Medb, The Warrior Queen Of Connacht: 1 Pound (Ireland, 1989)-Article

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

This illustrative Irish banknote represents the 1st denomination of Irish Pound (Series B/1976). Which was the first complete Irish banknote series, since the Pound was decimalized in 1971. The series' theme focuses on the cultural heroes and heroine of Ireland.


Often blending elements of Ireland's Celtic paganism and Catholic traditions. All notes of the series notes are bilingual, printed in English and Irish Gaeilge. With the exception of 1 Pound note (ceased print in 1989), all notes of the Series B. Were reprinted during their circulation, which ended with the introduction of the Series C, in 1992.


Banknotes of Series C remained the de-facto Irish currency, until the adoption of the Euro (1 January 1999). Despite this official date, the Irish government only began withdrawing the Pound, on 1 January 2002. Currently (2021) all Irish Pound (pre/post-decimalized) notes and coins are intended to be exchangeable for Euros indefinitely. Making the purchase of Irish Pound notes somewhat pricey, relative to other pre-Euro currencies.


Observe

An Irish 1 Pound example, digitally overprinted to comply with Irish copyright law.
An Irish 1 Pound example, digitally overprinted to comply with Irish copyright law.

The lower right of the observe features an illustration of the mythical warrior-queen Medb (Maeve) of Connacht. Who serves as an antagonist, against the hero Cú Chulainn in the ancient Ulster Cycle (an Rúraíocht). Notably it was said any man who laid sight on her, was robbed of 2/3rd their valor.


Similar to Queen Medb reputed power to "intoxicated" and distract. The illustration robe is a rudimentary anti-counterfeit measure. Featuring many small and difficult to replicate details. If one looks closely along the edges of the illustration. It's quite noticeable the underprint overlaps the illustration, therefore pointing to the implementation of layered printing.


The beforementioned underprint are excepts from the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), often referred to as the "Irish Iliad". To the upper-right is a vertical serial number (LAK 521495), with anti-counterfeit dazzler bars nearby. The note's header reads "Banc Ceannais na hÉireann" or Central Bank of Ireland.


The header overlaps 2 excepts and an intricate piece ancient Celtic artwork. This design is based on ancient carved bone slips, recovered from archeological digs in Meath County. At the bottom of the design the name "Medb", appears to be misspelled as "Meob". Although this misconception is due to the use of stylized letters. Which are meant to mimic those used by early monastic scribes. Who recorded much of Ireland's folklore and epics. (Notably the upper portion of the letter "d", can be faintly seen in an angle)


Moving toward the left, the observe features a section without underprint. The upper portion serves as the observe's watermark area. The watermark depicts "Lady Lavery", who appeared on most Irish banknotes, throughout the 20th century. Directly below the watermark are a pair of signatures, from the Central Bank of Ireland. The first signatures is that of "an gobharnóir" (Governor), Maurice Doyle. While the second belongs to "Runai na Roinne Airgeavis" (Secretary of Treasury), S. P. Cromien.

This is followed by a stylized "£1", representing the note's one Pound value. Below is a 2nd serial number (LAK 521495) in red ink. Unlike the beforementioned vertical serial number. The note's issue date is included nearby, "17.07.89" or 17 July 1989. The final text is seen to the far left, it reads "Nótaí dlíthairgthe punt" (Legal tender note Pound)


Reverse

The majority of the reverse is covered by an except from the Lebor na hUidre, the Book of the Dun Cow. Representing the oldest manuscript written in Irish Gaeilge. The remaining text is printed in English and mirrors the observe to an extent.


Just as the observe the an unprinted watermark area is featured. Below is the the text "Central Bank of Ireland". Followed by "£1", representing the note's one Pound value. And the text "Legal Tender", all text is stylized to emulate monastic script.

Hazel Lavery as featured on the £1 note's watermark.
Hazel Lavery as featured on the £1 note's watermark.

The Warrior Queen of Connacht

Queen Maeve by J. C. Leyendecker.
Queen Maeve by J. C. Leyendecker.

