Tag Archives: Bob Curran

Beware of Fakelore!

This is an old blog post I have decided to republish for Halloween.

We are getting ready for Hallowe’en here. It is one of my favourite festivals of the year. To our Celtic ancestors, it was Samhain, the end of summer, the Celtic New Year. (Pronounced sow-inn, with the sow part as in female pig, not Sam-hain as in the way Donald Pleasance mangles it in the film.) Because the Celts believed in the importance of liminality, of the edges between realities, they believed that this festival night between one year and the next was somehow outside of ordinary time. It was therefore a gateway which allowed worlds to bleed into each other. On this night alone, the dead were able to return to the places they loved in this world.

I love folklore and tradition. I have no problem with traditions that grow and change (ever tried carving a turnip? – believe me, pumpkins are a lot easier and the result is much better!)

Vampires and monsters are fun, and the Irish have given many such stories to the world. Le Fanu and Stoker virtually created the modern vampire tradition, Le Fanu was a major influence on MR James, the greatest ghost-story writer of all time. Even Frankenstein has a brief incident set on the Irish coast.

However, while we should cherish our folklore, we should avoid fakelore. For example, Cassidy himself claimed that the Hoodoo comes from a distinctively Irish supernatural being called the uath dubh. The only problem is that the uath dubh does not exist in Irish folklore. There is no such thing.

Likewise, people like Bob Curran and Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne are responsible for a lot of sloppy research which makes untenable claims about Irish tradition. There is now a sizeable body of material floating around on the internet about the Irish origins of vampire folklore. But when we examine these claims, we find that there is no evidence for any of the paradigm-changing material.

For example, it is claimed that the villain of a County Derry story, Ábhartach, drank blood when he returned from the dead and that he was a described as a neamh-mharbh and as a dearg-diúlaí. Patrick Weston Joyce tells the story in his book but he doesn’t mention blood-drinking or the spurious Irish terms above.

There is also the claim that a book was displayed in Trinity College when Stoker was there containing references to Irish vampirism. In Brian Earls’s sensible and restrained article in the Dublin Review of Books (http://www.drb.ie/essays/blood-relations), this is stated to have been a copy of Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, which has an account of revenants in book one, chapter ten, but the revenants don’t drink blood and are referred to as ‘the dead’ (na mairbh) or ‘bodies’ (coirp). Other accounts claim that the book gives an account of the legend of Ábhartach (which it doesn’t) or that it uses words like neamh-mharbh and dearg-diúlaí (which it doesn’t). The most bizarre version is in an article in Ireland of the Welcomes: “Owen Harding says there was a manuscript published about this legend from an anonymous writer. It was entitled The Abhartach, Dreach-Fhoula. This document was exhibited up till 1868 in none other than Trinity College which Stoker attended. So is it likely that Stoker used this story to base his novel on? Harding believes it is.”

Another weird piece of fakelore is the Dearg-Due, or Dearg-Dul, or Derrick-Dally, or Dearg-Diúlaí (sic). According to some sources, this is an ancient Irish vampire. However, the evidence for any of this is very, very weak. The earliest reference I can find to a dearg-dul is a 1928 book on vampires, Vampires, Their Kith and Kin (later republished as The Vampire in Europe) by a bizarre character called Montague Summers. He certainly mentions the dearg-dul. He says, simply, “In Ancient Ireland the Vampire was known simply as dearg-dul, “red blood sucker”, and his ravages were universally feared.” Another account of this creature is said (by Haining and Tremayne) to be found in the Irish Monthly Review of 1874, but none of those who quote this source has ever actually found the reference or provided any account of what the article says, or even if it exists. It seems to me that this is probably derived from the Irish deargadaol (Devil’s coach-horse), originally known as a darbdael or darb-dóel. In the former spelling, it occurs as early as the Book of Ballymote of 1391. The deargadaol is not red and is not a vampire. In fact, it is black. The word is formed from the two words doirb (a water beetle) and daol (a beetle), and this was later corrupted to Dearg-Daol or Deargadaol. Pádraig Pearse wrote a short story (published in 1916) called An Dearg-Daol, which concerns a woman who has been cursed from the pulpit by a priest for some unknown sin, and who is known as the Dearg-Daol because it is one of the three cursed creatures (the other two are the viper and the wren, presumably because of its propensity for marine pollution ….) I suspect that dearg-due arose from poor handwriting – many people write an l like an e and they are easy to confuse. It also seems to me that forms like Dearg-Diúlaí are attempts to explain this word by people with little or no Irish. They are very improbable. Dearg doesn’t mean blood, and why wouldn’t it be dearg-dhiúlaí (jarrig-yoolee) anyway?

