It seems that all things truly Irish are shrouded in history and legend - none less than the wild and barren Glen of Imaal in the heart of Co. Wicklow to which the hardy, courageous, bow legged Terrier is indigenous, and from where the dog proudly takes its name.
The `Glen' itself owes its name to the people who inhabited the area many centuries ago a tribe named Ui Mhail, and this name can be traced back as far as the year 737. Since then the Glen of Imaal has been the site of many events important in the evolution of Ireland, sadly too numerous to mention as they would deserve Volumes in their own right. Over many generations the inhabitants of this beautiful but infertile Glen kept their Terrier and gradually bred into this little dog all the characteristics of a much larger canine so necessary to allow it to serve its masters and share their tough and difficult existence in an area not kind to any being unable to survive hardship. The Glen of Imaal Terrier was as necessary to his owner's existence as was food to their stock, and he did his job well. He is one of the smallest, gamest Terriers in the world today and the Irish are justifiably proud of him now as they were centuries ago.
The Glen of Imaal lies in all its beauty, guarded by a circle of protecting mountains including Brittas Hill, Table Mountain, Lugnaquilla Mountain, from where the Galtees, the Comeraghs, Slievenamon and even Wales can be seen, then Keadeen, Spinans and Donard. One glance of the map is sufficient to illustrate the wildness of the Glen and it takes little imagination to realize what an ideal home it is for fox, badger and the other marauding vermin who are the bane of the farmers' and small-holders' lives. There are no permanent inhabitants here now. In 1900 there was an Artillery Range established by the British and this still remains in use today by the Irish Army, so red Danger marks have become a familiar part of the landscape now.
Down through the years the Glen of Imaal and its sister glens, Glendalough and Glenmalure have been the setting for many battles, struggles and acts of bravery. The names of Michael Dwyer and Antrim man Sam McAllister, United Irishmen whose force fought the Highlanders in the Rising of 1798. In February 1799, McAllister sacrificed his life for Dwyer, his leader, by drawing the enemy fire and allowing his leader to escape. In Baltinglass stands the 1798 Monument to Michael Dwyer whose grave is in far off Australia, tho' his thumb was buried in Leitrim after an accident with a blunderbuss, It was after fighting the Irish forces in these Glens in 1798 that the British General Sir John Moore is reputed to have said: "If I were an Irishman, I would be a rebel."
So, this is where our little game Terrier comes from -- from a wild Irish Glen, steeped in the romance of Irish History and legend - a place of mighty deeds and acts of courage, which still lies unchanged through the years, as are the native Glen of Imaal Terriers who have never been cross bred they remain pure now as they were then, still well endowed with the characteristics with which they served their masters long ago in the mountains and glens of Wicklow.
Much is written of Irish History, but very little record remains of the history of the Glen of Imaal. A wild, barren and lonely Glen which saw much action during the reign of the first Elizabeth, Hessian and Lowland mercenaries doing much of the fighting with the Irish in this, the Glen of Imaal, Glenmalure and Glendalough.
The Glen of Imaal is situated in West Wicklow, much nearer to the Kildare side, bound on one side by Table Mountain and on the other by Derrybawn, Mullacor and Djouce. Lord "Black" Fitzwilliam was the Lord Lieutenant at that period and Major Grey was in command of the troops who fought the Irish peasants under the McHughs, the McCeathairs and Rory Og 0 Moore. When their term of office came to en end they were granted tracts of land in this barren wilderness and this they farmed.
To this end the Glen of Imaal Terrier dog was bred long and low to the ground with powerful head and legs bowed, this game little dog guarded their stock and fought many a fight for wagers away from the watchful eyes of the Law
The breeding in this dog is more likely to have derived from the Irish Wolfhound as the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers were not known in this area. Whatever was used to arrive at the conformation of the dog, the people in West Wicklow kept it secret and it was not until 1980 that it was seen in Great Britain.
During World War II a British plane crashed on Djouce with the loss of all on board the lone memorial in the Glen of Imaal does not remember the past history of the people in this Glen but rather the plane that crashed.
Time has passed and the Glen no longer has residents and farmers, it is extensively used by the Irish Army for firing practice and has achieved notoriety through the newspaper headlines and reports detailing the many accidents that have occurred during recent years involving live ammunition which caused injury and many deaths Stranahely Wood. which was one of the best known local beauty spots, is now closed to the public as it is too dangerous. Donard is the nearest townland and the place most inhabited. The local schoolhouse is Knockinarrigan and behind the Glen is Glendalough.
The secrets of The Glen of Imaal are forever bound in this wild and beautiful place and the dog of the same name, The Glen of Imaal Terrier was bred to merge with the heather, bracken and fern of the landscape, thus giving the colouring of Blue and Wheaten to this grand little dog.
MIDI FILE playing on this page is 'Wind that shakes the Barley' copyright Richard Jordan 1996-7 from the Jordan O'Connell Celtic Midi Archive
photograph on this page is property of W Lucas ęcopyright Wendy Lucas 2000