The discovery of 48 manuscripts containing 109 traditional tunes, from the mid 1800s gives us a historical glimpse into an older layer of Sliabh Luachra Music which predates the polkas and slides that characterise the music of the area today
“The manuscripts came from the Curtin home at Stagmount, Rockchapel, and were presented to the late Breanndán Breathnach by Eamon Finnegan a native of Meeng, Rockchapel and who attended music classes at the home of Dave Dan Curtin. Eamon Finnegan moved to Dublin where he became very friendly with Breandán Breathnach and as a result Breandán, who was a renowned collector of traditional Irish music, got the Curtin Manuscripts. After the death of Breandan his family presented his collection of music tunes to the Irish Traditional Music Archive,” said Jack Roche of Bruach Na Carraige.
“One of the most interesting items in the manuscripts from a historical point of view is a unique version of ‘Allistrims March’ and a related tune ‘Church Hill’ both form part of a famous suite of traditional tunes which commemorates the Battle of Knocknanuss in 1647. The Rockchapel based group Ceoltoitri Sliabh Luachra group in their show A Musical Journey through the history of Ireland play a version of these tunes they got from the manuscripts of Eoin O Suileabháin from Caherciveen who has long since passed on. Above all, what these musical manuscripts reveal is the richness of the music in the Rockchapel area around the1850s. Since the manuscripts do not contain polkas or sides would seem to confirm they came from the 1850s,” said Mr. Roche.
“The National traditional Music Archive has done a tremendous job in rewriting all the tunes from the manuscripts and putting them up on their website and making them available to all. As it seems that the manuscripts may have been written by two different musicians most likely fiddle players, judging by the occasional bowing marks, it is also possible that some of the manuscripts came from a travelling fiddle teacher named Graddy who stayed at the Curtin Home around that time and taught music in the area. One of his pupils was Cornie Drew from Kiskeam who taught the O Callaghans of Doon Kiskeam one of whom was Paatrick O’Keeffe’s mother. Copies of some of the manuscripts can be seen at Bruach Na Carraige, Rockchapel. It is hoped some of the young musicians from the Rockchapel area would learn and pay these tunes and ensure that the old tunes would remain a living tradition,” Mr. Roche concluded.