Section 4

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Map Developments in Ireland

This section shows how maps of Ireland changes over the centuries. Some maps are of particular counties such as Sligo or Donegal some general conclusions can be drawn from them about the purpose of maps in Ireland in the past and also what was depicted on them. Many of these maps are beautifully illustrated and are hand-drawn.

Skills - Compare and contrast:

Children are shown two maps of Donegal. They are asked to compare them and to notice how much more accurate the most recent map is. The first map is the Taylor and Skinner map of Donegal from 1778 and shows the area between Killybegs and Mountcharles in south County Donegal. Children are asked to notice and to find the names of landowners on the map. The map viewer is a very useful tool here and allows children to enlarge the maps and to zoom in on specific areas of them. The value of maps for landowners is shown. Children are given an activity in which they must click on certain landowners.

The second map displayed is a 1912 Ordnance Survey map of north Donegal. Children will see that this map includes detailed information about the type of countryside in that part of Ireland. The maps shows contour lines, shading and spot heights and each of these is explained. (The section in Geography on maps for 5th and 6th has additional information in this area.)

Early Irish Maps: Children learn that the first maps of Ireland were based on information collected by people who sailed and many were created by sailors from Greece, Rome and other parts of the Mediterranean. Children can be asked why a sea view might not give a very accurate view of Ireland. They can also be asked how people who visited Ireland might have corrected these maps by finding other information. Children will learn that as Ireland was visited the maps of the coast improved and the information about the areas inland were also filled in. Areas which had the best land or which were most visited by outside visitors were the ones with the best maps. As Connaught was not visited as often children will learn that it was not accurately mapped even in the late Middle Ages.

Ptolemy's Map of Ireland: Children examine a map of Ireland and Britain from c.1300. They learn that this was drawn through consulting the records left by Ptolemy. Children will see that this was a very inaccurate map. They can give some reasons why by comparing it to a modern map.

Children will learn that those who had most need for early maps were armies for either offensive or defensive reasons.

16th and 17th century maps of Ireland

Perspectives of early maps: Here some maps early Irish maps from Tudor times are shown. Their shape and form is quite peculiar. Children will see that the west of Ireland was not drawn in the west and south was often not south. Children's attention can be drawn to the fact that the 1567 map of Ireland is drawn from the Leinster side or the area that is closest to Britain. The orientation of the map and what it sees as important gives a hint about who drew the map. If it was drawn for example by for example by the O'Neill's of Ulster the projection would be very different.

Point of view:

  • Children could be asked to do a point of view task, to describe how useful the map is as an English settler or as an Irish chieftain.
  • Hot seating: The map-maker might be interviewed by the class and various questions about why certain things were included or excluded on the 1567 map could be asked.
  • Children could be asked to study the map and to draw the map with Ulster or Connaught as the side most prominent.

The 1580 map of Munster shows Limerick to the south and Dingle to the west. Children will see that this was a hand drawn map and that it was beautifully illustrated to depict rivers and forests as well as castles and fertile land.

Mercator's Map of Ireland, 1584: Children's attention is drawn to the inaccurate depiction of Connaught and Ulster. A link can be made between geography and history here as children will see that the plantations of Leinster and Munster had taken place by 1584 and this would have given the English monarchs of the time a chance to map the lands captured in these areas. Ulster was the last province to be mapped after the Flight of the Earls which occurred in 1607.

Sligo map 1589 and the wrecks of the Spanish Armada: A beautifully hand-illustrated map of Sligo. Children are asked to spot some of the wrecks of the Spanish Armada on this map which shows Sligo and its coast. What evidence? Children can be asked what evidence is there that the ships did not return home to Spain in 1588-89? They could also find out more about the Armada fleet, how it was sent by Philip 11 of Spain to invade England in 1588 and how many of the ships were shipwrecked by terrible storms off the western coast of Ireland.

Activity: Children could be asked to examine the 1589 map and to write a letter to Queen Elizabeth telling her majesty about the number of ships sunk and the fate of the survivors, if any.

1609 Map of Ireland: This shows how inaccurately Connaught is still drawn in the 17th century.

18th and 19th Century Irish Maps

Children see here examples of more modern maps of Ireland. They find out that because Ireland was governed by Britain at this time most maps were commissioned by landowners or government.

On the 1778 map of Carlow children can examine how roadways, forestry and the town itself were depicted then. They see an 1843 map of Ireland showing the proposed railways. Children can compare this map to the earlier maps and see how much more accurate it is to for example a Tudor map of Ireland seen earlier.

This accuracy of maps is seen to come as a result of the first 'modern' maps of Ireland made during an Ordnance Survey of Ireland in the early 1800?s. They learn that these O.S. maps, the basis of our modern maps of Ireland, were drawn up mainly by the military at that time. Children find out that the Ordnance Survey of Ireland still makes maps and they can see an example of a satellite aerial photograph of the Pollaphuca Reservoir in Co. Wicklow. Ask how might this help to make a map of this area?

Irish Map Games

Activity 1: Act as a map maker of the past! Draw a coastline using towns as the basis for the coastline. Children get to see how difficult it was to draw accurate maps with only limited information.

Activity 2: Make a map timeline - drag and drop task to sort the maps according to age and accuracy