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Going to the Well for Water

The Seamus Ennis Field Diary 1942-1946

Ríonach uí Ógáin

Publication Year: 2010

This is a translation of the diaries of Seamus Ennis, fulltime collector of music and song with the Irish Folklore Commission describing his day-to-day work, the people he met, the material he gathered and his constant communication with the head office of the commission in Dublin. In addition to presenting the history of folklore collecting, the book also illustrates life in the Gaeltacht during the Second World War. Although best known as a piper, Ennis was a collector par excellence. The book is a personal account of his field work during those years.

Published by: Cork University Press


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pp. 9-20

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pp. 21-44

Going to the Well for Water: The Séamus Ennis Field Diary 1942–1946comprises the field diary of the collector of Irish music and song SéamusMac Aonghusa, better known as Séamus Ennis, for five years of histranslation of Mise an Fear Ceoil: Séamus Ennis – Dialann Taistil1942–1946, edited by Ríonach uí Ógáin and published by Cló Iar-...

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1 Conamara

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pp. 45-72

I left Dublin at 2.30 P.M.and reached Ballinasloe at 11.30 P.M.where I slept.2I left Ballinasloe at one o’clock in the afternoon. I went to Oranmore,where I spoke to an old man. He sang ‘Is í Nóirín Mo Mhian’ [‘Nóirín IsMy Desire’] for me. His rendering of the air was so bad that I was unableto recognise a single note, but I deciphered one verse that I had not heard...

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2 Ballinagh, Co. Cavan

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pp. 73-76

NFC 1282: 40 From Rosie McGahern, ‘This Life is a Difficult Riddle’...

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3 A Visit to Conamara, November 1942

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pp. 77-88

Travelled and arrived in Cill Chiaráin. I am staying here for a fortnight.Liam Mac Coisdeala met me. Bad news as well: Éamon de Búrca died11.00 Mass. Éamon Liam’s funeral [de Búrca]. A large crowd attended it.We were at Aill na Brón at one o’clock and we saw the funeral ahead ofus. As we were on bicycles we weren’t long catching up with the cortège....

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4 A Visit to Carna

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pp. 89-98

I took the train to Galway. An icy wind was blowing in Galway. I wentfor a meal, and as the afternoon was so miserable and cold, I stayed there.Visit to the Keys family. They are all well and they welcomed me heartily.I went to the first Mass because I wanted to receive Holy Communion.2Muc. I had tea with him and we chatted awhile. He gave me the name of...

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5 Conamara, June–August

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pp. 99-108

I went from Ros Muc to Maínis, Carna. I had spent the previous few days,taken from a week’s leave that was due to me, with Stiofán Ó hOisín inI visited the Clancys’ house in Cill Chiaráin. They are well and had arecent addition to the family. I called to Seán Geary, Aill na Brón, andfound him and the household in good health. I also called to see Beairtlí...

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6 Donegal

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pp. 109-126

Bus as far as Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, at four o’clock. I arrived thereBus at nine o’clock to Sligo. Arrived there at 12.30. A visit to Máirtín ÓhOisín’s house. Lunch. Bus at four o’clock to Convoy via Bundoran andDonegal. In Convoy at eight o’clock and train2 from there to Letterkenny.Hotel there overnight and nothing to do in that town at night apart from...

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7 Carna

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pp. 127-140

Train and bus to Carna (from Dublin). I had arranged to stay in AnCoillín where I had stayed previously but they had no room for me. II went to a man in Maínis where I had spent some of the summer but hecould not arrange lodgings for me as food and other items were in shortsupply and he was planning to go to England shortly.3 I tried five other...

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8 Donegal – A New Year

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pp. 141-170

I left home by train (9.00 A.M.) and went to Derry.2 I was hungry, tiredand spent the night there.3 I went to confession and I saw a picture‘Hitler’s Children’ that was worth seeing. It was an English propagandaBoyle’s house. Afterwards the three of us went to Gort an Choirce to fetchboth my bags. We had tea on our return and spent the evening talking; I...

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9 Another Visit to Carna, May 1944

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pp. 171-194

Train from Dublin to Galway and bus from Galway to Carna (ten o’clockin the morning until eight o’clock in the evening). A visit to my friends,the Ó Clochartaigh family, in Carna in the evening, having settled in toMrs [Sorcha] Hernon’s (Cóilín Bhríd Mhurcha’s house) in Roisín naA good sleep in the morning and from then until dinnertime repairing a...

