The mystery of the cannon chains: Remembrance in the Irish Countryside

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2 Scopus citations


Local tellings of oral history can complement but also radically challenge mainstream academic historiography. Ireland is renowned for its rich oral traditions, many of which were documented in the middle decades of the twentieth century by the Irish Folklore Commission and offer an invaluable repository of knowledge on social and cultural history. However, academic historiography has shown resistance to such unconventional sources and is therefore mostly ignorant of subaltern vernacular historical discourses. Looking at numerous oral traditions relating to an apocryphal episode in the larger body of folklore that recalls the French invasion of the West of Ireland in 1798 (popularly known as the 'Year of the French') and examining how this particular 'ahistorical' story was repeatedly told and retold locally, this article demonstrates the grass-roots dynamics of social memory in rural Ireland. Variation accommodated diverse meanings and served a range of functions in different contexts. The multi-dimensional social memory represented in provincial folk history, which offered regional communities an alternative to the machinations of national collective memory and the overbearing authority of official history, facilitated complex meaningful historical discourses that undermine prevalent assumptions regarding homogeneity, simplicity or inconsequentiality of local folklore.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-106
Number of pages26
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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