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Going to the Well for Water: The Seamus Ennis Field Diary 1942-1946
Going to the Well for Water: The Seamus Ennis Field Diary 1942-1946

Our Price:25.00
Authors: Ríonach uí Ógáin
Affiliation: University College Dublin.
Publication Year: Softback 1 November 2010
Pages: 614
Size: 234 x 156mm

ISBN: 9781859184776


This is a translation of the diaries of Seamus Ennis, fulltime collector of music and song with the Irish Folklore Commission describing his day-to-day work, the people he met, the material he gathered and his constant communication with the head office of the commission in Dublin. In addition to presenting the history of folklore collecting, the book also illustrates life in the Gaeltacht during the Second World War. Although best known as a piper, Ennis was a collector par excellence. The book is a personal account of his field work during those years.

This is the first publication of a diary of a fulltime collector of music and song with the Irish Folklore Commission. It paints a vivid picture of social life at the time and comments in particular on popular pastimes and other aspects of daily life. A number of entries cast light on his fieldwork methodology, which was meticulous, and his attitude towards his mission, which led him to eschew anything that had been collected frequently or learned from a book. Ennis visited a number of Gaeltachtai and the book sketches a picture of life in Donegal, Mayo, Connemara and West Clare. This collection will have particular relevance not only to those interested in Ennis as an individual, but also to all historians and scholars of Irish traditional music and folklore in the twentieth century. Despite the great entertainment Ennis enjoyed on his working trips, he had to be ever vigilant, constantly on the look out for new material and new contacts from which to elicit information. Ui Ogain captures Ennis' writing style admirably. Accounts of certain events reveal an engaged emotional intensity underscoring Ennis' firm belief that his endeavour was more than a mere job. Such vignettes render the diary eminently accessible and attractive to a general reading public, a distinction rarely achieved in this kind of publication.

Maps and illustrations demonstrate the journeys undertaken by Ennis. A biographical index of the people interviewed lists the material collected from each individual. The book also provides indices of places, of music and song and a subject index.

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5 of 5 Going to the Well for Water presents the diaries k February 15, 2012
Reviewer: Helen O Shea Australasian Journal of Irish Studie from Republic of Ireland  
Going to the Well for Water presents the diaries kept by S amus Ennis on  nineteen trips to collect songs and tunes for the Irish Folklore Commission  in Irish speaking areas  mainly in the Western counties  between July 1942  and July 1946. Written in Irish  the diaries have been translated into English  and annotated by R onach U   g in  Director of Ireland s National Folklore  Collection.    S amus Ennis is best known today as a virtuoso performer on the  uilleann pipes and as presenter of the BBC s As I Roved Out program  throughout the 1950s. However  he was also a folklorist par excellence  and  only 26 years old when he began work on this project. Ennis s strong work  ethic and remarkable productivity resulted in hundreds of song and tune  transcriptions  while the emotional intensity of his accounts of music and  musicians underscores his belief  shared by his informants  in the  worthiness of the project.  The diary entries  intended as a record for Ennis s employers  give a  straightforward account of the collector s activities. A typical entry might  refer to writing letters and copying transcriptions  weather  mealtimes  trips  to the post office  visits to potential informants  swimming  and evenings of  conversation and music. Although ethnographic descriptions of the kind we  might expect from an ethnomusicologist are given on only a handful of  occasions  the editor s inclusion of excerpts from Ennis s letters to his  employers and his folklore texts helps to fill this gap.  Ennis was guided in his work by Irish Folklore Commission s archivist   Se n   S illeabh in  who compiled the Handbook of Irish Folklore.  Ennis s rejection of songs in English or those evidently learned from  published texts reflects the Commission s view that the  true lineage  of  Irish culture is transmitted orally and in the Irish language. His fine musical  and linguistic skills are evident in his ability to transcribe song airs and  instrumental tunes by ear after only one or two hearings  much of his work  was carried out without the assistance  or the hindrance  of a temperamental  Ediphone recorder  and in the rapid extension of his school Irish to fluency  in several regional dialects.  Ennis s diaries reveal his ability to charm and reassure potential  informants  as when he writes of a visit to  a woman who has many songs. She said she was not in the  mood for singing and I said that was not why I had come  but  to indicate my high opinion of her by visiting her before asking  her for songs. She liked that and told me to come again another  day  p. 191 .  The diaries vividly convey the rhythm and grain of life in rural Ireland  during the years of World War 2   The Emergency  and characterised by  isolation and deprivation. The private use of cars was banned and many  materials and commodities were unavailable. Ennis s experience reflects  these conditions  with many entries mentioning repairs to his bicycle or  shoes and daily reports on the weather  which frequently curtailed his  outings to musicians or saw him drenched.  It becomes apparent that Ennis s success as a collector benefited greatly  from his talent for friendship and as an entertainer. He appears to have been  in many ways a model paying guest  happy to spend hours mending a clock  or a pair of boots for his new friends  digging their potatoes or bringing in turf  filling in government forms  teaching tunes or entertaining his hosts  with conversation and music at night visits  house parties and concerts that  frequently lasted until the early hours. He swam in the ocean and took part  in sailing and fishing expeditions and went along to lantern slides  missions  and funerals.  The diaries are supplemented by informative footnotes and a  biographical index listing the material collected from each of Ennis s  informants  while places  subjects  music and songs are all separately  indexed  making it a useful guide to the National Folklore Collection s  archive. This is not a book for the general reader  nor for those looking for  the fruits of Ennis s collecting work. The musical examples are largely for  illustration  reproductions of song transcriptions with only one of many  verses  while the diary entries are more engaging for their sum than their  parts. The reader s enjoyment will be enhanced by an interest in Ireland s  social history or in musical ethnography. Readers expecting a detailed  ethnographic account of Ennis s encounters with his informants and their  lives will be disappointed  however  for those details lie in the main  elsewhere. Similarly  while this handsomely produced volume includes  many photographs and reproductions of a small number of Ennis s  transcriptions of songs and tunes  his collections  including the biographical  and ethnographic detail U   g in draws on for her notes and appendixes   remain unpublished in the archives of the Irish National Folklore  Collection.

