Background to Man, Woman and Child Project by Michael Fortune, February 2014

Man, Woman and Child builds on three previous projects I undertook with the National Library since 2009. The first project, The Magpies Nest was conducted with six older people from Wexford as part of the Bealtaine Festival and focused on particular areas of local research using the library’s print and photographic archives. This project resulted in an exhibition and project website which exposed research findings and laid the foundation for the song projects that followed. 
The projects that followed were conducted in collaboration with my partner, Aileen Lambert and kindly supported by The Arts Council in conjunction with Bealtaine, The National Library and The Irish Traditional Music Archive.  The first song project The Wild Bees Nest, proved hugely successful and involved eleven traditional singers embarking on an eight month journey which involced them writing a body of newly composed songs in the traditional style. This project received national media attention, appearing on various reports including the Six-One News, Morning Ireland and Nuacht TG4. A CD of the ten newly composed songs was subsequently funded by the Arts Council under the Deis Scheme and was launched at a special night in The Goilín Singers Club in 2012. You can find out about this project at or if you wish to receive a copy of the CD please contact me.
In 2012,  Aileen and myself worked with eight new singers on another traditional song research, composition and performance project entitled As I Roved Out. Working with the same partners and funders, this project looked at the notion of a journey within a song. Using this as a starting point, the singers wrote eight new songs and presented them at a concert in the NLI as part of the Bealtaine Festival in May 2012. The songs were performed to a packed house and can be heard on the project website
Man, Woman and Child developed from these projects and involved some of the singers I’d already worked with as well as some new ones. I developed the project idea in early 2013 and received funding from the Arts Council’s Deis Award to conduct it. The project continued to connect singers with the two great resources of the NLI and ITMA which helped add further structure/background to the songs that they choose to sing. The process of group meetings, tutorial type sessions and phone/email conversations further helped form the content of the project as it harnessed the experience and expertise already present within the group. This proved to be a fundamental shift in the thinking around traditional song collecting and presentation. In this case, the singers were the performers and collectors in the same breath. They knew where the songs were coming from, where they learnt them and showed an intelligent and a comprehensive overview in how they were presented to the listener. This project brought some new songs to the Irish traditional singing culture, but mostly it served to highlight how many of these songs were sung in Ireland prior to Child ever coming to Scotland or England. Through the singers own work, coupled with Jerry O’Reilly’s presentation, the project exposed how these songs existed and continue to exist in a variety of settings, from Wexford to Donegal and Dublin to Clare. 
If you have any questions regarding any of these project please feel free to contact Michael by phone at 00 353 (0)53 9256885 or 00 353 (0)87 6470247 or email at micfortune@gmail.com

John Tunney

John Tunney grew up in Donegal and is the youngest son of Paddy Tunney, ‘the Man of Songs’. John began singing seriously in his teenage years and made his public debut at Féile na Bóinne in Drogheda in 1977 where he performed the Child ballad ‘Tamlin’ – the ‘long version’ – with his father.  He has sung at festivals and taught workshops all over Ireland. For many years he has been a senior adjudicator at Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann. He has appeared on television and radio, on half a dozen CDs, and has been commissioned as an artist in residence to compose new traditional songs.  He has worked in Genealogy, Heritage Consultancy, and Museum Design. He was awarded an Irish ‘design Oscar’ for his work on the Smithfiled Irish music exhibition, Ceol. In 2000, after twelve years living in Dublin, he moved to Clare and lectures in Heritage Studies, including teaching modules on Irish Traditional music and song, at Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology.  He is married to Mary and they have one son, Conall, who also a sings.

Brigid Tunney

Brigid Tunney is a Donegal woman. She joined the Loreto Sisters in 1976. She has taught for over twenty years in various Loreto schools in Ireland. Brigid comes from a long line of traditional singers. Her father was Paddy Tunney and her grandmother was the great Brigid Tunney of Co. Fermanagh. From an early age Brigid was steeped in song and singing. She has given traditional singing workshops to Post-Primary school students and to the Post-Primary Music Teachers’ Association. She has also given workshops at the Scoil Eigse during All-Ireland Fleadh week. She can be heard on the Comhaltas production, ‘Where Linnets Sing – Three generations of Tunney singers.’ In 2007 Brigid recorded a CD, ‘Hand in Hand’. The proceeds of the CD went to help the poor in the Darjeeling Region where  Loreto sisters are working.

Niamh Parsons

Niamh Parsons is a professional singer from Dublin, singing mainly in the traditional style.  Growing up in Dublin, she was influenced by the 1960s folk revival, learning songs from a very early age.  Turning professional in 1990, and with 7 albums of songs, Niamh has toured all over the world, bringing her choice of traditional and contemporary folk songs to a wider audience as well as giving many song workshops throughout USA, UK and Europe. Niamh also teaches and mentors young performers in traditional singing, stage craft and appreciation of traditional song with Ballyfermot VEC Ceoltoir, and also through online classes.

