ACIS Logo Mummers, Money, and May: Reading At the Black Pig’s Dyke as a Hard Brexit Cautionary Tale

Vincent Woods’s 1992 play “At the Black Pig’s Dyke” was written at the time of an ongoing border dispute and in the midst of a generations-long battle for identity, ideology, and political control of Northern Ireland. Following 1998’s Good Friday Agreement, and the St. Andrews Agreement in 2006, many hoped that peace would reign on the Irish/Northern Irish borderland‚ and indeed it largely has. The 2016 decision by the UK to leave the European Union, however, has rendered that border back again unstable‚ and thrust some of the sectarian identity-driven politics, that had begun to calm, back into the forefront of Irish/Northern Irish life. While (thankfully) the violence that defined the Troubles has not reemerged, the threat of a hard border dividing the island is one again a reality.

If Woods’s play can be (should be) read as a cautionary fable in its political moment‚ some 6 years before the Good Friday Agreement‚ then it seems worth revisiting the piece in the face of an ugly divorce between the UK and the EU‚ and with Northern Ireland caught in the middle. This paper will mine “At the Black Pig’s Dyke” for folklore-rich suggestions for a protective coming together that might allow shared traditions to overcome political and financial division, and for opportunities of hope for a border people caught up in someone else’s identity, fiscal, and political crisis.