Old Irish Croonauns and Other Tunes

Miss Honoria Tomkins Galwey (31 May 1830 – 7 January 1925), an almost forgotten North of Ireland collector of Irish traditional music, edited the varied collection presented here: Old Irish Croonauns and Other Tunes, published in London and New York by Boosey & Co in 1910 and containing 72 dance tunes and song melodies (with some song texts). Many items are Irish and all were ‘written down exactly as I heard them’. Source-notes are included, and the collection was deservedly well regarded in its own time.

Born to Ven. Charles Galwey, a musical Cork-born Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Derry, and Honoria Knox of Prehen, Co Derry, Miss Galwey lived also from childhood in Inishowen, Co Donegal, where her father was rector of Moville, and much of the music she ‘re-collected and collected’ came from the oral tradition of both counties. Although she collected from a range of lilters, whistlers, singers, fiddle, concertina and jews-harp players, and from manuscript, an important source was uilleann piper Tom Gordon of Moville, Co Donegal. A singer and a seemingly self-taught pianist who had played with traditional musicians, she was still playing within a few weeks of her death in Derry. Through her musical interests, she was linked to a turn-of-the-century network of Irish cultural activity in Britain and Ireland: that of the poets Alfred Perceval Graves and Moira O’Neill, the arrangers Charles Wood, R. Arthur Oulton and Arthur Somervell, the composer Charles Villiers Stanford, the singer Plunkett Greene, and the folklorist and founder of the Gaelic League Douglas Hyde – several of these also the children of Church of Ireland clergymen. She made her collections available to the Irish Folk Song Society, founded in London by Graves and others in 1904.

Honoria Galway first appeared in print late in life, as the contributor of seven melodies (also presented here) and some traditional verses to the 1897 Boosey volume Irish Folk-Songs, a collection of mostly original song-lyrics written by A.P. Graves and set to traditional melodies by Charles Wood. Subsequently three of her collaborations were published as sheet music before Old Irish Croonauns first appeared in 1910, to be followed by a later Boosey Co reprint and an American facsimile reprint in 1975, and a later item of sheet music. She was a source of the song ‘Over Here’ (‘Oh, the praties they are small’), which was rewritten by Graves to relate to the Great Famine, and the song ‘Molly Brannigan’ also owes its popularity to her. Following her father, she always held that the famous ‘Londonderry Air’ belonged as much to Donegal as to Derry.

Also reproduced here from the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive are a 19 September 1908 postcard from A.P. Graves (1846–1931) to Miss Galwey and a 22 September 1908 letter from her to Rev. Leslie Creery Stevenson (1878–1961), a hymnwriter and a Church of Ireland curate at the time on Rathlin Island, Co Antrim.

ITMA would welcome donations of or the opportunity to copy four known sheet-music items related to airs collected by Honoria Galway: 'The Blackbird' (words by Moira O'Neill, music arranged by Arthur Somervell), 'Molly Brannigan' (old words, music arranged by Sir C. Villiers Stanford), 'Slumber Song' (words by Moira O'Neill, music arranged by R. Arthur Oulton), Two Irish Airs (music arranged by Mary Tomlinson): 1 'The Rock on the Shore' (words by B.F. Stuart), 2 'Little Blue Pigeon' (words by E. Field). All are believed to have been published by Boosey & Co in London.

NC & MG, 1 December 2014