post in Castellano and Gaeilge (Gaelic) as prior to my stroke I used both of these languages.  I could not use them, or English for that matter, after the strokes.  I had aphasia.  Aphasia is the inability to formulate and comprehend language due to an injury to the brain, in my case from a blot clot in the base of my brain.  Due to the correct decision being made by my son Conar and then the medical people attending me, the treatment and care I was given allowed me to recover well.  I would characterise the recovery as rapid. Within a couple of weeks my speech and language comprehension came back.  Three months into recovery I hit a plateau... but slowly, it is finally all coming back.  I can function again in three languages.  I focused, for obvious reasons, on English, but I am now spending more and more time, using Castellano and Gaeilge. 

Doing Well!
 In the last five months I have studied neurogenesis.  Neurogenesis is the process of birth of neurons generated from neural stem cells.  This is a new field of science.  As recently as 1998 the phenomenon was not known and in the old paradigm there was a belief that one could not grow new brain cells.  This was incorrect however.  In the last eighteen years the research on neurogenesis has made great progress.  The process is now well documented and there are methods and protocols in place that encourage the neurogenesis process.

In short, there are things one can do to greatly enhance brain function.  The neurologists have identified how to improve and increase neurogenesis and conversely, they know behaviours that decrease the process.  One's diet, nutrition, sleep habits, exercise, and other factors, greatly enhance and speed up neurogenesis.  These last few months I have consumed truck loads of Omega 3 fish oil supplements, blueberries, cold water fish, and other items to feed my old hippocampus.

Now this is good news for anyone with a brain injury, be it stroke, concussion, a head blow, and even age related cognition issues, such as Alzheimer's and dementia.  These medical issues can be treated and in some cases there is a complete recovery... and even recovery to the point of being better before the problem developed.  Alzheimer's for example, often is a form of Diabetes III, this type of Alzheimer's responds well to treatment.

back when the old beard was Red
Neurogenesis is a complex topic and is still a relatively new field of medical science.  Much too complex for me to write about it on my McCain's Corner blog.  I do encourage anyone interested to read on the topic.  There are some very good video talks and lectures on neurogenesis on Youtube.   A good place to start is with Dr Brant Cortright and Dr Sandrine Thuret.   This is good data to have even if you are in the pink and Bristol fashion... and just want to make sure the ole brain stays hummin' along.  It is in short, it is Good Stuff.

I gave myself six months to recover.  This is only two weeks away now.  I am doing well.  I am writing again and doing a lot of research reading, for my next projects.  I can say, with confidence; estoy de vuelta en la sillín de nuevo, el sillín del escritor que es.

the tea... Darjeeling, my fave

© 2018 Barry R McCain

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Béara In Faerie Lore

Walking up to the summit of Loughcrew
This photo taken on the same day that I had the strange experience at Loughcrew in County Meath, at Sliabh na Cailleach, which is the main hill at the site. Sliabh na Cailleach is the abode of Béara, who is a Bean Sí (faerie woman) and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  There is a passage tomb on top, in which at the equinox sunrise, the rays of the sun shine down and illuminate the inner chamber.  There are the graves of extremely ancient dead kings, queens, and warriors there.  The structure is 5,200 years old.  It was old before the Egyptian pyramids were built. 
Mound at Loughcrew
I give a full account of my strange and singular experience at Loughcrew in my book Finding the McCains.  The Celtic faeries that are found in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, are not your wee, cute type, of the Victorian era children's books.  They are tall, fair, powerful beings of light, and they are dangerous to be around.  Béara is or has become in legend, a primordial nature spirit and Queen of Winter.  She can appear as an old woman or as a beautiful young maiden, tall, fair, and dressed in green.  
Béara as the Cailleach (veiled woman)

Béara is known throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, the three traditional Gaelic homelands.  In Scotland, I have seen Béara spelled as Beura, often with the prefix Cailleach, i.e. Cailleach Bheura.  As with Ireland, Béara is associated with Winter and is known throughout Scotland, but her lore is perhaps most remembered in the parish of Kilmichael Glassary, in the Loch Awe area.  My own family, Clann Mhic Eáin, originated in that parish and I am quite sure they knew the lore of Béara.  It is perhaps more than a coincidence that my encounter with Béara took place upon her Sí (Faerie Mound) in County Meath. I did not even know her legend prior to my trip there and I think she was having a gesture with me.  

Ultimately, Béara goes back to our distant past and  she is linked to older lore.  We must remember that our contemporary myths come to us through a dark mist of the distant past.  It has been taboo to openly talk about our ancient European pre Christian faiths for many centuries.  I think Béara is linked to not only the Tuatha Dé Danann, but to our very early Celtic roots... and back to the Indo European past.  She has cognates and homologues in Ireland, the UK, and Europe, such as Epona and Frau Holle.  

