[Originally posted here on November 13, 2010]
I was listening to the lovely Julie Fowlis earlier today, and I decided to Google more information about a particular song and it’s original historical context. After a few pages, I came across a website (with much celebration and glee!) that acts as an online catalogue for Scottish Gaelic folkloric material. The website is Tobar an Dualchais, and it’s a project that seeks ‘to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings’ and to ‘ensure that Scotland’s rich oral heritage is safeguarded and made widely available for educational and personal use for future generations.’ The recordings come from the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh), BBC Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection. Something that excites me is that the database contains folklore collected by Calum MacLean during the 1950s! On the homepage, you can click on a particular area on the map of Scotland, and you’ll be brought to pages of recordings from that area. You can also search the database with the title of a song, for example, if you want. It gives you the details of the recording (title, contributor, reporter, summary, duration, location, etc), and a player (that requires Flash) allows you to listen to the recording.
I went looking for an equivalent in Ireland, and couldn’t find one, besides a few files on the UCD National Folklore Collection site. Then a contact of mine on Facebook, Risteárd Mag Uidhir, sent me the link to the Doegen Records Web Project, which is similar to Tobar an Dualchais. This project is run by the Royal Irish Academy Library in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Observatory. It follows a similar format, with recordings made during the years 1928-31, and ‘includes recordings from many regions of Ireland where traditional Irish dialects have disappeared since the time the recordings were made’, one of which is the County Louth dialect, which has Ulster and Gàidhlig sounds, as far as I can hear. A lot of counties haven’t been covered, unfortunately, which I don’t think is down to lack of material that could have been found.
I’m fascinated with folklore and the song traditions of both Ireland and Scotland (or anywhere, really!), so I was really excited when I came across these websites. They are absolutely invaluable.