A WEST Kerry man has quite literally brought the past to life by reinventing an ancient Celtic board game that is thought to have been played in Ireland over 1,000 years ago.
John Sheehy from Ballydavid has developed and hand-crafted his own version of Fidchell na nGael which he based on an artefact of the original board game discovered in Westmeath in 1932. That fragment of Celtic history is now housed in the National Museum and dates back to 950 A.D.
Fidchell na nGael is thought to have been the 'thinking man's' board game in Celtic Ireland. Often referred to in manuscripts, it is said to have been invented by Lugh and played by his son Cúchulainn. Variations of the game were also played throughout Northern Europe and Scandinavia but studies suggest that Fidchell was played in Ireland some five centuries before the introduction of chess into Europe.
John has also developed a special 'Dingle Rules' for his version of Fidchell na nGael; a seven by seven board in which the pieces move like the rook in chess but only the king can rest on the four corner positions or the central position known as the throne. The asymmetrical game is all about capturing the king.
"It is a very fluid game; the moves aren't complicated but plenty of strategy can be employed when playing it," John said. "It is a fascinating game to play".
"It took a year and a half to develop but I am very happy with the result. It was important to me that young people discover some of our heritage as this game pre-dates chess and draughts. It's something we can be proud of and it is suitable for children from the age of eight up and adults to play."
John has donated a Fidchell set to Dingle Library for the public to play and librarian Bernárd Mac Bradaigh hopes to stage a Fidchell na nGael tournament some-time in the future – possibly during the library's Children's Book Festival, which will run from October 5 - 19.
John has also created a website to accompany the board game and more information is available at Unique-Original.com