Another problem is the absurd claim that Dracula derives from various ‘Irish’ phrases like Droch-fhoula or Droch-fhola or Dreach-fhola. Droch-fhoula obviously isn’t Irish, because there is no ‘ou’ in Irish orthography. Drochfhola is Irish for ‘of bad blood’ but words in the genitive can’t stand on their own in Irish, so it doesn’t really make sense. The Dreach-fhola is another strange one. Dreach is a masculine noun so it should be Dreach Fola (It is I, Count Draffola??!!) However, this is supposed to be from a lecture delivered by a man called Ó Súilleabháin, the head of the Irish Folklore Commission, who supposedly mentioned a castle called Dún Dreach-Fhola in Magillicuddy’s Reeks inhabited by blood-drinking fairies. But there is no written record of this, not in his writings or anyone else’s. And there is no doubt about the link between Dracula and Transylvania in Bram Stoker’s book.

Please note here that I am not criticising ordinary bloggers or commentators who have repeated these claims in good faith (though I do think people like Bob Curran, Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne deserve to be criticised). There is a difference between Cassidy’s supporters and these people. Cassidy’s supporters are championing a hoax which arose because of one man’s arrogance and dishonesty. It was discredited as soon as it came out, and those who support Cassidy have chosen to ignore the facts because of egoism and stupidity. The mess we find in relation to vampirism and Irish folklore comes from lots of different sources. Arguably nobody has deliberately lied about this stuff (with the possible exception of Owen Harding and Bob Curran.) These errors have arisen largely as a result of bad referencing, bad research, bad copying, accuracy slip and certainty creep, extreme gullibility, Chinese whispers and even bad handwriting.

Podchraoltaí Motherfoclóir

Níos luaithe sa bhliain, scríobh mé postáil faoin leabhar Motherfocloir. Sa phostáil sin, dúirt mé go raibh mé i bhfách le leabhar Dharaigh Uí Shéaghdha faoin Ghaeilge, ar an iomlán, ach mhothaigh mé go raibh an leabhar le cáineadh as taighde sleamchúiseach a bhí ann.

Ar na mallaibh, bhí mé ag éisteacht le roinnt podchraoltaí le Ó Séaghdha agus le foireann Motherfocloir. An chéad cheann ar éist mé leis, bhí sé bunaithe ar théama na Samhna, podchraoladh darbh ainm The Vampirish For. Is féidir leat é a aimsiú anseo: https://player.fm/series/motherfocloir/ep-62-62-the-vampirish-for

Thosaigh an podchraoladh seo go maith. Cháin sé cuid den amaidí a maíodh faoi bhunús an ainm Dracula, agus shéan sé an nasc leis an fhrása Gaeilge ‘Drochfhola’. Bréagnaíonn sé an teoiric seo agus deir sé nach bhfuil ann ach cacamas. Tá an méid sin ceart.

Agus sin ráite, léiríonn an podchraoladh an easpa céille agus taighde a d’fhág an leabhar chomh leamh sin. Phléigh mé na bréagtheoiricí faoi Abhartach, taoiseach agus vaimpír (mar dhea), a bhí ina chónaí i gceantar sléibhtiúil Dhoire fadó. Mar a scríobh mé roimhe seo, san fhíorscéal a scríobhadh faoi Abhartach, d’éirigh Abhartach ó na mairbh. Ina dhiaidh sin, maraítear le claíomh iúir é agus adhlacadh bun os cionn é agus carraig mhór os a chionn.

Tuairim is fiche bliain ó shin, cumadh leagan athbhreithnitheach den scéal seo. Sa leagan sin, d’éiligh Abhartach ar a phobal babhla fola a thabhairt dó agus dúradh gur neamh-mhairbh agus dearg-diúlaí é.

Mar sin de, tá an píosa seo faoi Abhartach ar phodchraoladh Uí Shéaghdha a bheag nó a mhór chomh holc leis an chuid den leabhar a bhaineann leis an tsanasaíocht. Bréagnaítear píosa amháin amaidí, agus ansin tugtar léar mór amaidí eile a tógadh ó fhoinsí neamhiontaofa gan an iarracht is lú an fhírinne a chinntiú. Lena cheart a thabhairt do Dharach Ó Séaghdha, ní eisean a insíonn an scéal seo ach aoi ar an phodchraoladh. Is dócha gur thóg an duine seo an chuid is mó den raiméis seo as Wikipedia, a bhfuil alt measartha fada ann faoi Abhartach. Tá sé inchreidte go leor ar an chéad dul síos, ach d’aithneodh duine ar bith a bhfuil ciall dá laghad aige gan mhoill go bhfuil sé chomh lán poll le píosa cáise ón Eilbhéis.

Rud amháin, maíonn sé gur léachtóir le Stair agus Béalóideas na gCeilteach é Bob Curran ag Ollscoil Uladh. Níl a leithéid de roinn ann in Ollscoil Uladh. Creidim gur síceolaí leanaí an ghairm atá aige agus deirtear liom nach léachtóir a bhí ann riamh, cé go bhfuil seans maith ann go raibh ranganna oíche á dteagasc aige. Ní irisleabhar piarmheasúnaithe é History Ireland. Is leor alt Curran ar vaimpírí a léamh leis an méid sin a thuiscint.

