International Women's Day 2020 at ITMA

ITMA staff members Maeve Gebruers, Róisín Conlon, Grace Toland, Alan Woods, Treasa Harkin and Liam O'Connor are striking the pose for International Women's Day 2020 and shining a light on inspirational women they have encountered in the tradition.

International Womens Day Itma 2020
Striking the IWD2020 pose at ITMA are Maeve Gebruers, Róisin Conlon, Grace Toland and Alan Woods

An equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world?

Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

International Women's Day 2020


Maeve's choice

Over the last 20+ years that I have had the honour of working in this great institution I have met and worked with many talented, hardworking, and inspiring women. And while difficult to single out one woman, in my opinion 2020 can only belong to one woman, Lisa Shields!

Over the course of 2019 Lisa worked tirelessly on ITMA’s online exhibition Dusty Bluebells: Children’s Songs and Rhymes collected by Hugh Shields. She made an invaluable editorial contribution, providing detailed information on the materials, & guiding the chronological and descriptive narrative. The sound recordings were processed by Lisa and Roud numbers identified. She created the 2019 PDF edition of Dusty Bluebells, amalgamating Hugh's 1970, 1971 and 1975 texts, and including her own 1970s pen-and-ink illustrations.

The world of archives are made all the richer as a result of the work done by volunteers such as Lisa Shields!


in my opinion 2020 can only belong to one women, Lisa Shields!
Maeve Gebruers, Archivist

Grace's choice

During 2019, my winter was shortened working on the wonderful Leitrim musical project The Furls of Music. Through Michael McNamara's own field recordings I was taken on a journey from hearth to gatherings and stages across Ireland and the USA. And while tunes were in abundance, I was drawn to Michael's obvious affection and respect for his sister, the singer, Josephine McNamara. The two young siblings enjoyed success in 1950s fleadhanna, were members of the Eugene Leddy Ceili Band and shared stages together until Josephine emigrated to the US in 1963. Michael's recordings not only preserve the voice of a young talented singer, but are a vital contribution to expanding the knowledge base of 'undocumented' women within the tradition. 

Josephine continued to sing, perform and teach from her home in Stanford, Connecticut where she lives to this day.


Michael's recordings not only preserve the voice of a young talented singer, but are a vital contribution to expanding the knowledge base of 'undocumented' women within the tradition.
Grace Toland, Project Manager

The home I left behind, songn / Fr. O'Flynn, speech in English ; Josephine McNamara, singing in English


Alan's choice

Nóra Ní Chonaill (Bean Uí Uidhir), (born c.1854), from Ullanes West, Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, was described in the Irish Examiner, 26 February 1936, as “one of the most important “finds” yet reported to the Irish Folklore Society”. 
When in her 80s, Proinsias Ó Ceallaigh collected 125 songs and stories from Nóra, two of which were published in a Béaloideas article in 1937. (Ó Ceallaigh, Proinsias. 'Article Title', Béaloideas, Vol. 7, No. 1 (June, 1937) p. 22)

Proinsias wrote that Nóra had a “guth binn ceólmhar aice chun amhránuidheachta” (sweet musicial voice for singing) and that as a younger woman she had won a number of singing competitions in local feiseanna. She learned songs from neighbours and relatives and told Ó Ceallaigh that upon hearing a song once, she had it!

As they were both from the Ballyvourney region, it’s likely that Nóra knew Elizabeth Cronin, the renowned singer who was recorded by collectors such as Jean Ritchie and Séamus Ennis.  Photographs from the Ritchie-Pickow Collection NUIG show Elizabeth Cronin in the company of members of the extended O'Connell Family in the early 1950s at Lios Buí, Kilnamartrya, Macroom, Co Cork. 
Although not known for certain, it’s quite possible that Elizabeth may have learned some songs from Nóra, who was her senior by about 25 years. 


Nóra Ní Chonaill  Image Collage
CBÉ 47:286 'Nóra Ní Chonaill/Bean Uí Uidhir', Baile Bhúirne, Co. Chorcaí. Photographer unknown, circa 1933
one of the most important “finds” yet reported to the Irish Folklore Society
Irish Examiner, 26 February 1936,

Róisín's choice

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t highlight the exceptional talents and musical contributions of our young generation of female musicians! Earlier this year, ITMA welcomed four transition year students through its doors - Aoileann O’Connor, Róisín Ní Chasaide, Naoise Ní Ghríofa, and Niamh McGrattan - for an intensive week of work experience. Each musician brought her own unique musical forte (along with a steadfast work ethic!). On the final day, the archive was treated to a performance by the group, which we were fortunate enough to have recorded.

it would be remiss of me if I didn’t highlight the exceptional talents and musical contributions of our young generation of female musicians!
Róisín Conlon, Assistant Librarian

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The return of the pedalboard, jig ; The piper's stone, jig / composed by Liam O'Flynn ; performed by Aoileann O'Connor, fiddle ; Róisín Ní Chasaide,fiddle ; Naoise N Ghríofa, concertina, and Niamh McGrattan, flute


Liam's choice

Christina Sheridan (1892-1977) better known as Mrs Sheridan, was born into a musical family in Dublin. Her mother, Mrs Bridget Kenny, (pictured below) was known as “The Queen of the Fiddlers” and can be heard on cylinder recordings made at Feis Ceoil competitions at the end of the 19th century. 

Tommie Potts cites Mrs Sheridan as an influence on his fiddle playing. However, his brother Eddie Potts went further when saying: “I idolised her. She was the best of the lot!” 

To celebrate International Women’s Day take a listen to Mrs Sheridan’s fluid, energetic and crisp fiddle playing on this recording of the Comerford Trio playing The Rocky Road to Dublin and Judy Branigan released in 1929.


Mrs Bridget Kenny, mother of Christina Sheridan

The rocky road to Dublin, slip jig ; Judy Branagan, slip jig / The Comerford Trio, instrumental music

Tommie Potts cites Mrs Sheridan as an influence on his fiddle playing. However, his brother Eddie Potts went further when saying: “I idolised her. She was the best of the lot!”
Liam O'Connor, Director

Treasa's choice

Máire O'Keeffe took this lovely photograph of Maureen Cronin in her home in Ennis, Co. Clare in May 1996.  She had visited Maureen to record her for ITMA. 

I love the way that the photograph captures her looking so comfortable in her own environment. She is wearing her slippers and looks lost in her music, content to sit and play surrounded by her books and papers. 

There's a fiddle on the table beside her - perhaps herself and Máire played a tune together?  She doesn't seem at all put off by the big microphone in the top of the picture, which seems at odds with her own easy demeanour.  


I love the way that the photograph captures her looking so comfortable in her own environment.
Treasa Harkin, Melodies & Images Officer

WRITTEN & RESEARCHED 
ITMA Staff
8 March 2020