Ceol Tíre: Newsletter of the FMSI, 1973–89

The Folk Music Society of Ireland – Cumann Cheol Tíre Éireann – was founded in Dublin in 1971 by a voluntary group of interested individuals who felt that the 1960s revival of Irish traditional music, song, and dance performance had not been accompanied by an appropriate growth in the study of traditional music.

Their aims were to encourage interest in the music and to promote research into it. Prominent in the group from its beginning were Dr Hugh Shields, Breandán Breathnach, Tom Munnelly, Alf Mac Lochlainn, Máire Áine Ní Dhonncha, Aoileann Ní Éigeartaigh, Seán Ó Baoill, Proinsias Ó Conluain, Caitlín Uí Éigeartaigh, and its Chairman Professor Seóirse Bodley. Several had written from 1963 for Breandán Breathnach’s traditional music magazine Ceol.

For 30 years, from 1971 until 2001, the Society ran an annual public lecture series in Dublin, and this programme was added to periodically by recitals, exhibitions, day- and weekend-seminars, and conferences. An occasional journal Éigse Cheol Tíre – Irish Folk Music Studies was published from 1972, and later publications included monographs on bibliography, discography, popular music of the eighteenth century, Dublin songs, the local accent in traditional music, narrative songs in the Celtic languages, and international ballads. An associated audio-cassette series European Ethnic Oral Traditions was edited by Hugh Shields, who also edited most of the Society’s publications.

As the performance of Irish traditional music had reached unprecedently high levels by the beginning of the new millennium, and as the study of the music was increasingly being catered for by third-level institutions and summer schools throughout the country, it was decided that the aims of the Society had largely been accomplished. Most of its activities were discontinued in 2003, but its publishing arm remains, and those of its publications still in print are available for purchase from the Irish Traditional Music Archive here.

The Society’s newsletter Ceol Tíre was begun by its editor Hugh Shields in November 1973 and continued by him and Nicholas Carolan (who was Secretary of the Society 1977–1992) until December 1989. In its summaries of Society meetings and other activities it outlines much of the progress made in the study of Irish traditional music in those years, and it also includes songs, tunes and useful source-material. The complete run of Ceol Tíre is available for viewing or for downloading as searchable PDFs below.

In its aims and philosophy, and in many of its personnel and activities, the Folk Music Society of Ireland was a forerunner of the Irish Traditional Music Archive. The personal collection of Breandán Breathnach was the foundation collection of ITMA, and its holdings have since been greatly augmented by the personal collections of Hugh Shields, Proinsias Ó Conluain and Tom Munnelly.

For further details on the Folk Music Society of Ireland – including a list of its activities and publications – visit the FMSI website.

With thanks to Lisa Shields, Caitlín Uí Éigeartaigh, & Professor Seóirse Bodley.

NC & MG, 1 August 2012