Ní hamháin sin, ach chuirfinn geall nach ndearna an PSNI cinneadh riamh séadchomhartha náisiúnta a thochailt le dúnmharú sa cheantar a réiteach, agus de réir Curran, gearradh lámh duine nuair a bhris sábh slabhrach agus daoine ag iarraidh an sceach a ghearradh. Sa phíosa fantaisíochta seo, gearrtar an lámh iomlán den duine de dheasca mhallacht Abhartaigh! Tchí Dia do chiall má chreideann tú sin!

Ar ndóigh, ní chreidim féin gur fíordhuine a bhí in Abhartach. Ach ní hé sin an fhadhb. Seo an fhadhb – is rud spéisiúil é an béaloideas, agus ábhar fiúntach staidéir, a bhfuil modhanna dá chuid féin aige. Níl scéalta a mhaisiú agus cumadóireacht a dhéanamh leis an scéal a ‘fheabhsú’ i measc na modhanna sin. I scéal Patrick Weston Joyce, fuair Abhartach bás agus d’éirigh sé ó na mairbh and bhí orthu cleasaíocht osnádúrtha a  úsáid lena chur chun báis arís. Ní vaimpír a bhí ann. Tuairim is fiche bliain ó shin, rinneadh vaimpír d’Abhartach go tobann cionn is gur scríobh Peter Haining agus Peter Tremayne agus Bob Curran gur vaimpír a bhí ann. (An Peter Haining céanna a scríobh leabhar faoi Sweeney Todd agus a mhaígh gur charachtar stairiúil a bhí ann!) Ach cad chuige a ndúirt siad gur vaimpír a bhí ann? Cá has ar tháinig sin? Cá bhfuil an tagairt, cá bhfuil an fhianaise? Go dtí go bhfeicim rud éigin ó scéal béaloidis nó ó irisleabhar nó ó leabhar a bhí ann sula raibh na húdair sin i mbun pinn, is taibhse é Abhartach, ní vaimpír. Sin an rud atá scríofa sa bhunscéal.

Agus lena rá go hionraic, más amhlaidh nach vaimpír a bhí ann, níl baint ná páirt aige le Dracula.

Bhí rudaí eile ann a bhí níos amaidí ná sin. De réir an duine a d’inis an scéal, ní raibh aon leabhair ar an Trasalváin ag Stoker agus ní raibh tagairt ar bith do Vlad Dracul ina chuid nótaí. Amaidí! Chóipeáil Stoker roinnt eolais ó An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia le William Wilkinson faoi Vlad III. Chomh maith leis sin, tá an chéad chuid den leabhar suite sa Trasalváin agus is ríléir sa leabhar nach Gael é Dracula ach comhthíreach le Vlad III. Agus más fíor go raibh cóip de Stair na hÉireann le PW Joyce ina leabharlann ag Stoker, ní bhaineann sin le hábhar, mar níl aon tagairt d’Abhartach ná do vaimpír Gaelach ar bith eile sa leabhar sin.

Má bhí an podchraoladh sin go holc, bhí an dara ceann níos measa. Thig leat é a aimsiú anseo: https://www.headstuff.org/motherfocloir/45-2-mailbag-2-furious/

Dúirt an cur síos gur clár speisialta le post agus ríomhphoist a fhreagairt, agus go bpléifi tionchar Daniel Cassidy ann. Bhí mise ar bís le héisteacht leis, ar ndóigh.

I ndiaidh cúpla nóiméad den phodchraoladh, luaitear duine anaithnid a scríobhann go bhfuil dúil aige sa leabhar agus sa phodchraoladh de Motherfocloir agus go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh giota beag Gaeilge a fhoghlaim le bliain anuas. Deir sé fosta gur scríbhneoir agus ceoltóir é ó Nua-Eabhrac agus is iad TW cinnlitreacha a ainm. Chomh maith leis sin, luann sé postáil a scríobh sé faoi Daniel Cassidy sa bhliain 2007. Deir sé go bhfuil cnámh spáirne amháin aige, is é sin, an dóigh a ndearna an leabhar beag is fiú de theoiric réabhlóideach Cassidy faoi bhunús Gaeilge an bhéarlagair. Ó na sonraí a tugadh, is léir gur éigsín leamh darb ainm Terence Winch atá ann.

