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DÁIBHI Ó CRÓINÍN - The Songs Of Elizabeth Cronin 

DÁIBHI Ó CRÓINÍN - The Songs Of Elizabeth Cronin 
Four Courts Press ISBN: 9781846828690 

This is a monumental piece of work – over two decades in the writing having been first published in 2000. It has now been revised and updated although it is substantially the same book which went through two print runs, and in recent years was impossible to buy new and very difficult to find second hand.

Elizabeth Cronin, or Beth Cronin, was referred to as “The Queen of Irish Song” by Séamus Ennis, and was the best-known Irish female tradition singer of her time. We are fortunate that she was well recorded, by Séamus Ennis for the Irish Folklore Commission in the mid-1940s, and again, with Brian George, for the BBC in the early 1950s. Americans also collected her, including Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1951 and later by Jean Ritchie, George Pickow and Diane Hamilton. Though many of her songs were recorded, it wasn’t until the first publication of this book that most of them were available to the public.

The book, when first published in 2000, offered the complete Beth Cronin collection with the texts of all her songs with detailed analysis of each one, a biographical essay and historical background to the song collecting, together with a two CD set of original and remastered recordings. Two CDs are again included here, original and remastered recordings from her wide and varied repertoire.

Additions to this revised edition include some songs which were discovered after the first publication in a notebook handwritten by Beth, plus some textual corrections made possible after the recordings were restored for publication.

Although primarily a book of songs, the biographical notes and information relating to the various collectors makes for compelling reading. The book is large format with over 350 pages. A substantial publication and a labour of love by Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, a grandson of Beth Cronin, who lectured in history at NUI Galway until his retirement in 2019. It will be an important resource to anyone with an interest in traditional song and required listening and reading for anyone wanting to learn from one of the great singers from the Irish tradition.

Pete Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine