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Author: Dr. Rosemary Coll

The NUI Galway demonstrator project for DRI launches to the public at DPASSH 2015. The project draws on Irish language audio, text and image archives to create a number of curated collections based around the theme of Cultural Heritage. While the content is in Irish, metadata and contextual material have been prepared in both Irish and English so that users can browse and search through either language.

This blog showcases one of our collections Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth, The Seán Mac Giollarnáth Collection. Seán Mac Giollarnáth was a renowned folklorist and writer. The original manuscripts are dated 1929-1940 and were compiled in Conamara where Mac Giollarnáth served as circuit court judge 1925-1950. They were transcribed in 2003-04. Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth presents 47 digitised manuscripts and transcripts, together with a number of Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcasts, collection ephemera and background material about his life and work. The manuscripts contain material on a range of themes including nature and wildlife and a number of translations from English and German. As one might imagine given his background, the majority (41 mss) contain folklore. Consequently the focus here is on the folklore manuscripts and ephemera.  

Seán Mac Giollarnáth, 1880-1970 (All rights reserved) 

His work as district court judge then, put him in contact with some of the foremost storytellers in Conamara at the time and his work with the Irish Folklore Commission (1935-1971) and its predecessors The Irish Folklore Institute (1930-1935) and The Folklore of Ireland Society (1927-1930) highlighted the urgency of capturing their tales. The importance of this work is outlined in a memorandum to collectors c.1933 (see extract below). 

Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth MS009. Extract from Memorandum to Collectors (All Rights Reserved)

Mac Giollarnáth published some of the material in the manuscripts in Béaloideas and in texts such as Peadar Chois Fhairrge (1934), Loinnir Mac Leabhair agus Sgéalta Gaisgidh Eile (1936) and Annála Beaga ó Iorrus Aithneach (1941). Annála Beaga was broadcast on Raidió na Gaeltachta in 1986-87. These broadcasts form part of Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth.

In common with all other folklore collectors, Mac Giollarnáth followed the guidelines which Ó Súilleabháin set out in Láimh-leabhar Béaloideasa (1937) and Handbook of Irish Folklore (1942). Summary versions or perhaps drafts of these guidelines in Irish and English form part of the collection ephemera. Collectors were required to record dates, times, places and names of contributors together with any other relevant contextual material (see extract below). 

Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth MS009. Extract from General Instructions (All Rights Reserved)

These guidelines produced a quality of metadata which has stood the test of time and continues to make manuscripts such as these an invaluable resource for researchers today. Ó Súilleabháin’s handbook also included a comprehensive list of subject keywords which has recently been used in MoTIF, the pilot thesaurus on Irish folklore.

Of course notes and marginalia record more than just times and places. Personal notes provide an insight into friendships and relationships, including that between Mac Giollarnáth and the storyteller Micilín Mac Donnchadha. This is exemplified in a note at the end of MS012 translated below. 


"I have written 28 pages from Micilín tonight after the court sitting in Leitir Fraig. The east wind which we have had for the past ten days has gone and we have a mild south westerly. It is now past midnight and I am tired but Micil still feels like talking. He was nodding off, he says as he was telling a story. He had told a good part of the story when he woke up and he could not remember the story. I must take out the car now and leave Micilín back to the top of the road in Roisín na mBan Aoidheach. He will walk home from there up the road and across the fields to his cottage in Roisín na mBan Aoidheach on the shore of Loch Mac Caola.

Between 12 and one a.m. 14.12.1932"

Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth. MS012

Micilín is a frequent contributor who tends to drop into the courthouse nuair a bhíonn fonn cainte air ‘when he feels like talking’ and Mac Giollarnáth clearly holds him in high regard. He includes Micilín’s name at the top of the list of contributors to Annála Beaga (1941). 

This is of course a highly subjective and narrowly focussed overview the Bailiúchán Sheáin Mhic Giollarnáth. Browsing the text, audio and images in the collection as a whole provides a stepping-off point for anyone with an interest in folklore and language and indeed poses questions which require further investigation. 

To read more entries in the DRI blog, please visit the Blog Page.



Almqvist, B. (1977-1979). The Irish Folklore Commission - Folklore and Legacy. Béaloideas, 45-47, 6-26.

Breathnach, D., & Ní Mhurchú, M. (2014). Mac Giollarnáth, Seán (1880-1970).

Briody, M. (2007). The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970. Helsinki.

Mac Giollarnáth, S. (1934). Peadar Chois Fhairrge. Baile Étha Cliath: Oifig an tSoláthair.

Mac Giollarnáth, S. (1936). Loinnir Mac Leabhair agus Sgéalta Gaisgidh Eile. Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig Díolta Foilseacháin Rialtais.

Mac Giollarnáth, S. (1941). Annála Beaga ó Iorrus Aithneach. Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig an tSoláthair.

Morley, V. (2009). Mac Giollarnáth (Mac Giolla An Átha; Forde), Seán. Dictionary of Irish Biography. (J. McGuire, & J. Quinn, Eds.) Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from James McGuire, James Quinn (ed.), Dictionary of Irish Biography.:;jsessionid=A284017323510F860E182...

Ó Cearbhaill, D. (2012). Seanchas Fola: Folklore from East Galway. Seán Mac Giollarnáth (1880-1970). (D. Ó Cearbhaill, Ed.) Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 64, 106-127.

Ó Súilleabháin, S. (1937). Láimh-leabhar Béaloideasa. Baile Átha Cliath: Comhlucht Oideachais na hÉireann ar son an Chumainn le Béaloideas Éireann.

Ó Súilleabháin, S. (1942). A Handbook of Irish Folklore. Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland for the Folklore of Ireland Society.

Uí Ógáin, R. (2013). Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann: The National Folklore Collection, University College, Dublin. Oral Tradition, 28 (2), 317-324.