Tá Winch cosúil leis na liúdramáin phoimpéiseacha eile a thugann tacaíocht do Cassidy. “I am not sure all his examples would hold up to academic scrutiny but that does not mean to say that his overall theory is completely flawed.” Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, tá Winch ag dul a chur neamhshuim san fhianaise uilig a tugadh ar an bhlag seo agus in áiteanna eile, mar go gcreideann seisean nach bhfuil ann ach go ndearna Cassidy corrmheancóg, go bhfuil na teangeolaithe gairmiúla ‘ag díol an asail leis an adhastar’. Is é fírinne an scéil nach bhfuil á dhíol i leabhar Cassidy ach carn de chac asail. Tá sanasaíochtaí Cassidy scrúdaithe go mion agam anseo agus thaispeáin mé cad chuige nach bhfuil iontu ach caimiléireacht. Tá fáilte roimh Winch an dúshlán a fhreagairt a chuir mé roimh dhaoine eile a shíleann go raibh an ceart ag Cassidy. An dtig leat deich bhfocal a aimsiú ó shaothar Cassidy a ndearna Cassidy cás éifeachtach ar a son (i. cinn ina bhfuil an leagan Gaeilge ann agus nach bhfuil míniú níos fearr ar fáil sa Bhéarla nó i dteanga éigin eile)? Ádh mór leis an cheann sin!

Chuir freagra Dharach Uí Shéaghdha ar Terence Winch díomá orm. Teanga-liom-leatachas neamhleithscéalach a bhí ann. Sa leabhar Motherfocloir, cháin Ó Séaghdha leabhar Cassidy (sular imigh sé féin go Tír na nÓg leanbaí na mbréagshanasaíochta.) Ina fhreagra ar Winch ar an phodchraoladh, deir sé gur baisteadh Andrew Wakefield na teangeolaíochta ar Cassidy. Níl a fhios agam cé a dúirt sin, ach aontaím leis go hiomlán. (Ach amháin, b’fhéidir, gur fíordhochtúir a bhí in Wakefield, go dtí gur baineadh de liosta na ndochtúirí é. Ní raibh cáilíochtaí ar bith ag Cassidy riamh.)

Leanann Ó Séaghdha leis ansin agus deir sé nach raibh ann ach go ndearna Cassidy meancóga agus tá sé sin go breá agus is deacair aige an nimh atá san fheoil ag daoine maidir le Cassidy a thuiscint agus gur bréag a rá gur caimiléir nó cleasaí a bhí in Cassidy. Sílim gur léir ón méid sin nár léigh Ó Séaghdha mórán den bhlag seo riamh. Tá amhras orm gur léigh sé leabhar Cassidy riamh ach oiread, mar go n-áitíonn sé gur dhóigh le Cassidy gur tháinig an focal jazz sa Bhéarla ón fhocal Gaeilge deas. Dá mbeadh an leabhar léite aige mar is ceart, bheadh a fhios aige gur mhaígh Cassidy gurbh ón fhocal teas a tháinig sé, ach leis an scéal a dhéanamh níos casta, chreid Cassidy gur fuaimníodh teas mar ‘deas’ i nGaeilge Chúige Uladh, faisnéis a fuair sé ón fhoinse ab ansa lena chroí, a thóin féin.

Is mór agus is rómhór an dul amú a bhí ar Ó Séaghdha maidir le mí-ionracas Cassidy. Chaith Cassidy dhá bhliain déag ag ‘obair’ mar ollamh ollscoile, a bhuíochas don ‘oideachas’ a fuair sé ag Cornell agus Columbia. Mar a d’inis a dheirfiúr dom (agus dhearbhaigh cláraitheoir Columbia an fhíric sin ina diaidh), theip ar Cassidy céim a fháil ó Cornell agus níor fhreastail sé riamh ar Columbia. Fiú cairde agus lucht leanúna Cassidy, ní dhearna siad iarracht ar bith na fíricí seo a bhréagnú agus níor thug siad aon fhíricí a bhréagnódh iad nó aon leithscéalta as mí-iompar coirpeach Cassidy.

Agus sin ráite, is é an leabhar féin an fhianaise is mó a dhamnaíonn Cassidy. Na sainmhínithe ‘Gaeilge’ a thug Cassidy, rinneadh iad a shamhlú, a athscríobh, a chóipeáil go mícheart agus cumadh bríonna ‘fáithchiallacha’. Chum Cassidy na céadta frása a bhí go huile abus go hiomlán bréagach.

Sin an fáth (nó ceann de na fáthanna) a bhfuil an méid atá le rá ag Winch chomh hamaideach sin. De réir cosúlachta, tá Winch ag cur i gcéill go bhfuil na teangeolaithe ag iarraidh bheith cadránta deacair (cionn is go mothaíonn siad ‘faoi bhagairt’ ag Cassidy), cionn is go ndiúltaíonn siad glacadh le sanasaíochtaí amaideacha Cassidy cionn is nach bhfuil aon fhianaise chomhaimseartha gur thrasnaigh na frásaí seo idir an Ghaeilge agus béarlagair an Bhéarla. Ní hé sin an cheist.

