William Forde (1797–1850), Cork Musician & Antiquarian, his 100 Irish Airs

Among the published works of William Forde (1797–1850) the Cork musician, editor and collector, is a selection of 100 Irish airs published in 1841 as part of his 300 National Melodies of the British Isles.

Cork-born William Forde (1797–1850) devoted his life to music as a musician, editor, collector and scholar. A flute and piano player, he spent time in both London and Cork, his wide-ranging musical interests focusing during the 1840s on Ireland. He joined the circle of other Irish antiquarian scholars such as George Petrie (1789–1866) and John Windele (1801–65). In 1844 he launched an unsuccessful subscription campaign to publish a printed music collection, and his Irish legacy remains a substantial and as yet unpublished collection of up to 1,900 melodies, part of the sixteen-volume Forde-Pigot Collection of Irish Music held in the Royal Irish Academy Dublin. Twelve volumes of Forde manuscripts and accompanying notebooks have been studied by researcher Caitlín Ní Éigeartaigh who has deduced that approximately half derive from printed sources, with the remaining recorded from manuscript and oral sources. The melodies, mostly song airs, were organised systematically by Forde in the manuscripts in order to compare the various versions he had sourced. Unfortunately, as with many other 19th-century collectors, the words of the songs have not been documented. His sources extended beyond Munster to Connacht and Ulster, and in Leitrim he collected approximately 180 tunes from the uilleann piper Hugh O'Beirne.

Patrick Weston Joyce (1827–1914) acquired the Forde-Pigot Collection from members of the Pigot family and a selection of the melodies was published in his 1909 Old Irish Folk Music & Songs reproduced here. P.W. Joyce donated the Forde-Pigot Collection to the Royal Irish Academy. An article by Nicholas Carolan 'The Forde-Pigot Collection of Irish Traditional Music' was published in Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009).

The printed collection of Irish airs made available online here was published in 1841 in London as part of a wider three-volume British Isles selection. The 100 Irish airs were published with 100 English & Welsh airs and 100 Scotch airs. ITMA has photocopies of volumes 1 and 2 in its collection but is fortunate to have acquired an original copy of volume 3 as part of the Breandán Breathnach Collection. Should you have original copies of the first two volumes, ITMA would be grateful to have the opportunity to digitise these and add them to its collections.