Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Amhráin ar Muir – Trawlerband Songs

bliain caite ó thagair mé don Trawlerband, an cainéal gearrthonnta raidió a bhíodh in úsáid ag báid Árann agus a muintir i dtír, cainéal a thugadh deis dóibh éisteacht le tráchtaireacht mhuirí ar an toirt ó shoithigh éagsúla, ó thithe solais, agus ó sheirbhísí éigeandála. Roinnim anseo tuairisc níos gléine air. Craoladh an taifeadadh spéisiúil seo i 2012 ar RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta mar chuid de shraith luachmhar stairiúil a chruthaigh Tomás Mac Con Iomaire, Ballach, Bradán agus Bairneach. Is é Tomás féin atá ag caint leis an iascaire as Cill Éinne, Michael Joyce, agus is iontach go deo an léargas a thugann seisean, ní amháin ar an leas a baineadh as an Trawlerband, ach freisin ar shaol an oileáin lena linn. Bhíodh caint dhá-theangach ar nithe éagsúla, ina measc praghasanna éisc, báthadh, agus tubaist eitleáin an KLM 607-E i Lúnasa 1958. Meabhraíonn Michael dúinn an tábhacht a bhain leis na Rosanna ach go háirithe – báid éagsúla os cionn 50 troigh a thóg Bord Iascaigh Mhara ó 1949 ar aghaidh – a chuir ar chumas phobal an oileáin obair a fháil sa bhaile agus a chuir, dá réir sin, cúl ar an imirce tráth dá raibh ceantair eile ar fud na tíre á mbánú as éadan ag an taibhse sin.



Na Rosanna & na hArdanna, Céibh Chill Rónáin (Bailiúchán Béaloideas Árann)

Tomás: ‘Mhichael, déan cur síos dom, nuair a ceannaíodh na radioanna anseo ar dtús, tá scéilín deas agat faoi sin.

Michael: Tá, bhí mé – is iomaí uair a bhí mé ag cuimhniú air anois agus, beagnach an t-am a tháinig na Rosanna anseo – na Rosanna a tháinig, cúig cinn acu ab ea? Ros Breasail, Ros Seirc, Ros Éinne, Ros Rónáin, agus Banríon na Mara, agus ceann eicínt… ach ‘cuma, ar aon chaoi, tháinigeadar sin, is dóigh, ón... tús na gcaogaidí go dtí lár na gcaogaidí, agus an t-am céanna, is dóigh, tháinig – sin é an chéad uair a thosaigh radios ag tíocht ar an oileán seo – ach, ar aon chaoi, i gCill Éinne agus i gCill Rónáin agus in Iaráirne, chuile radio a thiocfadh ann, chaithfeadh an Trawlerband a bheith air. Agus bhíodh a fhios againne chuile shórt beo a – bheifeá ag éisteacht – dá mbeadh an Ros Breasail ag caint leis an Ros Éinne, cé méid bosca a bhí agat ar an iarraidh sin – bhíodh a fhios ag chuile theach ar an mbaile é.
Agus, an chaoi atá news an naoi a chlog ag daoine anois, tá mé ag ceapadh gur trí nóiméad théis a hocht, bhíodh margadh Bhaile Átha Cliath air, agus chuile theach – mar bhí chuile dhuine i gCill Éinne an t-am sin agus cuid mhaith d’Iaráirne agus cuid mhaith de Chill Rónáin, bhí a gcuid aithreacha uilig ag iascach – b’shin é an príomhrud ar an radio chuile mhaidin. Tá mé ag ceapadh gur trí nóiméid théis a hocht a bhí sé, margadh Bhleá Cliath, agus bheadh a fhios agat ansin an mbeadh píosa mairteola ag tíocht abhaile ar an deireadh seachtaine! ‘Bhfuil a fhios agat, bhí – sa samhradh bhíodh drochphraghas ceart ansin ar iasc agus bhí focal Béarla ann, bhíodh a fhios againn é, agus – ní bheadh, níl mé ag rá go mbeadh a fhios againn céard a chiallfadh sé ach – chloisfeá b’fhéidir 500 bosca faoitíní a chuaigh suas ar an traein as Gaillimh agus ní dhéarfadh sé ach “failed to clear”. Agus is éard a – ina dhiaidh sin, gheobhfá amach, ní, níor íoc sé an costas suas ar an traein, ‘bhfuil a fhios agat, ní íocfadh sé costas an éisc. An méid a rinneadar.
Agus, ó, timpist ar bith ar an bhfarraige, cuimhním, faraor, nuair a báthadh cúpla duine anois, as, as báid anseo, gan aon ainm a chur orthab, is bhíodh muid ag dul ‘uig an scoil – bhíodh chuile dhuine ag an scoil ag, scéal mór acub – bhíodh sé cloiste againne roimh aon áit eile in Éirinn go raibh dune eicínt imithe as ceann de na báid. D’imigh beirt nó triúr mar sin agus cúpla duine a báthadh thoir sa dug, bheadh, d’aithreofá na báid ar an radio ag caint air.

Tomás: Agus ansin, nuair a thagadh na báid le chéile aníos as Gaillimh ar an deireadh seachtaine...

Michael: Á sea, á a dheartháir, is deacair é a chreistiúint anois ach, d’fhágadh chuile bhád – is dóigh nuair a d’osclódh an dug b’fhéidir, pebí cén t-am é, i lár an lae nó rud eicínt, amanntaí d’osclófá ag a haon déag, amanntaí ag a trí a chlog tráthnóna – ach bhídís uilig ag tíocht anoir nach – b’álainn simplí an saol a bhí ann. Agus bád i ndiaidh bád, bhíodh duine eicínt i chuile bhád a bhí in ann amhrán a chasadh. Bhíodh go leor de na lads sin a bheadh théis theacht anall as Fleetwood sular tháinig na Rosanna, thall i Sasana, bhíodh go leor de chrowd s’againne ag iascach, na lads ‘bheadh a dhath beag níos sine, bhíodh na hamhráin Béarla acub sin agus bhíodh na lads óga atá ansin as an oileán, bhíodh na hamhráin Gaeilge acub. Á ba ghearr le – b’iontach an seó a bhí ann.

Tomás: Agus bhí sibh in ann é seo, bhí sibh in ann é seo a chloisteáil?

Michael: Ar feadh ceithre uair a chloig bheifeá ag éisteacht leis sin, amhráin agus, bhídís ag caint le chéile, ‘bhfuil a fhios agat, bheadh 1 ag caint le 2, 2 ag caint le 4, bheadh na báid uilig, thiocfaidís isteach air, ceann i ndiaidh ceann chomh soiléir le rud ar bith. Nárbh iontach an rud é an t-am sin, sin i lár, deireadh na gcaogaidí anois, abair, go dtí lár na seascaidí, is dóigh. Cuimhním nuair a chuaigh an bád – an plane sin síos – ‘58 é sin, tá mé ag ceapadh, chomh fada le mo bharúil – ach bhí muid uilig, bhí m’athair ag iascach ar an Ros Éinne ag an am agus chuadar uilig amach an Sunda. Ní raibh a fhios ag aon duine ar dtús céard a bhí ag tarlú ach amháin dream ar bith a bhí Trawlerband acub, ‘bhfuil a fhios agat? Bhí muinn way up, a mhac!
Is le caoinchead na n-institiúidí agus na ndaoine seo a leanas a roinntear an taifeadadh seo: RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta; Tomás Mac Con Iomaire, An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara; agus Michael Joyce, Iaráirne, Árainn. “Maidhm a Dó” an ceol a sheinn Colm Mac Con Iomaire sa chúlra; óna albam “Cúinne an Ghiorria” (2008).

Féach: Sylvester Ó Muirí, The State and the Sea Fisheries of the South and West Coasts of Ireland, 1922-1972 (Dublin: Original Writing, 2013).

