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The Otherworld

Music & Song from Irish Tradition

Ríonach uí Ógáin & Tom Sherlock, editors

Belief in the existence of a parallel world and in otherworldly phenomena has long been established in Irish tradition and facets of such belief continue to be found in contemporary Irish society.

This book, with two accompanying compact discs, examines aspects of the enduring belief and fascination which the Irish imagination has with supernatural beings, encounters and occurrences as represented in song and music. The material contained in this publication which includes recorded sound, photographs and manuscript transcriptions is drawn from National Folklore Collection/Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann in University College Dublin. It is edited by Ríonach uí Ógáin and Tom Sherlock and published by Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann.

A number of illuminating aspects of popular tradition are addressed such as the connection between the supernatural and excellence in the performance of music and song, the dangers inherent in engaging with the fairies, the fear of abduction or loss, benign supernatural encounters, the existence of otherworldly creatures such as the banshee or the leprechaun and the physical landscape as perceived in inherited oral knowledge. There are encounters that reflect the blending of Christian and non-Christian ideas. This is a book for both the general reader and scholars of folklore.

The inclusion of contemporary performers alongside older archival material is testament to the fact that the National Folklore Collection continues to grow and remains the most important repository of Irish vernacular culture.

The songs, music and lore contained in this publication are the foundation stone upon which the book rests and this material reflects the circumstances, hopes, anxieties, fears, beliefs, modes of entertainment and sometimes the sense of mischief of Irish people, both urban and rural. The selected examples are illustrated with numerous black and white photographs many of them taken by the original collectors. There can be little doubt that the full spectrum of human experience is better comprehended with an understanding of traditional lore and belief. The Otherworld: Music & Song from Irish Tradition addresses an important aspect of that human experience and seeks to encourage just such an engagement.

Prof. Ríonach uí Ógáin is Director of the National Folklore Collection/Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann, University College Dublin. She has published numerous articles on traditional song and music and has lectured widely on the subject.

Tom Sherlock is a music business manager and consultant with wide experience in the promotion of traditional music. He has worked as a production manager with Claddagh Records, an artist manager and agent, a promoter and producer, a festival programmer and as a writer and commentator on Irish music and culture.

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160pp; ills. November 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9565628-3-8 Catalogue Price: €22.50

All in! All in!: A selection of Dublin children's traditional street-games with rhymes and music

(Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 2.) Eilís Brady

Children’s traditional street-games play an important part in the folklife of a country. This book will help parents and educators to realize how happy children are, when given an opportunity to use their imagination and to create their own amusements, even in a restricted locale. It shows how traditional street-games and rhymes still flourish, and how children adapt traditions to a modern environment. It may encourage others to make similar collections in their own areas, both urban and rural.

Eilís Brady (1927-2007) was a member of the Editorial Staff of the Department of Education’s Publications Branch. She contributed a valuable collection of children’s folklore to the former Dept. of Irish Folklore, UCD. This material is now part of the National Folklore Collection, UCD. Her awareness of the similarity between the traditional customs and social attitudes of Gaeltacht people and those of native Dubliners sprang from her continued contact with Conamara since childhood and helped her to appreciate the importance and urgency of recording the lore and idiom of Dubliners.

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Paperback 196pp; ills. 1975; 1984
ISBN: 978-0-901120-85-4 Catalogue Price: €8.95

Eochair Mac Rí in Éirinn

Eochair, a king's son in Ireland (Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 9) Éamon a Búrc

As told by Éamon a Búrc; recorded by Liam MacCoisdeala; edited & translated by Kevin O'Nolan.

In Irish folklore the heroic world survives chiefly in the long heroic tale. The storyteller needed to be a master of his craft and to have the heroic view of life. He would well appreciate the exchange between St Patrick an Caoilte in the Colloquy: ‘What kept you people’, said Patrick, ‘thus alive?’ And Caoilte replied: ‘Truth in our hearts and strength in our hands and fulfilment in our tongues.’

Eochair, a King’s son in Ireland is the longest heroic tale written down in Irish from oral narration. The reader will find interest not merely in the tale itself but in the storytelling technique, especially in the parts which migrate from one tale to another, which are at home not only in this tale but in every heroic tale of the storyteller’s repertoire. Éamon a Búrc was the teller. He lived at Aill na Brón in the district of Cill Chiaráin and died in the year 1942.

