The Doegen Records Web Project
A project of the Royal Irish Academy Library
This digital archive of Irish dialect recordings made during 1928-31 comprises an important collection of early Irish language recordings of folktales, songs and other material. It includes recordings from many regions of Ireland where traditional Irish dialects have disappeared since the time the recordings were made.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
This digital archive is a project of the Royal Irish Academy Library in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Observatory. The project is funded by the Higher Education Authority (PRTLI Cycle 4). The archive consists of digitized versions of recordings made originally on shellac records in the period 1928-31, and has been supplemented by transcriptions and translations of the recordings, information on the people recorded, and other related content.
The Doegen Irish record collection has its origins in a decision by the Irish Government in 1926 to seek the services of Dr Wilhelm Doegen, Director of the Lautabteilung, Preussische Staatsbibliothek (the Sound Department at the Prussian State Library), Berlin, to make recordings of Irish speech in the Gaeltacht and in areas of the country where Irish had suffered decline. The Department of Education asked the Royal Irish Academy if it would organize such a scheme and the Academy’s Irish Studies Committee undertook the task. Suitable speakers were secured and arrangements were made for them to be recorded.
Dr Doegen came to Ireland with his assistant, Karl Tempel, in September 1928. The two men spent a week in University College Cork recording speakers from counties Waterford and Tipperary and from East Cork. They spent the following week at Mercy Convent in Killarney recording speakers from Kerry and West Cork. The recordings for the remaining provinces were carried out by Herr Tempel who returned to Ireland in 1930 and 1931. These recording sessions took place at University College Galway (now National University of Ireland, Galway) in September 1930 (speakers from counties Galway, Mayo, Clare, Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim), at Queen’s University Belfast in September 1931 (speakers from Antrim, Derry, East Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan and Louth) and, finally, in the Courthouse in Letterkenny in October 1931 (speakers from West Tyrone and Donegal).
On completion of the scheme, a total of 216 record matrices had been made. Four of the matrices were broken, however, in transit to Berlin and the collection now comprises 212 shellac records. When the records were manufactured a full set was deposited with the Royal Irish Academy. Another set was divided between University College Cork, University College Galway and Queen’s University Belfast, each receiving the records for their respective provinces. A full set was also kept in Berlin.
In the mid-1990s the Doegen records for Ulster (both the Queen's University set and the Academy set) were transferred to compact disc under a Queen’s University-funded project. In 1999, the Academy Library arranged to have the records for Munster and Connacht transferred to compact disc also. Having secured a Heritage Council Community Grant Award, the Academy Library commissioned Mr. Ted Kendall, Gladestry, Herefordshire, who had carried out the transfer of the Ulster records on behalf of Queen’s, to digitize the recordings for the remaining two provinces.
On checking the records prior to sending them to England, it was discovered that the Academy set for Connacht was incomplete. The Department of Old Irish and the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway stepped into the breach and the entire set of NUI Galway Connacht records was transported to Dublin and placed at the disposal of the Academy. Consequently, Mr. Kendall was able not only to use the Galway records to fill the gaps in the Academy set, but also in instances where the Galway records produced better quality sound. Archival copies of the raw dubs on gold CD blanks were made for the Academy Library and a number of sets of ‘user copies’ of processed dubs were generated for Academy use and for distribution to universities and other bodies.
In 2007, as part of the Humanities Serving Irish Society (HSIS) consortium, the Academy was awarded funding under cycle four of the Higher Education Authority's Programme of Research for Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) for the complete web-publication of the Library's Doegen collection. Work on this project began in 2008 with Siobhán Fitzpatrick, Academy Librarian, as project manager, Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh as post-doctoral researcher and Professor Ruairí Ó hUiginn, NUIM, as our lead academic partner. The project has progressed in close collaboration with the staff of the Digital Humanities Observatory.
ABOUT THE MATERIAL
The 212 surviving records which comprise the collection contain some 400 tracks in all. These include folktales, versions of the parable of the Prodigal Son, songs (both sung and spoken), discourses, prayers and miscellaneous items of vocabulary such as recitations of the numbers 1 to 30 or the days of the week. In addition, the collection contains a single track in the English language. This is a recording made by W.T. Cosgrave, who was head of the Irish Government that instigated the Doegen scheme in 1926. A short speech by him was captured on the occasion of the recording of the east Munster speakers in University College Cork in 1928.
In addition to the audio material itself, there is a significant body of information about the speakers. After each recording, a detailed questionnaire was filled up by Dr Doegen or one of the members of the Irish Studies Committee who was present at the recording session. These forms, with questions printed in German, were supplied by Doegen, and were the same as those he used when recording informants in other countries. They contain valuable information such as date of birth, place of birth, addresses at various stages in life, place of parents' birth, level and place of education, occupation, father’s occupation, level of literacy, competence in other languages, musical ability, and religion. The forms sometimes include comments on the quality of the voice of the speaker. The information contained in these forms is now available as an integral part of this electronic archive.
A third body of archival material exists in the form of transcriptions and translations of some of the recordings which were made at the time of the original scheme. All of this material has been consulted as part of the work of integrating new and revised transcriptions and translations into this electronic resource.
The object of the Doegen Records Web Project is to make digitized versions of the Doegen Irish recordings available on the web, together with transcriptions, English-language translations, information on the speakers and contextualization. By doing this, we are bringing a valuable part of Ireland's cultural heritage to as wide an audience as possible. We expect that the website will be of benefit to linguists, historians, educators, musicologists, genealogists, local communities and the general public. By placing the material in a digital repository we are also making a contribution towards the conservation of the original records as the need will not normally arise for them to be handled or played.
PROJECT TEAM AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Project Manager: Siobhán Fitzpatrick, Royal Irish Academy Librarian.
Post-Doctoral Researcher and, from 2011, Advisor: Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
University Partner: Professor Ruairí Ó hUiginn, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Postgraduate Interns 2009-11: Dáithí de Mórdha, University College Cork; Billy Mag Fhloinn, University College Dublin; Conor McGahan, Queen’s University, Belfast; Hannah Ní Bhaoill, National University of Ireland, Galway; Síle Ní Mhurchú, National University of Ireland, Galway; Seán Ó Cathasaigh, National University of Ireland, Maynooth; Liam Ó Conchubhair, University College Dublin.
Undergraduate Intern 2012: Siobhán Barrett, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
The staff of the Digital Humanities Observatory: Paolo Battino, Shawn Day, Don Gourley, Kevin Hawkins, Dr Faith Lawrence, Niall O'Leary, Dot Porter, Dr Susan Schreibman, Bruno Voisin.
The project would like to thank the following for their help and collaboration:
Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, UCD School of Irish, Celtic Studies, Irish Folklore and Linguistics.
Herr Jürgen Mahrenholz, Universität-Humbolt, Berlin.
Jonathan Robinson and Joanne Sweeney of the British Library.
Fiontar, Dublin City University, in collaboration with the Placenames Branch of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, for kindly allowing us to use the Ireland image-map from logainm.ie, the Placenames Database of Ireland.
The project wishes to thank the following people and institutions who contributed to the remastering of the Doegen records onto compact disc:
The Heritage Council, Mr Ted Kendall, Dr Ciarán Ó Duibhín, Professor Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha (NUI Galway), and Ms Marie Boran (Special Collections Librarian, James Hardiman Library).
Siobhán Fitzpatrick, Librarian, s [dot] fitzpatrick [at] ria [dot] ie, 00-353-1-6380910;
Dr Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh, Project Advisor, eoghan [dot] oraghallaigh [at] nuim [dot] ie.