Éamon a Búrc (1866-1942)

Aill na Brón, Cill Chiaráin, Connemara, Co. Galway

Further up along the Atlantic coast, there were also other storytellers with large repertoires picked up from the previous generation, and for whom storytelling was no longer an intrinsic part of social life. One such person was Éamon a Búrc in west Connemara, Co. Galway , [1] who was acknowledged as the best storyteller in his local area, and described by Seán Ó Súilleabháin as 'possibly the most accomplished narrator of folktales who has lived into our own time.'

Yet it was in the thirties that Éamon a Búrc came to outside attention when the folklore collector, Liam Mac Coisdeala, began to officially collect his repertoire for the Irish Folklore Commission. Éamon was then over sixty years of age, and he told the collector that collecting should have started forty or fifty years previously when it would have been worthwhile doing it. Éamon a Búrc had a wide range of narratives, including tales of the Ulster and Fianna cycles, supernatural legends and a large corpus of lore about his native place. But it was his ability to tell the multi-episodic hero tales that firmly secured his reputation as a gifted storyteller. One of these, Eochair Mac Rí in Éirinn/Eochair, a King's Son in Ireland, which he told in October 1938, consists of about 30,000 words, and appears to be the longest tale ever recorded from oral narration.[2]

[1] Ó Ceannabháin, Peadar (eag.), Eamon a Búrc. Scéalta, Baile Átha Cliath 1983.

[2] Edited and translated: Ó Nualláin, Caoimhín/O’Nolan, Kevin, Éamon a Búrc, Eochair Mac Rí in Éirinn/Eochair, a King’s Son in Ireland , Baile Átha Cliath/Dublin 1982.

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