The annual Michael J. Murphy Winter School in Ti Chulainn Cultural Activity Centre on November 15th and 16th provided a unique insight into the culture of Oriel. The overall theme of the school was ‘The Literature, Music and Songs of Oriel’.

On Friday night, to a capacity appreciative audience from many parts of Ireland, Bláithin Mhic Cana and her brother Garret Doran, accompanied by Pádraig Carragher and musicians from the Traditional Arts Partnership, gave what could only be described as a truly brilliant performance of old and new songs in both Irish and English under the title ‘Glortha gCuillin: Voices of Gullion’. The meticulously researched background commentary on the songs given by the Gaelic scholar, Gearoid Trimble from Crossmaglen, added immeasurably to the enjoyment and knowledge of the audience.

Some of the songs sung were: Urchnoc Chein Mhic Cainte, Marbhna Airt Oig Ui Neill, The Boys of Mullach Ban, The Carrive Blacksmith, The Maid of Mullach Ban, Ally with the Long Nose, Widow Carthy, Slieve Gullion Side, The Hills of South Armagh and Casadh Cam na Feadarnai. Some of the composers/singers/collectors featured were Peadar O Doirnin, Bobby Ban MacGranna, Art Bennett, Tommy Hollywood, John ‘Ned’ Quinn, Barney ‘Ned’ Murphy, Brian ‘Nellie’ Murphy, Michael ‘Ned’ Quinn and Brid Murphy. To add to the context of traditional singing in the area, Mary Murphy gave a comprehensive background to the Slieve Gullion Festival of Traditional Singing which flourished from the 1980s into the 21st century.

It was unbelievable how the local songs of the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries were expertly interwoven. It is proof, if indeed any proof should be needed, that the vibrancy of the song, music and language of Oriel is assured. This inspiring programme MUST be brought to a much wider audience.

The school continued on Saturday afternoon, again to a capacity audience, when four speakers, with Una Walsh in the chair, examined the literature of Oriel. Charlie Dillon from Tyrone, who is the editor of ‘The Historical Dictionary of the Irish Language’, gave a learned lecture on Peadar O Doirnin (1700-1769) on the 250th anniversary of his death. Kevin Murphy illustrated some of the work of the outstanding Lislea writer, Peter Donnelly(1914-1998). Laurence McKeown, author and film-maker, read from and explained poems in his new collection ‘Threads’ and Marie McCartan of Longfield, Forkill, explained the background to her forthcoming novel ‘On The Border: South Armagh 1921-22’,which is set in the townland of Cashel, Forkill Parish.

The Winter School concluded with a forum, again chaired by Una, which featured the four speakers

and, most interestingly, Susan Knighton and Jo Slade, daughters of Peter Donnelly. They had travelled especially from Sheffield and Limerick to give invaluable insight into their father and his work. The audience participated in the lively discussion and there was general agreement that the high quality of the literature produced by local writers was on a par with the best on the national and international stage.

Therefore, once again, this Winter School which commemorates the outstanding Michael J. Murphy, stands with the very best in the island and is building momentum every year. We can look forward to next year’s gathering which will further explore the history and culture of this unique part of Ireland.

The Cuimhneamh committee wishes to thank the sponsors, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and M.C.Larkin, Forkill. Further information on