The West’s Awake

Cathel's book of ballads, 1850-1976, collected by Sean Ó Gillín

Cathel’s book of ballads, 1850-1976, collected by Sean P Ó Cillín

A recent addition to the Song and Dance section recalls a stirring rendition by Cathal ÓLoghlen of a nationalistic song,  The west’s awake. His hand-written note and signature are both included on the front cover of a book of ballads, given to the webmaster by Cathal at the 1995 Clan reunion.

These ballads were collected within East Clare, a rolling terrain bounded by the beautiful Lough Derg and notable for such musical names as Sixmilebridge, O’Callaghan’s Mills, Killaloe and the Vale of Belvoir.

Author Seán P. Ó Cillín includes this telling quote:

The history of a nation is not in parliaments and battlefields but in what people say to each other on fair days and high days and how they farm and quarrel and go on pilgrimage.

– W B Yeats

Edward ÓLoghlen, one of Cathal’s sons, writes of this image:

I was involved in the collation of that book by Seán who was from Dublin, but had ancestral links to both west and east Clare. Those ballads are from east Clare, as Seán had two uncles living there and he collected those songs through their links to local people. Seán and his uncles would go to the town of Sixmilebridge and Limerick city, where a day’s singing and drinking became the menu; days now long gone.

Many of those songs originally appeared within The Penny Ballad Sheets, which were regularly sold on fair-days and other communal events around East Clare. A good number of them were received through an East Clare blacksmith, another trade now diminished with the arrival of the tractor and other mechanisation. Gaelic Ó Cillín, has now become Killeen.

In the cover design (admittedly hard to discern with little contrast against the yellow background; click the pic to enlarge) he notes that the images are also interesting:

  • the horse
  • the rugged-face with a megalithic tomb in the background
  • a gun
  • the bottom section contains a pint of Guinness
  • a ring fort (ancient form of homestead with a small tree or bush in the middle)
  • a hurling stick
  • homesteads in the background

All the above combine towards describing rural Ireland, rather than urban Ireland!

Edward goes on to remark upon the importance of these personal relics, those ‘pieces of flotsam and jetsam’. This sentiment will surely bring a round of silent applause from many a family researcher around the world. He continues:

In ‘Keeping Chronicles: the value of written memorabilia’ (2010), Rosemary Sassoon (UK) reviews and names stuff which we tend to throw away, as having value; when recording our Pasts.

About BrendO

Musician in Canberra Australia
This entry was posted in History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The West’s Awake

  1. Pingback: No one is an island | Clan Ólochlainn

  2. Pingback: Muintir Uí Lochlainn; reunion 1995: | Clan Ólochlainn

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