The establishment of An Cumann le Béaloideas Éireann (The
Folklore of Ireland Society) in 1927 represented the first step towards
a better state of affairs in terms of recording the oral traditions
of the people. Until the society came into being the whole enterprise
of collecting Irish folklore could, according to one commentator,
be compared to haphazard diving - "in the process of which some
golden coins were found more or less by chance - rather than to anything
like a systematic treasure hunt". From the very beginning the
society published an annual journal - Béaloideas -
devoted exclusively to folklore, with Ó Duilearga as editor.
The society remained a voluntary body until 1930 when the Irish Folklore
Institute was set up with the aid of a government grant. After a
few years the need for a bigger and better equipped organisation
was felt and in 1935 the government established Coimisiún
Béaloideasa Éireann, the Irish Folklore Commission,
with Ó Duilearga as honorary director. That body was responsible
for the collection, preservation, classification, study and exposition
of all aspects of Irish folk tradition until 1971 when it was replaced
by the Department of Irish Folklore and incorporated into University
The 'Schools' Scheme'
The Schools' Scheme, as it is popularly known, represented the
biggest folklore collecting scheme ever mounted anywhere in the world.
It was devised by Séamus Ó Duilearga and Seán Ó Suilleabháin
of the Folklore Commission and carried out in 1937-38 in co-operation
with the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation.
Over a period of eighteen months almost one hundred-thousand children
in five thousand primary schools were involved in seeking out and setting
down for posterity material dealing with a wide range of Irish folk
tradition. The material included folk-tales and folk legends, riddles
and proverbs, songs, customs and beliefs. Games and pastimes as well
as traditional work practices and crafts and many other topics were
covered. The children collected this material mainly from their parents
and grandparents and other older members of the local community or
school district. The result of the scheme was the Schools' Manuscript
Collection which extends to more than half-a-million manuscript pages.
The returns from each county are available under licence on microfilm
in most of the respective county libraries. The material returned for
Co. Clare runs to approximately sixteen thousand pages and it is of
immense importance to local historians.
Boher Boys National School, 1938