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The Doegen Records Web Project

To commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of the commencement of the Doegen recordings project, Dr Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh compiled a blog post entitled 'The Doegen Records: putting faces to voices from the past'.

In 1928 a German professor, Dr Wilhelm Doegen, came to Ireland at the request of the new Irish Ministry of Education to record Irish-language speakers throughout the island. The objective ─ to have a permanent record of the spoken language from all of the districts in which it was still spoken.

Funded by the Ministry of Education, the project was managed by the Royal Irish Academy’s Irish Studies Committee, assisted by the Irish departments in the universities at Cork, Galway and Belfast where recording was carried out, and in co-operation with the Convent of Mercy, Killarney where Kerry speakers were recorded and the Courthouse, Letterkenny to which Donegal speakers travelled. Recording under the strict protocols laid down by Doegen, an expert in the field of dialect recording and phonics, the project ran from 1928 to 1931. In all, 136 speakers in 17 counties recorded 400 stories, songs, prayers, charms and parables. The original matrices were transferred to Berlin and reformatted on shellac records.

Doegen, his assistant Herr Tempel, and the members of the Irish Studies Committee, compiled speaker data on survey sheets (Personalbogen) which included ― place of residence, level of education, occupation, parent’s place of origin, ability to play an instrument, facility in speaking English, etc.

Although the shellac recordings were long known to linguists, the Academy Library wanted to make them freely available to all via the internet. In 2008, with a funding grant under the Higher Education Authority’s PRTLI4, the Academy Library commenced a project to transfer the recordings to the web, together with annotated transcripts of content, speaker details derived from the survey forms, translations of the transcripts and other data. The project provided postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers with an opportunity to gain experience of participating in the growing digital humanities sector. The project was completed in October 2013.

The site is fully bilingual. It will enable comparative linguistic research and third-level teaching. It is a resource for family and local history. Data is still being collected to make the site more comprehensive, e.g. information on speakers, photographs of speakers. If you have information or images to share please contact Barbara McCormack, or Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh

Listen to one of the last speakers in Co. Antrim, Brian Mac Amhlaoibh (Barney McAuley), born in 1850 

Listen to W.T. Cosgrave, Head of the Irish government, speaking on 5 September 1928 in Cork during the recording session there. This is the only recording in English taken by Doegen during his time in Ireland 

Search by County, Speaker or Recording Title. Discover the Irish of your locality as spoken in the 1920s.

Visit the project website 

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