Days of the Blackthorn

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By Séan Moraghan

Faction Fighters of Kerry

On town streets or in green fields, at fairs, race meetings and saints’ patron days, rival gangs of Irishmen used to meet to battle and beat each other with cudgels and sticks. The practice was particularly prevalent in the 1800s, and involved tens, hundreds and even thousands of men and women at a time.

Days of the Blackthorn uses eyewitness descriptions, as well as the oral history of local communities, to provide a visceral sense of this exciting and brutal activity in County Kerry.

From the Battle of Ballyeagh between the Cooleens and the Lawlors that left eighteen dead, to the savage combats of various strongmen, such as Seón Burns or ‘Big Mick’ Foley, this is a fascinating account of a wild and violent time in Ireland’s history.