And they are far across the sea where they have gone to stay
Deep in the heart of London town or over on Broadway
And I am left to sing their deeds and to praise them while I can,
Those boys of barr na sráide who hunted for the wren.
- ‘Boys of Barr na Sráide’ by Sigerson Clifford
Between 1945 and 1970 over 600,000 men and women left Ireland for destinations across the globe. About three-quarters went to Great Britain and one-eighth to the United States. Among their numbers were many traditional musicians and singers who carried their culture with them, giving it continued relevance in their new communities. This site presents some of the music and memories that members of the post-war migrant generation shared with me as part of a Ph.D. in History / Digital Arts & Humanities at University College Cork. – Sara S. Goek
Between 2008 and 2014, as part of several different projects, I have conducted over forty original oral histories. These include interviews with first-generation migrant musicians as well as second-generation and non-Irish people who participated in the Irish music scene. The twelve interviews presented on this site are those I had permission to put online and for which the audio was of sufficient quality (as I travelled to collect many interviews, perfect conditions for recording were not always possible). These appear largely in their original form, though occasionally personal information has been edited out to respect the wishes of the interviewee and their privacy. Some of the interviewees have also generously provided photographs and allowed me to record them singing or playing tunes.
To encourage you to listen to the interviews themselves, instead of providing transcripts I have chosen to create time-coded indexes using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS). Click on the ‘listen to the interview’ link in the item, and it should open a new window with the audio player. You can choose to listen to the whole interview from start to finish, or to navigate to any part identified and summarized in the index.
The interviews and related materials on this site may be freely used for educational purposes with appropriate attribution. They are not for commercial use. Please contact me for permission to publish extracts.
My interest in the post-war Irish migrant generation began through personal connections. I took up playing the Irish flute and as I immersed myself in learning traditional music during my undergraduate years, I went every Monday to a session at the Green Briar pub in Brighton, outside Boston. East Galway fiddler Larry Reynolds, who migrated to Boston in 1953, ran the event and welcomed all participants equally, regardless of skill level. From that point, I met many others of his generation, including Jimmy Marshall and Brendan Tonra. They were encouraging and supportive, delighted that a younger generation would carry the tradition forward. Curiosity about their stories led me down this research path. I am forever grateful to them.
I hold a BA in Irish Studies and History from Boston College, a MA in Historical Research from UCC, and a PhD in History / Digital Arts & Humanities from UCC. This project is part of my PhD research, which was completed in 2015. For more about my research and other activities, please see my personal website and blog: https://saragoek.com/.
Feel free to contact me with comments or questions. I would also be happy to accept contributions of stories or photographs to add to the site.