Gaelic Songs

Scope and Content

The volume comprises a collection of 21 songs in Gaelic, with English translations, which were collected by Seán Ó hAnnáin (John Hannon) from the last generation of native Gaelic speakers at the end of the 19th century from the greater Crossmaglen area of Co Armagh.

The original phonetic transcriptions of the songs are available in books I-V of Ó hAnnáin's main manuscript collection (now in the possession of Dr Diarmaid Ó Doibhlin) and from which the contents of this manuscript were copied by his hand also. Ó hAnnáin noted that he supplied copies of the same songs given in this manuscript to other sources, including other contemporary Gaelic collectors, Henry Morris and Seosamh Laoide; the latter's initials (S.L.) are most likely those written on the marginalia of the manuscript by Séamus Ó Casaide.

[The volume had formerly been incorrectly attributed to James Hardiman (1782-1855), historian and lawyer. The compiler was identified as Seán Ó hAnnáin by Dr Gearóid Trimble in 2015, whose assistance is grateful acknowledged.]

Administrative / Biographical History

Seán Ó hAnnáin (1867-1931), or John Hannon as he was locally known, was born in Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim, on 27 January 1867. By the age of 8, the family had moved to Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, and lived above the shop premises which his father acquired on retirement from the Royal Irish Constabulary. Hannon became a trainee teacher but spent most of his time from the 1890s onwards working in the family merchant shop and through which he became acquainted with the native Gaelic speakers of the locality. Although he was unable to speak or write Gaelic himself at this stage, by 1893 he had begun transcribing words, placenames, phrases and songs phonetically from the spoken Gaelic of customers using his own customised key sound system based on Fr. O'Growney's original system of Simple Lessons in Irish, first published in the newspaper Weekly Freeman.

By 1897 Ó hAnnáin's unique collection of Gaelic oral gleanings and his by now extensive knowledge of the local Gaelic dialect had attracted interest from Gaelic scholars which would continue over the rest of his life. In particular, these include: professional Gaelic scholars and collectors Seosamh Laoide, Enrí Ó Muirgheasa, Prof Éamonn Ó Tuathail, Fr Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh, Peadar Ó Dubhda and Tomás Mac Cuileannáin; and the lexicographers Fr Pádraig Ó Duinnín and Timothy O'Neill Lane.

Much of Ó hAnnáin's collection was utilised by other scholars in various publications, although he did publish a number of articles from his collection of material in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge and in the Dundalk Democrat during 1899 and 1913. He subsequently publised a long series of articles titled 'Ráidhteachas an Fheadha' in An tUltach during 1928 and 1930. Ó hAnnáin died in Newry Hospital on 27 October 1931 and was buried in the family plot in Crossmaglen graveyard.

Source: Dr Gearóid Trimble. Taken from a lecture given on life of Seán Ó hAnnáin, 'Seán Ó hAnnáin - Bailitheoir Dúthrachtach an Traidisiúin Bhéil', at Éigse Loch Lao 2014. Publication pending.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Presented to the John Rylands Library by Miss Ó Casaide in March 1946.


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 1098).

Custodial History

Formerly owned by Séamus Ó Casaide, or James Cassedy, the Celtologist and bibliographer with whose library of printed books this manuscript was acquired: inscribed on folio 1, Sèamus Ò Casaide, 1939. As a respected scholar of Gaelic manuscripts, Ó Casaide probably acquired this volume on the death of Seosamh Laoide in 1939 or earlier, possibly from another Gaelic collector, Éamonn Ó Tuathail.

Related Material

Roinn Bhéaloideas Éireann in Dublin possesses a small number of copybooks which Ó hAnnáin transcribed for Fr. Luke Donnellan. A small collection of loose sheets written in Ó hAnnáin's hand are held in the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library in Armagh. The main body of Ó hAnnáin's manuscripts are in the possession of Dr Diarmaid Ó Doibhlin in Co Derry.

The John Rylands Library also holds the Cassedy Collection of some 1,200 printed books amassed by Séamus Ó Casaide.