Category Archives: Irish Traditional Music

Postcards from Dingle on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Steep cliffs, crashing, foaming waves, sandy beaches, misty islands, craggy rocks –  the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is without question the dramatic and breathtaking Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula,in County Kerry,in the south-west of Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way, where the power and might of the Atlantic Ocean dashes against the west coast of Ireland, stretches some 2,500 kilometres along the Atlantic coast,from my own beloved Donegal in the north-west to the beautiful Kinsale Harbour on the south coast.

Places elevate  the heart, but Dingle makes an imprint on the soul

Places elevate the heart, but Dingle makes an imprint on the soul

These snaps were taken last week on a very joyful trip back to this extraordinarily special place.Gulls are a big feature of the peninsula!

The road snakes perilously along the cliff, even crossing a stream at one point,

Even on the calmest of days, the power of the sea is evident.

The Blasket Islands, uninhabited since the 1950s, lie off the tip of the peninsula

Huge Atlantic rollers wash onto the sandy beach of Coumeenoole Strand,that featured in David Lean’s 1970s film, Ryan’s Daughter.

No trees withstand the harsh Atlantic winds, but there is an abundance of flowers in miniature clinging to the cliffs and in the fields.


While the magical scenery of the Slea Head Drive is an unforgettable part of the Dingle Peninsula, there is so much more to see and do in this area, which is centred on the lovely fishing port of Dingle town. Renowned for its Irish musical culture and traditions and good food Dingle is one of the most loved parts of Ireland, a very special place,well worth a visit at any time of year!



Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditional Music, My Travels

A Good Read: The House on an Irish Hillside

One of the silver linings in the cloud of a very un-festive flu is the extended reading time available to make an impression on the reading list. With its large readable format and easy prose, fitting the bill perfectly for propped-up- in- bed reading is Felicity Hayes McCoy’s ‘The House on an Irish Hillside.

This book is a true love story between Felicity and the spectacularly beautiful  Dingle Peninsula. From the day of her arrival  as a student of Irish at the age of 17, the magic of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, in the south-west of Ireland filtered into her heart and mind down the years, the incessant ‘pull’  culminating in herself and her English husband buying Tí Neillí Mhuiris – (The house of Nellie, daughter of Muris), a house built from stones picked from the fields and remembered with affection for its once smoke-filled kitchen.


Anyone who has ever crossed  the magical Connor Pass, and dropped down into the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula has experienced the unique sense of this place. Few who visit here are not enchanted by the  fabulous scenery, the friendly people, the history, the cultural tradition and  the wonderful food.

Dingle Peninsula

Patchwork of fields on the slopes above Coumeenoole Strand at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula ( Image Wiki commons)

Felicity’s book is beautifully written – flowing along with perfectly chosen words  building  the word pictures that pervade  every page. We are enticed by the ‘polished pewter waves’ and ‘rain-washed mornings with skies like mother of pearl’ and ‘waves shimmering emerald, turquoise and jade’. Dingle is a place that challenges those who wish to describe it, for we simply do not have the vocabulary.  My two abiding images are of red hens pecking at watercress and girls cycling to dances with their high heels slung around their necks! It was at this level that Felicity’s writing appealed to me so very much, but there is more.

gold boat Celtic hoard

The Gold Boat in the National Museum of Ireland, dates from the 1st Century and thought to have been an offering to the God Manannan Mac Lir (Image National Museum)

Felicity has an extensive knowledge and regard for Irish myth and local folklore and these together with the beauty of the place are the ‘weft ‘ on which she weaves a beautiful tapestry of stories of  her love affair with Dingle’s people and places. Manannán Mac Lir, the Celtic God of the Sea , Mrs Hurley, Danú the Fertility Goddess, Kath the London neighbour; Spot the neighbour’s dog and the Sun God Lugh – all woven  together to deepen the understanding of this place. On these pages you will find present day relevance of Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain, the great festivals and turning points in the Celtic year; you will join in on dancing in the kitchen and music  by the fireside, celebrate Nollag na mBan and the ‘Wran’ boys.  The mythology, the folk-tales  the music, song and dance, the living friends and neighbours and the simplicity of things that matter to them, together with the memory of the dead,some of whom died  before the author came to live here and  some of whose coffins she followed, is all intertwined into a wonderful tribute to all that is Dingle.

