Joe Heaney: Background (1)

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  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Background (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781501.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Fredric Lieberman, Cynthia Thiessen, Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/02/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Oliver Cromwell and ‘to Hell or Connacht’

Joe tells his understanding of history of the place. Cromwell. ‘To Hell or Connacht’. How Joe’s family came from County Meath.

Carna during Joe Heaney’s youth

Fishing; how Joe had to help with this before and after school; Gael-Linn support for fishing. 1955; no radio or television, therefore entertainment was limited to what people could supply for themselves; lore that went back to the middle ages. Living conditions, two or three generations in the one house. Oíche airneáil; travelling musicians.

Education in Ireland

In Joe’s grandmother’s time it was a crime to speak Irish. Education was not legal before his grandmother’s time so people had to hire Seán na Scoile to teach their children, and the more provisions they could give that person, the more education their children would get. In his grandmother’s time, children used be made wear the tally stick and would be punished for speaking Irish.

The Great Famine

Grandparents all from the same parish. All fishermen. Even during the famine people looked after the famine sufferers. People in Carna area were well-fed. Famine victims buried where they fell. Stone on grave. Left lots of songs around the area, especially the English ballads. Years 1845–50 some 1.5 million died along the roadside.


Joe Heaney could be prone to exaggeration and some — but by no means all — of the things he says here are less than the literal truth. These things do, however, give insight into what Joe believed to be true, and thus suggest the bedrock upon which many of his performances were based.

See also Lore About the Great Famine and Come Lay Me Down.

This was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.