Friday 29 April 2016

1930s Schools’ Folklore Collection material from County Clare now online

Folklore and local history from County Clare is now available on The Schools’ Collection, an important component of the National Folklore Collection, UCD, contains the folklore material recorded by pupils between 1937 and 1939. It consists of over half a million pages recorded by around 50,000 primary school pupils in the 26 counties.

Material from the Schools’ Collection has been published on an ongoing basis on dú since the end of 2013 and all volumes from the Collection, covering all 26 counties, will be available by the end of 2016. Folklore material from Dublin, Mayo, Donegal, Waterford, Galway, Leitrim, Kildare, Kerry, Sligo, Limerick, Monaghan, Laois, Kilkenny, Louth and Tipperary has already been made available on the site since the end of 2013. dú is the result of a partnership, beginning in 2012, between the National Folklore Collection (UCD), Fiontar (DCU) and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The site will be of interest to a great many Irish people and to the Irish diaspora. For specialist researchers in the fields of folkloristics, local history, archaeology, genealogy, linguistics, and a range of other disciplines, dú offers considerable research potential. The site can currently be searched by place or by person, and a search facility according to topic will be made available this year. Almost 170 schools in Co. Clare took part in the scheme and 49 volumes of material were compiled.

Some examples: Stories from County Clare

Biddy Early has been a topic of debate and fascination in County Clare for the last 200 years. She is mentioned in stories collected in County Galway and also in County Tipperary as well as in stories collected in her native Clare.

There are many differing accounts of Biddy’s life. This story tells us that Biddy was married three times and that she acquired her powers from a magic bottle that fairies gave to her son after he defeated them in a game of hurling. The bottle, it is said, enabled her to cure any disease or ailment. This story offers a different explanation and tells us that her son stole the magic bottle from the fairies. Biddy’s reputation has suffered in Clare. She was despised by the public up until 1995 when Clare won their first All-Ireland Hurling title since 1914. Many Clare people blamed Biddy for the Clare hurling team’s misfortune citing a curse that she had apparently placed on the team.

The Story of the Colleen Bawn is very famous in Clare. It is a tragic story that concerns a young girl who falls in love with William Scanlan (‘William’ is given as a name in certain stories, however, John Scanlon was the man’s actual name). The Colleen Bawn’s family were well off but William Scanlan was in debt. According to this story, Scanlan decided to get rid of the Colleen Bawn. He invited her to go on a boating trip with him and he drowned her somewhere between Tarbert in County Kerry and Kilrush in County Clare. Daniel O’Connell defended him but he was found guilty and hanged. Many different versions of this story are to be found in the Clare collection. Take a look at the results of the search ‘colleen bawn’ and ‘cailín bán’.

Irish was still spoken in West Clare until the 1970s and there were a number of Irish-language stories and accounts collected in Carrigaholt, Kilbaha and in other areas around Loop Head. The majority of this manuscript is in Irish; stories collected around the Carrigaholt area in Loop Head. A story about Fionn Mac Cumhaill is the very first story that greets you with many more treasures contained within the manuscript. Read this lament (‘Brón na Farraige - Caoineadh ó Chill Bheathach’’) about the melancholy of the sea. The sea is often the subject of folklore in West Clare as one would expect from a county whose environment is heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean.

Click here to delve into the history and traditions of Clare and learn more about the county through both Irish and English from

For more Clare folklore and oral history see

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