Deirdre McGrory, ITMA/University of Limerick Intern

My name is Deirdre McGrory and I am twenty years old. I am from Culdaff, Inishowen in the North of Donegal. Luckily enough I have been brought up in a musical family and lived across the road from a legendary music venue, which at the time was in ownership of my father, aunt and uncle. This exposure to music over time played a huge part in my choices for the future and choice of University. 

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Deirdre McGrory recording in the ITMA studio

I am currently a third-year student taking the BA in Irish Traditional Music in the University of Limerick. As part of our degree we have a compulsory eight-month placement. There are many routes you can take when organising your placement. The UL Cooperative Department can choose our placement or we can organise it ourselves, which I decided to do. I also opted for a split placement. From the end of May to the end of July I interned with Earagail Arts Festival; for the month of August I chose the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) and from September to January I will be with a local music organisation at home, the Inishowen Traditional Music Project. Our placement has to be approved by the University, so it is very important to keep in mind how relevant this placement is in terms of your future career goals and the degree. 

Each of the placements I decided on were all quite contrasting and I found they gave me the most experience in areas I had little expertise in. I have grown up singing and when I was younger I came across the Inishowen Song Project. This for me shone a light on the rich history of song in Inishowen, Co. Donegal. So, from the age of eleven onwards, when picking songs for the Fleadh or performances, I would always go back to the Inishowen Song Project. The older I got the more I began to understand and appreciate the wealth of songs available on such an accessible platform. This amazing catalogue of song would not be here if it wasn’t for Grace Toland and Brian Doyle, who are both staff here at ITMA. Also I have been able to meet some of the earlier collectors who donated to the collection such as John Moulden and Jim McFarland to name but a few. 

I knew as soon as we were told about a placement that I had to try to spend some of it at ITMA.
Deirdre McGrory

Being here has given me so much exposure to certain aspects I was not even aware of when it comes to archiving music. Such as their Ephemera Collection (a collection of materials that are associated with traditional music, such as posters, ticket stubs or band t-shirts) which is extensive. It is organised primarily by bands, duos, trios, counties, countries, venues, festivals and organisations. Altan have occupied a large amount of space in the Ephemera collection, doing Donegal proud! I was made to feel at home here straight away by all the incredible staff at ITMA. I was given certain tasks which led to me being responsible for parts of newly donated collections, like cataloguing books and serials from the Hugh Shields collection and sorting through and cleaning [photographs] in the John McSweeney collection.

Processing the Hugh Shields Collection

I also have had the opportunity to digitise 78s and organise the CD collection. 

Being trusted with these important projects made me feel like I had a place here and that I had contributed even in a small way, to the huge service ITMA has done in preserving our incredible tradition.
Deirdre McGrory

With a recording studio here at ITMA, it meant I was able to sit in on a recording session with an up and coming Music Network tour. Dónal O’Connor, Ross Ainsley, Jack Talty and Jim Murray came to the ITMA studio to record promotional music for the tour. Getting the opportunity to sit in on a live session with such well-established musicians was eye-opening from a musical perspective.

Donal O'Connor, Ross Ainslie, Deirdre McGrory (UL Intern at ITMA), Jack Talty and Jim Murray in the ITMA Studio.

Being in the studio also led to me recording a track myself. The song I am singing here is Dark Inishowen, this is a version I got from the singing of Mary Dillion about thirteen years ago. But thanks to the Inishowen Song Project I got to see the amount of amazing local singers who sang Dark Inishowen. I followed this with another song, Lough Erne Shore, made popular by Paul Brady. It is also sung locally in Inishowen, by the likes of Jim MacFarland.

Dark Inishowen sung by Deirdre McGrory

Lough Erne Shore sung by Deirdre McGrory

I also had time to find loads of new songs. This is one of my favourites that I came across from the singer/songwriter Sean Mone.

Articles two and three sung by Sean Mone

It is safe to say I have a whole new respect for the work each member of staff does here at ITMA. I have enjoyed every minute of it, so much so, that it cured my PFD (post Fleadh depression) after the All Ireland in Drogheda this year!