Is é seo an cheist. Diúltaíonn teangeolaithe agus lucht sanasaíochta glacadh le bunús na bhfrásaí ‘Gaeilge’ a mhol Cassidy, ní cionn is nach bhfuil fianaise ann gur thrasnaigh siad ón Ghaeilge go Béarla, ach cionn is nach bhfuil fianaise ar bith ann gur Gaeilge iad.

Níor mhaígh duine ar bith gurb ionann béal ónna agus amaidí sa Ghaeilge go dtí gur chum Cassidy é, níor úsáid duine ar bith comhroghna leis an chiall cara nó comrádaí, níl foluach ann mar dhóigh le hamhantar a rá, is fantaisíocht lom iad leathluí géag agus liú lúith agus gus óil agus sách úr agus píosa theas agus na céadta píosa raiméise i leabhar Cassidy. Níor thug Cassidy fianaise dá laghad go bhfuil cuid ar bith den raiméis seo fíor agus níor chóir do theangeolaithe a gcuid ama a chur amú ar an rámhaille mí-ionraic na geilte seo.

Ba chóir go dtuigfeadh Terence Winch an méid seo, mar scríobh mise postáil ar an bhlag seo mar fhreagra ar an phostáil a scríobh sé in 2007 agus ag míniú nach raibh ach caimiléireacht sna samplaí uilig a luaigh sé ó shaothar Cassidy. Ní hamháin sin, ach chuir mé ina leith nach raibh ann ach comhchoirí i mí-ionracas Cassidy. B’fhéidir nár ghúgláil sé a ainm féin riamh ach … ní chreidim sin! Is léir nach bhfuil sé réidh éirí as an raiméis seo. Thig leat an phostáil sin a léamh anseo: https://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/tag/terence-winch/

Tá rud amháin eile a chuir isteach orm anseo. Sa phodchraoladh chéanna inar pléadh raiméis Winch, pléadh daoine gan Ghaeilge a mhílitríonn ainmneacha Gaeilge agus a fhágann na sínte fada ar lár. Sin rud a chuireann isteach ormsa fosta, ach is dóigh liom gurb aisteach an mhaise dóibh gearán a dhéanamh faoi sin cionn is go léiríonn sé easpa measa ar na Gaeil agus ar ár bhféiniúlacht, ach, san am chéanna, ar an phodchraoladh chéanna, deirtear nach bhfuil rud ar bith cearr le Poncán randamach éigin nár fhoghlaim an teanga riamh, a chum na céadta frása bréige ‘Gaeilge’ agus a rinne iarracht a mhaíomh gur fíorGhaeilge a bhí ann.

Níl sé maith go leor. Is masla é don chultúr agus don teanga agus don fhéiniúlacht s’againne, agus ba chóir a rá go neamhbhalbh le liúdramáin ar nós Terence Winch gur chóir díospóireachtaí intleachtúla a dhéanamh bunaithe ar an fhianaise, agus ní ar an bhonn gur cara maith le cara de chuid Terence Winch a bhí in Cassidy nó go bhfuil cairde Cassidy ar liosta Chártaí Nollag Terence Winch.

Agus sin ráite, tá súil agam nach dtógfaidh mo chairde Meiriceánacha (daoine modhúla, éirimiúla, réasúnta) orm é má deirim go bhfuil a thuilleadh ag baint leis seo. Dar liomsa, tá féith nimhiúil díomais i gcultúr nua-aoiseach Mheiriceá. Tháinig mé ar alt spéisiúil le Tom Nichols atá ag teacht go maith leis an teoiric sin: (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-real-reason-americans-cant-agree-on-unemployment-or-just-about-anything-else-2017-03-29):

“This isn’t just human nature, but the result of a narcissism that took root in American society after the 1960s and has been growing ever since. Surrounded by affluence, enabled by the internet, and empowered by an educational system that prizes self-esteem over achievement, Americans have become more opinionated even as they have become less informed, and are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything.”

Seo go díreach an rud atá ag tarlú anseo, dar liomsa. Níl mórán measa ag daoine i gcultúr na Stát Aontaithe na laethanta seo ar an chumas a admháil go ndearna tú meancóg, agus ní spéis le leithéidí Winch an fhírinne a chluinstin má chiallaíonn an fhírinne go gcaithfidh siad a admháil gur cuireadh dallamullóg orthu.

Bíodh seo fíor nó ná bíodh, rud amháin a léiríonn na podchraoltaí seo go ríshoiléir ná, a luaithe agus a scaoiltear méimeanna bréige mar seo amach sa tsaol mhór, tá sé beagnach dodhéanta iad a stopadh den ruaig a chur ar an fhírinne. Is é sin an fáth a raibh iompraíocht na Rubberbandits chomh míréasúnta ceanndána sin maidir leis an liosta sanasaíochtaí bréige a scaoil siad ar na meáin shóisialta. A luaithe agus a scaoiltear an ghinid as an bhuidéal, nó a ligtear d’Abhartach imeacht as a thuama le fuil a dhiúgadh, ní féidir iad a chur ar ais arís. Bréaga a bhfuil scéal maith ar a gcúl, sáróidh siad an fhírinne i gcónaí. Tá Motherfocloir in áit mhaith le hiarracht a dhéanamh cuid de na bréaga seo a stopadh. Ina áit sin, mar gheall ar dhrochthaighde agus falsacht intleachtúil agus an eagla atá orthu dul i ngleic leis an fhadhb go cróga agus olc a chur ar leantóirí díomasacha Cassidy mar Terence Winch, tá siad ag cuidiú leis an chaimiléireacht gan mhaith seo a leathadh in áit a dhúshlán a thabhairt mar is ceart.

