Historical hospitality

Below is an extract from an early Irish tale entitled Esnada Tige Buchet ‘The Songs of Buchet’s House’. It probably dates from the tenth century. Read the passage and use the Think, Pair and Share method to reflect on the questions. Pupils should be able to justify their answers and give evidence where appropriate and their partners should give constructive feedback on how well points were made and supported.

Tech n-oeged fer nÉrenn a thech in Buchet. Níro díbdad teni fo a choiriu ó ro gab threbad. Ingen do Chathaír Mór mac Fheidlimthe, do ríg Laigen ina h-ucht. Dá mac deac ar fichit la Cathaír. Tictis-side do oígidecht ocus do acallaim a sethar. Do-meltis oígidechta fichtib ocus tríchtaib. Ba robec leo-som ón co mbertis aisceda. Ba menic didiu a timgaire, uair do-bered fer díb h-eochu ocus in fer eili in seisrig ocus fer eili scoí dona buaib, coro fásaigset maic Cathaír fo deoid, conná fargabsat leis acht .vii. mbaí ocus tarb, bale i rrabatar na .vii. n-árge.

Buchet’s house was a guest-house for the men of Ireland. Since he took up residence, the fire under his cauldron was never put out. A daughter of Cathaír Mór son of Feidlimid, the king of Leinster, was being fostered by him. Cathaír had 32 sons. They used to come for hospitality and to speak with their sister. In twenties and thirties they used to enjoy Buchet’s hospitality. They were not satisfied until they got gifts. Frequent was their asking, for one would take horses and another the plough-team and another a herd of cows, until finally Cathaír’s sons ruined Buchet, and left him only seven cows and a bull where there had been seven herds of cattle.

Text adapted from David Greene (ed.), Fingal Rónáin and Other Stories (Dublin, 1955), p. 28. Our own translation.


  • What is implied by ‘since he took up residence, the fire under his cauldron was never put out’?
  • Cathaír had 32 sons. Why did they come ‘in twenties and thirties’ to Buchet’s home for ‘guesting’?
  • How did they take advantage of Buchet?
  • Why did Buchet not stop them?


Proverbs are short, wise sayings that are widely known and used. In Irish, the term is seanfhocal, literally ‘an old word’. Sometimes you have to think about the meaning of a proverb before it becomes clear. For example, there is an Irish proverb which says:

Is geall le fleá bia go leor

Enough food is as good as a feast

What might someone mean by saying this? Look at other examples of Irish and English proverbs in Linked Resources. Which have you heard before? What do they mean? Do you know proverbs in other languages? Can you think of a situation where you might use one?


Spiralling problems

Find out about work which is being done in your local area to provide food and other assistance to those in need. You might like to think also about the work of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin and Cork Penny Dinners. On an Art Spiral everyone might draw or write a few words which represent their thoughts and emotions on the problems faced and the efforts being made to address them. Allow time for the class to look at the whole spiral and to add to the contributions of others.

Capuchin Day Centre:

Cork Penny Dinners: