The Gaelic Tongue of Our Fathers - Royal Irish Academy Launches the Doegen Archive

The Donegal Democrat under the headline "What Donegal Men Sounded Like Nearly a Century Ago" describes a stunning treasure trove of recordings of native Irish speakers telling fanciful tales captured by a German academic more than 85 years ago. This archive is now available on line under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy.  The Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Rauiri Quinn, presided over the formal launch of the on-line archive at a ceremony in Dublin. 

The archive, which is linked below, is a well designed interactive tool affording the user the ability to snick on the image of Ireland, by county, and then select from an index of the indviduals who were recorded speaking in the dialect in use at the time. There are recordings of 136 speakers and the study has captured personal data on each speaker who was recorded such as place of residence, education, occupation and family background.   This writer, whose people hail from Donegal, was fascinated by the sound of the tongue.  This is folklore at its best and the recordings are translated into English accompanied by notes and some commentary which helps to place into context the text of the recordings.

From the Royal Irish Academy website, we are given the following background on the project:

Why did Doegen come to Ireland?   In 1926 the Irish government asked Dr Doegen to make recordings of Irish speech in the Gaeltacht and in areas of the country where Irish had suffered decline. The Department of Education asked the Royal Irish Academy if it would organize such a scheme (Survey of Dialects) and the Academy’s Irish Studies Committee undertook the task. Myles Dillon was Secretary of the Irish Studies Committee during most of the survey work. Suitable speakers were secured and arrangements were made for them to be recorded. The recordings were made at the venues listed below.

  • University College Galway (now National University of Ireland, Galway) in September 1930 (speakers from counties Galway, Mayo, Clare, Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim)
  • Queen’s University Belfast in September 1931 (speakers from Antrim, Derry, East Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan and Louth)
  • The Courthouse in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, in October 1931 (speakers from West Tyrone and Donegal).

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