Beware of Fakelore!

We are getting ready for Hallowe’en here. It is one of my favourite festivals of the year. To our Celtic ancestors, it was Samhain, the end of summer, the Celtic New Year. Because the Celts believed in the importance of liminality, of the edges between realities, they believed that this festival night between one year and the next was somehow outside of ordinary time. It was therefore a gateway which allowed worlds to bleed into each other. On this night alone, the dead were able to return to the places they loved in this world.

I love folklore and tradition. I have no problem with traditions that grow and change (ever tried carving a turnip? – believe me, pumpkins are a lot easier and the result is much better!)

Vampires and monsters are fun, and the Irish have given many such stories to the world. Le Fanu and Stoker virtually created the modern vampire tradition, Le Fanu was a major influence on MR James, the greatest ghost-story writer of all time. Even Frankenstein has a brief incident set on the Irish coast.

However, while we should cherish our folklore, we should avoid fakelore. For example, Cassidy himself claimed that the Hoodoo comes from a distinctively Irish supernatural being called the uath dubh. The only problem is that the uath dubh does not exist in Irish folklore. There is no such thing.

Likewise, people like Bob Curran and Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne are responsible for a lot of sloppy research which makes untenable claims about Irish tradition. There is now a sizeable body of material floating around on the internet about the Irish origins of vampire folklore. But when we examine these claims, we find that there is no evidence for any of the paradigm-changing material.

For example, it is claimed that the villain of a County Derry story, Ábhartach, drank blood when he returned from the dead and that he was a described as a neamh-mharbh and as a dearg-diúlaí. Patrick Weston Joyce tells the story in his book but he doesn’t mention blood-drinking or the spurious Irish terms above.

There is also the claim that a book was displayed in Trinity College when Stoker was there containing references to Irish vampirism. In Brian Earls’s sensible and restrained article in the Dublin Review of Books (http://www.drb.ie/essays/blood-relations), this is stated to have been a copy of Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, which has an account of revenants in book one, chapter ten, but the revenants don’t drink blood and are referred to as ‘the dead’ (na mairbh) or ‘bodies’ (coirp). Other accounts claim that the book gives an account of the legend of Ábhartach (which it doesn’t) or that it uses words like neamh-mharbh and dearg-diúlaí (which it doesn’t). The most bizarre version is in an article in Ireland of the Welcomes: “Owen Harding says there was a manuscript published about this legend from an anonymous writer. It was entitled The Abhartach, Dreach-Fhoula. This document was exhibited up till 1868 in none other than Trinity College which Stoker attended. So is it likely that Stoker used this story to base his novel on? Harding believes it is.”

Another weird piece of fakelore is the Dearg-Due, or Dearg-Dul, or Derrick-Dally, or Dearg-Diúlaí (sic). According to some sources, this is an ancient Irish vampire. However, the evidence for any of this is very, very weak. The earliest reference I can find to a dearg-dul is a 1928 book on vampires, Vampires, Their Kith and Kin (later republished as The Vampire in Europe) by a bizarre character called Montague Summers. He certainly mentions the dearg-dul. He says, simply, “In Ancient Ireland the Vampire was known simply as dearg-dul, “red blood sucker”, and his ravages were universally feared.” Another account of this creature is said (by Haining and Tremayne) to be found in the Irish Monthly Review of 1874, but none of those who quote this source has ever actually found the reference or provided any account of what the article says, or even if it exists. It seems to me that this is probably derived from the Irish deargadaol (Devil’s coach-horse), originally known as a darbdael or darb-dóel. In the former spelling, it occurs as early as the Book of Ballymote of 1391. The deargadaol is not red and is not a vampire. In fact, it is black. The word is formed from the two words doirb (a water beetle) and daol (a beetle), and this was later corrupted to Dearg-Daol or Deargadaol. Pádraig Pearse wrote a short story (published in 1916) called An Dearg-Daol, which concerns a woman who has been cursed from the pulpit by a priest for some unknown sin, and who is known as the Dearg-Daol because it is one of the three cursed creatures (the other two are the viper and the wren, presumably because of its propensity for marine pollution ….) I suspect that dearg-due arose from poor handwriting – many people write an l like an e and they are easy to confuse. It also seems to me that forms like Dearg-Diúlaí are attempts to explain this word by people with little or no Irish. They are very improbable. Dearg doesn’t mean blood, and why wouldn’t it be dearg-dhiúlaí (jarrig-yoolee) anyway?

