W. G. Wood-Martin (1847-1917)

CriticismCommentary


Life
[William Gregory]; archaeologist and fieldworker; b. Woodville, Co. Sligo, 16 July; ed. privately, later in Switzerland, Belgium, and at Sandhurst; son of James Wood and Anne, dg. of Abraham Martin of Cleveragh, co. Sligo; m. Frances Dora Robinson, 1873, dg. of Roger Dodwell Robinson of Wellmount, co. Sligo; Aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria, and later to the King (militia); commanding officer of Duke of Connaught’s Own Sligo Artillery, 1883-1902;
 
his works include The Lake Dwellings of Ireland; History of Sligo County and Town (1886); Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland (1888); Pagan Ireland, or Ancient Lacustrine Habitations of Erin (1895) [poss. 1983 rep.], and Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland; Pagan Ireland (1902), the best-known; also Sligo and the Enniskilleners (1880); some-time ed. of Journal of Soc. of Antiquaries of Ireland; MRIA; . JMC

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Works
  • Sligo and the Enniskilleners: From 1688-1691 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1880), [v]-ix, 188pp., ill. [fold. front. plan] [Authorities, pp.[187]-88], and Do. [2nd edn.] (1882), ix, 208pp.;
  • History of Sligo, country and town, with illustrations from original drawings and plans, 3 vols. (Dublin: Hodges-Figgis 1882-1892) [infra];
  • Lake Dwellings of Ireland; or, Ancient Lacustrine Habitations of Erin, commonly called crannogs (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co. [...] 1886) [infra];
  • The Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland (Co. Sligo and the Island of Achill) [Royal Hist. & Archael. Assoc. of Ireland 1888-89] (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, & Co.; 1888), xvii, [1], 274pp., ill. [pls.], 26 cm.;
  • Pagan Ireland - An Archaeological Sketch: a handbook of Irish pre-Christian antiquities (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1895), xxviii, 689pp., ill. [front., pls., map, plans; Bibl. pp.595-650], 21cm.;
  • Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland: a folklore sketch, a handbook of Irish pre-Christian traditions, Vol. 1 (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1902), xix, 405pp., ill. [maps; Bibl. Vol. 2, pp.326-416], 24cm., and Do. [facs. rep.] ( Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press [1970]), 2 vols.

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Bibliographical details
Lake Dwellings of Ireland; or, Ancient Lacustrine Habitations of Erin, commonly called crannogs (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co.; London: Longmans, Green & Co., Paternoster Row 1886), xxi, 268pp., pls., 25cm; and Do. [rep. facs. edn. (Dublin: Crannóg Editions 1983), xxiii, 318pp., ill. [maps], 25cm; and Do. [rep. facs. of 1st edn.] (Cribyn: Llanerch 2003), xxi, 268pp., ill. [50pp. of pls., maps, plans], 21cm. Also repub. on 4 microfiches (Chadwyck-Healey, 2002).

History of Sligo, country and town, with illustrations from original drawings and plans, 3 vols. (Dublin: Hodges-Figgis 1882-1892), ill., facsims., maps, 23cm. CONTENTS - Vol.1: “From the earliest ages to the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth”. Vol.2: “from the accession of James I to the Revolution of 1688.” Vol.3: “From the close of the Revolution of 1688 to the present time.”

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Quotations
Western isles: ‘In the islands off the west coast of Ireland … no funeral wail is allowed to be raised until three hours have elapsed from the time of death, as the sound of lamentation might hinder the soul from leaving the body.’ (Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, 1902, p.309; quoted in Noel Sheehy, ‘Talk About Being Irish: Death Ritual as a Cultural Form’, in The Irish Journal of Psychology 15, 2 & 3 [“The Irish Psyche” Spec. Issue] (Psychological Society of Ireland 1994), pp.494-507, p.496.) Sheehy further cites remarks by Wood-Martin on clerical censure at expenditures on alcohol for wakes and on the use of coloured stones on the surface of graves - the latter with a point of comparison in Hamlet, Act. 5. Sc. 1. (pp.501, 503.)

