The St. Mary's University College Traditional Song Education Pack

The College is pleased to announce the publication of a resource pack on Traditional Song. The materials will help teachers meet the requirements of the Northern Ireland Curriculum in the delivery of elements of Cultural Heritage and Education for Mutual Understanding in curriculum areas such as Music, English and History and are aimed at Key-Stage 2-4 (ages 8-16)

Picture of Materials This project follows on from our Traditional Music Education Pack (1993) and was created by two well-known authorities in the area of traditional music and song: Mr Seán Quinn, formerly Head of Learning Resources at St. Mary's University College, and Mr John Moulden, formerly Principal of Braidside Integrated Primary School, Ballymena.

Detailed Teachers' Notes provide show how each of a carefully chosen selection of traditional songs may be linked to various topics across the curriculum and the pack includes a CD and photocopiable song-sheets to help in presenting this to the pupils. The pack includes several books and articles on the nature of traditional music & song and its role in education, as well as extra resource folders and booklets for presenting additional song material in class if desired.

Barry Burgess, Lecturer in Music Education, at the University of Ulster writes: "The relevance of this pack clearly supports educational and musical aims. The expertise of the doyen of traditional song, John Moulden, in his selection of relevant material, coupled with his experience of teaching, contributes to an attractive and useful teaching resource. Both editors, and St Mary's University College are to be congratulated on their foresight and commitment to Irish Music in producing this pack (which ) will make a major contribution to providing a basis for cultural studies in Northern Ireland.

"The key to success of any curriculum support material is that it can be easily assimilated into a teaching programme. The availability of pre-recorded material is always a problem for music teachers and the representative song CD carries all the material for the programme and is worth the price of the pack on its own. The songs chosen have been made more appealing by linking them to EMU and programmes of study themes and as the 'songs illustrate several matters' the connections are clearly made in the teacher's notes. The background detail given on the song CD and how these songs can be used for discussion and classroom activity is the major strength of the pack."

The Pack costs only £25 sterling ($44US, €32EU) and may be ordered from Glens Music with payment by PayPal (Click "Add to Cart"), Credit Card or by cheque.

The creation of these materials was assisted by a grant from the Cultural Traditions Group of the Community Relations Council of Northern Ireland.
The remainder of this leaflet comprises a sample of the contents of the pack.

This pack offers teachers a powerful weapon for use in the struggle to deliver the Curriculum. It will help them discharge their responsibility to provide experience of shared and diverse traditions in Ireland, Britain and Europe. It will provide examples of conflict and its resolution. It will provide raw material for use in English, History, Health Education, Geography, RE; wherever the Curriculum needs a strong, easily understood outline of an issue.

It is relatively easy to produce facts about the issues of this day and yesterday: conflict, emigration, love, pollution. It is quite easy to find passionate statements about these issues in prose and poetry but seldom in language which most children will readily understand; nor do the thoughts come directly from the mouths and hearts of those closest to the experience.

By way of contrast, this, written about 1830, by a County Antrim poet, and intended to be sung, speaks to modern minds with such directness that since its recent discovery it is being sung the length and breadth of Ireland.

Peace in Erin
(Hugh McWilliams)

Were all mankind disposed like me,
To live in love and unity,
No more contention there would be,
Upon the plains of Erin.
Originally we are sprung,
From Father Adam, old and young,
These words should flow from every tongue,
We'll cherish peace in Erin.

We're formed by one Deity,
To worship him, let's all agree,
And live in love and harmony
With every class in Erin.
On Sunday, if our roads do lie,
To Clough, or to the Glens* hard by,
It should not weaken friendship's tie,
Amongst the sons of Erin!

What shore can boast so pure an air;
Or sons more brave or girls more fair, Or who were e'er esteemed in war,
Before the boys of Erin?
Their courage far abroad is known,
In the field of mars their glory shone;
Then let us cultivate at home,
The laws of peace in Erin!

Would freedom fair and commerce smile,
Upon my dear, my native isle,
Not Egypt with her flowing Nile,
Could equal thee sweet Erin;
Fine silver lakes and pearly springs,
And verdant groves where music rings,
And health, with healing in her wings,
Do bless the land of Erin.

'Tis principle that shows the man,
This is the best, the only plan,
And one that I have built upon,
As passing through old Erin.
Then let us at the present day,
Drive prejudice and spleen away,
Far, far beyond the Atlantic sea,
And all shake hands in Erin!

*This refers to the political topography of Northern Ireland. In previously planted areas, Catholics tend to live in the high ground, Protestants in the valleys and hence places of worship for Protestants are most often in the villages, for Catholics most often on the fringes - in the glens. This is a very powerful image of our division: and a powerful plea for unity.

Read, it's strong enough: sung, it takes on an immediacy and passion which will allow children and adolescents to understand its essence at one hearing and afterwards more readily endure a fuller explanation. We need such an aid in our teaching.

Notes on Peace in Erin and its singer, Aine Ui Cheallaigh, Belfast
As it was said in the Teachers notes, this song is being sung throughout Ireland. It is a matter for reproach to all involved in the Irish situation that a song, first published in 1831 should be as appropriate today as when first written. It was composed by Hugh McWilliams a hedge schoolmaster who was born in Glenavy Co Antrim about 1783 and who taught near Newtownards in County Down and in Clough Co Antrim. Although his work is similar to many of the vernacular poets documented in John Hewitt's Rhyming Weavers he had a much greater consciousness of the tradition of sung poetry than they, specifying a tune for almost all his songs.
He creates also an interface between the Irish tradition of English language song and the Scottish lowland tradition of Burns and others. He uses tunes of Irish and Scottish origin and writes in the language of lowland Scotland (or, to be more accurate, the language of Scots planted Ulster) and, as in this song, the idiom of Irish ballads as well as in more standard English. The recently published "Songs of Hugh McWilliams, Schoolmaster, 1831" (John Moulden) gives more description and sixteen other songs of considerable variety.
Aine Ui Cheallaigh was born in Belfast, her father being from there, and her mother from the Ring Gaeltacht of County Waterford. Aine now lives in Ring where she is Head of an Irish language secondary school. She is one of the finest traditional singers in Ireland, singing in both Irish and English, appearing frequently on television and singing in the stage (and video) production of "Riverdance". The title of her album "Idir dh  Chomhairle" which translates as "In two minds" encapsulates her alternation between the two language traditions and between the identity she derives from her northern birthplace and the one she has in her southern domicile. This latter is a problem almost all Irish people have but which few admit.

Songs with similar theme: Omagh Town, Roisin White (VT126 - see appendix listing suitable Books and Recordings) Songs which praise the place where the poet lives are common in Ireland and it should be noted that both Peace in Erin and Omagh Town use methods of rhyming and metres which stem from poetry in Irish.

Links with Programmes of Study: CH/EMU Objectives 2 & 4*

* Refence to the Northern Ireland Schools Curriculum


Page last updated 6th October 2008