O’Brien Banknote Guide: One Pound, Irish Banknote “B Series”


As early as 1971, the Central Bank of Ireland announced its intention to produce new banknotes to replace the long-lived Lady Lavery issue which had been printed by the Bank of England in London and circulating in Ireland since 1928. They sub-contracted the design phase to Servicon – an Irish design company, to design the notes of the denominations; £1, £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.

  • The £100 note was never issued or circulated
  • The “B Series” is the only set of Irish banknotes without a note of this denomination
  • It has been speculated that a proposal to have Granuaile (the Irish Pirate Queen) feature on the “B Series” £100
    • It is rumoured that Servicon produced a proof of the £100 note (but none have been recorded)
    • It is also rumoured that Servicon “had some Pre-Production Designs (but none have been recorded)
    • Their existence has never been confirmed by Servicon or the Central Bank of Ireland

The theme chosen for these notes was history of Ireland, and each note featured the portrait of a person with this theme in mind from a particular era from historic to modern, alongwith ‘complementing’ visual elements. The female head painted by Sir John Lavery was retained from Series A as a watermark and appeared in the blank space on each design.

  • Each banknote has the signature of the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland and the Secretary of the Department of Finance
  • Variances in these signatures accounts for the 4 varieties (types) of this banknote

Foreign collectors found it difficult to legally acquire examples of the £50 note since, for much of the period of circulation of this series, foreign exchange controls prohibited the export of any notes larger than £20 from the Republic of Ireland. Of course, this probably didn’t cause too much of a problem for ‘determined’ collectors.

The “B Series” One Pound Note

The one pound note was first issued in 1977 but it was removed from circulation from June 1990 when it was replaced by the Irish pound coin. The last Irish one pound notes were printed in 1989. The “B Series” one pound note was the last one pound note to be circulated and it was the first note of “B Series” to be removed from circulation.

  • Front: The green one pound note had a portrait of Medb (pronounced Maeve), the legendary Queen of Connacht in Irish mythology. There is also a Pre-Christian era geometric design based on archaeological artefacts (bone slips) and the background design features an excerpt from the Táin – a book of Irish mythology that Medb.
  • Back: A decorated excerpt from Lebor na hUidre – the oldest surviving Irish manuscript, with some red in addition to the dominant green.
  • Size: 78 mm × 148 mm
1984 B Series £1 Banknote

1984 B Series £1 Banknote

How many “B Series” £1 notes were issued?

Queen Meabh / Medb Type 1 64,000,000 6 dates  1976-77
BBB 4 replacements
Type 2 272,000,000 23 dates  1978-81
BBB, DDD, GGG 12 replacements
Type 3 353,000,000 30 dates  1982-87
BBB, DDD 12 replacements
Type 4 120,000,000 9 dates  1988-93
BBB 4 replacements

A total of 809 million of these banknotes were issued.

There are 4 main varieties of this banknote, according to the signatures that appear on left-hand side of the note.

  • Type 1 (1976-77)
    • Signatures = C. H. Murray & M. O Murchú
    • 1976-77 B Series £1, Type 1,  signatures C. H. Murray & M. O Murchú

      1976-77 B Series £1, Type 1, signatures C. H. Murray & M. O Murchú

  • Type 2 (1978-81)
    • Signatures = C. H. Murray & Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh
    • 1978-81 B Series £1, Type 2,  signatures C. H. Murray & Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh

      1978-81 B Series £1, Type 2, signatures C. H. Murray & Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh

  • Type 3 (1982-87)
    • Signatures = Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh & Maurice Doyle
    • 1982-87 B Series £1, Type 3,  signatures Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh & Maurice Doyle

      1982-87 B Series £1, Type 3, signatures Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh & Maurice Doyle

  • Type 4 (1988-93) before being superseded and gradually replaced by the new one pound coin
    • Signatures = Maurice Doyle & S. P. Cromien
    • 1986-89 B Series £1, Type 4, signatures Maurice Doyle & S. P. Cromie

      1988-93 B Series £1, Type 4, signatures Maurice Doyle & S. P. Cromien

Who was Queen Medb of Connacht?

Maeve (modern English spelling) was the legendary Queen of Connacht and femme fatale of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Her husband in the core stories of the cycle is Ailill mac Máta, although she had several husbands before him who were also kings of Connacht.

  • She ruled from Cruachan (now Rathcroghan) in modern day Co Roscommon
  • She is the enemy (and former wife) of Conchobar mac Nessa, King of Ulster
  • She is best known for starting the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) – a plot to steal Ulster’s prize stud bull

Her Rise to Power and Multiple Marriages

Her father, Eochaid Feidlech, was the High King of Ireland and Maeve, like many princesses before and since, was married for political gain and/or strategic alliances. Her father first married her to Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, because he had killed Conchobar’s purported father, the former High King Fachtna Fáthach, in battle. The marriage, thus, prevented a blood feud and Maeve bore him a son, Glaisne.

  • The marriage was a bad one and Maeve left Conchobar mac Nessa
  • Her father. Eochaid, then gave Conchobar another of his daughters, Eithne (or Clothru)
  • But Maeve murdered her sister while she was pregnant and her son (Furbaide) was born by posthumous caesarian section

In a new political ploy, Eochaid deposed the then-king of Connacht, Tinni mac Conri, and installed Medb in his place. The rest reads like a Jackie Collins novel and the tale Cath Bóinde is also known as Ferchuitred Medba (or “Maeve’s man-share”).