Another problem is the absurd claim that Dracula derives from various ‘Irish’ phrases like Droch-fhoula or Droch-fhola or Dreach-fhola. Droch-fhoula obviously isn’t Irish, because there is no ‘ou’ in Irish orthography. Drochfhola is Irish for ‘of bad blood’ but words in the genitive can’t stand on their own in Irish, so it doesn’t really make sense. The Dreach-fhola is another strange one. Dreach is a masculine noun so it should be Dreach Fola (It is I, Count Draffola??!!) However, this is supposed to be from a lecture delivered by a man called Ó Súilleabháin, the head of the Irish Folklore Commission, who supposedly mentioned a castle called Dún Dreach-Fhola in Magillicuddy’s Reeks inhabited by blood-drinking fairies. But there is no written record of this, not in his writings or anyone else’s. And there is no doubt about the link between Dracula and Transylvania in Bram Stoker’s book.

Please note here that I am not criticising ordinary bloggers or commentators who have repeated these claims in good faith (though I do think people like Bob Curran, Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne deserve to be criticised). There is a difference between Cassidy’s supporters and these people. Cassidy’s supporters are championing a hoax which arose because of one man’s arrogance and dishonesty. It was discredited as soon as it came out, and those who support Cassidy have chosen to ignore the facts because of egoism and stupidity. The mess we find in relation to vampirism and Irish folklore comes from lots of different sources. Arguably nobody has deliberately lied about this stuff (with the possible exception of Owen Harding and Bob Curran.) These errors have arisen largely as a result of bad referencing, bad research, bad copying, accuracy slip and certainty creep, extreme gullibility, Chinese whispers and even bad handwriting.

Bob Curran

I have been reading Jason Colavito’s book Faking History recently (https://www.amazon.com/Faking-History-Jason-Colavito-ebook/dp/B00BYIZEY4). I have enjoyed it greatly, though I do have some minor criticisms. The book is full of trivial errors (fare spelled as fair, words missing, indefinite articles used with plurals, Otto of Freising written as Otto of Friesling, Pantagruel written as Pantagreul etc.) and could have done with a good proofreader. There is also a lot of repetition.

Having said that, the content itself is erudite, clever and well worth reading. In a series of short essays, Colavito tackles a variety of absurd claims made in pseudo-archaeology and fringe history books. The overall theme of the essays seems to be the way that error is created and replicated in the world of junk scholarship. In many cases, claims which have no basis in fact are copied from book to book, and nobody ever checks the original source. There are some truly amazing pieces of pseudo-history. For example, the famous medieval story of the Green Children from Suffolk was transposed to Catalonia in the 19th century. The story about how the Christian world hated forks because of their pagan and demonic associations was also fascinating. However, I was also very interested to see that he criticises Bob Curran, author of a number of lurid and badly-written tomes on folklore, who has also been criticised on this blog. He describes how Curran helped to spread a claim as genuine information when in reality it is derived from the fictional writings of H.P. Lovecraft!

This is interesting, because Curran does exactly the same thing with a couple of Irish terms, supposedly ancient Irish names for vampires, the neamh-mhairbh and the dearg-diúlaí [sic].

In an incredibly sloppy article called Was Dracula An Irishman? published in History Ireland magazine in the year 2000, Curran claims that Stoker was influenced by Irish vampire lore and especially by the story of a character called Abhartach. Curran writes: “But it was the historian and folklorist Patrick Weston Joyce who actually made connections between Abhartach and the Irish vampire tradition. Joyce enthusiastically recounted the legend in his own book A History of Ireland (Dublin 1880).” I have looked through an online copy of this book and can find no reference to Abhartach, vampires or anything else related to this story. In another book by Joyce (The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places) it says that a dwarf (abhartach, or abhac in modern Irish) returned from the dead but doesn’t mention blood-drinking:

There is a place in the parish of Errigal in Derry, called Slaghtaverty, but it ought to have been called Laghtaverty, the laght or sepulchral monument of the abhartach [avartagh] or dwarf (see p. 61, supra). This dwarf was a magician, and a dreadful tyrant, and after having perpetrated great cruelties on the people he was at last vanquished and slain by a neighbouring chieftain; some say by Fionn Mac Cumhail. He was buried in a standing posture, but the very next day he appeared in his old haunts, more cruel and vigorous than ever. And the chief slew him a second time and buried him as before, but again he escaped from the grave, and spread terror through the whole country. The chief then consulted a druid, and according to his directions, he slew the dwarf a third time, and buried him in the same place, with his head downwards; which subdued his magical power, so that he never again appeared on earth. The laght raised over the dwarf is still there, and you may hear the legend with much detail from the natives of the place, one of whom told it to me.

