‘A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel’ – Order Here

Oriel Arts – About

‘When we remember, we commit to memory, we learn by heart. Memory is the mother of all art. Something akin to Alzheimer’s disease is eating away at our civilization. Our greatly accelerated culture is destroying the processes of historical memory that connect each generation’s experience to that of earlier generations.’                         

                                                                                 Michael Longley at the launch of A Hidden Ulster 2003


‘Dhá mhilliún déag fáilte dhaoibh go fearann Oirialla … twelve million welcomes to you to the land of Oriel.’

The ORIEL ARTS PROJECT is a major project of cultural reclamation and renewal, compiled and directed by Dr Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin.  It has over 150 pages of information and over 40 videos (2019-2021) and funded by The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon Traditional Arts Project Funding.

It is part of a long term cultural heritage project for the restoration and renewal of aspects of the song and music traditions of Oriel as outlined by her in Oriel Renewal Plan.

It is an ongoing cultural renewal project of recorded song and instrumental music published in  A Hidden Ulster -people, songs and traditions of Oriel  (Four Courts Press Dublin 2004. Reprinted 2022)

For permission and usage: contact@orielarts.com



Here you will find a celebration of artistic expression and cultural experiences of previous generations, through transmission and performance of traditional Oriel arts in music, song and story by contemporary musicians. The sources here were collated and published in A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (Four Courts Press, 2003) and is an essential handbook for this website: https://www.irishsong.com/shop/a-hidden-ulster/

There are six main sections on the Homepage and Menu:



Within these main categories are numerous subsections and tabs leading to extensive information on the process of renewal and transmission, images, people, manuscripts, recordings and notation. It is peppered throughout with references to the book, A Hidden Ulster (AHU).


Oirialla, anglicised as Oriel, is a region without boundaries which stretches inland, across county and state borders, from the Cooley peninsula on the east coast of Ireland. Its cultural heritage is one of the richest in Ireland, which drew many collectors of Gaelic oral traditions, over one hundred years ago, to transcribe and record some of its precious cultural gems for future generations.

Mícheál Mac Ardail storyteller and singer Omeath 1912. Photo Peadar Ó Dubhda. copyright Oriel Arts 2017. 

By celebrating this rich heritage, ORIEL ARTS aims to bring awareness to the contribution made by Oriel musicians, composers and poets, past and present, to the corpus of Irish traditional music; to inspire contemporary, instrumental musicians and singers to revisit this wealth of source music, inherited through oral and manuscript transmission.

It aims to slow down the process of memory loss, brought about by the obliteration of the Irish language as the vernacular of the community, that saw an almost complete annihilation of Gaelic oral traditions in Oriel over a short period in the 19th century, which for centuries had been transmitted from one generation to another.

ORIEL ARTS is about people, and is a reclamation of collective memory. While paying due respect to source musicians from the past, its renewal is in the voices of contemporary singers and instrumental musicians who give expression to Oriel traditional arts in song and instrumental music.

ORIEL ARTS musicians including singers, fiddlers and a harper from Oriel, with singers from the Donegal Gaeltacht are featured here on video and audio, performing at concerts, on film, in workshops and home settings. Some of the videos are from live performance; most are filmed in a natural setting and filmed as ‘the raw bar‘. There has been no editing or studio air-brushing of recordings.

Sylvia Crawford Early Irish Harp ORIEL ARTS. Photo: M. Ó Graham

The songs and instrumental music are illustrative contemporary performances of a great heritage. Each song, tune and air is given context and includes background information, the process of renewal and transmission; source manuscripts and notation, source authors, composers and singers, song words, translation and music; some archival recordings of native speakers, original photographs, images and music manuscripts.

In addition, there are audio and video recordings of other musicians who have sourced tunes from manuscripts published in A Hidden Ulster.

By renewal and performance, some of the rich, archival, cultural, treasure trove of Irish language song, harp music and dance music, published in A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (AHU), comes to life again.

The soundtrack on the homepage video is Saely Kelly(Síle Ní Cheallaigh) a harp piece collected in Oriel from harper, Patrick Linden c. 1800, and played on the early wire strung harp by Sylvia Crawford, who is one of a number of musicians featured on ORIEL ARTS.

The homepage video was filmed by Feilimí O’Connor, and gives an eagle’s view of Oriel landscape from Barr an Fheadáin, overlooking Omeath and Carlingford Lough in County Louth, then spanning across the borderland hills to rise to the upper slopes of Sliabh gCuillinn in south Armagh, down to the ancient site of Urnaí on Louth/armagh border, then to rest in the evocative Úirchill a’ Chreagáin, near Crossmaglen – the burial ground of poets and harpers, bordering on Farney in County Monaghan and the hinterlands of Oriel.


Feilimí O’Connor: Film Director ORIEL ARTS 2019



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