Ganly's Poblacht na hÉireann

‘Poblacht na hÉireann’: A Buenos Aires & Westmeath Mystery of 1918

Poblacht na hÉireann: 110 Original Irish Dance Tunes and Other Pieces for Violin, Flute, etc. Composed by Padraic Ganly, [Buenos Aires: Ganly, 1918], 107 pp.

[tune titles listed below on left]

One of the most unusual collections of Irish music in the Irish Traditional Music Archive must be Padraic Ganly’s collection of jigs, reels, hornpipes, airs, etc., composed by himself in traditional idiom, which he had printed on 1 July 1918 by Francisco de Paula at 1053 Av. de Mayo, Buenos Aires, and which he presumably published in that Argentinian city immediately afterwards.

It is not yet known who Ganly was and how he came to be publishing his compositions so far from Ireland. But on the internal evidence of the titles he gave to his 110 tunes, he was Irish-born and of rural origins. Townland names and other placenames abound in the collection. They are overwhelmingly from Co Westmeath, with a few from the surrounding counties, and the majority refer to an area east of Lough Ree and north of Athlone. The townland of Ballynacliffy is especially singled out. The family names of friends mentioned  – Adamson, Ginnell, Doolan, etc. – are in general accord with such a place of origin. It is likely that Ganly belonged to the Irish community in Argentina that was associated with a long tradition of emigration to that country from the Irish midlands. The only apparently non-Irish name in the tune titles, 'Che Buono’s Rambles’, is probably a reference to William Bulfin, the Irish-Argentinian author of ‘Rambles in Eirinn’, who sometimes used ‘Che Buono’ as a nom-de-plume in newspaper articles published in Dublin and Buenos Aires.

Ganly was clearly an Irish-Irelander of his time: he calls the collection ‘a modest contribution to the Gaelic revival’, and dedicates it to ‘eiséirge na Gaedhilge agus go hÉirinn [na] nGaedhael’. He was also a politically conscious Irish nationalist of the 1910s who was keeping up with the latest news from home: early tunes are entitled ‘The Old Fenian’s Favourite’, ‘The Men of ‘67’ and ‘The Land for the People’, but he goes on to include ‘Our Men of Easter Week’ and ‘Ashbourne’s Fighting Gaels’, and to name tunes for ‘Countess Markievicz’ and ‘De Valera’.

The title-page of the collection indicates that the compositions are primarily intended for violin and flute, and Ganly’s titles – ‘The Strings of Nancy’s Violin’, ‘The Blind Fiddler’, ‘A Flute and Tambourine’, etc. – seem to confirm this concentration. But other musical performance is also referred to: lilting, whistling, and especially bagpiping. By this he seems to mean mouth-blown bagpiping, and some few of these tunes could have been meant for playing at public political events, as could ‘The Sinn Fein Volunteers’, a B flat march possibly intended for brass instruments. Padraic Ganly may have been a teacher of music. The notations exhibit a high degree of musical literacy and, although they are mostly set in one or two sharps or flats, which would have suited an amateur market, they are in fact technically demanding. The collection itself seems to become progressively more difficult in performance terms, and thus to have a tutorial dimension. There are also indications that at least two editions of the collection were produced: there is an errata list in the 1 July 1918 printing but these errors have been corrected in a later printing. 

ITMA would welcome any further information on Padraic Ganly and his collection at [email protected] and, since ITMA’s copies are imperfect, information on any other copies of the published collection in existence.

With thanks for communications to Gearoid O'Brien of the Westmeath County Library Service, and to Paul O'Shea.

NC, TH & JS, 17 July 2014

Tunes in this collection