Irish Storytelling

As in previous years, I worked for St Patrick’s Day Festival in Nottingham. This year I was storytelling at a school in Hucknall, working with the artist Brian McCormack. The featured story was the Salmon of Knowledge. We helped the children to make 3 banners to carry in the parade on 17 March: a large shiny silver salmon, a fish-filled River Boyne, and a fire over which Fionn helped Finnéagas to cook the Salmon of Knowledge.

I told a brief story for Beeston Tales, while we were on strike at work (to save our pensions). I managed to work the story of the King with Horses’ Ears into a story about activism and workers’ rights by telling it from the point of view of the mother of the hair-cutter. It has recently struck me that I have been telling some traditional stories from a female point of view – for instance, my story of Niamh and Oisín begins with Niamh setting out from Tír na nÓg looking for a man to marry, one who would be a talented singer and storyteller. She had heard tell of such a man in a place called Ireland, so sets off on her flying horse to find him….

I enjoyed storytelling at Crawley Irish Festival on the August Bank Holiday weekend, on Sunday 26th August. The day was wet but we moved inside to a warm and friendly welcome from organiser John Nolan and his team.

In 2017, I was busy with storytelling sessions at Southwell Workhouse Museum (see below for Dec 2016). I told some stories at the Workhouse Creative Retreat, which made me see so many connections – old legends, songs and histories of the Famine times, and the refugee crisis of our present day.
I worked with schools for St Patrick’s Day. Our theme story this year was ‘Fionn MacCumhaill and the Giant’s Causeway’. We made props to carry in the  parade on 17th March.
On Sunday 27th August, I spent a sunny August bank-holiday Sunday telling old Irish legends to children and adults at Crawley Irish Festival. It was, as always, a great festival – very well organised, and enthusiastically attended.
I was pleased to be invited back to tell a wee story at Beeston Tales on Wed 10 Oct. I was part of the support act, and I told ‘Fair, Brown and Trembling’. It was the first time I told it in public. I’ve finally got my head around the changing details of Trembling’s Mass-going attire.
On 19th October, I told old Irish


See my ‘What’s Next’ section of this website; link above.

+ I finished off the year in grand style, dressed in rags as an Irish ‘vagrant’, Peig o’ the Roads. I was participating in the Christmas festivities at Southwell Workhouse, now run as a museum. The new Arts Officer, Jan Overfield-Shaw, is interested in the mostly undocumented history of the so-called vagrants, who were only allowed to stay for one night; it can be seen from the names that many were Irish, economic emigrants fleeing their famine-stricken homeland. Nothing much changes in the story of refugees, unfortunately.

+ I ran a storytelling session  at Loogabarooga Festival, Charnwood Museum, Fri 21 Oct, 10.15 – 10. 45am. The Loughborough Echo interviewed me about it, but seemed to think I was ‘discussing’ Irish stories. I wasn’t; I was tellin’ ’em.

+ I also told old Irish stories at Blessed Sacrament, Leicester, from 7pm – 9pm on Sat 29 Oct. Given the date, there were lots of stories about Irish Halloween traditions.

+ These photos below were taken at Crawley Irish Festival on 28 August. I was there on the invitation of the organiser, John Nolan, who does a great job. I’m not at all biased by the fact that he’s a Carlovian, like myself.


As part of Nottingham’s 2016 Irish festival, artist Brian McCormack and I worked with the children of St Teresa’s School, Aspley. I told the story of Queen Maeve and the Bull of Cooley, and Brian and I helped the children to make costumes and props to use in the parade.

Pictures of the parade and participants below! Druids foretold that Maeve’s attempt to have a bull as big as her husband’s would end in disaster. Celtic warriors often dressed in wolf-skins going into battle.

The pictures show children dressed as King Ailill, Queen Maeve, the Brown Bull of Cooley, Druids, and Warriors.



  • In February, I was invited to St Anthony’s Primary School in Solihull, and was pleased to be invited back on 18 March. 
  • As part of Nottingam Irish Festival, I told stories at St Mary’s School, Hyson Green, and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Bulwell. St Augustine’s Primary also participated in the festival. Artist Julie Turner helped the children in those three schools to make costumes and props for Nottingham St Patrick’s Day parade; the theme this year was the story of Caoilte bringing 2 of each animal and bird in Ireland to Tara, so that King Cormac would release Fionn, leader of the Fianna. 
  • I also paid a return visit to St Philip Neri School in Mansfield. 