*

A year ago, I mentioned the Trawlerband, a shortwave radio channel used by Aran boats and their families ashore, a channel that enabled them to listen live to marine communications between various vessels, lighthouses, and emergency services. This post shares a richer, more vivid account. The featured recording was created in 2012 by Tomás Mac Con Iomaire for his valuable and historic radio series on the history of the fishing industry in and around Galway Bay for RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta entitled Ballach, Bradán agus Bairneach (Wrasse, Salmon, and Limpet). We hear Tomás himself interviewing a fisherman from Cill Éinne, Árainn, Michael Joyce, who gives wonderful insight not only into how islanders benefited from the Trawlerband but also into contemporary island life. There was bilingual talk on a variety of subjects including vulnerable fish prices, drownings, and the KLM air disaster of August 1958. Michael reminds us of the particular significance of the Ros boats – 50-footer vessels built by Bord Iascaigh Mhara from 1949 on – which enabled the island community to sustain employment at home and, consequently, to stem the tide of emigration at a time when that particular spectre was draining the life out of so much of the Irish countryside.

Céibh Chill Éinne (Le caoinchead ó Arthur Ó Flaithearta)
Tomás: Michael, describe for me, when radios were first bought here, you have a nice little story about that.

Michael: I do, I was – I often thought of it now and, around the time the Ros boats came here – five of them, was it? – Ros Breasail, Ros Seirc, Ros Éinne, Ros Rónáin, and Banríon na Mara [Queen of the Sea], and another… it doesn’t matter, anyway, they came, probably, from… the early-fifties to the mid-fifties, and at the same time, I suppose – that is when radios started coming to this island – but, anyway, in Cill Éinne and in Cill Rónáin and in Iaráirne, every radio that would come, it had to have the Trawlerband. And we knew absolutely everything that – you’d be listening – if the Ros Breasail was talking to the Ros Éinne, how many boxes from that run – every house in the village would know it.
And, the way people now have the nine o’clock news, I think it was three minutes past eight, the Dublin market was on, and every house – because everyone in Cill Éinne that time and much of Iaráirne and much of Cill Rónáin, all of their fathers were fishing – that was the main thing on the radio every morning. I think it was three minutes past eight, the Dublin market, and then you would know whether or not there would be a piece of beef coming home at the weekend! You know, there was – in the summer then, the price of fish was very bad and there was an English word, we would recognise it, and – I’m not saying we would know what it meant but – you would hear maybe 500 boxes of whiting that went up on the train from Galway and all it would say is “failed to clear”. And that meant – afterwards you would discover, it didn’t cover the cost of the train journey, you know, it wouldn’t cover the cost of the fish. All they made.
And, oh, any accident at sea, I remember, alas, when a few people drowned from, from boats here, without naming them, and we would be going to school – everyone at school had the big story – we had heard it before any other place in Ireland that somebody had been lost from one of the boats. Two or three went like that and a few people in the [Galway] docks, you would, hear the boats on the radio talking about it.

Tomás: And then, when the boats came together from Galway at the weekend...

Michael: Ah my man! Yes! It’s hard to believe now but, every boat would depart – I suppose when the docks opened maybe, whatever time it was, in the middle of the day or something, sometimes it would open at eleven, sometimes at three o’clock in the afternoon – and they would all be coming westward – it was a beautiful simple life. And boat after boat, there was somebody in every boat who could sing a song. Many of those lads who had come over from Fleetwood before the Ros boats came, over in England, many of our crowd were fishing, the lads that were a little older, they had songs in English and the young lads then from the island, they had songs in Irish. Ah, it was like – it was a wonderful show!

Tomás: And you were able, you were able to hear this?

Michael: For four hours you would be listening to that, songs and, they would be talking with each other, you know, 1 would be talking to 2, 2 talking with 4, all the boats, they would join in, one by one as clear as a bell. Wasn’t it a wonderful thing that time, that’s in the mid-, end of the fifties now, say, until the mid-sixties, I suppose. I remember when the boat – that plane went down – ’58 it was, I think, so far as I can make out – but we were all, my father was fishing in the Ros Éinne at the time and they all went out the Sound. At first nobody knew what was happening except any of those who had the Trawlerband, you know? We were “way up,” a mhac!
The featured recording appears courtesy of the following institutions and individuals: RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta; Tomás Mac Con Iomaire, An Cheathrú Rua, Conamara; and Michael Joyce, Iaráirne, Árainn. The background music entitled “Maidhm a Dó” is performed by Colm Mac Con Iomaire; from his 2008 album “The Hare’s Corner.”

See: Sylvester Ó Muirí, The State and the Sea Fisheries of the South and West Coasts of Ireland, 1922-1972 (Dublin: Original Writing, 2013).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Gearmánaigh sna 1930í – Germans in the Thirties



Seachtó bliain ó cuireadh tús ar thránna Normandy leis an bhfeachtas míleata a chuirfeadh deireadh leis an Dara Cogadh Domhanda ar ball, déanaim machnamh an mhí seo ar na Gearmánaigh éagsúla (agus Ostarach amháin) a chuir suim in Árainn sna blianta roimh an chogaidh úd. Dar ndóigh, bhí Gearmánaigh léannta in Árainn i bhfad roimhe sin: má tharraing Franz Nicolaus Finck (1867-1910) ar thobar na Gaeilge, ghlac Heinrich Zimmer (1851-1910) ról níos gníomhaí i saol an oileáin nuair a thug sé óráid ag gríosú na nÁrannach chun ceannairce le linn Chogadh na Talún. Faoi na 1930í, ba í seandacht Árann fré chéile, chomh maith leis an nGaeilge agus an béaloideas, a spreag na Gearmánaigh thíosluaite chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar imeallbhord síochánta na hEorpa.

I 1930, thug Roinn Oideachais an tSaor-Stáit cuireadh don teangeolaí Wilhelm Doegen (1877-1967) ón Königlich Preußische Phonographische Kommission i mBeirlín – oide a raibh cáil air mar gheall ar thaifeadaí a rinne sé i gcampaí géibhinn an Chéad Chogadh Domhanda ar chimí a raibh Éireannaigh ina measc – teacht go hÉireann ar mhaithe le hurlabhra na Gaeltachta a thaifeadadh. Ba é Acadamh Ríoga nahÉireann a tharraing ar ghréasán saineolaithe ó cheann ceann na tíre chun cuidiú le Doegen. I measc na noileánach a moladh do na bailitheoirí béaloidis agus amhrán Seán Mac Giollarnáth agus Tomás Ó Máille chun na hoibre seo bhí in Árainn Darach Ó Direáin (Eoghanacht), Seáinín Tom Ó Direáin (Sruthán), Seán Ó Flaithbheartaigh (Bun Gabhla), Seán de Bhailís (Sruthán) agus, in Inis Meáin, Beairtle Ó Flaithbheartaigh, Máirtín Rua, Máirtín Mhaidhcil Ó Cadhain, agus Máirtín Roger Ó Concheanainn. Theip ar iarrachtaí na hÁrannaigh seo a thabhairt go Gaillimh lena dtaifead, áfach, agus taifeadadh ina n-ionad beirt oileánach eile a raibh cónaí orthu sa chathair: an t-údar Peadar Ó Concheanainn as Inis Meáin agus an file Máirtín Ó Direáin as an Sruthán, Árainn.

Heinrich Becker Collection; by permission of James Hardiman Library.
(As the collection is currently being catalogued,
this upload is taken from Becker's book 'I mBéal na Farraige')
In Earrach na bliana 1933, thug an seandálaí Adolf Mahr (a rugadh san Ostair) cuairt ar Árainn agus d’fhan sé féin agus a mhac Gustav (1922-2012) le Robert Flaherty agus a chlann i gCill Mhuirbhigh. B’é Mahr (1887-1951) Coimeadaí na nÁrsaíochtaí in Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann agus is ansiúd a casadh é féin agus an Flaitheartach ar a chéile an bhliain roimhe sin tráth dá raibh taighde dá scannán Man of Aran (1934) idir lámha ag an scannánóir mór-le-rá. Níorbh í seo an chéad chuairt ag Mahr ar Árainn. Bhí suim aige i gcurachaí ach go háirithe agus, faoi 1931, bhí sé ag iarraidh deantúsán thraidisiúnta chun cur le bailiúcháin an Mhúsaeim. Tarlaíonn freisin go raibh lámh aige sa dara scannán de chuid Árann dár stiúraigh an Flaitheartach, is é sin Oidhche Sheanchais (1934), ar fritheadh cóip de anuraidh in Ollscoil Harvard (beidh a thuilleadh faoin scannán spéisiúil sin uaim amach anseo).

