When the Tuatha system of rule was replaced by Gaelic rule the areas of Ireland were known as ‘cúige’, which in Irish means ‘portion’ or ‘fifth’, indicating the original division of the five areas:
Mide * Ulster * Munster * Leinster * Connacht
The ‘cúige’ were subsequently referred to as Provinces. After the Normans took control of Ireland in the 12th century, Mide gradually became County Meath and County Westmeath and eventually merged into the Province of Leinster, primarily due to the development and importance of ‘The Pale’; an area of c.1,500 km square around Dublin being the centre of Anglo-Norman commercial activity and tight rule. [The rest of Ireland was referred to as “beyond the pale“!] Thus leaving Ireland with the four Provinces we know today.
Mide, the former fifth province of Ireland, meaning ‘middle’ in Irish, named for being bordered by the other four Provinces. At that time Ireland was ruled by many local Chieftains, the High King was the Overlord of all these, and took his seat at the Hill of Tara. After the Normans took control of Ireland in the twelfth century they replaced the divided system with counties and over time Mide became Counties Meath and Westmeath, which were absorbed into the Province of Leinster. County Meath is still referred to as the ‘Royal Country’.
Connacht (Cúige Chonnacht) consists of counties Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Often described as the West of Ireland, next stop America!
Principal city = Galway
Leinster (Cúige Laighean) is Ireland’s Eastern province, including counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.
Principal city = Dublin [also the capital of Ireland]
Munster (Cúige Mumhan) is South/South-West of Ireland, with counties Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. The Munster flag depicts the crowns of the 3 major kingdoms – Thomond, Desmond and Ormond.
Principal city = Cork
Ulster (Cúige Uladh) is North, made up of counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone, which are Northern Ireland and part of the U.K., counties Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are in the Republic of Ireland.
Principal city = Belfast
The following poem has been translated from Old Irish and describes the five Kingdoms of Ireland, the description is still accurate to this day!
Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland)
Connacht, in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement.
Ulster, in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death.
Leinster, the eastern kingdom, is the seat of prosperity, hospitality, the importing of rich foreign wares like silk or wine; the men of Leinster are noble in speech and their women are exceptionally beautiful.
Munster, in the south is the kingdom of music and the arts, of harpers, of skilled ficheall players and of skilled horsemen. The fairs of Munster were the greatest in all Ireland.
The last kingdom, Meath, is the kingdom of Kingship, of stewardship, of bounty in government; in Meath lies the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of the High King of Ireland. The ancient earthwork of Tara is called Rath na Ríthe (‘Ringfort of the Kings’).
View this lovely Ireland Clock, which depicts the Five Provinces of Ireland!
Ireland Clock = Irish Times
By the artist, Philip Gafney, O’Gowna Studios, Co. Dublin, Ireland.
The Irish over time have had a disproportionate effect on the world from this tiny island on the edge of the Atlantic. Many great adventures have started here, from Brendan on his voyage to discover America, to Patrick who came here to discover himself. This island’s unique shape is like an old friend with outstretched arms calling you home or the family member waving you goodbye as you leave for the next part of your adventure.
Whether you are coming to Ireland or leaving from it, the hands on the clock keep moving, sometimes faster than we would like or slower than we want, until our next visit to home or the place we most feel at home, Ireland. Take this unique piece of Ireland home with you wherever you travel and set the time to Irish time as you remember fondly what you were doing at this time in Ireland.