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Hardback 180pp. 1982
ISBN: 978-0-906426-08-1 Catalogue Price: €25.00

Meitheal: a study of co-operative labour in rural Ireland

(Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 7) Anne O'Dowd

Co-operation in agricultural work is an old practice in Ireland. Sporadic references to it are found in written sources from the Brehon Laws onward, and official reports and other documents of the 19th century have many references to people helping each other with their work on the land. Very little, however, is in print about its social and economic importance to the rural dwellers themselves. This gap in our knowledge of a most interesting feature of Irish life is filled by material directly derived from folk tradition. In this survey of the traditional material, the author presents a much fuller and much clearer picture than that which might be derived from the printed documentation alone.

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Hardback 182pp; ills. 1981
ISBN: 978-0-906426-06-7 Catalogue Price: €18.00

Seanachas Amhlaoibh í Luínse

(Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 5)
Collected by Seán Ó Cróinín and edited by Donncha Ó Cróinín

In 1971, the Folklore of Ireland Society published Scéalaíocht Amhlaoibh Í Luínse, fifty-six international tales collected by Seán Ó Cróinín from the king of Múscraí storytellers in 1943-1944. These amounted to about half the material collected in the course of a period of eight months and this book sees the publication of the remainder of this material.

Although Amhlaoibh Ó Luínse was best known for his storytelling skill, he was exceptionally knowledgeable in matters of life and lore in his native district. This book bears witness to that fact and contains great knowledge, narrative and linguistic skill woven together in perfect artistry.

But whatever the subject in hand, terminology or agricultural Amhlaoibh’s art provided narrative ornamentation. This collection of lore contains over 180 stories - both long stories and short stories.

Despite the central role of storytelling, however, this collection includes almost every section in Seán Ó Súilleabháin’s Handbook of Irish Folklore. In relation to the section ‘Popular Literature’ the material was so vast that separate chapters were created to accommodate some of the subsections.

One reviewer said of the earlier publication that it would be surprising if it did not emerge as the standard reference for the regional dialect. That standard reference has now doubled with the most recent publication.

Another reviewer called the first work a ‘noble book of folklore’. This second publication is equally noble and both works will form two monuments to those who made them available to us as a result of their diligence Amhlaoibh Ó Luínse (1872-1947) and Seán Ó Cróinín (1915-1965).

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Hardback 468pp; ills. 1980
ISBN: 978-0-906426-04-3 Catalogue Price: €31.50

Seanachas Phádraig Í Chrualaoi

(Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 10)
Collected by Seán Ó Cróinín and edited by Donnacha Ó Cróinín

Pádraig Ó Crualaoi agus born in Baile Bhuirne in 1861. His father Diarmaid (‘Táilliúir Chrodhail’) who was well acquainted with Máire Bhuí Ní Laoire and with the Baldings of Gort an Imill, grew up in Cill na Martra. Diarmaid was a spirited poetic tailor and some of his comic verses still survive.

Pádraig was barely thirteen years old when he had to work alongside his father, and soon he began to compose poetry. Poetry became his life’s occupation. As a young man, when he wished to increase his school knowledge he had to depend on books in English as he had been taught in this medium. But with the establishment of the Gaelic League in 1893 he taught himself to read and write Irish and throughout his life he continued his poetic endeavours for his native language and country.

He won a number of prizes at the Oireachtas and at festivals and over time his pen-name ‘Gaedheal na nGaedheal’ became a household name. He was president of Dámhscoil Mhúscraí since its foundation in 1925 until he died in 1949.

His poems were composed in the old style and he published two collections. He also published a short biography.

Seán Ó Cróinín and Pádraig were neighbours since 1942 and the following year Seán collected the material in this book from him. The book contains verses, lyrics and other poems in additon to isolated verses and items of lore that the author did not include in his own book. But the most important inclusion is his account of the life and work of the poets of west Cork and east Kerry in the period 1700-1850. He has enabled us to visualize the old literary world in a way that one might well believe he lived in the course of this entire period, something which he may almost have believed himself. We now have a wonderful, additional glimpse of the ‘Hidden Ireland’ from someone who was in fact a poet.

No other book of this nature exists and nor is such likely to exist; and this book would not exist were it not for the Irish Folklore Commission.

