The Well Below The Valley: Documentary On Newstalk

Celebrating the life and work of Tom Munnelly, collector of Irish Traditional song

First broadcast on January 1st 2018, and featuring Irish singer Christy Moore, our latest programme from Documentary on Newstalk celebrates the life and work of Tom Munnelly.

Tom Munnelly pursued a passion for collecting and recording Irish traditional song at a time when traditional song, and the social conditions that had nurtured it, were in decline. His particular area of interest was in Irish songs composed in the English language, a genre which had hitherto been relatively overlooked in the realm of folklore studies in favour of songs composed in Irish. Through his work the status of Anglo-Irish song was raised in academic circles where it is now recognised as a central element in Irish culture.

He was a self-educated man who devised his own working methods without any formal academic training but who nonetheless amassed and indexed “the largest and most comprehensive collection of traditional song ever compiled in Ireland by any one individual.” He viewed traditional song in the general landscape of Irish culture and recorded the stories and context behind the songs, and the lives of the singers, which gives an additional depth to his collection.

The programme shows how, with an ever present sense of humour and a tenacious spirit, he set about his work with a dogged persistence. He was involved in an array of voluntary cultural organizations all his life, many of which he instigated, and was co-founder and chair of the Irish Traditional Music Archive. Excerpts of Munnelly`s field recordings taken from the National Folklore Collection are heard together with commentary from colleagues, musicians, students and friends including Nicholas Carolan, Harry Bradshaw and Ríonach uí Ógáin, and from Annette Munnelly, Tom`s wife.

2017 marks the tenth anniversary of Tom Munnelly`s death making this year a particularly appropriate time for an assessment of his legacy.


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"The Well Below The Valley" was Produced and Presented by J.J. O`Shea. Christy Moore was recorded by Brian Doyle for the Irish Traditional Music Archive and an excerpt was included with kind permission from the artist. This programme was supported by a grant from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, as part of the Sound and Vision Scheme.