see A Hidden Ulster pp 361-3; pp. 400-1n. for detailed references and information
(Lúcas Ó Domhnalláin) was born in Armagh city in 1878 and was ordained a priest in 1902. He ministered in Eglish, County Tyrone, 1902-3 Dromintee, County Armagh, 1903-10 Creggan, County Armagh, 1910-37; Loughgall, County Armagh, 1937-52. While ministering in Dromintee and in Creggan, he recorded some of the last native Irish speakers and singers on wax cylinders of Ediphone machines. Recordings amount to about 150 pieces. All the remaining cylinder recordings were written down in staff notation by the piper Séamus Ennis as his ﬁrst assignment when he was employed by the Irish Folklore Commission in Dublin, 1942-47.
Also in hand written staff notation by Donnellan, is the music of over 300 traditional dance tunes, mainly reels, hornpipes and marches, collected in south Armagh, which demonstrate by their titles, a strong link with the dance music tradition of Scotland.
His notebooks in the National Folklore Collection give lists of songs collected from many singers but do not include the words. He published some airs and over one hundred transcriptions of dance music in the County Louth Archaeological Journal. He also collected some song material from Connemara, which is in the National Folklore Collection also.
He assisted W. T. Evans Wentz of Stanford University California in the writing of The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (1912) and was a friend of the writer George Bernard Shaw. He was a very competent piano player, regarded as having, ‘the best use of the left hand in the whole of the north of Ireland. But just in case he might get too proud of himself and his playing, God struck him with an accident in which he had the tops taken off the fingers of this wonderful left hand.’ (AHU p.362)
He composed various classical pieces including an overture to commemorate the 1913 Irish Pilgrimage to Lourdes, which he dedicated it to his mother Mrs John Donnellan from Armagh ‘to whose taste and culture I owe whatever music is in me’. Describing this work he wrote that it embodied ‘the treatment of native, traditional music themes and their development in extended forms and on extensive lines.’ One of the themes on which he based this overture was Fear an Torraimh, an air (unlocated) which he had collected in Ballintemple, Killeavy, County Armagh, ‘sung in the Aeolian mode with the fourth and seventh notes of the scale absent’. He reputedly played the ﬁddle and highland pipes as well. He collected songs and tunes mainly in Mullaghban, Killeavy, Crossmaglen, Creggan and Farney. (AHU p, 362-3)
His ediphone recordings, numbering thirty-one cylinders, were given to the Irish Folklore Commission by Professor Éamonn Ó Tuathail and by Piaras Hindeberg from Limerick. He published a number of articles on traditional song in the local County Louth Archaeological Journal.
He left his manuscript collection, which includes most of the Mullaghban scribe and poet Art Bennett’s manuscripts and much of other local southeast Ulster poetry and story, to St Patrick’s College, Armagh, which is now back in the Ó Fiaich Library Armagh. Together with Lorcán Ó Muirí (AHU pp. 358-60) and Seán Ó hAnnáin AHU pp. 360-1), he would rank among the most significant collectors in the south Ulster region. Regarded as ‘eccentric’ in his latter years, he died in Courtney Hill Nursing Home in Newry 1952, aged 74. He is buried in Loughgall, County Armagh. (AHU pp.361-3)
(See A Hidden Ulster pp. 474-507 including references and extended information)
Luke Donnellan published over 100 pieces in staff notation in the County Louth Archaeological Journal (1909), entitled ‘Oriel Songs and Dances’.
Some of the tunes are common to both collections. Reels form the bulk of his collections. A signiﬁcant number are of Scottish origin. Airs, hornpipies etc. are included and are in no particular order and some of these pieces were transcribed by Donnellan from his notebook of dance tunes in the National Folklore Collection UCD.
The collection entitled ‘Oriel Songs and Dances’, notated by Luke Donnellan, was reprinted in A Hidden Ulster (pp. 488-507).
The names of musicians Thomas McCrink, Francis Kelly, James Murtagh, James Gillespie and M. Cumaskey occur in the manuscripts. Among others who also gave him tunes and songs were James McCrink from Dromintee, James McParland from Cashel, Mrs Sarah Humphreys from Killeavy (who gave Amhrán na Craoibhe to Enri O Muiríosa) and Sarah McDonald (Morgan) from Dromintee.
