For mobile users, please either keep scrolling down to read or switch to ‘Desktop view’ – Thank you
Recording onto a Wax Cylinder
Pic: Béal Beo
|The audio archive of the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, houses some 1,100 wax cylinder recordings of folk narratives, folk song and folk music. The earliest of these date from the 1890s on the occasion of the first national Feis Ceoil competitions, which were held in Dublin and Belfast. This unique collection spans almost sixty years of folklore recording up to the mid 20th century. A selection is now available online at Béal Beo.
Among the amazing records and stories that have been captured – along with tgranscipts or English translations – are some superb tales about Gobán Saor – the highly skilled smith or architect in Irish history and legend.
Gobban Saer (Gobban the Builder) is a figure regarded in Irish traditional lore as an architect of the seventh century, and popularly canonized as St. Gobban. The Catholic Encyclopedia considers him historical and born at Turvey, on the Donabate peninsula in North County Dublin, about 560.
In literary references, he was employed by many Irish saints to build churches, oratories, and bell towers, and he is alluded to in an eighth-century Irish poem, preserved in a monastery in Carinthia. In the “Life of St. Abban” it is said that “the fame of Gobban as a builder in wood as well as stone would exist in Ireland to the end of time.”
In Gobán Saor can be seen elements of Goibniu, the Old Irish god of smithcraft. His name can be compared with the Old Irish gobae ~ gobann ‘smith,’ Middle Welsh gof ~ gofein ‘smith,’ Gallic gobedbi ‘with the smiths,’ Latin faber ‘smith’ and with the Lithuanian gabija ‘sacred home fire’ and Lithuanian gabus ‘gifted, clever’. [Wiki]
A portable Ediphone recording machine used by folklore collectors until the 1950s.
Pic: Béal Beo
|A variety of tales are recorded about the Gobán Saor, the mythical master builder of Irish tradition. This particular account was recorded from the 77 year-old Mícheál Mac an Mháistir, from Lettera, Kilcommon, Co. Mayo by Proinnsias de Búrca, Irish Folkore Commission, on the 29 November 1937. The story goes like this:
“Sixty five years ago this Christmas, my grandfather was telling me a story about Gobán Saor. Gobán Saor was in this country in Ireland and he was the best craftsman in the seven kingdoms. No castle could be built anywhere that was of high quality but that Gobán was the master and looking after it. He went up making Dublin castle and was long years on that castle.
” He came down to Sligo and married a respectable handsome woman. He had a large holding of land and he went up to Dublin again. And when he married this woman he stayed with her six months. He had to go up to Dublin castle again looking after his craftsmen and men. Well, the King of England sent him a letter asking him and pleading with him to go across to himself to make a big palace for himself in England. And he didn’t go as far as him at that time.”
There are many more tales of legend, folklore and history recorded on these fabulous wax cyulinders and you can listen to them all on this superb website. You can hear the story of the four-leaf clover, songs like the Vagabond Song and Seoirse Chonamara as well as stories of the fairies.
A Fairy in the Sea
Three men went out fishing one day. They weren’t long out when they saw fish swimming around the boat… They were out about an hour and they were looking at the net, and one of the men said to another to throw his knife at the net, and the man took his knife out of his pocket and he threw it out into the sea, and it wasn’t long after that before the water was full of blood.
That was all very well, but the three [of them] went home that night, and about eleven o’clock, or about then, the man who threw the knife heard a noise outside the house, and he got up and went to the door, and who was there but a man on the back of a white horse. The man spoke to him, and he said:
‘You were fishing today, and you threw a knife, and you must come with me now and pull out that knife.’
‘Very well!’ said the man, and he went up onto the horse behind him, and as they were going on their way, the man on the white horse said to him: ‘When you go to this house, do not eat anything that they give you.’ They were travelling on and they came to the sea, and the horse walked under the sea until she came to a big house, and they knocked on the door, and a woman opened the door. And when the man went in, there was a woman standing by the fire and there was a knife stuck in the top of her head. The man went in and he pulled out the knife. The people inside said to him to drink tea, or eat something, and he said he wouldn’t eat it.
He went out again, and he went up on the horse with the man of the white horse. When they were going home, the man said to him never to go out fishing again. The man went to America for a few years. He came home, ten years later, and he said one evening, he was at the house and he was looking out at the sea, and he said to himself he would go out fishing. He went out in a boat, and nobody saw or heard anything about him since.
This website is a wonderful resource of early Irish lore and Story as told on the earliest recordings we have. Well worth checking out at http://www.bealbeo.ie/index.html