From Corrib to Cultra: Folklife Essays in Honour of Alan Gailey (review)
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Journal of American Folklore 116.462 (2003) 487-489



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From Corrib to Cultra: Folklife Essays in Honour of Alan Gailey. Ed. Trefor M. Owen. (Belfast: Queen's University Institute of Irish Studies in association with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, 2000. Pp. x + 257, introduction, 42 illustrations, notes, bibliography of Alan Gailey's published work.)

The introduction and seventeen articles that comprise this festschrift in honor of folklife scholar Alan Gailey are lucidly written, informative, and founded on meticulous research. The diversity of topics engaged reflects the [End Page 487] broad scope of folklife as a productively interdisciplinary field of study to which Gailey has been such a generous and learned contributor. Although the essays in this collection focus largely on Irish, Scottish, and Welsh case studies, they provide models for folklife research worldwide.

The occasion for this festschrift was Gailey's retirement from his post as director of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (UFTM). Gailey's academic mentor, the late E. Estyn Evans, pioneered folklife studies in Ulster and was the principal founder of the UFTM. G. B. Thompson's contribution to the volume reports, in part from personal experience, on Evans's role in the long road toward establishing the museum, and Megan McManus reviews Evans's influence on folklife studies, chronicles the development of UFTM goals and policies, and reflects on the museum's future potential in cultural heritage education.

Four articles that follow discuss aspects of the museum's collections. Linda May Ballard demonstrates the value of wedding gowns and accessories as evidence in the historical record of past skills and tastes. Both Philip Robinson and Fionnuala Carragher deal with the history and socioeconomic uses of buildings removed from their original sites and reerected at the museum. Roger Dixon uses a number of museum holdings to discuss the political agendas of Joseph Francis Bigger (1863-1926), a Belfast Presbyterian who tirelessly promoted the idea of Irish independence founded on a cultural heritage common to both Catholics and Protestants.

The next three essays engage Gailey's long interest in vernacular architecture. Robbie Hannan and Jonathan Bell offer a case study in revival by demonstrating how one form of traditional Irish shelter made of turf, known as a bothóg, has survived because of its adaptability in different contexts. R. Ross Noble discusses the research and experimentation required to reconstruct an early house type at the Highland Folk Museum. Bruce Walker and Christopher McGregor investigate the rise of specialized forms of architecture necessary for large-scale sheep farming in Scotland that emerged after the Highland Clearances.

The next pair of contributions considers the historical significance of the horse in rural society. Observing that scholarly interest in traditional plows has ignored the animals that pulled them, Mervyn Watson discusses how draft horses were selectively bred to meet local environmental needs and played a central role in agricultural improvements. Eurwyn Wiliam offers a fascinating consideration of the custom of burying horses' skulls under stone floors in Wales, a practice evidenced by excavations of Iron Age and late postmedieval structures. Wiliams grapples with the difficulty of explaining this custom in the absence of written or oral testimony.

Complementing Gailey's work on Christmas mumming in Ireland, Paul Smith and Michael J. Preston painstakingly recreate the publishing histories of undated nineteenth- and twentieth-century chapbooks that record mummers' rhymes, especially in the north of Ireland. They succeed admirably in offering a history of variation in a fixed printed tradition to which oral texts may be compared. Also shaped by Gailey's mumming scholarship, Anthony D. Buckley's article on Orange and Masonic initiation rituals is entertaining in its use of parallels from Stephen Spielberg's film Raiders of the Lost Ark to underscore the functions of secrecy and narrative enactment in both ritual and theatrical forms of drama.

The two contributions that follow treat the growing interest in the ethnology of foodways. Whereas Alexander Fenton investigates changes in food production and attitudes toward diet in the whole of Scotland over the past three centuries, Patricia Lysaght...


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