Éigse na Brídeoige is a cultural festival which takes place every year during the first weekend in February. The events are spread over various centres in the Gaeltacht areas of Iveragh in South Kerry.
Each year a different theme celebrates and investigates some aspect of the rich social and cultural heritage of the area. The theme can be a person, a place, an organisation or any other aspect of that heritage. Lectures, seminars and field trips explore various aspects of the theme.
The weekend also includes music, song, and poetry in both concerts and informal sessions. The timing of the Éigse is intended as a celebration of the Brídeog /Biddy tradition celebrating Saint Bridget’s day, which is also a celebration of the coming of spring, regeneration and growth.
The largely "undiscovered" archaeology
of the Iveragh peninsula in south Kerry is featureed prominently in the
Traditionally, going out on "the Biddy" in Iveragh was when groups of adults dressed up (often in old sheets with tinsel belts) and danced and sang their way house to house. It culminated in massive "Biddy balls", where the money collected was spent to entertain local communities with music, food and drink.
The money goes to charity now, and the tradition is
mainly kept by the children. However, the Eigse, aimed at locals and spread
throughout the peninsula, is a celebration, too, of the archaeology of the
area, with lectures in Irish and English as well
as a guided archaeological walk and Biddy balls.
While local small farmers and landowners always knew of
the hundreds of monuments - fairy forts, crosses, stone slabs, oratories, rock
art and graves on their lands - only dramatic Iron Age forts, such as Staigue,
near Castlecove, or the early Christian monastery of Skellig Michael, off the
coast, were widely known.
The extent of these monuments was not realised until
the publication of a survey carried out in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
Mr John Sheehan, head of the Department of Archaeology
in UCC, is co-author with Ms Ann O'Sullivan of the book, The Iveragh Peninsula:
An Archaeological Survey of South Kerry (Cork University Press).
Fiona de Buis, An Coireán, Co Chiarraí
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