Folk Magazine, Dublin, 1960s

By the mid- to late 1960s, the Irish ballad boom had matured from its heady early days of the turn of the decade, and had settled down into a semi-commercial nationwide scene with star performers, regular concerts and cabarets, radio and television programmes, folk columns in newspapers, specialist record companies and folk clubs.

A manifestation of this state of development was the founding of the first periodical to cater for the thousands of people by then engaged in this music: Folk Magazine, which began life in Dublin in spring 1967 and continued for two years, until spring 1969.

The full run of Folk Magazine, (vol. 1, nos 1–8) is held by the Irish Traditional Music Archive, received from various donors, and is reproduced here in facsimile, courtesy of its editor Sean Byrne, who is better know nowadays as Jack Byrne, a community radio activist of Near 90.3 FM in north-east Dublin. He was assisted in the production of the magazine by other part-time enthusiasts: assistant editor Tony Shannon, photo editor Dave Higgins, and a stable of voluntary writers who included Martin Shannon, Gerard O'Grady, Niall Fennell, and Tom Munnelly (later the founding chairman of ITMA).

The content of the magazine speaks for itself, but it represents an era of Irish music of almost 50 years that is now largely forgotten, and it forms an archive of an exciting time in a way that would not have been on the minds of its staff in their light-hearted approach to their subject. What goes around, comes around: in 2013 the group Sweeney's Men, featured on the cover of the first issue, has reformed, and Gael Linn disc recordings of the Emmet-Spiceland group, which features prominently throughout the life of the magazine, have recently been reissued on CD.

With thanks to Jack Byrne, Jerry O'Reilly, and to the donors of the magazines: the Breathnach family, Tom Munnelly and John Moulden.

NC, MG & TH, 1 December 2013