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Traditional Songs in Ireland, and the Work of the Folk Song Societies (Exhibit Case 6)
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A Celebration of Traditional Music of Ireland & Elsewhere in Print:

An exhibit of material from the collection of Lewis Becker, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law. March 13, 2006 – April 28, 2006 Falvey Memorial Library Villanova University

Traditional Songs in Ireland, and the Work of the Folk Song Societies (Exhibit Case 6)

The interest in Ireland in English language traditional songs appears to have developed and then continued to grow from about the middle of the 19th century. One of the earliest and most important collectors of traditional songs in English was Patrick Weston Joyce (1827-1914), a cousin of the noted writer, James Joyce, and a distinguished historian of all things Irish (The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places, Social History of Ancient Ireland, etc.).  His two major collections can be seen in this case.

Joyce, Patrick Weston. Old Irish Folk Music and Songs; a Collection of 842 Irish Airs and Songs, Hitherto Unpublished; edited, with annotations, for the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, by P.W. Joyce.
London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1909


Joyce, P.W. Ancient Irish Music: Comprising one Hundred Airs Hitherto Unpublished, Many of the Old Popular Songs, and Several New Songs.
Dublin: McGlashan and Gill, 1873


Examples of other collections of older songs in both English and Irish:

Costello, Eileen Drury. Anhrain Mhuighe Seola: Traditional Folk-Songs from Galway and Mayo.
Dublin: Talbot Press, 1923


Hannagan, Margaret and Seamus Clandillon. Londubh and Chairn: Being Songs of the Irish Gaels in Staff and Sol-Fa with English Metrical Translations.
London; New York: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1927

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Huntingdon, Gayle and Lani Herrmann. Sam Henry’s “Songs of the People”.
Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990


Sam Henry authored a column in the Northern Constitution, a provincial newspaper published in Northern Ireland between 1929 and 1939. Henry’s columns were devoted to the publication of traditional songs, with annotations, and are thus a continuation of the work done by the earlier collectors.

The work of folk song societies was also important in unearthing and preserving the traditional songs of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The English Folk Song Society was particularly important. Between 1899 and 1931 this society published eight volumes, comprising 35 separate issues, in The Journal of the Folk-Song Society. The volumes consisted of material collected by prominent English scholars and included songs, ballads, and music. In 1931 the Folk Song Society merged with the Folk Dance Society to become the English Folk Song and Dance Society, which still publishes its journal.  Perhaps the most important collection of songs in Irish published by the Folk Song Society was the Martin Freeman collection published in three parts from 1920-1921.

Journal of the (English) Folk-Song Society.
London: The Folk-Song Society

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Number 23 (1920). Part 1: Songs from Ballyvourne, Co. Cork, with Irish Texts and Translations

Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society.
London: Wm. Dawson & Sons, 1904-1939
V. XII (January-June 1912)

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Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society.
London: Wm. Dawson & Sons, 1904-1939
V. XXII-XXIII, 1926. The Bunting Collection of Irish Folk Music and Songs, Part 1 (of 5).