Luke Cheevers

Luke Cheevers was born in the parish of Ringsend in Dublin in 1940. He is one of nine children, five of which are still alive. Luke cannot remember a time when he was not interested in singing, from the time he was a boy, when listening to his Aunts and Uncles singing away at hoolies at home in Ringsend, right up to the present day. His mother sung the old Irish ballads, Galway Bay, Teddy O'Neill etc, and his Da, cowboy and music hall songs. Himself, he’ll sing anything. Over the years he has travelled all over the country listening to some of the great traditional singers of the day. Sarah Ann O'Neill (who is still alive and in her nineties),  Geordie Hanna, the great Tom Lennihan, Liam Weldon, Frank Harte etc. Presently, he is learning two songs and listening to many more at the Góilín Singers Club.

Rosie Stewart

Rosie Stewart, from Belcoo, County Fermanagh, is among the most distinguished of Irish traditional singers. Chosen as "Traditional Singer of the Year" in 2004 by the Irish Language Television Station, TG4, her distinctive voice and style, the dramatic intensity of her "big" song performances and the wicked pleasure she takes in comic ones, make her one of the most sought after singers in Ireland. She has performed throughout Ireland, on radio and television, and in Britain and North America. She has been singing for as long as she can remember and attributes her love of songs to her late father, the singer Packie McKeaney, a major influence and a great encouragement in her career. Stewart is noted for her artistry, her forceful, direct manner and purity of voice and style. 

Mick Fowler

Mick has been involved with traditional singing performance since he came to the The Góilín Singers’ Club in 1984. Mick has appeared as a guest at many singing festivals over the past 20 years including the Inishowen Circle Seminar, the Ennis Singers’ Club, the Nenagh Singers’ Circle, as well as being a guest at the Góilín in Dublin. Song writing has also been a pastime of his, but purely for pleasure, until Wexford singer and collector Paddy Berry, requested him to produce a 1798 song, as part of a Bi-Centennial Competition in 1998. The song Michael Dwyer’s Lament did not win the competition, however it was included in Terry Moylan’s book The Age of Revolution in the Irish Song Tradition as well as being recorded by Dublin singer Jerry O’Reilly on his album Down from your Pulpits. Mick was one of the singers involved in The Wild Bees Nest song project in 2010/2011.

Tim Lyons

Cork born Tim Lyons developed his interest in song in England in the fifties. Moving to Dublin in the sixties he came under the influence of the greats of sean-nós traditional song and began singing himself, and often returned from Fleadhanna laden with guilded trophies. Three years later he was traveling all over England singing in folk clubs. Moving back to Clare again from London in the seventies he began writing songs himself on topical subjects, and toured with De Danann in the late seventies. In the late eighties he hooked up with Fintan Vallely and toured further and recorded two albums of their own inventions: "Knock, Knock, Knock" in 1991 and "Big Guns and Hairy Drums". Tim now lives in Galway. Tim was one of the singers involved in The Wild Bees Nest song project in 2010/2011.

Aileen Lambert

In the past three years Aileen has co-facilitated a number of Arts Council supported song projects, with her partner Michael Fortune, in partnership with The National Library, the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Age and Opportunity; The Wild Bees’ Nest and As I Roved Out. Locally, in County Wexford, she has delivered projects with adults and children in Bunclody - At the Foot of Mount Leinster, and most recently the Wexford Song Project ( Aileen also delivers traditional song workshops in primary schools from infants up to sixth class as part of the Heritage-in-Schools Scheme.

Jerry O’Riley

Jerry O’Reilly is a noted singer and is one of the organisers of the Goilín Traditional Singers’ Club in Dublin, which is reckoned to be the foremost singing club in Ireland and which has been running for over 32 years.  He has acted as M.C. / Fear ‘a Ti at all of the major singing festivals in Ireland in recent years. He has also been involved with the production of several fine CDs of traditional singing in English and also the Irish language.  In 2003 he released his first solo CD called “Down from your pulpits, Down from your thrones”, which has been enthusiastically received.  Amongst his projects were the production of “Around the Hills of Clare”, the double CD of archive recordings from the Jim Carroll and Pat MacKenzie collection, which has been described as an inestimable resource by reviewers, “The Spoons Murder and Other Mysteries”, a book and CD of the songs of Con “Fada” O’ Drisceóil, which has been a “best seller” and “Cascades of Song” the CD of the Clare Festival of Traditional Singing, which was released in 2008 to popular acclaim.  His second album, “Havoc in Heaven” was launched in early 2012 and has been described by The Irish Times as “a strapping collection which will fuel repertoires from Stonybatter to Sneem”.  This is Jerry’s first attempt at song writing, although he admits to having “interfered” with some songs previously.

Michael Fortune

Michael Fortune grew up in a family immersed in story, superstition and belief in an area called The Macamores, an old Gaelic stronghold stretching along the east coast of County Wexford. He completed his BA in Fine Art, specialising in video and performance at Limerick School of Art and Design and his MA in Film at Dun Laoghaire School of Film. Due to the ethnographic nature of his practice, he has been commissioned to undertake various folklore collections and traditional song research and performance projects throughout Ireland over the past decade. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and bursaries and conducts project work and public art commissions with people of all ages and abilities the length and breath of Ireland. He currently works as an assistant lecturer with Limerick School of Art and continues to conduct long and short term project work in communities and institutions.  He continues to live and work in rural Wexford, having moved inland to the The Duffry, yet another Gaelic stronghold which lies at the foot of Mount Leinster in north west Wexford. Here he lives with his with his partner, Aileen Lambert and their young children.


All images/design by Michael Fortune unless otherwise stated.

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