I’m Tom O’Donnell, currently a PhD student at University College London. I have recently passed my viva on my thesis ‘The Affect of Fosterage in Medieval Ireland’.
Fosterage was a common practice in medieval Ireland, in which your children would be sent to another family to be raised. Although it has been examined before, what has been missing from previous discussions of fosterage is the emotional element. How do you think about family and the bond that it creates in a world in which biological ties are not the sole determining factor of family?
For my thesis I draw on many different sources: saints lives, secular narrative, law codes, poetry, and penitentials to name but a few. I am committed to making these little known sources more accessible. To that end I have a semi-regularly updated blog in which I retell all these tales. Why not have a look at The Head of Donn Bó? My knowledge of Latin and medieval Irish allows a deep engagement with these primary sources. I also know a wee bit of Modern Irish, which led to me making this silly thing.
As well as Irish language and literature, I have an interest in heraldry. I work part-time as a research assistant at The College of Arms and am reviews editor for The Coat of Arms, the journal of the heraldry society.
I am also free to talk about all sorts of mythical creatures. Here are some facts I told The Mirror about the 8th century origins of leprechauns and I have been consulted on medieval sex and medieval fear of the undead.
If you fancy, you can follow me on Twitter @TomCODonnell