19C Irish Elm Wake Table


Made from Pollard Elm circa 1860 this Wake Table is QUITE SIMPLY THE BEST WE HAVE EVER HAD OR SEEN !

It is in AMAZING ORIGINAL condition with abolutely GLORIOUS natural patina, throughout.

It has 2 drop leafs and sits on 4 gate legs.

Each section is made of 3 joined planks of elm assembled together which is a clear and obvious sign of authenticity. Reproductions are more likely, to be made from solid cuts of wood.

It is a FANTASTIC size. Slightly smaller than most ‘Wake Tables’ which makes it even more desirable in our opinion. It will comfortably seat 8. It will seat 10 but the chairs would have to be narrow.

The legs are EXCEPTIONAL !

Each leg is very slender for this type of table. the start with a ‘shoulder’ which is clearly hand-carved (very noticeable from the rear), they are then fronted by a ‘knee’ and curve cabriole style down to ‘hoof’ feet. Not simply bun feet like most. The grain and patina on the legs is just fabulous.

Examination of the underside and general construction of the table reveals EXACTLY what you would expect from an original period piece. Wooden pins etc.



This table has only been seen by 2 customers before being cataloged and both expressed an interest …. SO … he who hesitates will be lost !!

NOTE: As an added bonus … this table will come with custom made table top pads which have protected it for the last 40 years and cost several hundred dollars to be custom made.

Tables like this were used In Ireland (and continue to be used as such to this day) as tables for holding a ‘Wake’.

They are often confused with ‘Hunt’ tables as both are very similar in design, shape and construction. A ‘Hunt’ Table was used for laying out food and drink at the local Manor/Estate House on the morning of the ‘fox hunt’.

The way to distinguish the difference between a ‘Wake’ and ‘Hunt’ Table is as follows:

  1. Wake Tables were mainly made from oak, elm or sycamore. The indigenous hardwoods available to common Irish folk. They normally had simple carved legs which were either straight or bun ended. The central portion (with the leafs down) had to be wide enough and long enough to facilitate a coffin resting safely on top for the purpose of the Wake.
  2. Hunt Tables were mainly made from imported Cuban mahogany. The nobility could only afford this imported and expensive hardwood. The legs and in particular the feet were often highly carved, often ending in ball and claw feet. The better the carving the better the piece and the station of the owner in Society. The central portion will often be much narrower than a wake table as it did not need to hold a coffin., They are also often longer than wake tables.

This table is a gate-leg version of a wake table. It sits on 8 turned and STUNNING curved legs ending with hoofed bun feet. Both sides of the table are drop leaves supported by 2 extendable and hinged gate-legs on either side, with the central portion of the table being exactly the width and length of a coffin. Once the leaves are upright the table becomes oval in shape.

This table is slightly shorter than most similar tables.

It comfortably sits 8.

These ‘Wake” and ‘Hunt’ Tables are currently very much in demand as they are very compatible with contemporary living. When not in use, they can be put up against a wall and act like a credenza for display, BUT when needed (for dinner parties, Easter, Thanksgiving, Xmas etc) they can be pulled forward and use as a dining table.


For many cultures, death is a semi-taboo subject, a happenstance to be dealt with in only the most serious somber manner. In that the ancient Celts believed that a person’s demise was the gateway to a better world, their rituals surrounding the event resonated with joy as well as sorrow. In all but the rarest cases, it was a time to share warm anecdotes and celebrate the accomplishments of the deceased, affording much needed comfort for grieving family and friends.

Originally, a wake was held in the family home, usually in the parlor from whence comes the term ‘funeral parlor’ used to describe modern undertaking establishments. Unlike today’s society that is awash with consumerism, in past ages personal possessions and household furnishings were meager, cherished, and commonly passed down generation to generation. One item that has survived but rarely is the ‘wake table.’ Consisting of a central plank flanked by two drop-down leaves, it was used for year-round dining but when a death occurred it would have become the focal furnishing of a wake as, with its side leaves folded down, the center plank was exactly the width of a coffin, enabling respectful mourners to approach the deceased for a final farewell.

Wakes were usually held several days after death, allowing friends who lived at a distance time to make the journey to pay their respects. At the moment of death all clocks in the house were stopped and time literally stood still until after the funeral service. As those closest to the deceased were often so distraught as to be unable to sleep, and it was believed to be bad luck to leave the body unattended, vigil was kept through the night, giving rise to the term ‘wake.’

So imbedded in Irish tradition is the custom of ‘waking’ that during the 19th century, it became common to hold a wake for the brave souls who sought to escape Ireland’s Great Famines by emigrating overseas. At these ‘American Wakes’ friends and family shared one last bittersweet uproarious time with those whom they would probably never in life see again. Just as, and most likely because, birth is a province exclusive to women, with the exception of the Last Rites of the Church performed by the parish priest, so too was it women’s charge to make all preparations for the deceased’s final public viewing. While the men sat talking in subdued tones, smoking, drinking uisce beatha (whiskey – the ‘water of life’), and often playing cards (with an unused hand dealt to the deceased), the wife or mother of the deceased was exempt from duties in deference to her grief. Meanwhile, neighbors known as mna cabhartha or ‘handy women’ cleaned, dressed and presented the body, opened all windows and doors so the departed soul could take wing, covered or removed any mirrors in the house lest someone spy the specter of death plotting to seize another victim, hung immaculate white sheets kept solely for waking the dead on and about the bier, and prepared food for those who would pay their last respects.

Women also played a key role during the wake itself, ‘keening’ vocal expression of the communal grief. While keening is usually equated with inarticulate wailing, it is often a sad song, a favorite perhaps of the deceased, or a lament composed on the spot extolling the departed’s virtue or circumstance of death. One such is Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire. The late 18th c. epic poem tells of the life and tragic demise of Art O’ Laoghaire who was murdered by Abraham Morris at Carraig an Ime, County Cork on May 4, 1793. Composed extemporaneously at Art’s wake by his pregnant wife Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill, the 390-line keening is one of the greatest love poems of the Irish language, one of its greatest laments, and one of the finest compositions to have survived from Irish oral literature.

Link: http://irishamerica.com/2007/04/slainte-the-irish-wake/

19C Irish Elm Wake Table.

Provenance: From a Private Florida Collection (originally from Baltimore, Maryland).

Dimensions: 84″ Long, Each leaf is 23.75″ deep and the central section is 20″ deep (Total: 67.50″ deep), It is 30″ tall. It has a Knee Clearance of 29.20″.

Condition: EXCELLENT ORIGINAL condition for its age. 


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