New book on Colm Ó Caodháin from Ríonach uí Ógáin

Ríonach uí Ógáin

Colm Ó Caodháin: An Irish singer and his world introduces – through writing and sound – a wonderful Conamara singer and storyteller. Colm Ó Caodháin (1893-1975) from Glinsce, Carna, County Galway was renowned in his native district for his wealth of song, music and lore. For the first time ever, Colm is introduced to a global audience. A man of extraordinary talent, his working life was nonetheless typical of the small farmer on the west coast of Ireland at the time. He turned his hand to fishing, farming and crafting which were skills he inherited from his father. As life’s responsibilities began to weigh on him, however, his time for singing began to diminish.

Thankfully, the songs had a chance to come to the fore again when in the 1940s the Irish Folklore Commission sent collector and musician Séamus Ennis to Conamara to undertake fieldwork.

The meeting between Ennis and Ó Caodháin was to result in a lasting friendship and in the recording of hundreds of songs and stories that Colm shared. Ennis and Ó Caodháin spent a great deal of time in one another’s company and the book opens a window on the mutual regard they had for one another and the shared sense of fun they enjoyed.

Ríonach uí Ógáin‘s book offers an example of some of this material in addition to items documented by others over the years. The thirty-three audio recordings are a representative example of song, lore and music made by the Irish Folklore Commission and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Colm’s first language was Irish and most of the material collected from him is in Irish. But he also sang songs in English, some of which have been included here. 

Colm Ó Caodháin (left) with Séamus Ennis

His warm personality and his zest for life and sense of fun shine through in the recordings and in the written word.

His words, rich in the Irish of Conamara, are transcribed just as he spoke and sang them to different collectors and an English translation is provided by the editor.

The book is illustrated throughout with photographs of Colm and his family, with reproductions of music notation and prose transcription as collected by Séamus Ennis who was to spend the most time with Colm between 1943 and 1946.

A former Director of the National Folklore Collection in UCD, Ríonach uí Ógáin has published widely in Irish and in English on traditional music and song and has also published a number of compact discs with accompanying booklets. She was editor of Béaloideas: The Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society from 2009-2018. Her publications include The Otherworld: Music and Song from Irish Tradition with Tom Sherlock (2012). She edited the diaries of Séamus Ennis published in 2007 ‘Mise an Fear Ceoil’ Séamus Ennis – Dialann Taistil 1942-1946 (2007), which appeared in translation in 2009 entitled Going to the Well for Water: The Field Diaries of Séamus Ennis. A Festschrift in her honour entitled Life, Lore and Song was published in 2019 by Four Courts Press. Published by Cork University Press, uí Ógáin’s new book costs €39/£35 and may be ordered from

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