  • However, Tinni regained a share of the throne when he and Medb later became lovers
  • Conchobar then raped Maeve after an assembly at Tara, and war ensued between the High King and Ulster
  • Tinni challenged Conchobar to single combat, and lost his life
  • Eochaid Dála of the Fir Domnann, who had been Tinni’s rival for the kingship of Connacht, protected the Connacht army as it retreated, and became Maeve’s next husband and, by default, King of Connacht
  • Medb demanded her husband satisfy her three criteria—that he be without fear, meanness, or jealousy
    • The last was particularly important, as she had many lovers
    • While married to Eochaid Dála, she took Ailill mac Máta, chief of her bodyguard, as her lover
    • Eochaid discovered the affair, challenged Ailill to single combat, and lost
    • Ailill then married Medb and became king of Connacht

Maeve and Ailill had seven sons, all called Maine. They originally all had other names, but when Maeve asked a druid which of her sons would kill Conchobar, he replied, “Maine”.

  • She did not have a son called Maine, so she re-named all her sons as follows:
    • Fedlimid became Maine Athramail (“like his father”)
    • Cairbre became Maine Máthramail (“like his mother”)
    • Eochaid became Maine Andoe (“the swift”)
    • Fergus became Maine Taí (“the silent”)
    • Cet became Maine Mórgor (“of great duty”)
    • Sin became Maine Mílscothach (“honey-speech”)
    • Dáire became Maine Móepirt (“beyond description”)

The prophecy was fulfilled when Maine Andoe went on to kill Conchobar, son of Arthur, son of Bruide — not Conchobar, son of Fachtna Fathach, as Maeve had assumed the druid meant. Maeve and Ailill also had a daughter, Findabair.

It is told that both Ailill and Maeve had many lovers and out of jealousy for his affair with Maeve, Ailill had one lover (Fergus) killed. In his old age, after Conchobar’s death, the Ulster hero Conall Cernach came to stay with Ailill and Maeve, as they were the only household capable of supporting him and his entourage. Maeve tasked him to keep an eye on Ailill, who was seeing other women. Finding Ailill in flagrante, she ordered Conall to kill him, which he was happy to do in revenge for his friend Fergus. However, the dying Ailill sent his men after him, and he was killed while trying to escape. Life in ancient Ireland was, apparently, far from dull – if only we had digital cameras and social media back then !!!

The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Maeve insisted that she be equal in wealth with her husband, Ailill and she initiated the now famous Cattle Raid of Cooley when she discovered that Ailill was one powerful stud bull richer than her. She discovered that the only rival to Ailill’s bull, Finnbennach, was Donn Cúailnge, owned by Dáire mac Fiachna, a vassal of Conchobar’s. She sent messengers to Dáire, offering wealth, land and sexual favours in return for the loan of the bull, and Dáire initially agreed. But when a drunken messenger declared that, if he had not agreed, the bull would have been taken by force, Dáire withdrew his consent, and Maeve prepared for war – cattle rustling was another popular pastime in ancient Ireland.
  • An army was raised including contingents from all over Ireland
  • One was a group of Ulster exiles led by Conchobar’s estranged son Cormac Cond Longas and his foster-father Fergus mac Róich, former king of Ulster and the unfortunate Fergus mentioned in the last section – another one of Maeve’s many lovers
  • Because of a divine curse on the Ulstermen, the invasion was opposed only by the teenage Ulster hero Cúchulainn, who held up the army’s advance by demanding single combat at river fords.
    • Maeve and Ailill offered their daughter Findabair in marriage to a series of heroes as payment for fighting Cúchulainn, but all were defeated – except one – Ferdia (a friend of Cúchulainn) who kills Cúchulainn just before he himself dies. Cúchulainn then tied himself to a tree and no one would cross the ford until a raven fed on the dead body of Cúchulainn many days later.
    • So, in the end, Maeve secured the bull but after a final battle against Conchobar’s assembled army, she was forced to retreat.
      • Her prize bull, Donn Cúailnge, was brought back to Cruachan, Co Roscommon
      • There, it fought Ailill’s bull, Finnbennach, killing him, but dying of his wounds.

Modern Interpretations of Maeve

Some historians suggest that she was probably originally a “sovereignty goddess”, whom a king would ritually marry as part of his inauguration. Medb Lethderg, who performs a similar function in Tara is probably identical with or the inspiration for this Medb of Connacht.

  • Her name is said to mean ‘she who intoxicates’
  • It is thought that the sacred marriage ceremony between the king and the goddess would involve a shared drink
  • Given that all of these Irish myths were first recorded by Irish monks, it is likely that their dates were altered to fit in with the monk’s Biblical chronology and some of the lessons learnt (adages) were added or embellished to fit in with their Christian ethos, including the admonishment of the seemingly very liberal women of ancient Ireland.

2 thoughts on “O’Brien Banknote Guide: One Pound, Irish Banknote “B Series”

  1. I have an unopened and tied up bundle of 1000 Queen Mebh bank notes. Tthey are tightly strapped with the normal nylon tapes, and so we accept that the letters E J K 602001 to 3000
    represent the Central Bank print or circulation information. What can we deduce from this ?


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