Researcher, Historical Advisor and Narrator of ‘Wolfland’, the first Irish-language, historical documentary ever co-commissioned by RTÉ and BBC, broadcast 7th, 14th January 2013 (RTÉ) and 7th, 16th January 2013 (BBC2)
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Ulster
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Ó Ciardha's underpinning research had a major impact on creative practice
in the form of `Wolfland', a flag-ship, two-part Irish-language
documentary considering Irish relations with the wolf. His research on
outlaws fundamentally shaped the content and presentation of the films. He
provided the historical, literary, folkloric background to Ireland's
instinctive fascination with the wolf, a sense matched by viewing figures.
Ó Ciardha's research for the documentary produced an original re-telling
of the English/British re-conquest of Ireland through the character and
place of the wolf. He was researcher, conceptualiser, advisor and
Ó Ciardha has emerged as a leading authority on the outlaw in early
modern Ireland, one of a triumvirate—rapparees, priests and wolves—that
were viewed as leading threats to English re- conquest and plantation. His
peer-reviewed research includes two major Irish-language and
English-language articles on the Irish outlaw, as well as various other
articles and review articles on historical and literary sources for early
modern Ireland. Both the human outlaw and wolf—the outlaw of the animal
kingdom—played key roles in Irish history, literature, mythology, folklore
and popular culture. In spite of this, both have usually merited little
more than walk-on and walk-off parts in general histories of the early
modern period. Little work has been done on the incidence of outlaw
activity or wolf attacks and their effects on contemporary politics,
economics, culture and literature. A direct relationship existed between
the incidence of Tory/Rapparee activity, wolf attacks and the location of
woods, bogs and remote mountains. Indeed the wolf and woodkern, Tory and
Rapparee became collectively barometers for measuring the extent of
central government's control over the island. Contemporary sources suggest
that the authorities placed garrisons in or adjacent to areas favoured by
outlaws, as well as organizing periodic Tory and wolf- hunts.
Ó Ciardha's researches to date on the Irish outlaw are based on extensive
work in the major repositories and resources for early modern Ireland;
Carte Papers (Oxford), the Egerton, Ellis, Sloane and Southwell Papers
(British Library) Ormond MSS (National Library of Ireland), sources in
Trinity College Dublin, as well as various newspaper, pamphlet and printed
primary sources. In addition, extensive research has been undertaken on
early modern English and Irish-language sources, including annalistic,
historical and literary sources.
References to the research
`The Irish Outlaw: the making of a nationalist icon', in J. Kelly, J.
McCafferty and I. McGrath (eds), People and politics in Ireland: Essays
on Irish History, 1660-1850 in honour of James I McGuire (UCD,
2009), pp.51-70. Peer reviewed chapter.
Dictionary of Irish Biography, 9 vols (Cambridge, 2009),
specifically essays on tories, rapparees, and robbers for this signature,
Royal Irish Academy-sponsored publication.
'Tories and Rapparees in Armagh in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries', in A. Hughes, F. McCorry and R. Weatherup (eds), Armagh:
History and Society (Dublin, 2001), pp.381-412. Peer- reviewed
'Tories and Moss-troopers in Scotland and Ireland in the Interregnum
period', in J. Young (ed.), The Celtic dimension of the English Civil
War (Edinburgh, 1996), pp.141-64. Peer-reviewed chapter.
'Buachaillí an tsléibhe agus bodaigh gan chéille. Tóraíochas agus
Rapairíochas i gcúige Uladh agus i ndeisceart Chonnachta sa tseachtú haois
déag', (Mountain boys and senseless churls, toryism and rappareeism in
Ulster and north Connaught in the seventeenth century), in Studia
Hibernica, xxix (1995-7), pp.31-59. Peer-reviewed journal article.
Details of the impact
The impact is on the very shape and content of television production,
especially on the Series Producer and Director, whose testimony indicates
Ó Ciardha's significant and growing effect on her TV series, Wolfland.
