Irish language

Countless fascinating stories are to be found on RTÉ's The History Show

CATRIONA CROWE: Catríona, a former Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland is a frequent guest on RTÉ’s The History Show and is never less than fascinating
Robert McMillen

Go mbeannaí Dia daoibh agus bhur gcéad míle fáilte isteach chuig the Bluffer’s Guide to Irish.

Last week, the Bluffer suggested we all should  spend our lives learning if we don’t ever want to be bored.

Now, the Bluffer is really interested in stair - history and the only programme on radio or TV he would never miss is RTÉ Radio One’s The History Show which goes out at 6pm every Sunday.

Presented by Myles Dungan, there is rarely a progamme without a “wow, I didn’t know that” moment and in subjects that might seem mind-numbingly tedious.

Take for instance, the cartlannaí - archivist  Catriona Crowe talking about an Bailiúchán Pinsean Seirbhíse Míleata - the Military Service Pensions Collection which on the face of it might put people into a coma but the Collection contains records of people who were casualties or the relatives of casualities in Éirí Amach na Cásca - the Easter Rising, Cogadh na Saoirse - the War of Independence and an Cogadh Cathartha - the Civil War.

These people would have to give detailed mionsonraí - details of what they did during the conflicts to a two-man jury who would decide whether they were ag inse bréaga - telling lies or not.

As Catriona says, the history of the Irish rógaire - chancer will be enhanced by this collection, but there were many more people who didn’t get pensions who were entitled to them but all their stories are fascinating.

(BTW, I am one of those people who think Catriona Crowe should run for the Presidency of Ireland!).

The range of subjects covered by The History Show is amazing. Recent  items have included the history of Indiaigh  Mheiriceá - America’s First Peoples, Maria Edgeworth, míolta leapa - bed bugs, the rise of poblachas na heite deise - right wing populism and fear of  vaimpírí - vampires.

One of the episodes I enjoyed most was how Irish people viewed ciotaí - left handedness and another on how Irish society and the medical and looked at homaighnéasachas - homosexuality.

The programme is great for getting to learn about people such as Margaret Bulkley, a Cork-woman a chaith a saol mar fhear - who lived her life as a man and was known as the famous mainlia - surgeon, James Barry, who  performed one of the first-known successful Caesarean sections, campaigned in éadan na sclábhaíochta - against slavery and ran a hospital for the wounded in Corfu during the Crimean War. Margaret/James later Inspector General in charge of British military hospitals.

What comes through a lot is the contribution Ireland made to Britain. Where would Britain be without Irish soldiers, navvies, scientists? 

To turn a phrase on its head, “the Irish? What did they ever do for us?”

A classic The History Show was just before Christmas when Alan Titley (my favourite academic), Cathy Scuffil and Paul Rouse talked knowledgeably and entertainingly about books on athletics, immigrants to Britain, genetics, Michael Collins and TG4.

The History Show podcasts are at


stair (starh) - history

cartlannaí (cartlaanee) -- archivist 

Bailiúchán Pinsean Seirbhíse Míleata (balyookhaan pinshin sheravisha meelata) -- the Military Service Pensions Collection 

Éirí Amach na Cásca (eree amakh na caska) -- the Easter Rising

Cogadh na Saoirse (cugoo ne seersha) -- the War of Independence

an Cogadh Cathartha (un cugoo caherha) -- the Civil War

ag inse bréaga (eg insha brayga) telling lies

rógaire (rawgera) - chancer

Indiaigh  Mheiriceá (injee-ee vericka) - America’s First Peoples

míolta leapa (meelta lapa) - bed bugs

poblachas na heite deise (publahiss na hetcha jesha) - right wing populism 

vaimpírí (vampeeree) - vampires

ciotaí (kitee) - left handedness

homaighnéasachas (homagraysahiss) - homosexuality

a chaith a saol mar fhear (a khy a seel mar aar) - who lived her life as a man 

mainlia (maanleea) - surgeon

in éadan na sclábhaíochta (in aydan na sclaoweeakhta) - against slavery

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