Early Irish Board Games

My interest in ancient Irish board games was first prompted by a fascinating discussion of them in Alwyn and Brinley Rees's wonderful book Celtic Heritage (Thames and Hudson 1961). In a footnote they mention as a major source a 1945 article on ancient Irish board games by Eoin Mac White. It appeared in volume V of Eigse magazine, the journal of the National University of Ireland. It took some tracking down a copy but finally I laid hands on one long enough for a quick photocopy which I'm reproducing here for anyone who is interested.

I don't agree with Mac White's sort of conclusion that Fidchell was probably just a variant of Brandub or the Tafl games. I prefer the other possibility he suggests earlier that it was some completely different game with equal numbers of pieces on either side (as opposed to Tafl in which one side has about twice as many pieces as the other), but with no concrete evidence for this he was probably right as an academic to play safe.

However, although I disagree with its conclusion the article is packed with interesting info for anyone interested in this kind of thing, so I think it's well worth reproducing complete here. For convenience (as I need to watch the keyboard as I type) I've omitted the longer Irish passages and just given their translations, and occasionally I've carried over a few lines to neaten up the pages, but otherwise they appear as they did in the original journal.

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