Irish Gaelic Folklore Material

A diverse range of materials at Harvard attest to the university's long-standing connections to Irish folklore studies. In the early twentieth century, Fred Norris Robinson (1871-1966) arranged for Harvard to acquire a substantial number of Irish manuscripts, quite a few of which are of interest to Irish folkloristics ("Irish manuscripts in Houghton Library"); Robinson also appears to have been the owner of a slim Gaelic folktale manuscript which surfaced only recently ("‘Ridire an Chlóca Uaithne’"). Harvard library’s Celtic audio collection holds a couple of sound recordings from the 1970s ("Joe Heaney at Harvard", "Donegal Fieldwork Collection").

Irish Manuscripts in Houghton Library

  • Houghton Library MS Ir 18 (URL) contains four traditional stories that appear to be taken from Munster oral tradition.
  • Houghton Library MS Ir 34 contains collections of Irish proverbs.
  • Houghton Library MS Ir 35 contains Irish songs with notes by Douglas Hyde.
  • Houghton Library MSS Ir 3, 7, 10, 14, 19, 23 are wholly or in part devoted to Ossianic poetry.

"Ridire an Chlóca Uaithne" "The Knight of the Green Cloak" Robinson Folktale MS

The slim manuscript notebook contains a single Gaelic folktale, a version of the international wondertale "The Maiden Without Hands" (ATU 706). Douglas Hyde published a slightly different text in Béaloideas 4 (1933, 168-72), which was, according to Hyde, taken from the recitation of an Irish immigrant in Worcester, Mass. The manuscript may have been written by Hyde’s collaborator; there are many minor but revealing differences between the manuscript and the text published by Hyde.

Joe Heaney Collection

Hollis Joe Heaney at Harvard: Irish songs and stories [field work collection]
Series: Celtic Dept. audio collection, Harvard Library Depository (acquisition #3609)
Format: Compact disc, digitized from original reel-to-reel audio tape
Reels: 2
Contents: Songs in Gaelic and English and stories in English performed by Irish singer Joe Heaney (Seosamh Ó hÉanaí, 1919-1984) at Harvard on 2/8/1975
Collector: Recorded for the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures

Donegal Fieldwork collection

Hollis NA
Series: Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard
Format: Reel-to-reel audio tape; in process of being streamed
Reels: 2
Contents: Gaelic folklore material collected in August 1974 from Rannafast, co. Donegal, Ireland; also a small number of Welsh-language items collected in June and July 1974 in Aberystwyth and Machynlleth, Wales