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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Howard Jones How reliable is Folk History ? (241* d) RE: Lyr Add: How reliable is Folk History ? 14 May 18

Jim, finding evidence is the work of historians.

It is possible that every word of the Lord Leitrim ballad is true. Or it may all be a pack of lies to blacken his name. Or the truth may lie somewhere in between, or somewhere else entirely. My point is that the song - any song - cannot be trusted to tell the unvarnished truth. We simply don't know the real motivation of the author (although we might guess) or where he got his information from, or how reliable that was. For a song, that doesn't matter. For a historical source it does. The song is part of a historical picture but it cannot be trusted as a source of facts.

Bloody Sunday is a good example of a highly emotionally-charged situation where any song about it is going to be coloured by a particular viewpoint. Anyone who was there would have had a different story to tell, and a very different perception of events depending on whether they were republican, loyalist, army, police, journalist or passer-by. They may tell the truth, as they see it, but it could be only part of the truth, and it may be mixed up with propaganda, misunderstandings, rumours and lies. Their songs may make rallying calls for one community or another, they may create and reinforce myths, and they may shed interesting light on different reactions to the event. They are very unlikely to be accurate unbiased reporting and a reliable source of facts, and if they were they would probably make very poor songs.

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