Ní hiad na gníomhachtaí ghairmiúla seo is mó a tharraing aird na staire ar Adolf Mahr, áfach, ach an ról a ghlac sé mar cheannaire an Pháirtí Naitsíoch in Éirinn agus, ina dhiaidh sin, sa Ghearmáin mar cheannaire ar Irland-Redaktion, stáisiún raidió a chraol trí Ghaeilge i rith an chogaidh. Naitsí eile a tháinig go hÁrainn i 1937 ba ea Ludwig Mühlhausen (1888-1956), léachtóir sa Léann Ceilteach in Hamburg a d’oibrigh freisin ar Irland-Redaktion agus a bhí ina oifigeach san S.S. Creidtear go raibh sé ag déanamh spiaireachta in Éirinn ar mhaithe le fomhuireáin na Gearmáine san Atlantach. Is cinnte gur bhailigh sé béaloideas Gaeilge agus gur ghlac sé cnuasach toirtiúil grianghrafanna ar fud na tíre a mhaireann anois in Ollscoil Tübingen. Gabhadh Mahr agus Mühlhausen i ndiaidh an chogaidh agus bhíodar beirt ina gcimí cogaidh i gcampaí géibhinn. B’í an drochshláinte a d’fhulaing siad ina dhiaidh sin ar fad a scuab iad ar deireadh.

Is é an ceathrú scoláire, an béaloideasóir Heinrich Becker (1907-2001), is mó díobh seo a chur le stór staire Árann. Tháinig Becker go hÉireann chun Gaeilge a fhoghlaim ar mhaithe le béaloideas a bhailiú. Mhúin sé Gearmáinis in Ollscoil na Gaillimhe agus chaith seal sna Doireadha gar do Ros an Mhíl. Nuair a fógraíodh an cogadh, is go hÁrainn a chuaigh Becker, ach i ndiaidh do bheirt shaighdiúir Sasanach é a ionsaí i gCill Éinne, d’aistrigh sé go hInis Oírr áit dár chaith sé an chuid eile den chogadh. Eisean a ghlac íomhá álainn na míosa seo – damhsa ar An Leic in Inis Oírr agus Ruairí Sheáin Ó Conghaile, creidim, ag ceol. Tá lear mór d’íomhánna Bhecker crochta i dtithe ósta an oileáin agus maireann an bailiúchán iomlán – idir grianghrafanna, taifeadtaí, agus cáipéisí – i Leabharlann Shéamuis Uí Argadáin i nGaillimh.

Franz Nicolaus Finck, Die Araner Mundart (Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1899); Breandán & Ruairí Ó hEithir, An Aran Reader (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1991); Brendan Mullins, Dublin Nazi No.1: The Life of Adolf Mahr (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2007); David O’Donoghue, Hitler's Irish Voices: the story of German radio's wartime Irish service (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1998); Heinrich Becker, I mBéal na Farraige (Indreabhán: Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 1997); Seaweed Memories: In the Jaws of the Sea (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 2000).

*

The seventieth-anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy earlier this month reminds me of the various Germans (and one Austrian) who showed an interest in Aran in the decade before WWII. Of course, German scholars had visited Aran much earlier: Franz Nicolaus Finck (1867-1910) came to document the Irish language and Heinrich Zimmer (1851-1910) to study it, though he also gave a speech encouraging islanders to take action in the Land War. By the 1930s, it was Aran’s antiquity as well as its language and folklore that prompted the Germans discussed below to head for the edge of Europe.