In Celtic mythology Queen Medb (angelized as Maeve) is described as a fair haired woman. Beauty was said to rob men of 2/3rd their valor. It was said that no king could reign in Connacht, unless married to Medb. It was also said the she "never was without one man in the shadow of another".


Medb rise to power is described in the tale Cath Bóinde (The Battle of the Boyne). Medb was forced by her father Eochaid Feidlech High King of Ireland to marry Conchobar mac Nessa, King of Ulster. As amends for killing his father, the previous High King Fachtna Fáthach. Medb bore Conchobar a son (Amalgad), but left him after a bad marriage. Leading to Eochaid offering another of his daughters, (Eithne or Clothru).


Medb murdered her sister, while pregnant with Conchobar son Furbaide. Who was delivered by Medb after a posthumous caesarean birth. Thus sealing her fate in the larger Ulster Saga arc. Medb gained control of Connacht after Eochaid deposed the then-king of Connacht, Tinni mac Conri. Who later became Medb's lover, thus allowing him regain some power.


Medb was raped by Conchobar after an assembly at the Hill of Tara. Leading to a war between the High King and Ulster. Tinni mac Conri was slayed in single combat by Conchobar. Eochaid Dála of the Fir Domnann then became Medb's husband and King of Connacht. Medb hence demanded three qualities of her lovers, that "he be without fear, meanness, or jealousy".


Medb became lovers with her final and most important lover, Ailill mac Máta. The chief bodyguard of Connacht, who was challenged by Eochaid, after finding out of the affair. Eochaid is defeated by Ailill mac Máta in single combat. Thus becoming King of Connacht, Medb bore him 7 sons, all named "Maine".

A painting of Queen Medb, receiving druid's prophecy.
A painting of Queen Medb, receiving druid's prophecy.

Medb's motives are later reveled, she plans to fulfill a prophecy. In which she bores a son named "Maine", to slay Conchobar in battle. Originally all her sons had different names, although after asking a druid which of sons would slay Conchobar. The druid said "Maine", so they were renamed.


Although in an strange twist Medb misunderstood the druid's prophecy. Which was fulfilled when her son Maine Andoe slayed Conchobar, son of Arthur. Not Conchobar, son of Fachtna Fathach as she intended. Thus making much of her actions to find a powerful suitor to bore her a son. For vengeance against Conchobar, pointless and instrumental in causing unnecessary chaos in Ireland.

Medb most famous action was the invasion of Ulster, to capture the great bull Donn Cúailnge. Thus beginning the ancient epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). Leading to the death of the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn (Culann's Hound) by Lugaid mac Con Roí's spear. Lugaid slayed Cú Chulainn in vengeance for the death of his father Cú Roí.


Queen Medb played a central role in the conspiracy that led to Lugaid's vengeance. Thus leading to her eventual assassination by Furbaide Ferbend. Son of her previous husband Conchobar mac Nessa. Furbaide took note of Medb's regular bathing in a Galway pool, on the Inchcleraun coast. Furbaide devise a plan, where he carefully measured the distance from the shore and the pool.


Practicing with his sling, Furbaide trained until he could perfectly strike an apple off a pole. Which was measured to be the exact height of Medb. When opportunity finally arose, Furbaide stealthily made his way to his hiding place. Striking Medb in the forehead, thus ending the feud and avenging Ulster. According to legend, Queen Medb was buried in a tomb, on the summit of Knocknarea.

Size Comparison

An Irish 1 Pound banknote with US Dollar for scale.
An Irish 1 Pound banknote with US Dollar for scale.

Ultraviolet Gallery


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 148 x 78 mm or 5.83 x 3.07 in, larger than a standard US dollar.

  • It's advisable to use large note sleeves when preserving this banknote.

  • The Irish 1 Pound note is shorter with a higher profile, than the US Dollar.

  • This article's Irish 1 Pound note has been digitally modified, for reference purposes.

  • Hazel Lavery likeness appears as a watermark on all Series B and C banknotes.

  • Hazel Lavery (1880–1935) was the second wife of painter Sir John Lavery 1856-1941).

  • After creation of the Irish Free State, Hazel Lavery was chosen to personify the Irish nation.

Photo Credits