19C Irish Oak Wake Table

19C Irish Oak Wake Table.

19C Irish Oak Wake Table

PRESENTING a STUNNING and RARE Irish Oak ‘Wake’ Table from circa 1860 – 1880.

This table is in FABULOUS CONDITION. It has been ‘strenghtened’ over the years with new corner supports/brackets (not visible from above)…..but otherwise it is in excellent original condition with a lovely RICH oak patina.

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

The table is a gate-leg version of a wake table. It sits on 8 turned oak 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.

The detail to the interlocking of the leafs to the central section, when fully open is a lovely detail.

This table is slightly longer than most similar tables.

It comfortably sits 8.



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.




On a lighter note:


19C Irish Oak 'Wake' Table.

Provenance: From a Private Collection.
Dimensions: 95.25" Long, Each leaf is 19.75" deep and the central section is 20.5" deep (Total: 60" deep), It is 30" tall. It has a Knee Clearance of 29.25".

Condition: Overall in VERY GOOD condition for its age. 

PRICE: $6,000.00

19C Irish Oak Wake Table