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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, this book also illustrates life in the Gaeltacht during the Second World War. Although best known as a piper, Ennis was a collector par excellence. This book is a personal account of his field work during those years. This is the first publication of a diary of a fulltime collector of music and song with the Irish Folklore Commission. It paints a vivid picture of social life at the time and comments in particular on popular pastimes and other aspects of daily life.A number of entries cast light on his fieldwork methodology, which was meticulous, and his attitude towards his mission, which led him to eschew anything that had been collected frequently or learned from a book. Ennis visited a number of Gaeltachtai and this book sketches a picture of life in Donegal, Mayo, Connemara and West Clare.
This collection will have particular relevance not only to those interested in Ennis as an individual, but also to all historians and scholars of Irish traditional music and folklore in the twentieth century. Despite the great entertainment Ennis enjoyed on his working trips, he had to be ever vigilant, constantly on the look out for new material and new contacts from which to elicit information.Ui Ogain captures Ennis' writing style admirably. Accounts of certain events reveal an engaged emotional intensity underscoring Ennis' firm belief that his endeavour was more than a mere job. Such vignettes render the diary eminently accessible and attractive to a general reading public, a distinction rarely achieved in this kind of publication. Maps and illustrations demonstrate the journeys undertaken by Ennis. A biographical index of the people interviewed lists the material collected from each individual. This book also provides indices of places, of music and song and a subject index.
Rionach Ui Ogain is a lecturer of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin.