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Bristled hair and hairy stars

11 October 2019

Our Managing Editor tells us about the two covers of A history of Ireland in 100 words

I am pleased to announce the publication of A history of Ireland in 100 words.

The book is simply and lucidly written, with funny, mysterious and unusual stories about Ireland and its words. Take a look inside!

The publication of A history of Ireland in 100 words is the culmination of many years of work. Greg Toner first contacted me in the summer of 2015 about publishing this book, but its origins with the Academy stretch much further back. Greg and his fellow authors Máire and Sharon have mined the Dictionary of the Irish Language which is a storehouse of valuable information, by many scholars, on Ireland’s history, including as it does entries on concepts and objects relating to war, politics, religion, domestic life, musical traditions, learning, etc. from 700-1700. The Dictionary of the Irish Language was published by my predecessor starting in 1913 with the full 2,500 pages finally published by another predecessor in 1976. A new digitised edition is now available.

The cover shows Cú Chulainn, a familiar figure. He is Cróga, bloody, brave and the authors tell that ‘when incited to battle, Cú Chulainn’s hair became so bristled that apples falling from a tree would become spiked on its strands.’

A limited run specially created for the people who visit the Academy online or in person is almost sold out. For that cover we chose a ‘hairy star’. The Annals of Ulster tell us that ‘a hairy star’ (rétlu mongach) was observed in Ireland over the course of a fortnight in the autumn of 1018. The term refers to a comet and vividly depicts the comet’s tail being blown back like hair in the wind. Joe McLaren, the artist that we worked with to illustrate the entries, created this mysterious image of the comet in the night sky.

You can pre-order the book, the limited run, or book in to one of our events. You can also browse the Dictionary of the Irish Language online at

Ruth Hegarty, Managing Editor

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