Mizen

Rescued Folklore, Histories and Songs from Ireland's South West

Mike Baldwin

Bright Light, London, 2019

In 1937, the Irish Folklore Commission issued guidance to National Schools countrywide for the collection of stories, folklore, songs, and histories; the pupils of Ireland’s schools were charged with the collection, curation, and transcription of the nation’s oral history. The author of this guidance, distributed by the Department of Education, put it thus. ‘The task is an urgent one, for in our time most of this important national oral heritage will have passed away forever.’ ‘Passed away’ was an apt turn of phrase. Many of these stories had lived and evolved for centuries, passed by word of mouth from generation to generation. Their continuing decline risked the loss of an invaluable and irreplaceable treasure, a quintessentially Irish strand of local and national identity. Here, the folklore of Crookhaven, Lissagriffin, Goleen, Toormore, Schull, and Ballydehob, are presented in print for the first time.

Reviews

Mizen folklore book was a labour of love

THE SOUTHERN STAR, SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2019 

BY KIERAN O'MAHONY

A LONDON teacher with strong West Cork roots has recently published his first book featuring stories and folklore from schoolchildren collected from various West Cork national schools during the 1930s.  Mizen: Rescued Folklore, Histories and Songs from Ireland’s South West is the work of Dr Mike Baldwin, whose grandparents hail from Goleen and Durrus. Mike is a regular visitor to Goleen during the summer months.  ‘There’s stuff in there that will make you laugh out loud,  but also stuff in there that could draw you to tears. Some of it is quite tragic and quite moving, given the obvious history of the local area,’ Dr Baldwin told The Southern Star.  The book is a direct transcription from books held by the National Folklore Collection (UCD), written down by the schoolchildren from National Schools at Crookhaven, Lissagriffin, Goleen, Altar (Toormore), Lowertown, Schull and Ballydehob between 1937 and 1939. Their stories tell tales of local life, trade, farming, superstition and even the supernatural.

It was only while he was researching for a novel of his that he came across the stories online and he was then given permission by the UCD archive to publish the stories.  Virtually all the resources I used were online and I also used online newspaper collections. The Irish Folklore Commission at the time charged the students of Ireland’s schools with the rescue of the country’s folklore. The standard of writing is remarkable and shows how excellent the education system was.

‘The book is currently on Amazon as well as in local bookshops in Schull and Skibbereen and the e-centre in Goleen. I might have underestimated the interest in these stories. I’m already working on a follow-up which will feature stories from schools from Ballydehob to Skibbereen. Hopefully I’ll finish that by the end of the year.’

Dr Baldwin’s academic background is steeped in music having completed a MA in organology (science and history behind musical instruments) as well as completing a PhD last year on harp making.  He has been teaching ‘forest learning’ for the past 10 years and takes students into a woodland environment to teach them real lifeskills and how to solve problems.

"A wonderful rediscovery of history, tradition and song from one of the most beautiful places on this breathtaking planet."  

 

Sam Lee - Mercury Prize nominated folk singer, winner of best traditional song (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016), song collector, broadcaster, animateur, and naturalist.

"[...] Folklore is something you normally associate with the distant past, but there is an intimate quality to the voices in the stories [...] It would make a great gift for an expat from the area and is EXACTLY the kind of book you'd want to be able to look at if you were staying in a cottage or AirBnB in the area."

 

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