Rann na Feirste to celebrate its cultural legacy at launch

A new book that will be launched this weekend in Rann na Feirste tells of the rich tradition of storytellers and singers that the Gaeltacht village has produced.

A new book that will be launched this weekend in Rann na Feirste tells of the rich tradition of storytellers and singers that the Gaeltacht village has produced.

“Oidhreacht Rann na Feirste I”, by author Pádraig Ó Bhaoighill, will be launched at the Áislann Rann na Feirste at 8pm on Friday, April 27th. The launch is open to the public, local singers will perform and refreshments will be served.

Rann na Feirste is home to an impressive cultural legacy. Pádraig said there were probably 100 books alone that have come out of Rann na Feirste, “from an area that’s only about one square mile, or one and a half square miles”.

Pádraig’s new book, “Oidhreacht Rann na Feirste I”, is taken from a 2006 address he gave a few years ago to the Cloch Cheann Fhaola historical society, when he delivered the Léacht Chuimhneacháin Chonaill Uí Dhomhnaill. The book is accompanied by a CD that includes a recording Radió na Gaeltachta’s Séamus Mac Géidigh made of Pádraig’s lecture, and also includes a performance by Connie Ó Gallchóir, known as Connie Mhary Mhici, of the song “An chéad mháirt ‘e Fhómar”. There are also songs by Sally Uí Ghallchóir and Aodh Ó Duibheanaigh, as well as a recording of a story by renowned Rann na Feirste storyteller Sorcha Chonaill.

In his book and lecture, Pádraig detailed many of the old Rann na Feirste storytellers and singers, as well as more recent artists. He characterised his book as “a review of the poetry and the songs and especially the storytelling of Rann na Feirste from way, way back, as far as it could go”.

For example, he spoke of a family of Rann na Feirste storytellers: Mici Sheáin Néil Ó Baoill and his sister, Annie, and her daughter, Biddy Sheáin Néil. Biddy’s daughter, Bríd Anna Ní Bhaoill, is also a very talented storyteller who has competed in Scór and Oireachtas events.

“That’s three or four generations there in the one family,” Pádraig said. Bríd Anna, Rann na Feirste Person of the Year for 2012, will also serve as MC at Friday’s launch.

There’s Johnny Shéimisín Ó Domhnaill, whose house was the place where the oíche airneáls would be held; storyteller Neidí Frainc Ó Grianna, father of two-time Corn Uí Riada winner Gearóidín Breathnach; and storyteller Socha Chonaill’s mother, Gráinne Phroinsiais, one of Rann na Feirste’s great storytellers and singers. A granddaughter of Gráinne’s, Deirdre Duffy, has also won many storytelling competitions.

Cathal Mac Suibhne, former regional manager of Údarás na Gaeltachta, was chairperson of the Cloch Cheann Fhaola historical society when Pádraig delivered his address and asked the author if he would publish the talk in book form. Údarás supported the book project.

Friday’s launch will also celebrate the handing down of Rann na Feirste’s cultural traditions from generation to generation with singing by members of the local Club Óige and others.

There are more artists in the book than are mentioned here, and more still in the history of Rann na Feirste. Pádraig suggested there could be additional volumes of “Oidhreacht Rann na Feirste I”.

“It’s unbelievable,” Pádraig said. “I have covered now the most prominent families there in that lecture, but even then there are a lot of unknown people that had songs that haven’t been recorded at all.

“And that is not talking about the writers, you know,” he said.