A hidden Ulster

People, songs and traditions of Oriel

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

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Catalogue Price: €29.95
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ISBN: 1-85182-738-2
January 2003. 520pp; ills.

This book is the first major study of the song-tradition of Oriel, a region which straddles the borders of southeast Ulster and north Leinster and which was the centre of literature in Leath Choinn, the northern half of Ireland from the end of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century.

It is an account, despite the loss of the Irish language as the common vernacular within living memory, of the survival of an ancient Gaelic song-tradition, which the author herself has inherited and which had absorbed the literary works of the poets and harpers of southeast Ulster. She brings together the disparate work of many early 20th-century collectors, of varied religious backgrounds, and recreates what was once a vibrant and vital song tradition.

The author draws on many traditions associated with the songs: markets, patterns, seasonal folk drama; keening and wakes; harpers, poets, patrons and chieftains and includes vision poems, laments, courtly songs, dance songs, and occupational songs.

Written in English, A hidden Ulster includes the texts of 54 songs in Irish, with translations and their respective airs; richly illustrated with photographs, maps, and music notation, the catalogue section also includes facsimiles of recently located dance-music manuscripts.

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, researcher and native Irish-speaker, is one of Ireland’s best-known traditional singers. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows in Ireland and internationally.