*Eddie Lenihan. 

CRUSHEEN SEANCHAÍ EDDIE LENIHAN has voiced his disgust with the lack of interest from Irish institutes in culture as he prepares to give his near five-decades worth of stories to the United States.

For the past 47 years, Brosna native Eddie has practised the ancient tradition of storytelling, obtaining thousands of hours of unheard recordings from people of all ages sharing their experiences on Irish life since the turn of the 20th century.

Within the past five years, he was first approached by a US institute about potentially donating his vast collection of tapes which touch on everything from Gaelic mythology to local superstitions, and even memories of the Civil War. Presently, three institutes based in the States have expressed their desire to get their hands on Lenihan’s work, no such interest has been evident in Ireland. The approaches came about as Eddie was beginning to think what would happen his collection of stories when he died.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Eddie explained that there is a notable difference in how culture is valued in the US and in Ireland. “I’ve dealt with US universities very often telling stories, they are very good and do their business well. They see the values of the stories, they know from the stories I tell that I give the background. You can’t just tell a story unless you’re reading from a book, you have to give the context, I always give credit for where I get my information from”.

Though not surprised by the initial Irish reaction, Eddie is annoyed with it. “It is disgusting especially when you see all the money dithered away on nothing. I did the work willingly, I met the most wonderful people and heard their stories that was a privilege to do. The fact that people in Ireland are not interested in the collection but are happy to spend money on nothing is disgusting”.

He continued, “I always say fair play to JP McManus, he gives back to Irish culture, he knows the value of Irish life, people with wealth equal to him give nothing, they have no sense of Irishness, of who we are and what the country could be. Look at the success of Limerick which has been greatly helped by McManus, fair dues to him I say”.

Lenihan laughed when asked by The Clare Echo if there are Clare equivalents to JP McManus that could put their hand up. It prompted him to recall a rare piece of recognition in the Banner County, “I’ve been telling stories at the Fleadh Nua for 20 years. This year in Clare, I got something special, I got a gradam which is medal awarded to persons in recognition of their service, would you believe it that it was the first time in Clare that something was given to me for my work. I’m very much grateful for it”.

There is little hope for the 72 year old that the collection will end up in Ireland. “I’ve very little hope. Look at how our country is being run. There was never more money in the country but look at the shambles in our hospitals, our housing and so much more. Culture has always been the poor relation, it’s lumped in with the minor ministries in Government like the Gaeltacht and five others but then even the big ministries like health, look at the state of our health services”.

“In America they will appreciate it because it’s social history which you cannot replace. I was looking for a point of history in Kerry recently, it was to do with The Troubles and a woman who was 93 years young didn’t know the place I was looking for, she was 93. That’s just one example. If this stuff is not got, it’s bye bye and gone into the graveyard. I’ve always said that our graveyards are full of great storytellers but what good is that. Once these people are gone and the social history is not recorded we’re left with a blank page, if we don’t know where we’ve come from how are we supposed to find we’re going,” the storyteller added.

First refusal will be given to Eddie’s son Eoin, he confirmed. “There could be another twist, my son Eoin has expressed an interest in the collection. He lives and is married in Germany, he has a family and bought a house there. He would have first choice. Before I give the stories to anyone I would need to look at them all because there was stories told to me in confidence”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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