Stories of the Sea: A Typological Study of Maritime Memorates in Modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic folklore traditions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Sch of Languages & Literature

Abstract

In folklore studies, memorates are an under-studied area. Defined as personal accounts of supernatural happenings, memorates are centered around various phenomena of human life and constitute an extremely popular and productive folklore category. They include a variety of extraordinary experiences at sea and other accounts, which occur in liminal spatio-temporal contexts, such as sea-shore, streams, fords and bridges. These stories typically involve encounters with ghosts and other beings, and portents of death symbolised in phantom boats. Initial appraisal of the material suggests that maritime memorates form an important component of the narrative tradition of coastal communities. Focusing on this genre makes for a study whose size and scope is suited to the prescribed timescale.The project will assemble a collection of personal accounts of Irish and Scottish fishermen, boatmen, and beachcombers, recorded from the end of the 19th century to the present day, and will seek to uncover the distinctive character of the maritime memorate as a specific genre.
Four hundred maritime memorates, equally divided between those collated in Modern Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and English, contained in the printed sources, in the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin and the School of Scottish Studies Archives (University of Edinburgh), including thirty items of digitised sound recordings from UoE and ten from UCD, and video recordings (if available), will be identified, transcribed and furnished with English translations (when necessary), as well as analysed, captured in digital format, and edited in XML in accordance with TEI guidelines for transcription and representation of primary sources. The figures are justified by the abundance of relevant data (see 'Stories of the sea - Pilot exercise results.pdf'). Criteria for selection were determined during the pilot exercises, conducted by PI and Co-PI in May 2008, April and July 2009 ( www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/research/celtic/mm/ ), based on the subject of the story (fishing, sea voyages etc.), key themes (shipwrecks, sea visions etc.), geographical location, date collected, and social background of the narrator. The collection will be furnished with a conceptual framework, presenting a system of cross-references, based on a taxonomy of various methodological principles (see Project Methodology section in the 'Case for Support'). Other factors, including locations described, cultural, occupational and educational background of the speakers, and sub-types of memorates distinctive to particular areas, will also be considered.
Project Timescale: Phase 1.1 (Sep-Nov '10) (a) the project bibliography will be completed; (b) the data selection criteria will be determined;(c) the memorates from printed sources collected and digitised. Phase 1.2 (Dec '10-Jan '11) (a) XML mark-up and search-engine framework will be determined; (b) printed sources digitised; (c) copyright permissions of those sources sought. Phase 2 (Feb-Oct '11) The archive material will be collected, digitised and annotated; first project's roadshow in collaboration with local coastal agencies organised. Phase 3.1 (Nov '11-Apr '12) (a) Analytical markup of the data in XML completed; (b) Resource search-engine tested. Phase 3.2 (May '12-Aug '12) (a) Web-resource, & (b) Hardcopy of the collection (with DVD) will be published; (c) Second project's roadshow organised. Few electronic resources of discrete categories of Irish and Scottish Gaelic folklore are available and their provision is still in its infancy. This pioneering project will remedy this. It will also be innovative in its employment of the most appropriate theoretical framework in contemporary folklore studies. Not only can the project be stand-alone in terms of research and fill a huge gap in Irish and Scottish cultural memory, but it can also provide a foundation for a research network on the study of maritime memorates throughout the North Atlantic.

Planned Impact

The bulk of the archival data to be employed on this project was collected over a long period of time. Its importance was recognised as far back as the mid-nineteenth century; since, the archives have continued to grow, receiving support primarily from various public agencies. One of the major aims of the present project is to make this data (largely neglected up to now) available to wider audiences and to bring it up to date. The retrieval and dissemination of the materials are important to society for a number of reasons: (1) Many of the memorates were collected among members of coastal communities when these communities still pursued a way of life which has since virtually disappeared. The archival data will fill an important gap in the cultural memory and will give voice to the concerns and identities of coastal communities, simultaneously raising awareness of their unique contribution to the cultural life of Ireland and Scotland. (2) The study will further our understanding of the impact coastal communities have had on the economic and commercial life of these regions. Fishing and related industries have played a vital role in promoting the health and stability of coastal areas. Dissemination of information on maritime memorates will raise awareness among the public of the role these industries have played in the past and the part they continue to play in a number of regions: the first-hand accounts recorded from the perspective of the subjects (both male and female) - fishermen, boatmen, beachcombers - will add significantly to focusing attention on crucial aspects of the history and culture of these regions in the overall mosaic of wider Irish and Scottish social customs and practices. (3) The project's innovative methods of data collection, classification, and analysis can be applied in the future to the study of other unpublished archival materials relating to further aspects of the cultural, social, and commercial life of the regions. The researcher working on the project will develop transferable skills in data management which will enable him/her to gain employment in a variety of sectors (museums, archives, and community-based projects). (4) Collaboration with Scottish and Irish communities and cultural organisations in North America and Europe gives the project another kind of international dimension and impact over and above the purely academic. Both the PI and Co-PI can play an important part in fostering these links. The PI has organised summer courses which have promoted various aspects of Northern Irish society among members of the general public. This has involved the participation of the public in readings and discussions, public performances, exhibitions, and radio podcasts, and has received national and international recognition for its impact on the community. The PI is Secretary and the Co-PI President respectively of Societas Celto-Slavica association which has been involved inter alia with the organisation of national and international cultural events (art exhibitions, poetical readings) attended by members of public in Northern Ireland, Russia, Croatia, Poland and Armenia on permanent basis at its colloquia. The users of the Societas's web-resource (www.celtologica.com) have noted its impact as a rich repository of data in promotion of various aspects of Scottish and Irish heritage. (5) Open access to the project's collection, and the participation of its staff in public seminars on the content of the archive and its relevance to the culture and everyday life of the people, will lead to close interaction with the local communities and enhance the project's impact on the cultural life of the regions. Previously, the Co-PI has been involved in working with community organisations throughout Ireland on mumming performances and re-enactments through the experience of the 'Room to Rhyme' project. The pres
 
