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Sliabh Luachra

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Music & Poetry

Music & Poetry

Today Sliabh Luachra is recognised as the bedrock of traditional Irish music, song, dance, and poetry. The area has produced some of Irelands greatest poets including Geoffrey Fionn Ó Dalaigh who died in 1387, Aodhagán Ó Rathaille (1670 – 1720) The charismatic Gaelic poet Eoghán Ruá Ó Suilleabháin (1748 – 1784) whose many exploits live on in the folk memory as do his his poetry and “Ashlings” and the solo set dance “Rodneys Glory” which was composed in 1783 following his exploits after being forced to join the British Navy. Sliabh Luachra was also the birthplace the folklorist, poet, and translator Edward Walsh (1805 – 1850), An tAthar Padraig Ó Duinnin who compiled “Dineens Dictionary” which is to this day the bible of the Irish Language, and An Bráthair Tomás Ó Rathaille, Superior General of the Presentation Brothers 1905-1925 who wrote two books of Irish poetry “An Spideog” and “An Cuaicin Draoideachta.” This tradition of poetry continues to the present time with Bernard O' Donoghue now a lecturer in Oxford University winning the prestigious Whitbread prize for a collection of poems in 1993/94. Little wonder that Professor Daniel Corkery author of “The Hidden Ireland” wrote that Sliabh Luachra was the literary capital of Ireland.

The area had a wealth of traditional fiddle masters whose names are legendary and who gave the music, a draiocht and a feeling that it came from the soul of the people, expressing their views hopes and fears. Much of the traditional music and dance of Ireland during troubled times was used as a voiceless expression of the views of the Irish people, which was well understood by them, but meaningless to their oppressors. Much of this draoicht and deep meaning is lost today in the mad rush to modernise and standardise our music and dance, and reduce one of the oldest musical traditions in Europe to the level of a mass culture in an effort to win competitions, or meet the perceived demands of an uninformed market, rather than preserving our old traditions

Old Dances of Ireland
Many of our old dances such as The Bridge of Athlone, The Bonfire, The Waves of Tory. An Rince Mór, and An Rince Fada, that were danced at the fair of Carman in the year 1200, and were always part of the old Celtic Bealtaine celebrations, and ceremonial occasions such as the arrival of an honoured guest, for example an Rince fada was danced to welcome James 11 on his arrival in Kinsale in March 1698. These dances are regrettably no longer centre stage in Ireland. This is also the case with our solo set dances, such as The Garden of Daisies, The Job of Journeywork, Youghal Harbour, and the dances that were composed to celebrate The Napoleon and Jackobite wars when it was felt these wars might in some way result in gaining the freedom of Ireland. A whole range of these dances connected to historic events in Ireland are being lost, and are replaced by contemporary, make up as you go along dances, often added to by hard shoes, silly uniforms some with nonsensical designs, silly girdles, and hair styles, and is unrecognisable from what was performed in the homesteads and Crossroads of Ireland down the centuries. Its only relationship to tradition is that it is danced to traditional music.

A dancing master named Donchada Ó Morá who was known as 'Mooreen' brought many the old traditional dances to North Kerry, and Sliabh Luachra. He came to Listowel with a circus in the early 17 hundreds and stayed on and travelled about teaching traditional step dancing, he taught many in Sliabh Luachra who then went on to being dancing masters themselves. He also became acquainted with the poetry music and activities of Eoghán Rua Ó Suilleabhaín and composed the dance “Rodney’s Glory” after Eoghán Ruá had composed the poem and tune in 1783. Mooreen is buried in An Teampaillin Ban graveyard near Listowel

Sliabh Luachra