George Petrie Music Manuscripts in ITMA, 1850s

The main music manuscripts of the traditional music collector George Petrie (c.1790–1866) are in the National Library of Ireland and in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

However the Irish Traditional Music Archive acquired in 2002 a small hitherto-unknown collection of Petrie music manuscripts which had been in private hands, and which seem to have once belonged to Count George Noble Plunkett (1851–1948). Plunkett was curator of the National Museum of Ireland in the early years of the 20th century, and was elected in 1917 as the first Sinn Féin TD, after the execution of his son Joseph Mary Plunkett for his part in the 1916 Rising.

The ITMA Petrie manuscripts consist mainly of song texts in Irish, music notation, notes on songs and music, and correspondence, which relate to his two printed collections of Irish music and to the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland (see here). Much of the contents of the manuscripts appeared in print in these two volumes, but in edited forms.

One item contains the complete text of the song ‘Tamall dá Rabhas sul d’Iompaigh an Mágh Orm’, which was given to him in 1856 by Eugene Curry. This is found incomplete at the end of Petrie’s second volume which was discovered in galley by his death-bed. It is reproduced below with other facsimile samples from the manuscripts, and transcripts (normalised for punctuation, capitalisation, etc.) when relevant.

The manuscripts were conserved in 2003 by the Delmas Conservation Bindery, Dublin, with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Council/ An Chomhairle Oidhreachta, and are available for consultation within the Archive.

Petrie Manuscript 1

Facsimile of song-text ‘A Bhuachaill an Chúil Dualaigh’ and translation from Eugene Curry [sent to George Petrie], 1855; transcript of text and translation; printed version (Ancient Music of Ireland vol. 2, pp. 23–25)

Petrie Manuscript 2

Facsimile of melody notation ‘Old Irish Air’ from unknown source, undated

Petrie Manuscrpt 3

Facsimile of melody ‘No 6’ from Robert A. Fitzgerald, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, sent to George Petrie, 1854

Petrie Manuscript 4

Facsimile of page on the Irish harp from essay on Irish music by George Petrie, undated; transcript of page

Petrie Manuscript 5

Facsimile of spinning-song text ‘Labhairse Féin mo Chéile Liom’ from unidentified scribe, undated; transcript of text

Petrie Manuscript 6

Facsimile of page listing Irish airs from James Goodman, undated [1850s]; transcript of list of airs

Petrie Manuscript 7

Facsimile of letter from Eugene Curry to George Petrie with song-text ‘Tamall dá Rabhus sul d’Iompaigh an Magh Orm’, translation and note, 1856; transcript; printed version (Ancient Music of Ireland vol. 2, p. 48)

See here for facsimile editions of George Petrie’s Ancient Music of Ireland, 1855 & 1882

For other music manuscripts of George Petrie, see Marian Deasy, New Edition of Airs and Dance Tunes from the Music Manuscripts of George Petrie LL.D., and a Survey of his Work as a Collector of Irish Folk Music, Ph.D. thesis, National University of Ireland (University College Dublin), 1982. A copy is held in ITMA. 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 April 2011