Focus on Irish Language Traditions

Douglas Hyde (1860-1949), a founding member and first president of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) 1893, and later first President of Ireland (1938- 1945), linked the cultural regeneration of Ireland to the language and culture of the contemporary Gaeltacht. Directing his attention to the Irish-speaking areas of his native Connacht , he collected various genres of folk narrative – poetry, songs, prayers and charms, and especially the folktales still remembered, though no longer performed for entertainment purposes.

His Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta (‘Book of Storytelling’) (1889) – the first collection of folktales in the Irish language – was followed in 1890 by the largely bilingual Beside the Fire/Le h-Ais na Teineadh, and by the significant collection of Märchen (‘Wonder Tales’) with French translations, An Sgéaluidhe Gaedhealach (‘The Gaelic Storyteller’) (1901), published initially in Annales de Bretagne, vols 10-18 (1895-1901), by Georges Dottin.

In Ocht Sgéalta Ó Choillte Mágach (‘Eight Stories from Kiltimagh’) (1936) and Scéalta Thomáis Uí Chathasaigh/Mayo Stories Told by Tomas Casey (1939), Hyde brought together the repertoire of a single storyteller. His bilingual collections – Abhráin Grádha Chúige Connacht or Love Songs of Connacht (1893), Abhráin atá Leagtha ar an Reachtúire/Songs Ascribed to Raftery (1903), and Abhráin Diaga Chúige Connacht or Religious Songs of Connacht (1906), revealed a hidden world of emotion, spirituality and attitudes to poets and poetry of his native province.

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