The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970: History, ideology, methodology
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The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970: History, ideology, methodology

By Mícheál Briody
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Book Description

"Between 1935 and 1970 the Irish Folklore Commission (Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann), under-funded and at great personal cost to its staff, assembled one of the world’s largest folklore collections. This study draws on the extensive government files on the Commission in the National Archives of Ireland and on a wide variety of other primary and secondary sources, in order to recount and assess the work and achievement of this world-famous institute. The cultural, linguistic, political and ideological factors that had a bearing on the establishment and making permanent of the Commission and that impinged on many aspects of its work are here elucidated. The genesis of the Commission is traced and the vision and mission of its Honorary Director, Séamus Ó Duilearga (James Hamilton Delargy), is outlined. The negotiations that preceded the setting up of the Commission in 1935 as well as protracted efforts from 1940 to 1970 to place it on a permanent foundation are recounted and examined at length. All the various collecting programmes and other activities of the Commission are described in detail and many aspects of its work are assessed and, in some cases, reassessed. This study also deals with the working methods and conditions of employment of the Commission’s field and Head Office staff as well with Séamus Ó Duilearga’s direction of the Commission. This is the first major study of the Irish Folklore Commission, which has been praised in passing in numerous publications, but here for the first time its work and achievement is detailed comprehensively and subjected to scholarly scrutiny. This work should be of interest not only to students of Irish oral tradition but to folklorists everywhere. The history of the Irish Folklore Commission is a part of a wider history, that of the history of folkloristics in Europe and North America in particular. Moreover, the Irish Folklore Commission maintained contacts with scholars on all five continents, and this work has relevance for many areas of the developing world today, where conditions are not dissimilar to those that pertained in Ireland in the 1930's when this great salvage operation was funded by the young, independent Irish state."

Table of Contents
  • The Irish Folklore Commission 1935–1970
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Contents
  • PREFACE
  • INTRODUCTION
    • A national folklore collection
    • International and national reputation of the IFC
    • Need for a reassessment of the IFC’s work
    • International dimension
    • Aim and scope of work
    • Sources and source criticism
    • The author’s experience of collecting
    • A note on nomenclature and translated passages
  • I THE POLITICAL, IDEOLOGICAL AND CULTURAL BACKGROUND
    • 1. Pre-independence period
      • The decline of the Irish Language
      • The Gaelic Revival and cultural nationalism
      • Thomas Davis
      • The rise of the Gaelic League
      • The 1916 Rising and Political Foment
      • Political independence
      • The Irish Civil War
      • Bitterness, disillusionment and political polarisation
    • 2. Culture, language and ideology in the new state
      • Cultural destruction
      • State ideology in respect of native Irish culture
      • The fledgling state’s Irish language policy
      • The Gaelic League and the new state
      • Nostalgia for rural life and the Gaelic past
      • The growing power of the Catholic Church
      • Gender and the new state
      • Comparative folklore studies and northern Europe
      • Conflicting ideologies at home and abroad
      • Neutrality and the Second World War
      • Partition and Northern Ireland
    • 3. Conclusion to Chapter I
  • II SAVING THE FOLKLORE OF IRELAND
    • 1. Laying the foundations
      • The Gaelic League’s Oireachtas competitions
      • The Founding of the Folklore of Ireland Society
    • 2. Séamus Ó Duilearga’s vision and mission
      • The Road from the Glens
      • Interest kindled in the Irish language
      • University: studies and tribulations
      • Assistantship to Douglas Hyde
      • Apprenticeship as collector/Seán Ó Conaill
      • Meeting with Carl Wilhelm von Sydow
      • Study trip to northern Europe
