Art & Song in the Gaelic Revival: Seaghán Mac Cathmhaoil & Ethna Carbery


The colour images featured in this gallery are taken from a series of six booklets entitled Songs from the Four Winds of Eirinn, published by M.H. Gill & Son and James Duffy & Co. in Dublin in 1906 and in the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive. The booklets were first published in 1902. Each contained an original song by Ethna Carbery (1866–1902) with music set by Charlotte Milligan Fox (1864–1916) and a colour picture on the theme of the song by Seaghán Mac Cathmhaoil (1883–1962). They were issued with card covers tied with silk ribbons. Ethna Carbery was the pen name of Anna MacManus née Johnston, who was married to folklorist and poet Seamus MacManus. She died aged 35 while living in Revlin House in Donegal town and Songs from the Four Winds of Eirinn was published posthumously.

Seaghán Mac Cathmhaoil (John Patrick Campbell) was born in Belfast in 1883 and attended the School of Art in Belfast until c.1905.  As a student he was awarded prizes for his Celtic-style designs, and his piece 'Calendar of the Dead', owned at the time by Francis Joseph Bigger, was exhibited at the St Louis World's Fair in 1904. Seaghán visited Donegal in 1903 in the company of Bigger, composer and collector Herbert Hughes, Frederic Hughes and Seaghán's brother Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil (Joseph Campbell). The result of this trip was Songs of Uladh published in 1904. Featuring tunes and airs collected and notated by Hughes, and lyrics by Seosamh Mac Cathmhaoil, the book was illustrated by Seaghán in black and white.

Seaghán Mac Cathmhaoil illustrated many Gaelic revival publications in the first decade of the 20th century, including feis programmes and two Irish-language books by Patrick Pearse. His other interests lay in costume and set design, and acting. Following a successful London production of The Drone by Rutherford Mayne, the cast and crew of the Ulster Literary Theatre were invited to New York in 1912. Seaghán Mac Cathmhaoil remained in the United States following this trip. He died in 1962.

The complete publications published in 1906 can be accessed here as part of a collection featuring the work of Charlotte Milligan Fox. Charlotte and Ethna were close friends and activists in the Gaelic Revival. ITMA also holds the first edition, published in 1902, in its Printed Collections.

GT, TH & PH, 1 April 2016

Art & Song in the Gaelic Revival: Seaghán Mac Cathmhaoil & Ethna Carbery