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10 County Mayo

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pp. 195-204

Took the train to Westport at ten o’clock and a bus from there to Mulrany.Arrived, quite tired, at ten o’clock at night. Master Pádraic Ó Moghráinmet me at the bus and brought me to my accommodation at Mrs [Katie]P. [Pádraic] Ó Moghráin accompanied me this morning and we visitedMártan Ó Máille in this town. A kind old man who was happy to sing a...

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11 Donegal

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pp. 205-226

Took the one o’clock bus to Sligo. Went to Na Cealla Beaga at four o’clockand continued to An Charraig at 8.40. Spent the night there, at the SliabhLiag Hotel2 (Ó Maoldhomhnaigh). The proprietor is a young man calledSeán. I met Jim Boyle (O.S. from Leitrim). Talked with them and wentSlept until ten o’clock. I wrote a few letters and Seán Ó hEochaidh came...

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12 Another Visit to Carna

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pp. 227-250

By train from Dublin to Galway. Bus to Carna was punctual and as Ihadn’t eaten anything since morning, I decided to stay overnight inGalway. I had a meal and went out to An Caisleán Nua to visit Liam MacCoisdeala – he was not at home. Returned to Galway again and I went tothe pictures and then to bed. I deposited my bags ready for the morning...

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13 In the Parish of Carna Again

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pp. 251-298

From Dublin to Galway by train and the five o’clock bus to Carna. Teawith Micheál Geraghty by invitation. The weather broke in the middleof the afternoon and it turned out to be a dirty, wet night. I had intendedspending the night in Galway to visit Liam Mac Coisdeala and Tomás ÓBroin and to go to Anach Cuain2 with him to an old man there – but, as...

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14 A Visit to Árainn

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pp. 299-314

By train from Dublin to Galway and by bus to Carna at night. A steamerwas due to go to Árainn on Wednesday, but I felt two nights in Galwaywaiting for it would be very tiresome. Turf boats go there every day fromI had a good sleep. It rained last night, and there was quite a gale thismorning when I woke early. I knew that no boat would go to Árainn in...

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15 County Clare

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pp. 315-336

Teacher in An Caiseal) and we had a drink. It was then time to go to catchthe Lahinch bus to County Clare. Seán accompanied me and carried mybag and said goodbye to me as the bus was leaving. Seán spent a week athome with my family and me in August when I was on holidays and heLisdoonvarna2 as it would still be expensive until the tourists had left – I...

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16 A Visit to Limerick

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pp. 337-344

I spent a week in Limerick and district, November 1945, on work for theIrish Folklore Society.3 My mission was to note down any facts obtainablefrom (1) Joseph Halpin, 15 Clontarf Place, Limerick, and (2) JamesD’Alton (69), Shanagolden, Foynes, County Limerick, about dancing –Irish country dancing – as it was known in their youth. Fionán Mac...

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17 County Clare

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pp. 345-348

I called to see Br Ryan2 at the Christian Brothers’ schools in Limerickwhom I had promised to see at the first opportunity. He was hard at work,teaching Irish to a class of Limerick boys in the unpleasant cold of a foggyI went down to the bus office and found that the bus left at 2 P.M.forEnnis, so I had lunch and settled my account at the Hotel3 and caught it....

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18 Donegal – Toraigh, May 1946

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pp. 349-362

I left Dublin this morning. I had my own car for the first time setting off,My mother was travelling with me, as I was headed for Donegal. Shewas visiting Rathmelton to spend a fortnight with friends there. We hada pleasant journey through Mullingar and Longford and when we came toDromod my mother wanted to go to Corrycramp, a few miles to the east,...

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19 Conamara

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pp. 363-378

Mary’s Terrace, where Michael Duignan and his wife [Eileen] live. Theywere not at home. The housekeeper told me they could be at the Coyles’house further up the road. [David] Coyle himself came to the door andinvited me in while he made a phonecall in search of Duignan. His wife[Róisín] turned out to be a sister of Máire Nic Néill! They brought us...


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pp. 379-414


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pp. 415-420

Index of people featured in the diary

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pp. 421-590

Index of Music and Song

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pp. 591-595

Subject Index

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pp. 596-604

Index of Places

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pp. 605-616

E-ISBN-13: 9781908634085
E-ISBN-10: 1908634081
Print-ISBN-13: 9781859184776
Print-ISBN-10: 1859184774

Page Count: 614
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1