Our Tangled Speech and Handed Down

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    Ulster Historical Foundation
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This book bundle contains the following publications:

  • Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down
  • Our Tangled Speech: Essays on Language and Culture

 Our Tangled Speech: Essays on Language and Culture

People are rarely neutral about the Irish language. In Northern Ireland it is a topic which usually creates more heat than light. While attitudes have softened somewhat over the years, polarised views about the language are remarkably persistent. Historic and contemporary efforts to maintain the language have had varied success, but the key goal of creating new sustainable language communities, where inter-generational language transmission is the norm, has yet to be achieved. Building such communities requires the support and engagement of central and local government, broadcasters, educators and a wide range of other interest groups. It requires a shift in attitudes, appropriate language policies, an in-depth examination of our past and a willingness to learn from it.

This book seeks to address some of these issues. It provides a comprehensive overview of the Irish language revival north and south, examining its successes and failures. It gives a fascinating account of historical attitudes towards the Gael and examines the complexities of linguistic and cultural identity. Aodán Mac Póilin, Director of the ULTACH Trust, a cross-community Irish language organisation based in Belfast, was uniquely well-positioned to answer these and many more related questions. He provides a comprehensive, insightful and thought provoking survey of the challenging complexities of culture and language in Northern Ireland. These essays, written between 1990 and 2011, are well-argued, witty and refreshingly honest. This sometimes controversial but always compelling collection will illuminate and stimulate debate. It will appeal to the language activist, academic and general reader alike.

Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down

Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down documents the traditional fiddle playing and dancing culture in County Down, in particular areas to the east and centre. Spanning over three decades in its development, this book presents a snapshot taken in 2012. The project is unique within traditional music and dance in Ireland due to the demographic nature of the county '€“ the musicians, their music and dance, having been drawn from both unionist and nationalist communities.

Much of the material, including some 500 pieces of music, 30 dances and profiles on 300 fiddle players, has to date gone unrecorded. This led to research into the development of traditional music and dance in County Down, including the origin of many of the popular dances, the extensive network of dancing masters in the 1700s and how fiddle players practised their art in the late 1800s and into the twentieth century. Overall the project sheds fresh light on many of the commonly held perceptions regarding our culture.

In contrast to much of the currently archived material, the musicians profiled here were, by and large, ordinary practising fiddle players; likewise the dances were carried out by ordinary folk at a wide variety of social gatherings, making this an ideal window for looking at traditional music and dance as it was practised over a century ago.

Suffering serious decline as the twentieth century progressed and with most of the fiddle players and dancers having passed away, this previously rich culture continues to be practised by a diminishing number of musicians and dancers in, predominantly, rural areas of County Down. Handed Down: Country Fiddling and Dancing in East and Central Down presents current and aspiring traditional musicians, who have to date, in all likelihood, been unaware of the existence of this vibrant tradition, with a collection of tunes they can use to vary and increase their repertoire thus strengthening the culture as a whole. Similarly many of the dances which, having long fallen out of fashion in most parts of Ireland, can be reintroduced to the dancing fraternity.

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