Without the findings from his research the programme would have taken very
different directions; but he was brought on board at an early point due to
the prior knowledge of his work for the commissioning TV stations. The
essential narrative, which pinpoints the major landmarks in the
development of the wolf in Irish history, draws centrally on Ó Ciardha's
work in order to drive the story-line. The key evidence base was sourced
or verified by him. Ó Ciardha also provided the interpretative framework
through which the narrative is to be understood. Specifically, the
programme was shaped by the following insights from Ó Ciardha's research:
- How Ireland's indigenous inhabitants lived side-by-side with the wolf
and how the country's ultimate predator etched itself into their
history, literature, mythology, nomenclature and psyche.
- By the turn of the 16th century the country plunged into
increasing turmoil as English and Scottish settlers began to be planted
on vast swathes of the country. For these new arrivals, the wolf became
a fearsome symbol of a wild and dangerous land.
- How large-scale farming and deforestation saw the wolf lose its
hunting and breeding grounds.
- How war, rebellion, massacre, famine and atrocity provided rich
pickings for this opportunist carnivore - preying on livestock and
scavenging on the military fallen.
- As fighting escalated between the settlers and the Irish, the savage
wolf, the classic barometer of population pressures in early modern
Europe, became one of an unholy trinity, which included the rebel
Irishman (`Tory') and Catholic priest. The Crown and
Commonwealth/Cromwellian administration would wage a relentless campaign
to rid Ireland of all three.
The Producer-Director's evidence (letter 22 October 2012) explains how
BBC and RTÉ `were keen that we [the production company] approached Dr
Éamonn Ó Ciardha for his expertise as a historical consultant for the
project due to his research and publications'. Once the script was
prepared with his help, Ó Ciardha was then crucial in `historical fact
checking' and in helping `mould the project into what it became.' The
impact intensified and changed pitch during the early stages when the
script was being written, re-written and fine-tuned, since `Ó Ciardha's
clear expertise in the area', as well as his abilities in both Irish and
English, additionally `resulted in him becoming the series narrator for
what will be a flagship historical documentary for both BBC and RTÉ'
(letter, 22 October 2012, prior to airing).
In addition to shaping the script and presentation of the documentary
series, there is evidence of the reach of the impact. The documentaries
were shown during prime-time TV slots (7.30pm and 9.00pm). The viewing
figures for Northern Ireland for the two episodes were over 30,000 (BBC
Programme 1: 18,000; BBC Programme 2: 13,000), a significant proportion of
the Irish-speaking population of the region (which does not include
viewers from the Republic of Ireland). Over 200,000 viewers tuned into the
two episodes in the Republic of Ireland (RTE Programme 1: 219,000 or
13.36%; RTE Programme 2: 208,000 or 12.75%) - a figure which represents
over 25% of the Irish-speaking population.
The Wolfland series was also the subject of a BBC Ulster, Irish-language
documentary, as well as receiving positive reviews in national and local
Sources to corroborate the impact
Impact on the Programme Maker
Letter from Steadipix Productions Series Director/Producer of Wolfland,
22 October 2012 (ID 1).
Reach to the General Public
'Animal Magic', Belfast Telegraph, 5 January 2013 `NOT only does
new two-part documentary Wolfland explore our relationship with wolves
over the centuries and their importance to our landscape and culture, but
— rather like that other dual production, Getaways — it also highlights
the increasingly close relationship between Auntie Beeb, who will
broadcast the documentary on Friday (BBC2, 9pm), and RTE, who get first
dibs by screening it on Monday (RTE1, 7.30pm). In Wolfland, Dr Eamonn O
Ciardha takes us on an extraordinary, journey into Ireland's past as he
reveals that more than 20,000 wolves once roamed our land' (http://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/wolfland.html
Web discussion boards http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=82832549;
RTE, No 2 in Top 10 picks , 14 January 2013,