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Hardback 278pp. 1982
ISBN: 978-0-906426-09-8 Catalogue Price: €31.50

Treasures of the National Folklore Collection/Seoda as Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann

Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, Séamas Ó Catháin, Ríonach uí Ógáin, Seosamh Watson, editors. With a foreword by Dr T.K. Whitaker

Treasures of the National Folklore Collection/Seoda as Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann is primarily visual, drawing on the diverse collections found within the archive. The book consists of sixteen essays, with a Foreword by Dr T.K. Whitaker, showcasing some of the treasures and including illustrations, paintings, photographs, manuscripts, music transcriptions and books. The publication will provide an opportunity to re-visit, and reflect on, the work carried out by one of the most innovative cultural government-funded bodies in western Europe during the first half of the twentieth century in a time of acute economic need. The essays are in English, Irish and Scots Gaelic and each author has written about a particular aspect of the National Folklore Collection’s holdings such as the photographic collection, the paintings or the sound archive for example. The book is published by Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann/ The Folklore of Ireland Council as part of the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Irish Folklore Commission.

Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, M.A. is Collector/Archivist with the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. He has published and lectured widely on a number of subject areas within Irish folklore and ethnology.

Séamas Ó Catháin spent some time as a lecturer at the University of Uppsala in Sweden and at University College Galway before his appointment as Archivist with the Department of Irish Folklore, UCD. He was appointed Professor of Irish Folklore as successor to Professor Bo Almqvist.

Ríonach uí Ógáin is Director of the National Folklore Collection UCD. Her research interests are primarily related to traditional song in Irish.

Seosamh Watson was professor of Modern Irish Language and Literature at University College Dublin, 1998-2008, and Dean of the Faculty of Celtic Studies, 1996-2001. He has conducted fieldwork throughout Ireland, in the Scottish Highlands and eastern Canada, and published widely on aspects of the Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages.

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Hardback 250pp; c.100 ills. with over 60 colour ills.. October 2010
ISBN: 978-0-95656-280-7 Catalogue Price: €45.00

Sealbhú an Traidisiúin

This collection of essays in Irish offers the reader particular insights into the concept of tradition in its widest sense as well as into the manner in which tradition is appropriated and refashioned. Published under the title ‘Sealbhú an Traidisiúin’, it consists of papers first presented at a one-day international conference hosted in University College Dublin in May 2011.

The authors are Ríonach uí Ógáin, Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, Méadhbh Nic an Airchinnigh, Róisín Nic Dhonncha, Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, Máire Ní Neachtain, Peadar Ó Ceannabháin, Lillis Ó Laoire and Seán Ó Duinnshléibhe.

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Paperback: 104pp. Feb 2013
ISBN: 978-0-9565628-4-5 Catalogue Price: €15.00 Online: € 13.50

Clár Amhrán Mhaigh Cuilinn

Ciarán Ó Con Cheanainn

The rich repository of song in Irish in the National Folklore Collection is represented in this publication of song from the barony of Maigh Cuilinn, Co. Galway.

The book introduces the reader to over four hundred and fifty titles, excluding variants and versions of songs. The songs were collected for the most part by full-time, part-time and other collectors with the Irish Folklore Commission, the forerunner to the National Folklore Collection, UCD. Among the collectors some well-known names in folklore collecting appear including Ciarán Bairéad, Proinsias de Búrca, Séamus Ennis, Calum Mac Gill-Eathain and Brian Mac Lochlainn. The author has compiled a catalogue of songs in the manuscript material of the National Folklore Collection. The songs embrace all aspects of life - love, sorrow, praise, religion, politics and the comic. Indices include titles, first lines, proper names, singers, collectors, authors and locations in relation to the songs, the singers and the collectors.

Ciarán Ó Con Cheanainn (1981–2009) was from Sáile Chuanna, An Spidéal, Co. Galway. He was a singer, scholar and a teacher. His singing style was greatly influenced by Máire Pheter Uí Dhroighneáin and Sarah Ghriallais. In 2008 he was the youngest participant to win Corn Uí Riada at the Oireachtas singing competition. He completed an MLitt degree at University College Dublin on the songs of his native district. The book Clár Amhrán Mhaigh Cuilinn is based on this work. At the time of his death, he was working towards a doctoral degree in Modern Irish at UCD.