The McKeown family including a sister named Brigid Hearty, of Lough Ross in Crossmaglen was a rich source of song material also. Other local musicians listed in his notebooks in RBÉ include: Dan Markey, a piper from Drumawaddy; Sir John Moore, Mr Goodman, a piper from Donaghmoyne; Mrs Foy, James Callan, Mr Walsh, Anna Cumiskey, P. Campbell, John Woods, Bloomﬁeld, and James Hearty.
Most of the dance tunes were collected during the period he spent in Dromintee (1903-10), mainly from the McCrink family (AHU pp. 400-1). Other source musicians were from Crossmaglen (1910-37) where many of the above mentioned musicians lived.
Other names mentioned by Donnellan in his notebooks in the National Folklore Collection UCD as sources for tunes and songs include Mary Harvessy from Clonalig, Sarah McGlade Lislea. He also included the following: John Mc Shane, Cashel; Mrs McBerry, Mullaghban; Mrs McKinley, Aughanduff; Mrs Quinn, Aughanduff; J. McPartland, Cashel; John Kelly, Blackstaff; Brian Martin, Bloomfield; Mary Watters, Clonalig; Alice Cunningham, Monaguilla; Laurence and Catherine Murphy, Urkar Hill; Mrs King, Mounthill; Owen Hughes, Clarnagh; Mary McPartland, Cashel; Mrs Callaghan; Maeve O’Brien; Mrs O’Hagan; May Shevlin; Maggie O’Brien; Sarah O’Haggan (Hagan); Theresa Murphy; Brigid Morgan; Kate Bennett; Shemus Fitzerald, P. Bennett. Other singers in the district were: Mrs O’Hanlon (Nelly O’Hagan), Clontigora, Co. Armagh, originally from Corakit in Omeath; Mary Murphy from Newry; Mary McShane: died 1954 aged 81, from Dromintee; Mrs Mallon; Mrs Luckey, Mobane, Crossmaglen; Molshie Burns ; Paddy Kearney; Mary McGuigan, Carrickastisken, died 1914 aged 79; Thomas Kerley, died 1919 aged 80 from Carrickasticken; Mary Coulter, died 1920 aged 78, from Carrickasticken; Pat Black, died 1930 aged 78 from Carrickasticken
A large body of dance tunes in staff notation is in a manuscript in the National Folklore Collection UCD, entitled Donnellan Collection of Dance Music and Airs. It is an unpublished collection.
A selection of tunes from the Donnellan collection, including some from the National Folklore Collection UCD, are played by fiddle player, Gerry O’Connor with his son Dónal, in the ÉIGSE OIRIALLA concert section of ORIEL ARTS. He has been playing Donnellan tunes on his CD recordings for some years and has studied the manuscripts of Donnellan for an MA degree in DkIT in County Louth.
Darren Mag Aoidh contributed some observational notes on each piece played, and an overall view of the collection which was published in A Hidden Ulster and also transcribed the full manuscript into modern staff notation as a resource for future uploads on ORIEL ARTS. He also plays a selection of Donnellan’s tunes on video for ORIEL ARTS, including Hush The Cat and O’Connel’s Grey Coat on this video for ORIEL ARTS.
©Oriel Arts 2017
The following commentary is by fiddle player Darren Mhag Aoidh for ORIEL ARTS :
© Darren Mhag Aoidh
The music notation of the following Donnellan tunes appear in facsimile in A Hidden Ulster, entitled ‘Oriel Songs and Dances’ this collection was notated by Luke Donnellan and published in the County Louth Archaeological Journal Vol. 2 No.2 1909 pp.142-48. Reels, Airs, Hornpipies etc are included and are in no particular order. Many of these pieces are written by him from his notebook of dance tunes which are now in the National Folklore Collection of UCD. Dublin.
100.The Trip Over the Mountain
101.Comb the Locks
102.My Love is in America
103.The Little Boy in the Boat
104.The Drinking Reel
105.Hush the Cat
106.Cailín Beg Óg Leoighbhaidhe