In 1930, the Department of Education invited the language scholar Wilhelm Doegen (1877-1967) from the Königlich Preußische Phonographische Kommission in Berlin –who was known for recording various nationalities including Irish in prisoner-of-war camps in the aftermath of WWI – to come to Ireland in order to record Gaeltacht speech. The Royal Irish Academy was responsible for recruiting Doegen’s assistants countrywide. Among the islanders recommended for the work to the folksong and folklore collectors Seán Mac Giollarnáth and Tomás Ó Máille were, in Árainn, Darach Ó Direáin (Eoghanacht), Seáinín Tom Ó Direáin (Sruthán), Seán Ó Flaithbheartaigh (Bun Gabhla), Seán de Bhailís (Sruthán) and, in Inis Meáin, Beairtle Ó Flaithbheartaigh, Máirtín Rua, Máirtín Mhaidhcil Ó Cadhain, and Máirtín Roger Ó Concheanainn. Efforts to bring these islanders to Galway failed, however, so two other islanders who lived in the city were recorded instead: the author Peadar Ó Concheanainn of Inis Meáin and the poet Máirtín Ó Direáin from Sruthán, Árainn.

In Spring 1933, the archaeologist Adolf Mahr (who was Austrian-born) visited Aran where he and his son Gustav (1922-2012) stayed with Robert Flaherty and his family in Cill Mhuirbhigh; Mahr (1887-1951) was then Keeper of Antiquities in the National Museum of Ireland, which is where he and Flaherty first met while the latter was researching his film Man of Aran (1934). This was not Mahr’s first time in Aran. He had a special interest in curraghs and, by 1931, he had sought local traditional craft artefacts for the Museum’s collections. Mahr also had a hand in Flaherty’s second Aran film Oidhche Sheanchais (1934), a copy of which turned up recently in Harvard University (more on that interesting film at some future date).

The professional life of Adolf Mahr has been overshadowed, however, by his political life – as leader of the Nazi Party in Ireland and, later, in Germany where he directed Irland-Redaktion, a radio station that broadcast in Irish throughout the war. Another Nazi who came to Aran in 1937 was Ludwig Mühlhausen (1888-1956), a Celtic Studies lecturer in Hamburg, who also worked at Irland-Redaktion and who was an S.S.officer too. He was suspected of spying in Ireland, in particular for photographing particular bays on the west coast that had the potential to accommodate German submarines. He certainly collected Irish folktales and took many photographs across the country, which survive now in the University of Tübingen. Both Mahr and Mühlhausen were captured after the war and spent time in prisoner-of-war camps. Neither regained their health after their experiences and both died in the 1950s.

The fourth scholar, Heinrich Becker (1907-2001), made the biggest contribution to the history of Aran. Becker came to Ireland to learn Irish in order to collect its folklore. He taught German at University College Galway and spent time in Na Doireadha near Ros an Mhíl in Conamara. When WWII broke out, Becker went to Árainn but, after being attacked by two British soldiers in Cill Éinne, he relocated to Inis Oírr where he spent much of his time until the end of the war. He is responsible for the beautiful image accompanying this month’s blogpost: dancing at An Leic (The Flag) in Inis Oírr with music played – if I’m not mistaken – by Ruairí Sheáin Ó Conghaile. Many of Becker’s images line the walls of the islands’ pubs and his entire collection – including photographs, recordings, and documents – now survives in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway.

Franz Nicolaus Finck, Die Araner Mundart (Marburg: N.G. Elwert, 1899); Breandán & Ruairí Ó hEithir, An Aran Reader (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1991); Brendan Mullins, Dublin Nazi No.1: The Life of Adolf Mahr (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2007); David O’Donoghue, Hitler's Irish Voices: the story of German radio's wartime Irish service (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1998); Heinrich Becker, I mBéal na Farraige (Indreabhán: Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 1997); Seaweed Memories: In the Jaws of the Sea (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 2000).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Proinsias Ó Conluain in Árainn, 1949



Ceiliúrann blag na míosa seo taispeántas úr atá seolta ag Cartlann RTÉ ina bhfuil ábhar sainiúil luachmhar as Árainn, ábhar a raibh lámh ag Proinsias Ó Conluain (1919-2013) ina bhailiú. Ba craoltóir agus scríbhneoir é Proinsias a bhain leis an Aonad clúiteach Taistil a bhunaigh Raidió Éireann i 1947. Is thar cheann an aonaid sin a thug Proinsias cuairt ar Árainn don chéad uair i mí na Samhna 1949. Seo mar a tharla...

