Once, I blogged about Augusta Holmes’ work as a long-forgotten art; one that had an Irish connection but did not have an Irish fame (to a French art critic in 1922 she had represented Ireland; in Ireland she remained and remains unknown). In an ideal world, without 9-5 burdens, I could perhaps devote myself to a study of romanticism and revolutionaries in Ireland in a manner akin to James Billington’s study of Europe, mentioned in my previous blog, but that is strictly for the long finger. Institutional support for such a goal, or appreciation for such an idea, is also unlikely in a country that reputedly subscribes to an Edwardian notion about itself: the only thing of merit in Ireland is, or was, its literature.
In the last few days, hearing the singer Lorcan Mac Mathuna has introduced me to a (Edwardian) James Connolly song I had never heard of (so much for my knowledge of Irish rebel history), although music of that vintage does not actually sound particularly Irish to me. Mac Mathuna’s sean-nós singing is another matter, however, and it has also led me to discover the reputed first-ever Irish song, or poem. So, through an exposure to folk singing, I have discovered a beginning to Irish history that was unknown to all my previous explorations.
Here is a rebel song that I have never heard before, but perhaps I should have, if I was the 19th century historian that I thought I was. I remember thinking that a lot of the songs in this book probably never “caught on”: often the long-forgotten are so for a reason. Sometimes, however, there are buried treasures to be discovered. If there were not, would there be such thing as historians? With that in mind, I’ll keep the thought of being a cultural archaeologist of the 19th century alive for a little longer.