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References
Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Catholic Univ. of America 1904), biog. as above; selects ‘Keening and Waking’ from elder Faiths [‘In the islands off the west coast of Ireland, where ancient superstitions still linger in greatest exuberance ... // ... there is in this the deep pathos of the Greek poet ... // ... Transition from deepest sorrow to mirth occurs with the greatest rapidity so that there is melancholy in their mirth and mirth in their melancholy’]; Wood-Martin cites a translation from Latin [?Virgil] descriptive of keening; also “Marbh Rann Oscar”, from RIA Transactions [with musical bars]; a keen translated in literal prose by T. C. Croker, which is said to have impressed George Crabbe, and here rendered back into verse; a ‘touching lament’ recorded by Lady Wilde [prose]; the keen of an Irish mother versified by Mrs Hemans [q.v.]; and also makes reference to O’Brien, in his Irish Dictionary, defining keening as a lamentation wherein is described the pedigree, property and qualities of the deceased. He quotes a peasant on first seeing the stage in Dublin, ‘I have now seen the great English actors, and heard plays in the English tongue, but poor and dull they seemed to me, after the acting of our own people at the wakes and fairs; for it is a truth that the English cannot make us weep or laugh, as I have seen the crowd with us, when the players played and the poets recited their stories.’

George A. Little, Dublin Before the Vikings (M. H. Gill 1957) cites Lake Dwellings of Ireland; or, Ancient Lacustrine Habitations of Erin, commonly called crannogs (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co. [...] 1886), xxi, 268pp., pls. [25 cm].

Library of Herbert Bell (Belfast) holds Wood-Martin (W.G.), Sligo & The Enniskilleners from 1688-1691 (Dublin 1882); The Lake Dwellings of Ireland (Dublin 1886); Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, 2 vols. (London 1902); Pagan Ireland, Handbook of Irish Pre-Christian Antiquities (London 1895) [‘edited twice by mistake’]; History of Sligo(Dublin 1889).

University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds History of Sligo, 3 vols. (1882-1892); Sligo and Enniskillen 1688-1691 (1882); Pagan Ireland ... (1895); Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, 2 vols. (1902).

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Notes
Dublin printers: Lake Dwellings [ ... &c.] (Hodges Figgis 1886), was printed in Dublin by the Dublin University Press [TCD].

W. B. Yeats refers to Wood-Martin’s History of Sligo [1882], as the county history, and refers to a story about a tree that had once grown in Inisfree, guarded by a terrible monster (see A. N. Jeffares, A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, p.31.)

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T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats (2nd. edn. 1965), speaks of Glencar: ‘On the wooded side of te lake stook the great houses, Hazelwood of the Wynnes, Cleaveragh of the Wood-Martins, Markree of the Coopers, and many more up and down the countrside; Lisadell of the Gore-Booths was the most important in Yeats' boyhood and manhood. [...]’ (p.2.)

Sean O’Sullivan, Legends from Ireland (London: B. T. Batsford Ltd. 1977), cites Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths in Ireland, I, pp.180ff., for references to the belief that the harp was invented when the ribs of a whale were exposed to wind after decomposition on the sea-shore. (“The harp”; p.15.) The story is also given in Lebor Gabala Érenn [Book of Invasions], I, 89 [ITS Edn.], p.159 (O’Sullivan, op. cit., idem.)

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Richard Finneran, Poems of W. B. Yeats: New Edition (1983) draws attention to Wood-Martin’s History of Sligo as evidence of the sources of stories told by Yeats and attributed to ‘a priest of Collooney’ (see Jeffares, op. cit., p.44).

J. W. Foster (Colonial Consequences, Dublin: Lilliput Press 1991), regards Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland (1902) as invaluable background reading for reading of Seamus Heaney and especially illuminating in relation to “A Lough Neagh Sequence”. (q.p.)

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