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A man singing in a church

Episode 2 | Iarla Ó Lionáird

In the second episode of ITMA’s Taoscadh ón Tobar series, Iarla Ó Lionáird explores and discusses a collection of songs, made over 100 years ago, in his native Ballyvourney, Co. Cork by A. Martin Freeman.

“It consists of nearly a hundred songs, with the original texts, prose translations and annotations, constituting incomparably the finest collection published in our time of Irish songs noted from oral tradition. ”

Dónal O'Sullivan

“When I first met her shortly before the Great War Mrs. Martin Freeman was a prominent figure in Irish literary society in Hanover Square where she took part in amateur performances of Irish plays and played folk airs on the violin at concerts. Her visits with her husband to Ballyvourney in 1914 where her tact a and knowledge of Irish country folk and general helpfulness in smoothing difficulties made it possible for him to carry out his work, resulted in that incomparable collection of songs published in volume VI of the Folksong Society Journal, the greatest Irish collection of modern times.”

“About 78 in 1914. Illiterate. Has lived laterally in the English-speaking end of the parish. The best natural musician I met in the district. She can hum a tune without the words, and sing through a long verse in short sections, pausing, and even repeating sections, and scarcely ever alters the pitch in the process. She is infirm, emotional, excitable, and I seldom can get down more than one short song from her at a sitting. When singing a complete song she becomes ecstatic.”

“The literary spelling of Irish is unsuitable for the recording of folksongs but on account of the complication and inadequacy of the system itself and because of the numerous and wide divergences in spoken Irish. The spelling is exceedingly systematic wouldn’t part it has adhered to all forms were spoken language has changed and in part it has progressed on lines which have not been followed by speech writing and speech therefore have moved so far apart that we now write many consonants and vowels and complete syllables which are not spoken while we pronounce a good many sounds which we do not write. Thus however much and however well you may have studied the language a collection of folk songs if given in the literary spelling would not tell you its message with any approach to complete this if you do not happen to know the district in which they were collected. ”