The Three Candles Press. There Séamus learned all aspects of the printing trade. This included writing down slow airs for printed scores – a skill which later proved important. It was during this time that the Irish Folklore Commission hired the 23-year-old to collect songs. He was given "pen, paper and pushbike" and a salary of three pounds per week. Off he went to Connemara.
Extract from "The Seamus Ennis Field Diary 1942-1946":
"October 19421 Whilst on a week’s holiday in Ballinagh, Co. Cavan, staying in the house of friends of mine – the Galligan family of Corstruce House, Ballinagh – I took two working days and noted six songs and their times from my host, Pete Galligan, a native of the townland of Pollakiel – midway between Cavan town and Crosskeys. He claims to have known 500 songs at one time. On a visit to the house of the McGaherns (spelt McGowran) in the townland of Brusky, four miles west of Ballinagh, I 53 NFC MM 22A From Pete Galligan, ‘The Stock or Wall’ Pete Galligan and his wife, Bridget (Courtesy Eileen Brady) discovered that Mrs [Rosie] McGahern was very interested in the old ballads and such material, and found her to be a very sweet traditional singer. She gave me later a manuscript of old songs written down by her in her youth from her parents and friends, so that I might copy any song therefrom which I thought to be of value, which I subsequently did, copying songs. As I was going home then I had no opportunity to write tunes from her, but hope to do so at a later date. Co. Cavan is very rich in ballads and instrumental dance music, which latter, however, is for the most part very well known. I have heard of several old singers whom I hope to contact soon, who are reputed to be those with the best repertoire of old material.2 Rosie McGahern (Courtesy Gerry McGahern) Rosie McGahern’s house 54 Going to the Well for Water NFC 1282: 40 From Rosie McGahern, ‘This Life is a Difﬁcult Riddle’..."
Only one collecting trip was made to County Mayo during this period and for this Ennis relied a great deal on the folklore collector Pádraic Ó Moghráin for guidance. In August 1944 he wrote eleven songs in Irish from Máire Mulgrew, not far from Mulrany and more Irish songs from Mártan Ó Máille who was originally from Rossturk.
Extract from "The Seamus Ennis Field Diary 1942-1946":
"County Mayo 10 August to 4 September 19441 Thursday 10.8.44 Took the train to Westport at ten o’clock and a bus from there to Mulrany. Arrived, quite tired, at ten o’clock at night. Master Pádraic Ó Moghráin met me at the bus and brought me to my accommodation at Mrs [Katie] Clarke’s – a nice woman and a nice house. NFC MM 014.001 From Máire Mulgrew, ‘Coill na Binn’ 175 176 Going to the Well for Water Friday 11.8.44 P. [Pádraic] Ó Moghráin accompanied me this morning and we visited Mártan Ó Máille in this town. A kind old man who was happy to sing a few songs for us. His versions of the songs were mixed up and he had four songs in all – but they were incomplete. We then went to Máire Mulgrew (73), an old woman who lives a little way away in an easterly direction from here. She is a sweet singer and has very accurate versions of the songs she knows. She sang about six songs for us and they were appealing. She made us most welcome. We went for dinner then and in to Newport on the three o’clock bus. The master [Pádraic Ó Moghráin] had to see to personal matters there and I accompanied him to visit ‘An Paorach’ [Risteard de Paor], as the master was going to see him. An Paorach is an interesting person and has very worthwhile opinions about music and things Irish. He invited me to go ﬁshing with him during this coming week on his sailing boat. Bus home at seven o’clock to Mulrany and spent the evening talking in my lodging house with the master and two women who had come to spend the weekend there – Ita O’Connor (a national health insurance inspector) and Agnes McCarthy (a friend) from Dublin. Another man, called Jack Ball, from Belfast, is also staying there for a few weeks’ holiday. Saturday 12.8.44 These two women were going to Acaill in their car for some purpose and I accompanied them to make enquiries in Keel and Dumha Acha. I met a very nice man, John McHugh, from Dumha Acha and we had a long conversation in Irish – there is very little Irish in these parts, and that surprised me – but I did not hear of any songs. Later on, we went to Corrymore House.2 I had already met Bridie Gunning in Dublin and I knew her – she does domestic work there – and she introduced us to Major Dermot Freyer, the man of the house. It is a guesthouse. We had a meal there and the Major showed us his ‘Open-air Theatre’, which was so famous everywhere in Ireland a few years ago. He is a very interesting person – he doesn’t speak any Irish – and is full of fun. He is small and wears worn, torn old clothes full of patches (but doesn’t look like a tramp) and he believes it is better to be different from everyone else. We spent a wonderful evening in his company and later, I went for a swim. We had another cup of tea and headed home for Mulrany. I will remember that day for a long time. Sunday 13.8.44 I attended the second Mass, 9.30. Breakfast after that and wrote letters. Spent the afternoon swimming and the evening talking. Monday 14.8.44 Spent the morning writing the diary. My two parcels of paper arrived this morning. They had been sent to Ballina and that had delayed them for a few days. They arrived at the master’s house and he brought them to me as I was having breakfast at 9.30. I spent the afternoon with Máire Mulgrew and in the evening I wrote down the words of four songs from her. She was reared in Acaill and married there. Her husband was a weaver but is now dead. She tells me that she and her family were in America and came home in 1930. She has two sons, one in London and one at home. One or two more of her children are in America – two daughters are married there. She gave me the name and address of some old woman in Acaill and she says that she may have forgotten the songs. Máire has plenty of Irish but likes to speak English. That is..."