Title Audio recordings of Scottish Gaelic memorates about the sea 
Description The project captured, digitised, transcribed and translated 22 audio recordings of duration between 2-10 minutes each. This was a major achievement considering the difficulty in understanding some of the speakers of the Scottish Gaelic, as some dialects of it are now extinct, and in the process of retrieval of the audio data from the wax cylinders where they were originally recorded to 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact The artists and creative industry workers can take such items as inspiration for their work as store of themes, motifs, plots which can bring new pieces composed and articulated in the future 
 
Description The RTE Radio 1 made a feature on its Seascapes radio programme for May 2012 period. The Pan-Celtic Festival held in Derry in April 2014 requested a lecture on the subject of the project. Another lecture on the project was delivered within the confines of All-Ireland Music Festival in August 2013. Further lectures and displays were organised in Ireland (both North and South) and in Europe (Germany and France) in 2013-2016.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description International Interdisciplinary Network on the Study of Maritime Memorates in Ireland and Scotland 
Organisation University College Dublin
Department National Folklore Collection
Country Ireland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution International multi-disciplinary network has been created to facilitate the progress of the project
Start Year 2010
 
Description International Interdisciplinary Network on the Study of Maritime Memorates in Ireland and Scotland 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Department School of Scottish Studies Archives
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The members of the board of the Stories of the Sea project as well as the consultants and the project members present an international and multi-disciplinary consortium that is concerned with the study of maritime memorates in Ireland and Scotland
Start Year 2010
 
Description 'Stories of the Sea' Interviews and press releases 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Series of interviews and press releases have been carried out since September 2010 (including those in May 2011 prior to the convening of the public road show of the project) on an on-going basis. These have been done in order to communicate the fact of the project's existence, of its work and of its research results.

The project members are involved in a series of interviews, broadcasts etc. reporting on the findings

of the project with specific emphasis on the maritime heritage and its role in Irish society, history and tradition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description An tOsnádúr sa Seanchas i measc Phobail Iascaireachta Iarthar na hÉireann 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The public lecture on the topic of the supernatural in the fishing communities of the West of Ireland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Demonstration of the XML Resource Operation and of the Search Facility on the Stories of the Sea web-site 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The presentation was carried out to demonstrate how the XML-driven resource and the search engine functions on the web-site compiled by the Stories of the Sea project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Project Exhibition: Stories of the Sea 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The project exhibition on Stories of the Sea/Scéalta na Farraige/Sgeulan Mara including 10 posters (A1 size) and playbalc of audio-recordings of project data, as well as public talk by Dr Maxim Fomin, Prof. Séamus Mac Mathúna and Dr John Shaw was convened at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile, Islay, and attended by appr. 30 local people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Seascapes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Interview with Rhona Tarrant, journalist of RTE Radio 1, that was done in Derry within the City of Culture festival framework, and podcasted on the programme Seascapes on 07 June 2013 at 10.30 pm.

A radio interview about the breadth and the depth of research carried out on the project and the role of the bearers of tradition involved in the project work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Stories of the Sea in Ireland and Scotland Poster Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The PI of the project exhibited 10 A1 posters containing stories collected by the project that were accompanied by audio-recordings (playbacked on the audio-MP3 players attached to the posters and available for the visitors to be listened to over the headphones) as well as distributed a colourful bilingual leaflet that contained such stories as well as a description of the background of the project.

The exhibition was presented to the attendants to the First Inaugural Conference of the International Association of Societas Celtologica Europeae, that includes members of Celtic Studies research and educational bodies from Europe and further afield
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Stories of the Sea: Public Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The project organised an afternoon road show aimed at the members of general public in a coastal area of Ireland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description The sounds of the supernatural and of the sea 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The lecture presented within the framework of the cultural event Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann - Festival of Irish Music 2013 to the visitors to the Festival.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013