Ireland at risk of losing status as reddest-headed

The traditional view of Ireland as the home of red-haired cailíní is out of step with new research.

There is at least the potential that Ireland will be knocked off its perch as the true home of flowing red hair, as a genetics study shows more people in Scotland and Wales carry the genes that could produce future foxy generations.

Over the past year, commercial research company IrelandsDNA worked with more than 2,300 people whose four grandparents were all from England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, to check if they carried one of the three most common gene variants that predict red hair. If both parents carry one of the variants, there is a one-in-four chance their children will have red hair, but millions of people could have it without knowing.

“Nobody needs a DNA test to tell if they have red hair; all they need is a mirror,” said IrelandsDNA managing director Alistair Moffat. “What we set out to discover was a hidden story, one never before told, of the secret carriers.”

And the results, revealed at the Redhead Convention in Crosshaven, are shocking to anyone who thinks this country holds eternal sway in the redhead stakes. While almost 35% of Irish people carry one of the three red hair gene variants, the figure is 36.5% in Scotland and as high as 40% in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland.

Even Wales has a higher proportion, with 38% carrying the red-head genes.

Yorkshire’s level of carriers is less than 1% lower than Ireland’s and the researchers were surprised that England was as high as 32% overall.

The actual numbers who have red hair do not directly relate, as around 6% of Scots and 4% of English people are red-heads, but the genetics show the potential.

So, with a greater chance of a red-headed child if both parents have the gene, are some extraordinary tactics in order? The new King of the Redheads, Jack Daly, certainly thinks so.

“There was always that Spanish Armada link up in Connacht that has introduced more dark-haired people. So maybe we could have a Take Me Out, redhead-style, to get more redheads in the population again,” he suggested.

In case we get complacent, remember that Edinburgh hosted Britain’s first Ginger Pride march this month, standing up against ‘gingerism’ prejudice.


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