There have always been storytellers because people enjoy stories. This is true of all races and periods of history. Story-telling was a favourite art and amusement among the Gaelic-speaking people of Ireland and Scotland and much of their repertoire went back to pre-Christian sources. In olden days, there were professional storytellers, divided into well-defi ned ranks – ollaimh (professors), fi lÌ (poets), baird (bards), seanchaithe (historians, storytellers), whose duty it was to know by heart the tales, poems and history proper to their rank, which were recited for the entertainment and praise of the chiefs and princes. These learned classes were rewarded by their patrons, but the collapse of the Gaelic order after the battle of Kinsale in 1601-2, and Culloden in Scotland (1746), wiped out the aristocratic classes who maintained the poets, and reduced the role of the historian and seanchaí. Storytelling was, of course, one of the main forms of fireside entertainment among the ordinary folk also, and the popular Irish tradition became enriched by the remnants of the learned classes returning to the people. Denied the possibility of enhancing their place in society, and deprived of the means to promote and progress their art, the storyteller was held in high esteem by the ordinary Irish who revered and cultivated story and song as their principal means of artistic expression.


Eddie Lenihan, One Ireland’s Best Seanchaí

Sean, a Seanchaí

The Tinker of Telemacht

The Clever Daughter

The Three Wishes