Heritage of Sliabh Luachra highlighted


The Sliabh Luachra badlands straddle the Cork-Kerry border. In darker days, when there were widespread evictions from good land in the Munster area, those with nowhere else to go settled in the environs of Sliabh Luachra - the rushy mountain. But this enclave was to become something special.

Because the area was of no use to anyone else it was left in almost splendid isolation and became a repository of the Gaelic tradition and all it stood for.

It still is. Story telling, traditional music and dance and the literary tradition are alive and well in Sliabh Luachra. The aim of Cumann Luachra, a local historical society, is to ensure that the wonderful heritage of the region is recorded and written down for posterity.

This takes place under the guidance of Examiner journalist Donal Hickey, whose roots are in Sliabh Luachra and who covers the Kerry area for the newspaper. He edits the Sliabh Luachra Journal, the ninth edition of which has just been published.

The growing archive is presented in a format that captures the essence of a unique place and some of the legendary figures who lived there. The journals have long since become collectors' items. They are sent to emigrants and many others all over the world and are much prized.

Launching this year's journal, Dr Patrick Cronin, a native of Gneeveguille in the heart of Sliabh Luachra, who is acting head of the department of ancient classics in UCC, described the nine journals as a priceless archive of local history and lore.

Padraig O'Keeffe, the fiddle master who taught hundreds of musicians their craft, was a legend in Sliabh Luachra. One of his pupils was the veteran fiddler, Maurice O'Keeffe of Kiskeam, who is the profiled musician in the 1998 journal. This edition, as the others have, looks at how rural life was conducted in the area; how industry in the region waxed and waned; what its social life was like; what the living tradition was all about.

On that subject, one of the contributors, Mary Moynihan, writes about her grandfather, Pat Byrne of Glenflesk. "He was born in Faha, Ballybunion, and brought his fiddle to Glenflesk with him. It was the love of his life, and, after a hard day's work ploughing, mowing, and milking cows, he would take it down and play until the early hours of the morning with his many friends. Our house was a rambling house and many people learned how to dance sets there. We always had plenty of music and fun . . ."

That's the flavour of this invaluable journal.