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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 ? 15 May 18

Jim, I can only conclude that either you have not read my post properly or you have deliberately chosen to misinterpret it.

Firstly, you accuse me of elitism. I simply pointed out that looking for evidence is what historians do. What have I written that leads you to think that I do not include your local historians in that?

Secondly, you have taken a single phrase and decided that is what I have chosen to believe on the Lord Leitrim matter. I took care to point out that there were several possible interpretations, so why you have picked on this particular one is beyond me. I come at this with an open mind.

The question is whether folk history, including songs, can be considered reliable? I remain of the view that they cannot. Stories and songs are likely to be embellished, whether for artistic reasons or to make a particular point. Incidents may get exaggerated or forgotten. Unless the writer has researched it exhaustively they are likely to tell the story from only one point of view. They may provide valuable context, but they cannot be relied upon to report the facts accurately.

In the Lord Leitrim example, the existence of the song is evidence that there were allegations and rumours circulating at the time and suggests that these were believed by the local population, or at the very least were sufficiently believable to enter circulation. That is useful in itself from a historical perspective, and as a pointer to a line of enquiry for historians to pursue. However it cannot be relied upon as an accurate report of the facts, without additional corroborating evidence.

Songs and stories may aim to tell a bigger truth, but they are under no obligation to represent facts accurately. They are art, not reportage.

To say something is true because you heard it in a song is like saying it's true because you read it on the internet.

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