Friday, April 13, 2007

Is there a "Bréifne" Region of Ireland?

Here’s another dialogue I have just had on the “My Writer’s Circle” social site.


Allie:


I'm Irish. I have to say, though, that I wasn't aware that there was a particular area in Ireland called the Briefne area. Just shows you, you learn something new every day.

I just said to my husband, 'Here's a quiz question, where is the Breifne area in Ireland?' He immediately said, in the north around Leitrim, Cavan and surrounding counties.' Well, he used to be a history teacher, so I suppose he would know. However, I must have been day-dreaming or looking out the window when we were being taught about it, because he says there used to be a map in our primary school history books with all the ancient areas laid out. Now he's asking me what the others were, because it's niggling at him, so I said I'd ask you.


My Reply:


I am ignorant about most of Bréifne history as it is surrounded by concepts of ownership, disputes, battles and treaties. These are areas of ancient history I do not delve into much. My own interests lie in the formation of communities, their quests for survival, use of land and quests for spiritual guidance to ensure fertility, good yields and good health. Of course, the concept of ownership arrived to ensure these things when someone decided that man was in charge, and not nature.

Right from ancient times, probably way past 1500 BC there has been a north-south divide in what is now Ireland along with a region in the middle that hovered each way. That region eventually became Bréifne.

I suspect the earliest Bréifne came about after the Columcille inspired "Battle of The Books" when Columcille was sentenced in 560 AD at Tara to go to Scotland and convert 3000 souls into Christianity. That whole Battle was really a tension release between the Ui Neills of the South and Ui Neills of the North yet somehow a definite new region mushroomed between the two.

In its heyday around 700 AD the Bréifne name was well established and spread from the sea shores of Co. Sligo and Co. Leitrim across the country and to the east. It took in the Newgrange and Knowth areas of the Boyne Valley, the ancient cairn area now known as Loughcrew, the monastic sites of Fore and a finger of land that connected the land to Hill Of Uisneach up to the Cat Stone, the Stone of Divisions set up after the Great Flood where all regions of Ireland once met.

When the O'Rourkes became the kingship clan of the region, Bréifne shrunk over time and was eventually totally absorbed into Leinster, Ulster and Connaught during the Reformation period of the mid 18th century.

The Bréifne region has now come alive again with a bit of a different boundary due to an EU backed cross border initiative. Most travellers to Ireland do the Dublin - Galway - Killarney - Cork - Kilkenny - Dublin circuit and miss out north west Ireland. The initiative is to give our area a "brand" by re-introducing the Bréifne name with the benefit of also encouraging visitors to visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic at the same time. This initiative requires close co-operation with agencies and businesses both sides of the border so that's all to the good.

Personally, I moved to this area after living on the main tourism circuit and hearing too many USA visitors saying something like "I might as well have stayed back home in Virginia" due to the modernization of the main tourism circuit that often uses USA culture architecture and services.

Through Bréifne the Ireland that people outside of the country read of and imagine about is right here in incredible abundance but, fortunately, without the poverty. However, the tour buses rarely come here because to get to the best sites of legends and ancient spirituality it requires travel down narrow and often unmade roads. So we take folks in small minibuses to get to these places, experience them and often write about them as they are or as plots and scenes for their stories.


If you are a writer I am sure you will find participating in the My Writer’s Circle social site for writers very rewarding.



 

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