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Folklife and Folklore on Clare
The folklore of Clare Island, what is still
maintained through oral tradition, is to be found along the boreens and before the hearths
of the people who live there. As in most other places in the West of Ireland, this oral
tradition is declining, though there is still a considerable amount of stories that are
carried about in people's heads. As to written records of folklore, one can turn to
the following sources:
Charles Browne's "The Ethnography of
Clare sland and Inish Turk" (1895) includes some interesting inclusions of folklore
and local history.
T. J. Westropp. "History and
Archaeology", The Clare Island Survey (1909-1912) Westropp includes some folklore
with his descriptions of the archaeological and historical monuments.
John MacNeill. "Place-names and Family
Names", The Clare Island Survey (1909-1912) Not strictly folklore but fascinating
N. Colgan."Gaelic Plant and Animal
Names", The Clare Island Survey (1909-1912) This is a wonderful paper which includes
two beautiful seal stories as well as fascinating asides regarding animals and plants
which were intimately apart of the islanders' lives at the turn of the century.
Two folklore/folksongs collectors from the
Irish Folklore Commission have visited the Island in the past (in 1935 and 1973),and
though these visits were of short duration, a wealth of custom and historical
tradition,and especially song, were recorded.
The Centre for Island Studies has been
compiling and collecting folklore and local poems and stories, including material recorded
by the late Michael Joe O'Malley. It is hoped that a small pamphlet of some of this
material will be published soon.
Aine Ryan, Westport, has collected
considerable material, especially that relating to the Congested Districts Board and the
early part of the century.
As part of the New Survey of Clare Island,
Chriostoir MacCarthaigh has been conducting research into the folklore and folklife of the
island. The following is a brief synopsis of his research programme. The complete
work will be published by the Royal Irish Academy early in 1999.
A programme of surveys of vernacular buildings
and other features was commenced in 1993; to date some twelve houses and outhouses have
been surveyed in detail. The island is fortunate in having preserved many fine traditional
buildings, some still in use,and the later traditional buildings also contain many design
and other features directly inspired by the venacular and therfeore worthy of study.
Examples of lime kilns, kelp kilns and a single sweat house were also recorded. As with
all other aspects of the research,detailed plans,drawings, 35mm negatives and slides
have been made.
During stays on the island in 1993-1994,
detailed enquiries were made regarding the maritime infrastructure of the island: the
boats (which,interestingly,at one timeincluded both carvel - and clinker-built
vessels),line and net-fishing, shell-fishing, and accompanying fishing gear and equipment.
Extensive interviews were made on this subject. In 1995, attention was directed towards
domestic material culture; provision of fuel,the manufacture and use of furniture,small
furnishings and various domestic implements.
While the strength of oral tradition has
declined in recent years,an appreciable fund of stories and,in particular, song remains.
Some seven hours of recordings have been made on 1/4'' tape, and substantial handwritten
notes of interviews made.