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Hardback 584pp. May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-95656-281-4 Catalogue Price: €27.00

Binneas thar Meon I

A collection of songs and airs made by Liam de Noraidh in east Munster. Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, editor

Liam de Noraidh made a large collection of songs and airs in Munster, under the auspices of the Irish Folklore Commission between the years 1940 and 1947. The materials garnered by him from the eastern part of the province, together with copious notes, are published here as Volume I of that collection. Scholars in the fields of folk music, folklore, and language will find much to interest them in this book, and it will be equally welcomed by all lovers of Irish music, song and tradition.

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Hardback 270pp. 1994
ISBN: 978-0-90642-615-9 Catalogue Price: €31.50

Formation of a Folklorist

The visit of James Hamilton Delargy (Séamus Ó Duilearga) to Scandinavia, Finland, Estonia and Germany, 1 April - 29 September 1928 (Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 18), Séamas Ó Catháin

Formation of a Folklorist is the eighteenth volume to be published by Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éirann in its series Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies. This volume traces the process that saw the development of James Hamilton Delargy / Séamus Ó Duilearga (1899-1980), a promising, young Irish academic with a practical knowledge of aspects of folklore, into a formidable authority on that subject and likewise on the methods and stratagems best suited to its future documentation and study in Ireland.

Delargy’s trajectory from graduate student, university teacher and talented local collector to the luminary who masterminded the creation of one of the world’s best folklore collections is revealed in diary and personal notes, and correspondence with leading experts in the field, other close advisors at home and abroad, and family members.

The founding of the Folklore of Ireland Society in 1926 led to the establishment of the Irish Folklore Institute (1930-1935) and, subsequently, the spectacularly successful Irish Folklore Commission (1935-1971), in all of which organisations, Delargy played a leading role. The work begun then continues today under the auspices of the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.

In a lifetime dedicated to fulfilling the lofty aims he set himself as a young man, Delargy repaid in full his debt to all who had placed their confidence in him. The remarkable story of how the foundation for that achievement was laid is told here to a large extent in his own words.

Séamas Ó Cáthain graduated from Queen’s University Belfast, after which he taught at the University of Uppsala and at University College Galway (now NUI Galway), before taking up the position of Archivist at the former Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, in 1974. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Celtic Studies at UCD from 1990 to 1996, subsequently as Head of the Department of Irish Folklore and, latterly, as Head of the UCD School of Irish, Celtic Studies, Irish Folklore and Linguistics, on its establishment in 2005. He succeed Bo Almqvist as Professor of Irish Folklore at UCD, a position first held by Séamus Ó Duilearga.

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Hardback 366; ills. 2008
ISBN: 978-1-905254-28-6 Catalogue Price: €45.00

Scéalta Mháirtín Neile

Bailiúchán scéalta ó Árainn (Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 17)
Collected by Holger Pedersen in 1895 and arranged and edited by Ole Munch-Pedersen


This book consists of 39 tales collected in Aran in 1895. Folklore collecting was being pursued in Ireland at the time, and collectors generally went from one person to another in search of particular items. In this instance, the collector adopted a different approach. He worked with one informant for the most part and wished to document his entire folklore repertoire. This was a modern approach and a method not generally adopted by collectors in Ireland until Seamus Ó Duilearga established it in the 1920s. The earliest versions of many stories collected in Ireland appear in this book.

The well known Danish linguist Holger Pedersen (1867 – 1953) collected the tales during the time he spent learning Irish in Aran. Pedersen was a young man at the time but was to become well known shortly afterwards through his writing on the Celtic and on other languages. His most important work is without doubt Vergleichende Grammatik der keltischen Sprachen I-II (1909-1913). Irish scholars were aware that Pedersen had spent some time in Aran, but were not aware that his notebooks from that period existed, until the editor discovered them in the Royal Library in Copenhagen.

Máirtín Neile Ó Conghaile(c. 1824-1904) from Baile na Creige, Inis Mór gave the stories to Pedersen in addition to other folklore material. Máirtín Neile was the best storyteller in Aran at the time and his fame still survives on the island. Máirtín met a number of writers from that period and people like Jeremiah Curtin, Arthur Symons, John Millington Synge and Pádraig Mac Piarais provided a written account of him. Due to the existence of this material, it is true to say that there is no other storyteller in Ireland has provided such a large body of folklore material.

The editor is Ole Munch-Pedersen,MA (English). He began to learn Irish because of his interest in Anglo-Irish literature. His publications include articles on W.B. Yeats, on folklore and on the history of music . He is a part-time schoolteacher in Copenhagen and is currently working on an edition of the remainder of Pedersen’s notebooks.