It is even quite possible that Béara is a form of the Gaelic Étain, associated with Sun, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  Étain has another moniker, which is Eachraide, i.e. the Horse Rider, i.e Epona.  She is a Celtic goddess associated with the Indo-European myth of the Horse and with fertility.  The Horse in our early myths, and is a creation icon and a complex topic better left to another day.

Epona circa 250 AD Gaul

The old gods and demigods of our distant past have over the centuries taken on different forms and functions. In many cases they have been reduced from their former prominence to lesser beings, such as a Gruagach, a Glaistig or even the mountain Cailleach.

The Glasistig is a type of Gaelic Faerie known also as a Maighean Uaine (green maiden). Her appearance is that of a tall, young, woman, with fair hair, blue eyes, and dressed in green.  She is a tutelary faerie,  a protectoress of cattle, of herders and shepherds, she watches over children as the father and mother go about their daily work... she is the protector of the household.  The Glaistig in her tutelary form is certainly a homologue for older and more prominent beings, such as Béara.  In our Gaelic lore, we often encounter cognates and conflated forms of the Tuatha Dé Danann of the Old Faith. 

My current book that I am working on explores the world of the Faeries from the perspective of the Irish immigrants that settled in Colonial America in the early 1700s.  What did they believe about the Faeries?   Did they have concepts and beliefs that we recognise?  Can we see in their tutelary spirits and their entities of wood, field and mountain, a glimpse of older gods?   Let's find out...

© 2018 Barry R McCain

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Magh Gabhlin, Donegal, Castle of Iníon Dubh,

Magh Gaibhlin Castle on the Foyle (© 2018 Carolyn McKane)

Magh Gaibhlin is the land and castle of Fionnuala Ni Dhónaill née Nic Dhónaill... known in Irish history as Iníon Dubh (dark haired daughter).   She was a Scottish Gaelic princess by birth, the daughter of Seamus Mac Dhónaill of the Glens of Antrim and Islay, Taoiseach Chann Eáin Mhóir.  Her mother was Anna Mhic Dhónaill née Caimbeul, daughter of the third Earl of Argyll.   Iníon Dubh’s first cousin was none other than the fifth Earl of Argyll, the brilliant, Giolla Easpuig Donn Caimbeul.  Iníon Dubh and her family were part of the highest echelons of Gaelic aristocracy.  Her husband was Aodh Mac Manus Ó Dónaill, taoiseach of Clann Uí Dhónaill .   They were married in late summer 1569 on Rathlin Island, off the coast of Antrim. Iníon Dubh settled down in Magh Gaibhlin Castle, in what is now Porthall, Donegal.

The Calendar of State Papers for Ireland recorded her possessions and it reads:

From Cul-Mac-Tryan runs a bogg three myles in length to the side of Lough Foyle – in the midst of the bogg is a standing Loughe called Bunaber – here at Bunaber dwells O’Donnell’s mother (Ineed Dubh MacDonnell).  Three miles above Cargan stands a fort called McGevyvelin (Magh Gaibhlin) upon the river of Lough Foyle – O’Donnell’s mother’s chief house.

While some of these anglicised names are crude, the boundaries of Iníon Dubh's land can be easily located. The parcel of land was in the Portlough precinct which was an administrative district that corresponded to Taughboyne, All Saints, Raymoghy, and part of Raphoe parishes today.  The area comprises the heart of the Lagan District in Donegal.

A Redshank soldier 1590s © 2018 Dave Swift

Iníon Dubh went on to become one of the most important people in Ireland in the late 1500s.  She recruited an army of Gaelic Redshanks from mid-Argyll that settled on her estates around Magh Gaibhlin, from Porthall, north to StJohnston, to Carrigans.  These villages were on the Foyle River and her Redshank soldiers protected the river landings for the Ó Dónaill clan.  Iníon Dubh’s Redshank army was passionately loyal to her and they became the elite soldiers for Clann Uí Dhónaill.  She was the mother of Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill.  His vision and the work of his life, was to make Ireland free of English domination.  Aodh Rua used his army and considerable military skills to wage war on the Elizabethan English who were trying to conquer Ulster.  In 1592, Aodh Rua became taoiseach of Clann Uí Dhónaill, after his dramatic escape from the dungeons of Dublin Castle. He eventually made peace with his rivals, Clann Uí Neill, and formed an alliance with them. 

Aodh Mór Ó Neill and Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill led their combined forces against the Elizabethan English. The two Irish chiefs came so very close to defeating  the English and winning independence for Ireland in the Nine Years War (1593-1603).  At the Battle of Kinsale (1602 NS), all was lost however.   
There is a chapter in my book, Finding the McCains, were I give a history of Iníon Dubh.  I find her one of the most romantic and most tragic figures in Irish history.  Magh Gaibhlin Castle is in complete ruins now, just a forlorn memory of its past glory.  It is still has a quiet beauty that one finds often in Ireland.  Magh Gaibhlin is a haunted place, with a bitter sweet sadness to it.  I became interested in the castle and its history while researching my family's connection to Iníon Dubh and Magh Gaibhlin. 

© 2018 Barry R McCain