The unique and fascinating history of the Irish Funeral


PODCAST: Hear about the origins of the Irish Wake, the ancient practice of keening and rural funeral ‘games’.

The modern Irish funeral traces its history from the neolithic to the present.

This programme investigates the mysterious intentions of ancient pagan ceremonies and how customs became blended into the funeral rite of the Irish Catholic church. How the middle ages brought Viking burial on a large scale to this island of Hibernia.

You will hear about Wakes, Keening and the incredible sexualised games played by mourners in rural Ireland. How 19th century families took photos of their dead and how that practice has returned. As the Irish diaspora travelled so did their funeral customs. You’ll learn how the Wake has become Americanised and what the Irish funeral has now become.

I would like to sincerely thank all those who agreed to take part in the programme. Many thanks to Dr Maeve Sikora, Dr Ned Kelly, Dr Stephen Harrison, Dr Jenny Butler, Clodagh Doyle, Michelle Collins, Dr Laura Kelley, Michael Burke, Dr Ciaran Wallace, Dr Lisa Marie Griffith, Gus Nichols and Peadar Farrelly, Dublin City FM and Broadcast Authority of Ireland.

Sound clip of Kitty Gallagher is From the Alan Lomax Collection at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Used courtesy of the Association for Cultural Equity.