      • Return from northern Europe
      • State support sought for collecting
      • Ernest Blythe’s attitude to folklore
      • The Irish Folklore Institute
      • Ingenuity in the face of adversity
  • III THE IRISH FOLKLORE COMMISSION: FOUNDING AND RE-ESTABLISHMENT
    • 1. Negotiations and interventions
      • Genesis of a new organisation for collecting folklore
      • Ó Duilearga meets de Valera/Folklore survey agreed
      • Divergent views and delays
      • Éamon de Valera’s views
      • Carl von Sydow’s and Eoin Mac Néill’s intervention
      • Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha’s intervention
      • Dept. of Finance proposes limited role for UCD
      • Idea of folklore commission takes shape
      • Ó Duilearga’s reluctant acceptance of a government commission
      • Finance’s reaction to Ó Duilearga’s proposed emendations
      • Further Dept. of Finance emendations
    • 2. The Board of the Commission
      • ‘Terms of Reference’ and duties
      • The Finance Sub-Committee
      • The Inauguration of Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann
    • 3. Making the Commission permanent
      • End of five-year term of office
      • Issues and problems of the period
      • Agents: attitudes and arguments
    • 4. The Nineteen Forties/ebb and flow
      • A permanent, independent foundation
      • Education’s view on the future work of the Commission
      • Dept. of Education seeks clarification from Ó Duilearga
      • Delay in furnishing Education with relevant information
      • Ó Duilearga proposes a more elaborate organisation
      • A still more elaborate scheme proposed by Ó Duilearga
      • Ó Duilearga and Tierney meet with Education officials
      • Reception of Dept. of Education’s proposal
      • Procrastination and frustration
      • Ó Duilearga accepts de Valera’s offer
      • Ó Duilearga changes his mind
      • A New Taoiseach and new opportunities
      • Dept. of Finance assesses the Commission’s position
      • Ó Duilearga’s health breaks down
    • 5. The Nineteen Fifties/Commission adrift
      • New vigour but problems with Dept. of Finance
      • Political instability
      • Pensions for staff of Commission
      • Finance Sub-Committee meets with Education officials
      • Special meeting of Commission, June 27th, 1958
      • Officials assess the opinions of the members of the Commission
      • Dept. of Education considers options for future of Commission
      • Civil Service status for staff of Commission
    • 6. The Nineteen Sixties/on a rising tide
      • Passing of the ‘old guard’ and the reassessment of nationalist ideals
      • Death and old age depletes the Commission
      • Commission on Higher Education
      • The Commission on Higher Education reaches a verdict
      • Dept. of Education acts on CHE’s report
      • Government approves transfer to UCD
      • Insult to injury
      • The Commission’s last meeting
      • Apprehension among staff of Commission
      • Arrangements between Dept. of Education and UCD finalised
    • 7. Transfer to UCD.
      • Choosing a successor to Ó Duilearga
      • Opening of the Department of Irish Folklore
      • The end of a long road: Séamus Ó Duilearga retires
    • 8. A Postscript to transfer to UCD
  • IV THE COMMISSION’S COLLECTORS AND COLLECTIONS
    • 1. In the Field/the Collectors at work
      • Recruiting full-time collectors
      • Training of full-time collectors
      • Special and Part-time Collectors
      • Equipment of collectors
      • Modes of transport
      • Collecting and working methods
      • Keeping of diaries by collectors
      • Other notebooks
      • The workload of the collectors
      • The wives of full-time collectors
      • Reception of collectors by the people
    • 2. The Schools Scheme 1937–1938
      • Origins of scheme
      • Preparing the ground
      • Operation of scheme
      • The harvest comes in
      • Extent of the Schools Collection
    • 3. The Collection of folk music and song
      • To collect or to wait
      • Otto Andersson and Nils Denker
      • Liam de Noraidh
      • Collecting with pen and paper
      • Séamus Ennis
      • Mobile units record folk music
    • 4. Collecting by means of questionnaire
      • Creating a pool of correspondents
      • Maintaining a pool of correspondents
      • Types of questionnaires
      • The method
      • The amount of material collected
      • A final comment
    • 5. Extending the collecting to Northern Ireland
      • The situation in the North
      • A full-time collector for the North