At just twenty-three years of age, Séamus Ennis went on his first collecting field-trip to Conamara on behalf of the Irish Folklore Commission. During his visit to Galway, Seamus Ennis collected music from Colm Keane of Carna.
As recorded in his field diary, Ennis made ten collecting trips to County Galway between 1942 and 1946. Initially, in that county, he worked around An Spidéal where he wrote down songs from Kate Sheáin Tom and members of the Ó Conláin family.
According to his diary, Séamus Ennis made just two visits to Co. Clare in the course of his work for the Irish Folklore Commission. In September 1945 he spent three weeks in Lahinch and Doolin, and in November of the same year he went to Ennis for two days, to collect songs from Martin MacNamara of Croisín [Crusheen], who was in the County Home. Four years later, in 1949, he made another working visit to Co. Clare, this time as a mobile recording officer for Radió Éireann. The R.T.É. sound archive contains seventy two minutes of recordings made on 5th November, 1949, from Bobby Casey, Willie Clancy, and Martin Talty and many others, including some of the people he had met in 1945.
Séamus's visit to Limerick in November 1945 was directed towards dancing and dance music in Limerick and some of the surrounding district. The tradition bearers in this regard were James Dalton, a former dancing teacher in Shanagolden, the Halpin family in Clontarf Place in Limerick, Joseph and Margaret Murphy, Thomond Gate, and piper William Keane of Mulgrave Street.
On a visit to Cork, Séamus met with Elizabeth (Bess) Cronin. ‘The Queen of Irish Song’ as Séamus Ennis called her, was probably the best-known Irish female traditional singer of her time. Collectors came from far and near to hear and record her singing. Séamus Ennis collected her songs for the Irish Folklore Commission in the mid-1940s, and again, with Brian George, for the BBC in the early 1950s
The first of four trips to Donegal took place in August 1943. Ennis headed for Gort an Choirce where his friend, Seán Ó hEochaidh, fulltime collector of folklore, was living. Here he met Dinny Pháidí Duncaí, or Donncha Ó Baoill, and yet another close friendship was made. Dinny, from Leitir Catha, near Loch an Iúir, was teaching in Gort an Choirce. Ennis collected many songs from Dinny and also from his sisters and other family members.
Others in the Gort an Choirce district from whom he gathered songs were Máire Bean Mhic Aoidh, An Bhealtaine, who had many songs that she learned from her father. Máire was a sister of the storyteller Niall Ó Dufaigh from whom Ó hEochaidh had collected much material. On his first collecting trip to Donegal, Ennis also visited Teileann in the south-western part of the county, where he met with and collected tunes from Frank Cassidy, An Charraig, and Con Cassidy, Iomaire Mhuireanáin, Teileann. Peadar Ó Beirn and his sister Máire, Muintir Johnny Johndy, as they are still called, lived in Bealach Bhun Glas. They lilted and sang and gave many local songs to Ennis.
Still in Donegal, in January 1944, Ennis met an older woman who had a store of religious songs. She was Nóra Thaidhg, near Gort an Choirce. That same year, Ennis wrote nine tunes from a fiddle player, Hughie Bonar, from Fál Chorb, Machaire, and also visited the fiddle player, Niallaí Ó Baoill, An Clochán Liath, to collect from him.
Blind Peig Ní Dhufaigh, An Airdmhín, Croithlí, was an aunt of Dinny Ó Baoill. She was a fine singer and storyteller and contributed a wide range of material. In September 1944, Ennis visited Séamus Ó hIghne, Learga na Saorthach, Gleann Cholm Cille, who is probably best remembered for his rendering of the Fenian lay ‘Laoi na Mná Móire’ which the collector wrote from him. Others from whom he collected songs in Donegal included Máire Mhór Nic Pháidin, Caoldroim Íochtarach, Gort an Choirce. In the townland of An Tor, near Croithlí, he made friends with Páidí Bhidí Ó Connacháin who gave him around twenty songs. Here he also met Mairéad Mhic Suibhne, another good singer. In Bun an Bhaic on the eastern shore of Loch an Iúir, he wrote songs from Máire Shiobháin Uí Dhúgáin. The surname Ó Gallchóir is well-established in the Donegal singing tradition and Ennis met with Cití Eoin Éamoinn Ní Ghallchóir in Gaoth Dobhair and also with her mentor Síle Mhicí Ní Ghallchóir.