Amhráin Goodman – Introduction

James Goodman (1828-1896) was born in Baile Áimín, near Ventry, Co. Kerry. He spent most of his life as a minister of the Church of Ireland in west Cork parishes: first in Creagh, near Skibbereen, then in Ardgroom, Béara and latterly back in Skibbereen as rector, later canon, of Abbeystrewry parish. He was also made dean of Ross. Most of his music- and song-collecting was, therefore, done in Munster although we cannot entirely discount his time in Dublin, first as an undergraduate and, much later, as professor of Irish in Trinity College during which periods he had access to and copied many manuscripts.

We know from his correspondence that Goodman was collecting songs from his teenage years but, unlike his manuscript collection of traditional instrumental music which survived intact and was edited and published as Tunes of the Munster Pipers by the late Hugh Shields (Vol 1, 1998) and by Lisa Shields (Vol 2, 2013) the location of the song texts was unknown. There are about 200 song tunes within the music manuscripts but Goodman’s song words were long believed lost. It was not until early 2006 that a manuscript containing, inter alia, 83 song texts was found in England by a member of the Goodman family. This manuscript is not a complete collection of his song words and indeed not all the texts have a corresponding tune, some are poems rather than songs. However, most of the songs in this manuscript which has the year 1857 on its cover, do have tunes and are a pleasure to sing.

I became acquainted with Canon Goodman back in 1999 when my research led me to a genealogy he had transcribed from the work of Seán Ó Coileáin, the poet from Myross. I was struck by his scribal skills and by his complete fluency in Irish. Through the good offices of Jim Byrne, local historian and Goodman scholar, I was given in 2007 a copy of the song manuscript by the Goodman family along with permission to work on it. I catalogued the contents of the 1857 manuscript for my Master’s degree in Modern Irish in U.C.C.

In the intervening years I have worked extensively on the song texts, researching printed and manuscript sources, as well as the historical and linguistic background of the songs. I have also worked on other manuscripts which Goodman scribed and on other aspects of his work. I have lectured in Ireland, the U.S. and Australia on Goodman and have published on the amhrán tradition.

My aim has always been to return the songs to the traditional repertoire. To that end, I am providing the texts of the songs in Goodman’s manuscript of 1857 along with translations and textual notes. I am launching this website with 20 texts (19 have tunes, 1 does not) and I plan to add to this number over the coming months until all 83 texts are here. I’ll also add some audio clips.

I hope you will enjoy them and most of all I hope you will sing them.

Guím rath Dé ar an obair seo agus grásta ó Dhia ar an té a bhailigh na hamhráin, an Canónach Séamus Goodman.



Le tamall anuas táim ag obair ar na foinn le mo dhlúthchara an Dr. Máire Milnéir atá ina sárcheoltóir. Chabhraigh a fear céile, Gerry Kelly linn nuair a dhein sé cuid de na hámhráin a thaifead go cruinn is go ceolmhar. Táim fíorbhuíoch díobh as a scileanna, a bhflaithiúlacht agus as an an bhfáilte a bhíonn acu romham.

Dob’ é m’fhear céile an Dr. Dónal Ó Donnabháin a thóg an suíomh álainn seo. Buíochas ó chroí as an obair chruaidh a dhein sé, a scileanna ríomhaireachta, a chuid foigne, as an spéis a léirigh sé sa tsaothar seo agus as an dtacaíocht a thugann sé dom i gcónaí.

Tiomnaím an suíomh seo le mór-ghrá do Dhónal, Danielle agus Aisling

‘ … mo sheoda gan chealg, mo chuid den tsaol mór.’