Billy Colfer

Billy Colfer worked as a Primary teacher in Wexford until he retired in 1997. He is an artist of some note and a historian of international standing. Some of his books / articles are listed below including his latest book "The Hook Peninsula." The paintings shown below are original works.


The Promontory of Hook. 1978

The County of Wexford. 1981

Historic Hook Head, Co Wexford. 1992

The Ethnic Mix in Medieval Wexford. 2002

Arrogant Trespass Anglo Norman Wexford  1169-1400.  2002




The Hook Peninsula  (Cork University Press, 2004)

This case-study explores the rich landscape of the compact and highly distinctive Hook peninsula in south-west county Wexford and places its layered archaeological legacy in an historical context. The Hook forms the eastern boundary of Waterford Harbour, the gateway to south-east Ireland. Because of its strategic nature, the harbour has played a central role in Irish history and this is reflected in the physical remains around its shores. This book connects these remains in the Hook peninsula with the historical record and places the local story into a wider narrative. The origins of present-day families are also discussed. By using a wide range of maps, colour photographs (many of them aerial) prints and illustrations, the gradual evolution of the cultural landscape from earliest times to the present day is traced. The need for modern developments to appreciate and respect the inherited environment, and to conserve it for future generations, is also examined.

Billy's book was launched by Dr Pauric Travers, President of St Patrick’s College of Education at the Merrion Hotel on  30 November. Dr Travers said that it "was the product of a lifetime’s work and a great honour for him to launch such an important book that had been written by a past pupils of the university." (Billy graduated from St Patrick’s College in 1961.) "In the same way as the Hook was unique yet representative of  the Irish rural  landscape, Billy Colfer is representative of a generation of teachers, particularly primary teachers who have made a significant contribution to local studies and local history in Ireland. Individually and collectively,  their stories were of a lifetime of service to schools, parishes and communities up and down the country."

Dr Travers continued that "The Hook Peninsula demonstrated graphically the dynamism of the landscape, how it was shaped and re-shaped in successive eras, and and how it continues to be shaped by tourism and other factors.  In a series of chapters, the interaction of different groups and communities with the landscape and their imprint on it  is uncovered.  The Hook is a distinctive landscape, isolated but strategic – remote by land, at least relatively,  but intimately connected with a wider world by sea and the trade routes. 

The sea is a central character in  the story of the peninsula and one which through the ages elevates that story from the local to regional, national and  international significance.  From Early Medieval times the Hook has had a beacon to warn ships of the approach to Waterford Harbour. A monastery was founded there by Marshall in his gratitude after surviving a treacherous sea voyage. The sea provided a living and an orientation for so many of the Hook's inhabitants. It is always with you in the Hook; and always present in the book."

In their preface, the joint editors of the rural landscape series write of  making the familiar exotic and lifting the lid on the present surface to show the buried layers beneath.  Learning to read the landscape is a form of literacy: to look  afresh at what see everyday but don’t see, what we take for granted – that is the challenge for the local historian and the teacher of local studies.  Dr Travers concluded that "in The Hook Peninsula, Billy Colfer does that with an ease, an understanding and a familiarity  which is only possible for a sympathetic insider, and with an assuredness, perspective and frame of reference which is the mark of the professional historian." 

One of the most notable features of Billy Colfer's book on Wexford's Hook Peninsula is the amount of detail he has managed to include.

- BookView Ireland

To purchase "The Hook Peninsula"

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All Work the property of Billy Colfer 2004