      • The limits of cooperation
    • 6. Collecting in the Isle of Man and Gaelic Scotland
      • The Isle of Man
      • Ó Duilearga’s interest in Gaelic Scotland
      • Calum MacLean reconnoitres
      • Difficulties with the Dept. of Education
      • MacLean begins collecting
      • School of Scottish Studies
      • Ó Duilearga’s gamble/de Valera’s Celtic Vision
  • V THE WORK OF HEAD OFFICE
    • 1. The Work of the Director
      • Organising programmes of work
      • Employing and supervising staff
      • Lecturing at home and public relations work
      • Lecturing abroad and fostering international contacts
    • 2. The office staff of the Commission
      • Employing the first office staff
      • Cataloguing and archiving of material
      • Secretarial and Typing Staff
      • Ethnologist/Caoimhín Ó Danachair
    • 3. Creating a sound archive
      • From gramophone recording apparatus to mobile recording unit
      • Caoimhín Ó Danachair and the mobile recording unit
      • Leo Corduff takes over
      • The last years of the Ediphone
      • Advent of tape recorders and ensuing problems
      • Legacy of sound recordings
      • Creating a research library
  • VI THE SEEDS OF DISCONTENT
    • 1. Salaries and conditions of employment
      • Finance interference
      • Salaries and conditions of the initial Head Office staff
      • Differences in rates of pay of the initial collectors
      • Travelling and other Expenses for collectors
      • Dept. of Finance relaxes control
      • Shorthand typists
      • Pent-up frustration and agitation
      • Pensions for the staff
    • 2. ‘Cogadh na gCarad’ (‘The War of the Friends’)
      • Setting the scene
      • Åke Campbell’s intervention
      • Campbell’s Report
      • The aftermath
      • Research and publication
      • The Types of the Irish Folktale and Folktales of Ireland
      • The heart of the problem
      • Letting go the helm
      • A lasting wound
      • Honorary doctorates
    • VII AN ASSESSMENT OF ASPECTS OF THE COMMISSION’S WORK
    • 1. Head Office and the field
      • Processing and cataloguing the material at Head Office
      • The working methods of collectors
      • Less control over part-time collectors
      • Suitability of full-time collectors for job
      • Limited opportunities for collectors to develop
      • ‘If you were appointed a collector, you remained a collector!’
      • Collector-Folklorists
    • 2. The Commission’s pioneering role
      • Text and context
      • The recording of biographical data
      • The genesis of the collector’s diaries
      • The purpose of the collectors’ diaries
    • 3. The neglect of more recent living tradition
      • ‘Dead clay’ and ‘living clay’
    • 4. Neglect of urban tradition
      • Rural versus urban, national versus international
      • Collectors and urban oral tradition
      • Wider context of neglect of urban tradition
      • An opportunity lost
    • 5. Neglect of English-speaking rural areas
      • Initial prioritising of collecting in Irish
      • Extending collecting in English
      • Continued priority of Irish over English
    • 6. Female collectors and female informants
      • Obstacles to employing women as full-time collectors
      • The ratio of female to male informants
      • Full-time versus part-time collecting
      • The geographical spread of major women informants
      • The amount collected by women collectors
      • A final word on gender matters
  • CONCLUSION
    • Some general comments
    • The actors
    • Seán Ó Conaill and the Commission’s informants
    • The collectors
    • The Head Office staff
    • The Commission’s Board
    • Éamon de Valera
    • Michael Tierney
    • Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha and Eric Mac Fhinn
    • The Civil Servants
    • Séamus Ó Duilearga
    • The Aftermath
    • A safe haven?
    • Need for statutory protection
    • The future of the collections
  • GLOSSARY OF TERMS
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS OF LOCATIONS OF PRIMARY SOURCES
  • PRIMARY SOURCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
  • APPENDICES
    • Appendix 1. Irish Folklore Commission. Terms of Reference
    • Appendix 2. Membership of the Irish Folklore Commission
    • Appendix 3. Full-time and special collectors
    • Appendix 4. A selection of part-time collectors
    • Appendix 5. Growth of the Main Manuscript Collection
  • MAP OF PROVINCES, COUNTIES AND IRISH-SPEAKING AREAS.
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