Irish banknotes tell a story and, through their evolution, have showcased some of our most significant figures and cultural traits.
One of the most fascinating things about banknotes, and coins for that matter, is that they tell the story of a country in detail – something we rarely take the time to observe.
Over the years, Irish banknotes have featured our greatest poets, inspiring footballers, and historical figures and have also depicted elements of our culture.
Banknotes are a tangible piece of a nation’s history, which can be seen through the artistic expression on each note. The island of Ireland has produced some fascinating banknotes that have captured the country’s spirit and commemorated some of our most remarkable people.
With that in mind, take a look at some of the most memorable Irish banknotes from years past.
- Irish banknotes tell a story and, through their evolution, have showcased some of our most significant figures and cultural traits.
- 10. Lady Lavery Series – a theme of rivers
- 9. Queen Medb £1 note – featuring the Queen of Connaught
- 8. Vertical £5 note – something a little different
- 7. Catherine McAuley £5 Note – an iconic Irish fiver
- 6. James Joyce £10 note – one of Ireland’s greatest writers
- 5. George Best £5 note – a special anniversary edition
- 4. W.B. Yeats £20 note – paying homage to a poet
- 3. £1 Ploughman Series – a collector’s item
- 2. The Irish €0 note – for souvenir purposes
- 1. Jonathan Swift £10 note – vibrant and memorable
10. Lady Lavery Series – a theme of rivers
This entire series, known as Series A, was commissioned by the Currency Commission, and each note featured a portrait of Lady Lavery, wife of artist Sir John Lavery.
The theme for these notes was the rivers of both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, with portraits of Lady Lavery on each one.
9. Queen Medb £1 note – featuring the Queen of Connaught
In 1976, the Central Bank introduced an entirely new series of notes that replaced the Lady Lavery banknotes, although this new series never featured a £100 note.
Each note featured a different Irish writer or philosopher, but the £1 note featured the legendary Queen Medb until a £1 coin eventually replaced it.
8. Vertical £5 note – something a little different
Ulster Bank decided to adopt new vertical banknotes in 2019. The £5 note featured images of Strangford Lough and Brent Geese, while the new £10 note displayed Lough Erne, Irish hare, and Guelder-rose shrubs.
A king scallop from Strangford Lough and an Ulster Glade potato also featured on the notes
7. Catherine McAuley £5 Note – an iconic Irish fiver
The £5 note that featured Catherine McAuley was part of the C Series, the final series of notes before Ireland adopted the euro.
This specific banknote is one of the most recognisable banknotes of all time, and in the old days, children could buy a lot with this note in their pocket. It circulated between 1992 and 2000, only to become a future keepsake.
6. James Joyce £10 note – one of Ireland’s greatest writers
James Joyce was featured on the Irish £10 note as part of the Series C collection, whose theme was people who contributed to the formation of modern Ireland. James Joyce is one of Ireland’s most celebrated writers, so it was only fitting that he be the face of the £10 note.
See the James Joyce £10 note here.
5. George Best £5 note – a special anniversary edition
This iconic banknote was issued to commemorate the death of former Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer George Best.
Ulster Bank issued one million of the special £5 banknotes in 2006 to mark the first anniversary of his death, and this remains one of the most memorable to date.
4. W.B. Yeats £20 note – paying homage to a poet
This was part of the Series B notes, which was issued by the Central Bank of Ireland and the theme for this series was the history of Ireland. The £20 note featured renowned poet W.B. Yeats, who significantly impacted Irish literature, and this note paid homage to his contribution.
See the W.B. Yeats £20 note here.
3. £1 Ploughman Series – a collector’s item
One of the best Irish banknotes of all time was part of the rare Ploughman series. Each note depicted a man with a horse-drawn carriage, symbolising Irish agriculture and the struggle for independence.
This iconic series is considered a valuable collector’s item to this day, especially the £1 note.
2. The Irish €0 note – for souvenir purposes
One of the most unique Irish banknotes of all time is the €0 banknote. Inspired by France, this is a special collector’s item. The souvenir banknote was designed to resemble a regular bank note, albeit with a face value of zero euros. Still, it is a fantastic note to hold on to.
1. Jonathan Swift £10 note – vibrant and memorable
This iconic purple note stood out because of its vibrancy and featured Jonathan Swift, one of Ireland’s renowned satirists known for Gulliver’s Travels, among many other publications.
One of the other great features is the section of a map of Dublin on the reverse side with boats in the River Liffey.
See the Jonathan Swift £10 note here.
Over the years, many Irish bank notes have passed through our hands, each with its unique design and historical significance. Punts, pounds sterling, and euros have all featured their historical figures, and many of these banknotes remain valuable today.