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PAT MULLEN - storyteller

with Maggie & Sean DIRRANE

Pat, father of actress, Barbara Mullen, and an outstanding local storyteller, recollects his life story and describes some of the happenings on the Isle of Aran as well as about local beliefs & superstitions, in the spirit of the dead rather then the fairies. We hear from Maggie Dirrane, the star of Robert Flaherty's film, & her nephew, Sean, singing some of the work songs & mouth music used for step-dancing.

1. Pat MULLEN (aged 75/ rec in 1961) talks about his own life & family life on the island: "These 3 rocks in the ocean..." Self-sufficiency; seaweed; making own land; house; curraghs (canoes); no such thing as idleness; tea-drinking; donkeys; kindness; contact with mainland; weather; grandmother; knitting stocking on way to Galway; independence; manhood - 5'16"

2. His father; porpoise story; hard man; seaweed; work; purchase of horse & cart & carting soil; Dublin landlords; emigration - 4'26"

3. His mother; wonderful woman; making clothing; comparison with today; Sunday costume - 1'17"

4. "The Hookers" (sailing boats); curragh races round the island - 1'08"

5. Story of Stephen" dying - 1'35"

6. Making your own fun & story-telling - an island gift - 1'27"

7. Poteen he made himself; first time he got drunk; children offered adult's share; his grandmother's funeral - 2'19"

8. "Pattern Day" (Sports 0n 29th June); seaweed; fighting in fields; story of coming home from a wedding - 2'37"

9. Belief about death; men lost at sea; funeral after curragh wrecked; keening; identifying skulls; solitary widow of man lost at sea - 4'33"

10. The strength of the ocean; fishermen's widows; feeling of accomplishment; compared to landsmen; brings out the manhood in you - 2'23"

11. CAOINEADH NA MARBH (Keening): Woman on Inishowen rec 1955 - 2'37"

12. Pat Mullen - more story-telling: The walrus - 2'31"

13. Pride in stones & story of transporting tombstone with whisky - 7'05"

14. Marriage & story of P J (his son) bringing his wife home - 5'38"

15. Belief in the spirits of the dead - 3'15"

16. Mouth-music by Maggie DIRRANE (aged 51 rec 1955) - 1'42"

17. Mouth-music by nephew, Sean Dirrane (26) with stepping - 1'38"

18. EARLY, EARLY IN THE BLOOMING SPRING (Sweet William) - 1'53"

19. S'ORO MHILE GRADH - 1'34"

20. AMHRAN AN TEI (Song of the tea) - 1'38"

21.AN TUIRNIN LIN (The Flax-spinning wheel) - 1'12"

22.SEOTHIN SEO (Lullaby & Milking Croon - tune hummed twice then sung) - 1'00"

THE ARAN ISLANDS: Inishmore, Inisheer & Inishmaan, are in Galway Bay, on the west coast, facing the mountains of Connemara, Inishmaan, the smaller middle island was the setting for Synge's "Riders of the Sea". Inishmore, the largest, being 9 miles long, was used by Robert Flaherty for his early documentary cinema film, "Man of Aran", made in 1932. The islands have no soil of their own, and so soil and peat are brought across from the mainland in the turfboats, or "hookers". The building of fields and gardens for cultivation is a laborious everyday affair. Whenever the sea brings it in, seaweed is gathered in baskets and hauled up from the shore. It takes several years before root crops and potatoes can be grown. Some varieties of seaweed are used for making bread and a thick pudding. Fishing, as Pat describes it, is done in the curraghs, made of a wooden frame covered with skins. Frequently they were holed by the rocks and a man had to stuff his coat in the hole. Curragh races and bare-back horse-racing on the beach were the chief sports, story-telling, singing and dancing were the entertainment. Before the Second World War, no English, only Irish Gaelic was spoken on the Aran Islands. In 1938 Peter Kennedy sailed over on a hooker (turf-boat) from the Connemara coast and, wonderfully looked after by Maggie Dirrane, stayed in a cottage at Kilmurvy, built specially for Robert Flaherty's film. It had a ceiling more than 18 inches higher than those in the other Aran cottages in order that the camera dollies could be used for the interior scenes. Peter weas lent a donkey for the length of his stay, borrowed for a two-week long wedding party, and was frequently photographed by American visitors from Galway as a typical Aran boy.

Recorded by Maud Karpeles and Sidney Robertson Cowell in 1955 & 1962. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published on Folktrax cassettes 1975.

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