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Mummers of Fingal

Mumming is a masking or masquerade tradition found in several parts of Ireland; as well as masquerade, it involves the enactment of a traditional play with stock characters. Many of these characters are found in European carnival tradition.


Mummers of Fingal playing traditional Irish musical instruments

Mummers of Fingal playing traditional Irish musical instruments

Photos by George Thurlow

Background information

The Play has at its core a challenge and fight between two champions (Rim Rhyme & Prince George) with the death and revival of the slain loser (Prince George); he is revived by a quack doctor. After this main action, a succession of characters come in to perform; Namely: Slick Slack; the Wren; the Devil; Mrs Funny; Joe the Butcher; Beelzebub & Tom Fool.

North County Dublin (Fingall) has a long and continuous tradition of Mumming. It is seasonal and traditionally takes place over the Christmas holiday period. Each character in the play has his/her own particular traditional rhyme.

Photo by George Thurlow

Practice and practitioners

The Fingal Mummers perform their play every St. Stephens day in pubs and clubs in Fingal; they perform at other events and at other times by request or invitation, most often at local festivals. Its key practitioners currently are; Seán MacPhilibín; Ronan Lawless; Eoin Lawless; Rosie & Jerry O Reilly; Daracha NicPhilibin; David O’Connor; Mags Maxwell; Bartle Maxwell; Ciaran Reilly; Fiachra MacPhilibin; Paraic O’Luanaigh; Ger Griffin; Sadhbh NicPhilibin; Jason Tiernan; Martin McKenna; Initiated by Sean MacPhilibin in 1983, the groups original members were; Sean MacPhilibin; Mary Maxwell; Margaret Maxwell; Joe Maxwell; Bartle Maxwell; Eoin Griffin; Ger Griffin & Patsy Kavanagh; the three core families involved with the tradition from the outset were the Maxwells, the MacPhilibins and the Griffins..many other local families became involved over time

Fingal Mumming differs from Mumming elsewhere in Ireland in that it mixes representative dressing with masking and straw costumes. Furthermore, the main characters in the North Dublin play changed (1950s) to represent Ireland & England. Historically they represented a challenge and fight between St. George of England & the Moor or Turk. This particular change is attributable to Dr May of Swords who revitalised the tradition in the 1950s.

Photo by George Thurlow

Development, transmission and safeguarding

The work of developing, transmitting and safeguarding the custom has been undertaken consistently by Scoil Seamus Ennis since 1994. To this end the Scoil has hosted educational outreach programmes in the local national schools of rural Fingal; it has also organised lectures, seminars, workshops, exhibitions, performances, exchanges with other practitioners of the custom; it has organised attendance at festivals and events featuring or concerned with mumming nationally and internationally.

Scoil Seamus Ennis has hosted the following Irish Mummers Groups at its festival traditionally held in October; the Kinawley Mummers; the Ack-La-Mad Mummers; The Ards Mummers; The Armagh Rhymers; The Ballymitty Mummers.

We have also hosted Mummers from Hereford in England; Pernik in Bulgaria as well as; the Mamuthones of Mamoiada Sardinia. Our members have participated in Cross border initiatives with the Mummers Foundation in Fermanagh and have travelled to and performed in Mumming festivals in Portugal, Bulgaria and Macedonia with them

We performed at the Launch of ‘Room to Rhyme’ a seminar hosted by UCD folklore Dept. We hosted and performed with the Sardinian Mamuthones in the Dublin St. Patricks day parade in 2007. The Scoil has re-introduced the tradition of straw hat/mask making and have hosted over 15 specialist workshops between 1994 and 2015 to enhance safeguarding of this dimension of the custom.

Historically Mumming was an all male custom; our current group which has been in existence for 35 years has been gender inclusive from the start. Transmitting the custom to a new generation is our current main concern and to that end we try to involve new and younger participants in our performances each year.

We also hosted an expansive schools programme involving the Armagh Rhymers for many years in local schools.

Contact organisation

Scoil Séamus Ennis


Location Fingal, Co Dublin
Categories Performing arts
Social practices, rituals and festive events
Oral traditions and expressions, including language
Traditional craftsmanship
Keywords Performance
Contact organisation Scoil Séamus Ennis