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5 of 5 Going to The Well for Water : The Seamus Ennis Fie May 23, 2011
Reviewer: Patricia Craig The Irish Times from Republic of Ireland  
Going to The Well for Water : The Seamus Ennis Field Diary 1942 46   meticulously edited and translated into English by R onach u   g in  is a stupendous production  full of insight  gusto and intrepidity on the part of the author   and it comes complete with its editor s valuable end notes  and with evocative images  mostly old photographs  on nearly every page. Full review http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2009/1128/1224259585306.html  Write a Review      Name  Required  Email  Required  will not be published  Your Review All reviews need to be approved by CUP before being published  Forthcoming Books   NEW Published Books   2010 Books   Art   Architecture   Books on Cork   Cookbooks   Current Affairs   Film Studies   Geography   General   History   Journals   Literature   Music   Politics  Philosophy   Law   Travel   Women s Studies   Atrium   Attic   Information for AuthorsOut of Print BooksSign up for Our NewsletterThe CatalogueIrish Studiesadministration  CUP Blog Follow CUP on Twitter The Cork University Press helps to nurture the distinctiveness of local  regional and national cultures and extends the reach of UCC to national and international communities making evident the University s commitment to the broad dissemination of knowledge and ideas.

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5 of 5 This book is a gift one that ought to be warmly r September 21, 2010
Reviewer: Irish Studies Review Adam Kaul from Republic of Ireland  
This book is a gift  one that ought to be warmly received by all who study Ireland  Irish  culture  traditional music  language  and history. It is valuable not because it presents us with a new argument about Ireland  or because there is a clear plotline that carries us along.  This is after all a translated collection of Seamus Ennis s field notes  not a novel or a  history text or an ethnography. There is no academic conclusion or narrative to give us  signposts as we follow Ennis around through the western counties of Ireland in the mid   1940s on a quest for traditional music and song. What we do get instead is rich text filled  with raw  first hand experience and descriptions of daily life in western Ireland in the  middle of the last century. And while a collection of field notes is not a typical genre for  many of us to pick up off the bookshelves  Going to the Well for Water is a very enjoyable  read. There are many reasons for this.  The book is a powerful character study of Seamus Ennis himself  a portrait painted  with his own brush  and carefully translated and annotated by R onach u   g in. Seamus  Ennis was easily one of the most prominent collectors of traditional Irish art forms of the  twentieth century  and in Going to the Well for Water we are privileged enough to be  drawn into his world. It feels as though we are walking alongside Ennis as he travels from  county to county  from community to community  meeting local people and listening to  their music. Ennis is our tour guide  and we are given the rare opportunity of looking over  his shoulder as he does his work. He was a thorough researcher and fieldworker  and it is  clear that while he was a collector of traditional Irish music and song he was also steeped  in the traditions himself. Several times on his travels he is asked to adjudicate  competitions  and he regularly feels obliged to play music  on varying instruments  or sing  songs for people. His Irish language skills are equally as impressive  and he makes every  effort to learn local dialects. Clearly  Ennis was not just a brilliant musician  scholar  and  collector; he was also a respectful  responsible one too. He often helps people with their  daily work. Along the way he fishes  farms  stacks turf  makes haycocks  helps repair a  sail  and fixes people s shoes.  