Mudcat Café message #860610 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54636   Message #860610
Posted By: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar
07-Jan-03 - 09:14 AM
Thread Name: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Subject: RE: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
I've just come across a fascinating article about Junior Crehan (renowned West Clare fiddle player) here.

It's much more than a biographical note, it explores the whole social background of Irish trad music in the 20th century. It contains an interesting passage on the perverse effects of public performance licensing legislation which almost drove the music to extinction, and some of you might be able to incorporate this into the campaign against PEL:

"The policy of Fianna Fáil was to encourage all things Irish, and in official circles Irish traditional music was elevated to a position second only to the Irish language (itself in steep decline: between 1881 and 1926 the number of Irish speakers in the country had fallen by 41 per cent). The Irish Folklore Commission was founded in 1935 in an attempt to recover and record the vast repository of folklore before swift change overtook the countryside. However, these activities were paralleled by a simultaneous campaign of cultural repression, which succeeded in banning 1,200 books and 140 periodicals between 1930 and 1939. It could not succeed, however, in halting the tide of foreign culture which swept Ireland in the form of films, radio broadcasts and gramophone records, aided by the new mobility provided by the spread of motor transport.

"In 1936, the government, spurred on by the combined weight of clergy, judiciary and police, enacted the Public Dance Halls Act. This required all public dances to be licensed and laid down the conditions under which licences might be issued by the District Justices. As the late Breandán Breathnach pointed out in his excellent booklet, Dancing in Ireland:

'Intentionally or otherwise, country house dancing was not excluded from the scope of the Act ... That it extended to parties in private houses when dancing took place is unlikely ... [but] the local clergy and gardai acted as if it did and by their harassment they put an end to this kind of dancing in those areas of rural Ireland where it still survived.'

"Junior's description of the desolation caused by the economic and social upheavals of the 'thirties is graphic and moving:
'So, they barred the country house dance, and the priests was erecting parish halls. All they wanted was to make money - and they got 3d. into every shilling tax out of the tickets to pay the government for tax. So the country house dance was knocked out then, and 'twas fox-trots, and big old bands coming down, and our type, we'd be in a foreign country then. We couldn't put up with it at all, the noise and the microphones, and jazz and so on ... the music nearly died out altogether - Irish music. Then the emigration started, a lot of the lads I used to play with went off to England and America, and there was no-one but myself - Scully was dead - and I used to go down the road, and I used, honest to God, I used to nearly cry. Nowhere to go, no-one to meet, no sets in the houses, nothing left but the hall ...'

"And so, a movement with the laudable aim of preserving and promoting the culture of the people of rural Ireland had, by a combination of mismanagement, narrow minded bigotry and, most importantly, a total lack of perception of the results of its economic policies on the rural population, virtually succeeded in destroying the traditional culture of Ireland."