Songsters by Nugent of Dublin, 20th Century

The rare and undated songsters reproduced here were published in the first half of the 20th century by the Dublin firm of Nugent & Co at 45 Middle Abbey Street, and were compiled for the company by Denis Devereux,  a singer and printer who had been involved in the Independence movement as a friend of Arthur Griffith.

All but two come from the family collection of the singer Gerard Crofts, and were purchased at auction by the Irish Traditional Music Archive at the Adams-Mealy ‘Independence’ sale of 19 April 2011.

Printed on flimsy newsprint and sold mostly for a penny or twopence, the original songsters were not intended for long-term use and few have survived. They contain patriotic and popular songs of their time, almost all in English with a few in Irish. Some of the songs had been popularised on gramophone record and on radio by singers such as Jimmy O’Dea, Tony Reddin, Richard Hayward and Delia Murphy in the 1930s; others date from the early 1800s.

Gerard Crofts (1888–1934, pictured above) was a well known tenor from Capel St, Dublin, who frequently sang at concerts and on radio and who made gramophone records for the Aeolian Vocalion, Regal, and Beltona labels. He had joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914, and was imprisoned after fighting in the GPO in 1916. His friends included Sean McDermott, Éamonn Ceannt, and Peadar Kearney, writer of the Irish national anthem.

Also included here is The Irish Blackbird Songster, an undated 19th-century songster crudely printed by the John F. Nugent Co of 35 New Row West, Dublin, which seems to have been a forerunner of Nugent & Co of Middle Abbey St. It comes from the ITMA Leslie Shepard Collection. Erin's Call Song Book was donated to ITMA by Matt Murtagh.

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 June 2011