Intangible Heritage In Ireland


Irish landscape

Apropos of this post yesterday, and many that preceded it on the topic of intangible patrimony (thanks to the BBC):

How The Irish Lost Their Words

New storytelling groups are reintroducing the Irish to ancient myths and the art of blarney.

By Rory Boland

I always knew my Uncle Peter was setting up for a story when he’d lean back in his bar stool. Nothing dramatic, nothing too flashy, just a gentle recline – always followed by a more determined pushing away of his half-drunk pint of Harp and a wipe of the whiskers. Stage set, audience warned, he’d begin by saying “C’mere ‘till I tell you.” By the time that pint of Harp was drained, half the pub would be leaning in to listen and laugh.

The stories he told were the everyday made interesting. They were anecdotes about the butcher or the bus driver, or a screaming match at the end of the street. Every story was true, but embellished each time it was told; embroidered to make the story more entertaining. It’s a way of telling stories that is very Irish. You probably know it better as blarney.


Dublin is home to many storytelling venues

Jack Lynch prefers to call them “tall tales”. As the Chair of Aos Scéal Éireann, or Storytellers of Ireland, Lynch is the man charged with getting the Irish talking again. Incredibly, it seems that we had stopped.

“Many Irish people would have memories such as yours, listening to stories in pubs or living rooms told by aunts and uncles or friends,” Lynch said. But they are just that – memories. “Storytelling is seen as an experience from the past.”

In the shadow of the seanchaí
The story of Irish storytelling’s decline is very much the story of the seanchaí.

The seanchaíwere Ireland’s original storytellers, travelling from village to village to tell tales. Lynch described them as “reporters, entertainers and historians” rolled into one.  While specialising in the swashbuckling myths ofCú Chulainn or Fionn mac Cumhaill, they also recorded and passed on local history, and – crucially for Ireland’s rural communities – were a link to local goings on. It was the seanchaí’s skill in making the everyday interesting that brought the Irish to blarney…

Read the whole story here.

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