Curran also writes in his History Ireland article:

… and the tradition of the blood-drinking dead was also recorded in Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (The History of Ireland) written between 1629 and 1631. In chapter ten Keating made much of the neamh-mhairbh.

As I have said before, there is no reference to vampirism in the Foras Feasa and the reanimated dead are not referred to as neamh-mhairbh (neamh-mharbh is the nominative singular, neamh-mhairbh the nominative plural; neamh-marbh and neamh-mairbh are misspellings) or anything resembling that word.

In recounting his version of the story of the abhartach, Curran has a chieftain called Cathán speak to a druid, who tells him: ‘Abhartach is not really alive’, he told the astonished Cathán. ‘Through his devilish arts he has become one of the neamh-mhairbh [the undead]. Moreover, he is a dearg-diúlaí, a drinker of human blood. He cannot actually be slain—but he can be restrained.’

Again, the trail for this conversation leads back to Curran, and as far as I can see, it goes no further, though some sources mention Peter Haining, Peter Tremayne and Cathal Ó Sándair as the originators of some of this nonsense. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any independent evidence for Curran’s version. There is no evidence that the term neamh-mhairbh existed in the Irish language before it was used as the Irish version of ‘undead’ in the Irish translation of Dracula which was published by An Gúm in 1933.

Curran claims that the term derrick-dally was used of apparitions in folk-tales but the assumption that this comes from dearg-diúlaí is hard to accept. There’s no evidence for this term existing. The noun dearg is not used as a term for blood. Diúlaí doesn’t sound like dally, and we can’t rule out terms like diabhal (devil) or deargadaol (a beetle associated with bad luck) as the source of derrick-dally. (I think we can safely assume that Derrick Dalley, Newfoundland politician, is not a revenant and has no connection with 19th century vampires.)

In other words, as in the case cited by Jason Colavito, Curran has taken fake information and treated it as real. Does it matter? Well, it matters to me. People all over the world are repeating the amazing fact that Bram Stoker was influenced by a sizeable body of vampire lore from Ireland, and moreover, that he took the term undead from the Irish neamh-mharbh, when in reality, it is the other way round. Of course, if this were really true, nobody would be doing more to spread it than me. But it isn’t true, and I want people to get to know the real Irish language and the culture associated with it, not some fake version manufactured by dilettantes like Cassidy and Curran.

Some Other Oirish Bullshitters

Daniel Cassidy was certainly King of the Irish-American Liars. However, the Irish and people of Irish descent are not averse to making odd claims about the Irish origin of obscure items of vocabulary in English and Cassidy was not alone in this kind of Goropian nonsense. (I’ll explain this reference some other time!)

One of the most bizarre of these claims hit the news in 2006 when headlines appeared in the international press about the Irish origin of the word didgeridoo, which according to a researcher at Flinders University in Australia, Dymphna Lonergan, derives from a phrase meaning ‘black moaner’ – dúdaire dubh. (This is the way it’s defined in some of the online descriptions. Ó Dónaill defines dúdaire as ‘long-necked person, hummer, crooner’).

There is no evidence for this claim, of course and you would have to say that there are plenty of other words or phrases which would be more likely to be used to describe the didgeridoo or the sound it makes. This claim is really quite bizarre, especially as it came from someone who has since become a serious academic (at the time, she was a doctoral candidate). I wonder how she feels about this claim and the publicity it received now?

Then there is the claim made by Gearóid Mac an Bhainisteora, that the word spondulicks comes from the Irish phrase sponc-diúlach, spunk-chap. Like Cassidy’s work this is definitely etymology by sound (which is not sound etymology) and it is hard to see that even in the seedier backstreets of Galway city there would ever have been an automatic semantic link between guys, spunk and money. The mind boggles … However, I should point out that with the exception of this little lapse, Mac an Bhainisteora’s books are actually useful little guides to Irish usage and should be on every Irish learner’s shelves.

And then there is that astonishing claim made by some ‘experts’ that Dracula has no connection with Vlad Dracul but is really from the Irish droch fhoula meaning bad blood. Bram Stoker was from Dublin of course, so that proves it!! (I’m being ironic again.) Of course, droch fhoula doesn’t mean bad blood. ‘Bad blood’ is drochfhuil. Droch fhoula is based on a genitive of drochfhuil, drochfhola. And Dracul is a matter of historical record and Stoker set the origins of his count in the Carpathian Mountains, not Conamara.

Thank God! Can you imagine what Hammer films would have been like had Stoker emphasised an Irish connection? Instead of pubs full of rustics in leather trousers with yokel English accents, it would be red-haired beardy men in Aran sweaters bejabering away as though God were telling them to …

“Oh bejasus, Pat, sure an’ you’re not going out when it’s da full moon, begorrah, and all o’ dem vorgins have been goin’ a-missin’ of late, so dey have …”