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Storyteller Alan Irvine brings the Irish Epic “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” to life


Storyteller Alan Irvine will perform “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” at the 2016 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival (Thursday, Sept. 15 – Saturday, Sept. 24) on Saturday, September 17, 2 PM at Writers and Books (740 University Ave.) Tickets are $12 at, where more information is also available. Remaining tickets will be available at the door starting one hour before curtain.


“The Cattle Raid of Cooley” is known as “the Iliad of Ireland,” the greatest artistic achievement of the ancient Celts. It is a tale of warriors and armies, enchantments and curses, glory and honor, bringing to life the vanished world of the ancient Ireland. “The Cattle Raid of Cooley,” or the “Tain bo Cuailnge” in Irish, is a sprawling mix of story, poetry, high literature and low humor in a work originally intended to be recited over many long, winter nights. Alan Irvine spent many months sorting through different translations, condensing the story, crafting it into a cohesive tale that fits into a single performance while still retaining all the essential elements of the epic. The program also includes the tale “Dierdre of the Sorrows and the Fate of the Sons of Usna,” known as one of the Three Sorrows of Ireland. The story of Deirdre, the inspiration for plays by Irish writers like Yeats and Synge and many others, sets in motion events that lead to “The Cattle Raid of Cooley.”


The tale starts simply enough: Maeve, the Queen of Connaught and her husband argue about which of them controls more wealth. When it turns out that they are equal, Maeve to swears to best her husband by acquiring the White Bull of Cooley, a beast without rival in all of Ireland. When the owner of the bull refuses to give it to her, Maeve proclaims a great cattle raid, a “tain” in Irish, into the kingdom of Ulster to capture the bull. Heroes, kings, and armies of all Ireland gather, hoping to share in looting mighty Ulster of its vast wealth. As the army of the Tain approaches, a curse falls upon the men of Ulster. They all fall, consumed by the pains of labor, leaving only the warrior Cuchullain to stand alone against all the might of Ireland.


This is Alan Irvine’s first appearance at the Rochester Fringe. He has performed “The Cattle Raid of Cooley,” at the Pittsburgh Fringe, as well as at Irish Festivals in Pittsburgh, Dublin, Chicago. Alan’s recording of the “Tain bo Cuailnge” won the Storytelling World award for Best Story for Adults in 2013.


Alan Irvine began telling stories over 35 years ago while working as a camp counselor in Louisiana. He told ghost stories and old Irish legends in the cabins and around the bonfires. Eventually he moved to Pittsburgh, where he continued telling tales of all sorts. Irish folk tales and legends remain one of his specialties, and he has performed at numerous Irish and Celtic festivals around the country such as the Dublin (Ohio) Irish Festival, the Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival, the Maryland Irish Festival, the Potomac Celtic Festival. He has performed at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival every year since the festival began.


More about Fringe: Since its debut in 2012, the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival has become one of the most successful fringe festivals in the U.S., attracting more than 63,000 attendees in 2015. This 10-day, multi-arts festival now boasts over 500 performances and events – more than a quarter of which are free – in 25+ venues in downtown Rochester, NY. Celebrating and inspiring creativity, the Fringe – which is partially curated by the non-profit festival and partially by festival venues – includes everything from theatre, music, comedy and dance, to children’s entertainment, spoken word, visual arts, film and much more. Please visit for a complete schedule, tickets and more information about the 2016 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.


Media please note: Check out an excerpt of the Tain at or .
Alan Irvine is available of interviews.

Media Contact(s): Alan Irvine, 412-521-6406,

Show info:,, @alanirvinestory

Fringe info:,, @RochesterFringe,, #rocfringe16