An audio archive from NUI Galway has been showcased at this year’s Cúirt International Arts Festival-in its first play in public since 1930.
Recordings stored in wax cylinders held in the James Hardiman University Library situated in the heart of campus was digitised last summer with support from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media.
It had been one hundred years since they were first recorded and captured.
The recordings were made by the inaugural Professor of Irish at the University Tomás Ó Máille who was appointed to the position at the university then named University College Galway (UCG) in 1909.
The recording formed the theme for “An Chartlann Bheo – Animating the Archive” which took place in An Taibhdhearc on April 6th.
A native of Joyce Country located in the Gaeltacht of Connemara, County Galway, Ó Máille held the position of Professor of Irish at UCG for eight years until his untimely death in 1938.
Ó Máille was considered a pioneer as he was considered to have the foresight to commit to what was the newest technology of his time, audio recording.
He focused specially on folklore, song and dialects creating an archive of hundreds of Irish speakers from every county in Connacht. The collection also features some recording from County Clare.
He also assisted other collectors and scholars in their recording work, including head of the Sound Department at the then named Prussian State Library, nowadays known as the Berlin State Library Wilhelm Doegen.
Musician, broadcaster and author Dr Deirdre Ní Chonghaile introduced Tomás Ó Máille and his work, before his recordings were played.
Speaking ahead of the Cúirt showcase, Dr Ní Chonghaile said: “This event sees one of Ireland’s most significant audio archives come to life for the first time and witness songs returning to their rightful place – in each community’s repertoire. We are thrilled to partner with Cúirt and Arts-in-Action to celebrate Tomás Ó Máille’s outstanding legacy in capturing artistic treasures of the Irish language from every county west of the Shannon.”
Singers Sarah Ghriallais, Mary Staunton, and Saileog Ní Cheannabháin performed their own renditions of songs retrieved from Ó Máille’s recordings. All three singers have backgrounds in the Gaeltacht.