Review: The Irish History Podcast

Review: The Irish History Podcast

So I think I’m back in my time zone and know what day of the week it is. I was on shaky ground for the last week regarding knowing where I was. Coming back from vacation on a Tuesday and working Wednesday was a wrench I was not prepared for. We live and learn though, and I’d do it again. Mostly to save money on the flight.

Where was I? Well, a really good friend of mine decided to get married in Ireland after three years of COVID dodging. I made some magical memories with some of my best friends. I also may have broken my Twitter addiction. We will see. Staying balanced between being informed and drowning yourself in doom is a really delicate balance we all need to strike.

In light of the fact that I don’t do as much work as I think I will do when traveling, I’ve decided to try to do Seven Days of Podcast reviews. All of these reviews will be related to Ireland this month. I was there, and honestly, it’s a fun little project to see if people like a week of one topic.  - So here we go.

When touring Dublin Castle I realized how shaky my Irish history is. I mean, for a good chunk of history it was wrapped in with England/ The UK - but there was a time before and a time up until now. I was curious and to my podcast searching, I went. I think this may be the first time I’m reviewing episodes that are nearly ten years old: but these reviews aren’t just for the new and flashy. Sometimes we find gems.

This is exactly what I found the Irish History Podcast to be. I also started at the very beginning, because it’s a very nice place to start. I’ve been listening relatively constantly since we traversed from Dublin to Sligo for the wedding. Nearly four hours of episodes put me in a great place- and I’m still happily engaged. To give a little bit of context as to where I’m at in the story, I’ve gotten to Brian Boru in the 1000s. Not very far in, but far enough to say that I love this podcast.

Hosted by Fin Dwyer, each episode is carefully crafted to bring you easy-to-understand information and a compelling story. Going back in Irish history to the pre-900s leaves us on some questionable ground, factually. Written evidence is meager at best, and typically not written with the Irish as favorable- but Dwyer does a great job of taking what we can surmise, or what we do know - and adding the interesting human touch.

I do have to say that some people might find this podcast boring and find it leans towards hand-holding the audience. If you have anything more than a skimming understanding of Irish history - this won’t be the podcast for you. I think this simplicity works brilliantly. History is hard and can be boring when you’re dogged down with dates, names, and attempts at sure facts. Combine Dwyer’s calm, yet engaging voice and style with a solid production value- this is just a great podcast to dive into. It’s not cheesy either. As an example, I for one, love a good fiddle bit. Here, it probably would have been too much. Dwyer, I think, has made the right call in his music choices to be a listen for those interested in both the Irish and the History.

The episodes are short enough for me to say “oh I can continue the story”. I tell myself “one more episode” and find myself running through five more episodes. This is a show that can be listened to by a family, for school, or just to learn the specifics of Irish history - without feeling overwhelming. The Irish History podcast fits nicely into what I consider the “casual learning” niche of listeners. It’s also really fascinating. A lot of Americans consider themselves to be Irish, and a number could even get Irish passports if they tried hard enough. With that in mind, I’m not sure how many could really talk about much prior to the Potato Famine*.

To be honest white people also lost their heritage to white supremacy. Not violently or as permanently, as those who were enslaved, but eventually we became white over being Irish. There’s more to this in American history specifically, but I wanted to mention it on a personal level. As I am someone who lost her connection to her heritage a few times over in different contexts, The Irish History Podcast at least gives me the story of where parts of my DNA came from. I’m grateful for the sheer accessibility of what Fin Dwyer has produced over the years. As I chug along, I hope to understand more.

Tune in tomorrow for another Ireland-related podcast review. In the meantime, if you’d like monthly updates on what’s going on here at Magpie, you can subscribe. I’m trying to step back from Twitter and Instagram, but I’m still there and will be posting new reviews, along with general bits and bobs.

Thanks for reading!

*I am aware that there is a changing understanding of this time, which is beginning to be more considered “The Great Hunger”. I think that the Potato Famine signifies a specific point in history that more people, at this time, will understand what I mean.