Academic writing has become increasingly reflexive and self aware  and the  publication of Ennis s field diary follows this trend. This is especially interesting in this  case because ethnographers and folklorists from Ennis s era were notably striving to be as  objective as possible in their work. It was fairly taboo to include one s own experiences in  the final published product. In the name of  good science   studies of Irish culture from  Ennis s day typically focus on structures: social structures  musical structures  political  structures  etc. Patterns and events were what one sought out  analysed and wrote about   not the idiosyncratic  the serendipitous  or the non events of actual  lived social life.  Today  we recognise that in our line of work one can never achieve a pure scientific  objectivity because we ourselves are always part of the lens through which we analyse and  interpret our subject matter. We also recognise that refracting our analyses through our  own subjective perspectives can yield productive results of their own. This collection  breathes that subjective voice back into our understanding of mid century Irish culture.  Part of this comes simply in the form of Ennis s own daily trials and tribulations. There s a  lot of bicycle repair  shoe repair  letters to be written  desperate trips to the store for  tobacco  a good deal of swimming and fishing  worries about not finding lodging  missing  ferry boats and having to stay another day somewhere  going to Mass  and going to  the  pictures . None of this should be seen as a distraction though; rather  it is part of the point.  Indeed  postgraduate students heading out to their first fieldwork ought to read a book like  this one. So many passages reminded me of the wonderful experiences and taxing  frustrations I had in my own fieldwork: no one is home when you want them to be even if  you ve scheduled an appointment. Illnesses creep in and take you away from your work.  Some weeks are frustratingly unproductive  and then suddenly interesting things come  flooding in to make you feel like the greatest ethnographer in the world. A 9 to 5 workday  is out of the question and one ends up feeling simultaneously elated and overwhelmed by  the endless and exhausting opportunities to observe and record. At the same time  the  material one has collected never feels like quite enough.  There is yet another reason why this volume is so enjoyable to read. The editor has  done a wonderful job illustrating the text with maps  excerpts of Ennis s handwritten  notes  drawings  postcards  and also historical and contemporary photographs. All of this  makes the inevitably repetitive nature of Ennis s diary making come to life. The  handwritten examples from his field notes aren t simply decorative  although Ennis s  handwritten Irish is beautiful . They create a sense of immediacy. For example  in one  passage Ennis discusses helping his friend  and prolific tradition bearer   Colm O Caodhain  tie the knots onto a sail  and in his notes he draws an illustration  208 9 . This  is not superfluous material for our understanding of Ennis s fieldwork. It is part and parcel  of it.  R onach u   g in also provides us with a well researched introduction  thorough  footnotes  and  following  the translated collection of Ennis s field notes  an extensive  biography of the  tradition bearers  Ennis meets on his travels. In her introduction   R onach u   g in explains that her purposes for publishing this book were to  first  make  Ennis s diaries more accessible  and secondly  to relay the experience of his fieldwork    not merely the results of it   to the reader. In these regards  Going to the Well for Water is  a great success  a rare treat.

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