Thograigh beirt léiritheoir de chuid an chainéil raidió BBC Third Programme – an file W.R. Rodgers agus an t-údar David Thomson – ábhar cláir a thaifead in Éirinn agus d’iarr siad cúnamh ó Raidió Éireann. Nuair nach raibh an píobaire cáiliúil Séamus Mac Aonghusa ar fáil, b’é Proinsias Ó Conluain a d’imigh leo ar an gcoinníol go mbeadh ábhar cláir aigesean as an turas. Bhí suim mhór ag Bertie Rodgers ach go háirithe in Árainn mar gheall ar shaothar Synge. Ar Dé Céadaoin 16 Samhain, sheol siad ar bord an Dún Aengus as Gaillimh go hÁrainn áit gur chaith siad seachtain ag taifead. I gcaibidil dar teideal ‘Cín Lae Craoltóra’, rinne Ó Conluain cur síos iontach ar gach a thit amach i rith na seachtaine. Roinnim anseo blaiseadh beag dá chur síos toirtiúil.
 
BBC engineers Ron Partlin & Fred Cooper with father & son Beairtlín Bhaba Ó hIarnáin and Sonny Hernon, Cill Mhuirbhigh 16 November 1949. Photograph by David Thomson, courtesy of Martina Thomson.
Céadaoin 16 Samhain
Cill Rónáin. Teach tábhairne Mhic Dhonncha [Tí Joe Mac]. Daoine an-chineálta liom agus ag brú brandaí orm as siocair mé bheith tinn. ‘Socróidh sé an goile dhuit,’ adeir Paitín Ó Fátharta – agus shocraigh. Ach bhí a laghad sin spéis agam i gcúrsaí an tsaoil seo ar feadh tamaill gur fhág mé mo mhála i mo dhiaidh ar an bhád.

Déardaoin 17 Samhain
Oíche mhór ceoil agus amhránaíochta sa [Man of Aran] ‘cottage’. Ceig phórtair ar chuntas an BBC! Buicéad de i lár urlár na cistine mé féin á dháileadh amach as crúiscín ar lucht ceoil nó ar dhuine ar bith a bhfuil tart air. Tréan fuisce le fáil sa control room taobh thiar, an áit a bhfuil na ceirníní á ngearradh. Ceol, comhrá, amhráin, agus damhsa go maidin.

Domhnach 20 Samhain
Seachghlórtha eile: curach ag teacht i dtír, maidí rámha ag gíoscarnach sna leapacha iomartha, bristeacha móra, capall Bheartlaidh ar sodar ar an bhóthar, clog an tséipéil ag bualadh...
     Cúpla rothar ar iasacht agam féin agus ag Bertie [Rodgers] ó mhuintir Johnston lenár dtabhairt ar ais go Cill Mhuirbhigh, ach is beag an mhaith anocht iad. An-drochoíche ann – fearthainn agus gaoth mhór – cuirtíní fearthainne crochta ar imeall an domhain.
     Gan focal as ceachtar againn ach sinn ag smaoineamh le tréan trua dúinn féin, ‘Dá bhfeicfeadh Londain nó Baile Átha Cliath anois muid – an cruatan atáimid sásta a fhulaingt ar mhaithe le clár a imeos le haer an tsaoil taobh istigh de leathuair an chloig!’

Luan 21 Samhain
Oíche: céilí sa ‘cottage’. Anois go díreach atáimid ag cur aithne i gceart ar na daoine. Ní hé go raibh siad fuar ná falsa faoi labhairt linn, ná faoi amhrán a chanadh, roimhe seo, ach is cairde anois sinn agus tráchtar go han-oscailte ar an uile ghné de shaol an oileáin.