  • Monday 6 October 2014: I told the story ‘The King has Horse’s Ears’ at Carnival Mad16. It was a really interesting programme: drumming, gorgeous flamenco dance, a great talk by Graham Caveney on Shane McGowan and the Pogues, and lots of creative ways of thinking about mental health. Many thanks to the redoubtable Julie Gosling for the invitation to participate. 
  • On Sunday 21 September 2014, I told stories at Crawley Irish Festival, 12-5pm. They have a great children’s programme, with musical activities, crafts, hair-braiding, face-painting, and a bouncy castle. I appeared briefly on (2.30 – 3.52 on the link). It’s episode 19 of ‘Out and About in the UK’. Irish TV produces interesting programmes on the Irish in Britain, and a range of county-focused programmes on Ireland. It’s good to catch up with Carlow-based news on Wednesdays 8pm. 
    Storytelling @ Crawley 2014
  • I told old Irish stories for children and their carers at Tullow Library, Co Carlow (Ireland) on Tues 22 April 10.30 – 11.30am.  The audience enjoyed hearing about Maeve,  Deirdre, Fionn, and Cúchulainn, and joined in with roaring like a bull and helping Finnéagas and Fionn to land the Salmon of Knowledge. I used a story dice for the first time: I’d made a small cardboard cube with one word on each side (fish, bird, swan, dog, bull, horse). A child threw the dice and whichever word turned up suggested the story. It would work well with picture dice too. 

I was in Derby on Sat 8 March, storytelling as part of their Céilí at Derby Irish Centre, and I did several Irish storytelling sessions as part of Nottingham’s annual Irish Festival in March 2014:

  • Sat 15th March: Storytelling at a Ceilí in Good Shepherd Parish Centre, Woodthorpe, Nottingham.
  • On Patrick’s Day, Mon 17 March 2014: storytelling for children in Nottingham Central Library, 1.00 – 1.45pm. Cecil Roberts Room.
  • I worked with artist Julie Turner in Nottingham schools. We chose ‘Oisín in Tír na nÓg’ as the theme story for the Patrick’s Day parade:  I told the story, and Julie helped the children to make related costumes to wear and props to carry  in the parade. Have a look at Julie’s wonderful work on her website.
  • I made a return visit to Philip Neri School in Mansfield, Tues 18 March, to tell some Irish folktales to the children.


  • I told Irish stories to mature students and their families at Loughborough University’s Family Fun Day on Sat 9 Nov. The children made cards and coloured pictures to take home. Thanks Anwara and Kay for the photos.
    Family Fun DayStorytelling Lboro
  • Crawley Irish Festival was enjoyable. I told Irish stories in the Children’s Corner. Here are some photos courtesy of Gerry Molumby
    Crawley Irish Festival 2013 Storyteller Deirdre O'Byrne
  • I told Irish stories for children in Tullow Library, Co Carlow, on Tue 6, and Tue 20 August, 11am – 12.  Info: (059) 9136299.
    I was also back on my home turf of Carlow in April for Pan Celtic Festival, telling stories for children in Carlow Library on Wed 3 April 2013. This was videod by the Pan-Celtic Festival photographer, Stephen Mynhardt of Hedgehog Productions, and I was delighted that a few minutes of it (2.10 – 2.24, link below) were included in the final cut of video of the festival, which is now on YouTube and the Pan Celtic Facebook page and website.

* * * * * * * *

 I’ve told Irish myths and legends at the following:

  • City Gallery, Nottingham, Sat 16 & Sun 17 March 2013, as part of Nottingham Irish Festival
  • Duffy’s Bar, Thurs 14 March 2013, as part of Leicester’s Irish Festival
  • Philip Neri School, Mansfield, Tues 12 March 2013.
  • St Mary’s School, Hyson Green, Wed 6 March 2013. I told ‘The King With Horse’s Ears‘; this old Irish tale was the focus of artist Julie Turner, who worked with Nottingham schoolchildren making costumes and props for St Patrick’s Day parade on Sun 17 March 2013.
  • International Pan-Celtic Festival, Carlow (Ireland), April 2012
    Pan Celtic 2012
  • Patrick’s Day Celebrations, Philip Neri School, Mansfield,  Mar. 2012
  • Patrick’s Day Festival, City Gallery, Nottingham, 17 March 2012.
  • Patrick’s Day Celebrations, Philip Neri School, Mansfield, March 2011
  • Irish Festival, Mansfield Library, March 2010.
  • Empyrean Pagan-Interest Group, Nottingham, 2010.
  • Nottingham Hospice, 2010.
  • Loughborough Universary Centenary Celebrations, 2009.
  • NHS (Nat. Health Service) 60th Birthday Celebrations, Nott’m, 2008.
  • Patrick’s Day Festival, Nottingham Central Library, 2007.
  • International Folk-Tales, Nottingham Central Library, 2007.
  • Way Out Festival, Rufford Country Park, 2007
  • Big Wheel’s Big Day Out, Nottingham Castle, 2007.
  • Riverside Festival, Nottingham, 2007.
  • Patrick’s Day Festival, Nottingham Council House, 2006.
  • ‘The Patchwork Quilt’
    Watercolour by Trudi Doyle ©


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