J.J. Sheehan’s Guide to Irish Dancing, 1902

This rare item was printed in Dublin but published from London by the Liverpool-Irish journalist and political activist John Denvir (1834–1916), who produced an Irish nationalist series of historical, political and cultural publications around the turn of the 20th century.

The Guide was probably produced to meet the needs of branches of the Gaelic League of the period in Ireland, Britain and America. The League, founded in 1893, was enjoying great success in the first decade of the new century. Although it was primarily an Irish-language revival movement, social dancing was central to the activities of its branches.

J.J. Sheehan (Seághan Ó Síothcháin), the author of the Guide, was from Athlone, Co Westmeath. He taught dancing in the London Gaelic League and was a member of its committee in 1902. His modest volume, which appeared about October of that year, seems to have been eclipsed by the larger and more elaborate A Handbook of Irish Dances, which was published in Dublin in December. It was compiled by two other members of the London Gaelic League, J.G. O’Keefe and Art O’Brien, and in various reprints it held the field for the remainder of the 20th century.

With thanks to book donors the Breathnach Family and Terry Moylan.

ITMA would welcome the donation of other materials of this kind which are not yet in its collections (check our catalogues here), or of their loan for copying.

NC & MG, 1 February 2009

[O'Keefe and O'Brian's A Handbook of Irish Dances (2nd ed., 1914) is available here.]