Máirt 22 Samhain
Deir Pádraig Ó hEithir gur aithin sé gur stráinséirí a bhí chucu nuair a tháinig muid chun tí aréir a dhéanamh socruithe faoin chór – chuig doras na gaoithe a tháinig muid!

Céadaoin 23 Samhain
Cuimhním ar abairt de chuid Bhertie: “The sea a halter round men’s lives and the land a stone about their feet.”

Ach ní mar adhastar faoi shaol na ndaoine a chímse an fharraige timpeall Árann, ach mar mhachaire mór saoirse agus féiniúlachta, na carraigeacha faoina gcosa á ndaingniú agus á mbuanú sa dúchas.

Proinsias Ó Conluain. “Cín Lae Craoltóra.” In Written on the Wind: Personal Memories of Irish Radio 1926-76, ed. Louis McRedmond, 87-106. Dublin: RTÉ in association with Gill and Macmillan, 1976.

*

This month’s blog celebrates the launch of a new online exhibition from the RTÉ Archives featuring unique and valuable material from Aran. Helping to collect this material was Proinsias Ó Conluain (1919-2013), a renowned broadcaster and writer who worked with the famed Mobile Recording Unit that Raidió Éireann set up in 1947. It was on behalf of the MRU that Ó Conluain first visited Aran in November 1949. The story goes that two BBC Third Programme producers – poet W.R. Rodgers and author David Thomson – wanted to record Irish material for broadcast and requested the assistance of Raidió Éireann. As the celebrated piper Séamus Ennis was unavailable, it was Ó Conluain who accompanied the BBC on condition that he too could collect material for broadcast on RÉ. Bertie Rodgers was drawn to Aran in particular because of the works of John Millington Synge. On Wednesday 16 November, they sailed aboard the Dún Aengus from Galway to Aran where they spent a week recording. In a chapter entitled ‘A Broadcaster’s Diary’, Ó Conluain gives a wonderful description of all that happened that week. This blog features just a flavour of his much longer description. I hope my translation does his original Irish justice.

Wednesday 16 November
Cill Rónáin. McDonagh’s pub [Tí Joe Mac]. People very kind to me and persuading me to imbibe brandy as I am sea-sick. ‘That will settle your stomach,’ said Paitín Ó Fátharta – and it did. But I was so disinterested in proceedings around me for a while that I left my bag behind me on the boat.

Thursday 17 November
A big night of music and song in the [Man of Aran] cottage. A keg of porter on the BBC’s tab! A bucket of it in middle of the kitchen floor – me doling it out from a little jug to musicians and anyone who is thirsty. Strong whiskey available in the control room behind, where the records are being cut. Music, talk, songs, and dancing until morning.

Sunday 20 November
More sound effects: a curragh coming ashore, oars squeaking in their oarlocks, great breakers, Beartlaidh’s horse trotting on the road, the church bell ringing…
     Some bikes loaned to Bertie and I by the Johnston family to bring us back to Cill Mhuirbhigh, but they are little good to us tonight. A very bad night – rain and high winds – curtains of squalls hanging at the edge of the world.
     Not a word from either of us as we wallow in self-pity, ‘If London or Dublin saw us now – the hardship we are willing to endure for the sake of a programme that will disappear into the ether within half an hour!’

Monday 21 November
Nightime : céilí in the cottage. It is only now that we are getting to know the people properly. Not that they were cold or false in speaking with us before, or in singing a song, but we are friends now and they speak very openly about every aspect of life on the island.

Tuesday 22 November
Pádraig Ó hEithir said he knew we were strangers arriving to the house last night to make arrangements about the choir – we came to the windward door!

Wednesday 23 November
I remember one of Bertie’s remarks: “The sea a halter round men’s lives and the land a stone about their feet.”

It is not as a halter around men’s lives that I see the sea around Aran, but as a great plain of freedom and identity, the rocks beneath their feet securing them, rooting them to their heritage.

Proinsias Ó Conluain. “Cín Lae Craoltóra.” In Written on the Wind: Personal Memories of Irish Radio 1926-76, ed. Louis McRedmond, 87-106. Dublin: RTÉ in association with Gill and Macmillan, 1976.