Why are there so many great Irish writers?

Famous Irish writers big

One area Ireland has made a big imprint is writing…why is this the case ?
Testimony to this is the fact that if you check the list of Nobel Prize winners since its inception, you’d discover that Ireland ranks eighth in terms of how many it has produced over the years.

You have to go back in time to discover the origins of Ireland’s propensity to create great scribes. Ireland can boast that it has one of the oldest forms of vernacular literature in the world, with only Greek or Latin rivaling it. The Irish could claim to be literate from the very earliest centuries, making use of a simple writing system called “Ogham” which was a way of communicating by way of inscriptions on little stone tablets. “Tain Bo Cuailnge” also known as “The Tain”, a story of a battle between the Queen Medb and her husband was written around the sixth century is widely regarded as one of the first major epics in literature and storytelling and is still published in various translations for a modern audience. The tale itself was written in classical old Irish and later into a more recognizable form of Gaelic called Middle Irish more readily understood for those wishing to keep the language alive.

Put aside the ancient roots of Irish literature, some might say it is the intervention of alcohol that has contributed a lot to Irish literature. Take James Joyce for example, accredited as being a “functioning alcoholic”, able to work and write to the best of his ability despite being known for being a heavy drinker (something that ran in the family, his father equally liked to drink). Joyce, seemingly quitea wild man, could be found in the streets, going on binges and getting in fights. It was only the “morning after” while recuperating with friends that he would set his mind to writing great literature.
Samuel Becket led a colorful life, his writing is known to express a bleak outlook on human life and culture while incorporating gallows humour and black comedy, Becket slurped red wine every night until the early hours of 5am, did his drinking habit impinge on his writing?

One undeniable fact is Ireland steeped in a rich cultural history which sets it apart from many others. Significantly it’s also a history that is chequered and turbulent continuously up to the present day. A close look at their history reveals they have been conquered and repressed and made to suffer at the hands of invading tribes, from Celts, the Angles and Saxons, followed by the Vikings who came to rape and pillage and finally the English left their mark on this country. All these incursions igniting ideas for meaningful literature, a culture desperately fighting back against perceived Imperial suppression.

Part of a St Patrick’s Day blog hop, read other articles by writers and bloggers.



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7 thoughts on “Why are there so many great Irish writers?

  1. Wow! The Irish are great readers and writers. So why are they always thought of as partiers and drinkers? Next time I’ll raise a book instead of a glass to St. Patrick’s Day.


  2. Fabulous post! Loved, “Ireland can boast that it has one of the oldest forms of vernacular literature in the world, with only Greek or Latin rivaling it” – had no idea! My wife is half Irish, her dad 100% 🙂 so I’ll send her the link, sure she’ll like this. Thank you 🙂


  3. I read the title and immediately thought drink, famine, and war. Of course, I may have a different perspective than many people. I attended a college that had a strong Scottish heritage program and studied the brutal Highland Clearances and battles with the English before I went to Scotland. Some of the Irish and Scottish still hold the English in strong disdain. Of course, some of the MacDonalds still harbor ill will toward the Campbells. I still haven’t gotten to Ireland, but visiting Robert Burns’ estate was fabulous.

    All joking aside, certain events do undoubtedly create particular philosophical bents. At some point, a man can either lose himself in his pints and his writing or lose all hope when he fails to find a refuge from all the violence, hunger, and disease. My Danish friends say it’s no coincidence they annually rank near the top of per capita alcohol consumption and happiness. It’s strange they, and my ancestors, were once fierce Vikings. Now they can hardly take a walk without a permit. Nonetheless, they are generally some happy people who I hope I see again soon. Cheers!


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