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Ten Thousand Saints A Study in Irish and European Origins by Hubert Butler, Alan Harrison

Ten Thousand Saints A Study in Irish and European Origins



Ten Thousand Saints A Study in Irish and European Origins by Hubert Butler, Alan Harrison

Who were the ten thousand Irish Saints? For a very long time nobody has quite believed in them or quite disbelieved and, since in a climate of half-belief nothing survives for long, the saints as a subject are totally ignored. Yet they raise fascinating problems, which take us back behind the frontiers of recorded history to the remote wanderings of European peoples, to the clash of tribes and tongues.Why were there ten speckled saints, eleven leper saints and fifty called Mo Chua? Why did St Fintan of Aran in a rage chase the humble St Goban right across Ireland to Anglesey? Why did St Tigernach of Clones breathe alternately white, red and yellow? Were these real men and women or were they, as the antiquarians of 150 years ago insisted, 'monkish fictions'?Hubert Butler believed that there was a hard reality behind these fantasies and that to the patient explorer it would ultimately be revealed. He thought that the Irish inherited their saints from the pre-Celtic past, in which they figured as ancestors of half-forgotten tribes. They domesticated them in their mythology, sacred and profane, much as the Greeks assimilated Perseus, ancestor of the Persians and Medea, ancestress of the Medes.These stories were written with humour and imaginative ingenuity and now, if we can interpret them correctly, we shall one day learn who were the first colonists of Britain and Ireland and where they came from.


'A writer of rare elegance and grace and with an even more rare moral and intellectual courage. He was a literary artist of vivid and often exquisite prose.' - Thomas Flanagan, The Washington Post'

About the Author

Winner of the 1989 Irish Book Award Silver Medal for Literature Hubert Butler was born in Kilkenny in 1900. Educated in England at Charterhouse and St John's College, Oxford, he travelled extensively throughout Europe during the twenties and thirties before returning in 1941 to Co. Kilkenny, where he lived until his death in 1991. Market gardener, broadcaster, journalist and historian, his published works include Escape from the Anthill, In the Land of Nod, and Grandmother and Wolfe Tone, all of which won him international recognition. The late Alan Harrison was a lecturer in Modern Irish in University College Dublin.

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Book Info

Publication date

16th September 2011


Hubert Butler, Alan Harrison

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The Lilliput Press Ltd


360 pages


History of religion



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