Paul Carr wrote:
> Could someone comment on the origin of the title "Black Irish"? It seems
> to mean different things to different people.
The driving force for mythmaking about the black haired Irish is that
the black hair is so un-Celtic. The fact is, that Ireland was inhabited
when the Gaels arrived over 2,000 years ago. Aside from archeological
finds, virtually nothing is known of this people, the pre-Irish. It's
likely the Gaels intermarried with them, although it's of course
possible they annihilated them.
Bruce J's suggestion about it being an ancient myth about
supernatural origins fascinated me because in its contrast to other
understandings it confirms your statement, and it's so like ancient
peoples to think that way.
Well, the next myth answer -- equally as bullshit as any literal
fairy tale -- comes from my Irish-American mother (many generations
removed from Ireland, but of pure Irish blood). She's one of those who
thought the pale skinned yet black haired Irish are descendants of
intermarriage with Spanish sailors shipwrecked from the Spanish Armada.
I'm afraid to mention this because of the legions of antiscientific
minded people who would have a compulsion to believe this. Celtic
interest groups in particular attract mysticists.
This myth would be impossible demographically and geneically, but for
the hell of it I read up on the history of the Armada for its own sake.
The short of it is that about 1,000 sailors were shipwrecked on Irish
shores and most were apprehended, the rest went into private armies of a
few Irish lords. So there was no intermarriage. Of course, even if
10,000 sailors had intermarried with Irish, by now all trace of their
appearance would have been diluted away.
[I met a poor soul, partly of Welsh descent, who believed there were
"black Welsh" descended from Spanish sailors! Of course, the Armada
never came near Wales. The Spanish Armada battled the English navy from
west to east off the southern coast of England, was decimated by battle
and storms, and could not retreat the way they came, in the English
Channel, because the English navy blocked the way. So the Spanish had to
sail around the entire island of Britain. They would not have, and did
not, sailed along the west coast of Britain, where Wales because the
English could have bottled them up in the Irish Sea. Besides, Wales was
part of the English kingdom, so any Spanish landing there would have
been arrested. So the Spanish had to sail around the WEST of Ireland to
escape the pursuing English. Some Spaniards actually landed in Scotland,
which was an independent nation then, and eventually returned to
Scotland. Many Spanish sailors who were shipwrecked in Ireland,
especially the wounded, were bludgeoned and plundered by the local
Somebody mentioned a rumor about a "predominant gene" from "Moors"
that makes one Scottish clan dark. Pitiful. For anybody who's open to
learning, unlike some genetic diseases you hear about, skin, hair, and
eye color are not determined by a single gene.