The Earliest Irish

Justin McCarthy
Chapter I | Start of Chapter

Especially is this true of the Celtic races in Europe, and still more of the race which has created the story of Ireland. The Celtic races are found for the most part in the Highlands of Scotland, in Wales, in the Isle of Man, in Northern France, and in Ireland. Among all these we find a large accumulation of poetic fable, and the same love for this accumulated treasure of ages. One of the most characteristic legends in the earliest history of Ireland is that which tells us the island was originally peopled by some race who came from an Eastern climate to the small island lying to the west of Great Britain. This theory has nothing inherently improbable in it, seeing that mankind in its earliest and most unsettled days was much given to wandering. Some set of enterprising men who found themselves oppressed in an Eastern land may well have crossed the sea to discover a new home, and at last have come upon the Irish shore. The natives of Phoenicia, on the coast of Syria, were amongst the earliest and most famous navigators and traders known to the antique world, and were always wandering in search of new homes and founding, new colonies. Between the nineteenth and the thirteenth century before Christ they established many colonies along the shores of the Mediterranean, and are believed to have spread their settlements so far as the British islands. One of the favourite theories of early Irish history is that they alighted upon Ireland and were the first strangers who made a home there.