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Hardback 412pp. 1994
ISBN: 978-0-906426-17-3 Catalogue Price: €31.50

Seanachas ó Chairbre 1

(Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies 13)
Seán Ó Cróinín (a thóg síos) & Donncha Ó Cróinín (a chuir in eagar)

Seán Ó hAo was born in Creig, near Glandore. He and Pádraig Ó Crualaoi were born the same year (1861), and had almost the same lifespan. But their lives were very different. Each followed his father’s footsteps. Pádraig had a needle and thread and Seán had a fishing line and net. One had a comfortable life and the other had a troubled life because, with respect to the romantic, when fishermen were dependent on oars and sails it was a challenging livelihood. Little wonder that the seasoned fisherman said that no-one has a better life than the person who finds his own shoes under the bed in the morning.

He spent his life at sea, and most of the time he was a captain on a fishing vessel. He knew every part of the Irish coast and he spoke Irish to people from Connacht and from Donegal and even to an old person in Omeath. He made his way in English and met many different nationalities from the Isle of Man to Land’s End in England.

Cairbre, the largest barony in Ireland was once densely populated by Irish speakers. But from the Great Famine Irish declined in the district and survived only on Cape Clear. During Seán’s youth Irish was sill the vernacular in Glandore. But it was declining and disappearing all the time, and by the time he had spent sixty years at sea he was almost like Oisín having survived the Fianna.

When Seán Ó Cróinn went to Cairbre in November 1939, he encountered very few fluent Irish speakers apart from Seán Ó hAo. But Seán Ó hAo was a great representative of the spoken Irish of those who had preceded him. In the course of nine months, 1,500 pages of lore of land and sea were collected from him, in addition to his account of his own life. This wealth of language and lore of Cairbre was saved from oblivion. If this did not exist, such material would indeed be scarce.

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Hardback 660. 1985
ISBN: 978-0-901120-90-8 Catalogue Price: €35.50

The Festival of Lughnasa

A study of the survival of the Celtic festival of the beginning of harvest
Máire MacNeill

Garland Sunday and Domhnach Chrom Dubh are two of the many names of a festival celebrated by Irish country people at the end of July or the beginning of August. It marked the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest season, and on that day the first meal of the year’s new food crop was eaten. The chief custom was the resorting of the rural communities to certain heights or water-sides to spend the day in festivity, sports and bilberry-picking. The custom existed also in the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Wales and in the north of England. Formerly it must have been general in all Celtic lands for there is no doubt that it is a survival of Lughnasa (Lugnasad), the Celtic festival held on the first of August.

In the description of the celebration much emerges of the old life of the countryside, and so the study is, in part, a contribution to social history. Moreover, as the people preserved legends of the origin of the festival and of the assembly-sites, it has been possible to show a correspondence with ancient mythology, as expressed in Irish literature and in the cult-figures of Roman Gaul. The dominant myth of the festival is brought to light.

A panorama, both extensive and detailed, is unfolded in the study, which reveals, inter alia, the nature of Crom Dubh, shows that legends of Cú Chulainn, Saint Patrick, and Cornwall’s Jack the Tinkard originate in tales of Lugh, suggests why Jephthah’s daughter was connected with the festival in the Isle of Man, glances at the medieval cult of Saint James, and interprets anew the battle of Moytura and the Étain saga. It shows a relationship between the old assembly of Tailtiu an the Croagh Patrick pilgrimage. It discusses Puck Fair. It ranges from Lugudunum in first-century Gaul to Dún Lughaidh at the foot of Errigal. Figures from Irish mythology, hagiography and history throng its pages.

Máire MacNeill (1904-1987) studied at University College Dublin, and was a graduate of the National University of Ireland. From 1935 to 1949 she was a member of staff of the Irish Folklore Commission. She was a co-editor and translator of Sí-Scéalta ó Thír Chonaill / Fair legends from Donegal in the Comhairle Bhéadoideas Éireann series Scríbhinní Béaloidis / Folklore Studies and the translator of Séamus Ó Duilearga’s Leabhar Sheáin í Chonaill – Seán O Conaill’s Book in the same series.

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Hardback 710pp; ills. 2008
ISBN: 978-0-906426-10-4 Catalogue Price: €5.00