This book will I believe,  appeal to anyone who has visited Dingle and has been smitten by it and who keeps going back.  It will also appeal to people with Irish roots, who have never stood on these shores as it will give them a sense of what it is to be Irish, what it is to be tied into the traditions and myths of our heritage and how these things impact on everyday life .  I heartily recommend it as an excellent read.


The House on an Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes-McCoy is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in all good book shops and online.

Felicity Hayes -McCoy website

Felicity’s blog 

Dingle Tourism


January 5, 2013 · 6:06 pm

Irish culture – High Crosses with a local touch!

A lovely post from KnowThyPlace blog –  Irish culture comes in many guises –  look at the beautiful pictures and have a listen !


High Crosses, Craic agus Ceol – A Very Different Archaeo-tourism Experience!.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditional Music

Irish Traditional Music and Séan Ó Riada

Séan ó Riada

Séan ó Riada.

Each day, on my way to and from work, I drive through the beautiful Limerick village of Adare. Set into the wall outside the school is a limestone plaque  commemorating  Séan Ó Riada, a former pupil of this school who went on to redefine Irish traditional music and inspire a new interest in it both at home and abroad.

Born in Cork on August 1st, 1931, John Reidy and his family lived in Adare for some years. He later studied music at University College Cork. He joined the national radio station in 1953  and married in that year. Two years later he went to live in Paris, where he reputedly ‘burned the candle at both ends’ and drank heavily. He was continuing to write  classical music, but none of it was performed regularly.

Returning to Dublin, he joined the  Abbey Theatre as Musical Director in 1957. At some time in this period he also began to use the Irish form of his name, Séan Ó Riada. It was at this time he began  scoring films, and in 1959 he was asked to compose music for a film entitled ‘Mise Éire’ (pronounced ‘Mish-a Air -a’ and translates as  ‘I am Ireland’) about the changes in Ireland from 1890 to 1918. The music was based on traditional Irish airs with heavy classical orchestration and captured the imagination of those who heard it at the release of the film in 1960. This music has become an iconic part of Irish Heritage, and made  Séan Ó Riada a household name. The opening 1 minute 50 seconds of  Mise Éire is particularly moving and can be heard by clicking here.

As Musical Director of the Abbey Theatre he sought traditional musicians to perform incidental music in a stage production. He had little time for the Irish music as performed across the country by ceili bands – basically groups of musicians who did their ‘own thing’ and belted out well-known dance tunes.  He gathered together a group of musicians who were interested in trying new ideas and the  musical ‘sessions’  held at his house in Galloping Green have become legendary. He added a new dimension to the way Irish music was played, by creating a type of  ‘folk orchestra’.  Such was the positive response to their performances at the Abbey, Ceoltóirí Chualann  was born. Ceoltóirí  (pronounced  almost! as ‘ Coal -Tory’ ) is the Irish  word for musicians, and Cualann (pronounced ‘Cool- Ann’) is the name of an area just outside Dublin where Ó Riada lived. The band had a harpsichord (which Ó Riada felt closely replicated the sound of the old steel stringed Irish Harp), bodhran, (pronounced ‘bow -ran’) – a hand-held drum, that was not a very popular instrument at that time –  plus a  piano, fiddle, accordions, flute, pipes and whistles.

Ó Riada returned to Cork as a lecturer in the music department of University College Cork in 1963 and eventually took up residence with his wife and seven children in an Irish speaking area called Cul Aodha, (pronounced Cool- Ay ) near Ballyvourney in  west Cork, where he continued to compose. His works include a very well-known and loved mass in Irish known as the ”O Riada Mass”.

There is little doubt that the performance of his life that changed Irish music forever was heard in April 1969, when Ireland was reintroduced to its musical heritage on the stage of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. As stated on the sleeve notes of the CD :”So much of what we take for granted in Irish traditional music has not, in fact, been passed down through the centuries, but was rather brought to the world stage on a Dublin April evening in 1969”. The recording of  Ó Riada sa Gaiety (Ó Riada in the Gaiety) is available at Amazon and other outlets.

Séan Ó Riada fell ill  in the summer of 1971 and died in October of that year, just 2 months after his 40th birthday. He is remembered today on what would have been his  80th birthday.  His legacy lives on.


Rambling House by Ronan Nolan 

Bill Margeson A review of Works of O Riada


Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Irish Traditional Music