1. Patrick Griffin
Patrick Griffin (1856-1936), son of Maurice (a farmer) and Johanna of Ballyroe (Baile Reo) north west of Dingle, Co. Kerry, married Catherine (Cait) Sheehy in Ballyferriter RC Church on 2nd February 1887. Cait was the daughter of Lawrence Sheehy from the adjacent townland of Graffee (Na Grafaí). Patrick and Cait lived in Ballyroe and they had 8 children of whom 6 were surviving in April 1911. One of their children, Mary Griffin (1895-1973), married Charlie Flannery (1895-1967), a Dingle fisherman, in Ballyferriter RC church on 17th of April 1917 with witnesses John Guiheen and Margaret Quirke. Mary and Charlie’s daughter, Margaret, married my father Johnny Piggott of Dooks, near Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry.
Patrick was the local seanchaí for Baile Reo and the surrounding district of Baile na bPoc and Na Grafi (Graffee) and he was following in both his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, as they were also storytellers who originally came from Connacht. His stories were collected by three people. Patrick’s daughter Bridget Griffin (1889-1961) married James Sullivan (1875-1962), a fisherman from nearby Ballyganeen, in Ballyferriter church on 16th February 1909. They had thirteen children: Patrick, John, Michael, Thomas, Maurice, Kathleen, Martin, James, Lawrence, Eamon, Breda, Mary and Brendan. Between 1932-1935, Kathleen, born in 1918, took down 15 stories from her grandfather Padraig in copybooks which are now housed in the Irish Folklore Commission premises in Dublin. She married Flurrie O’Donoghue from Baile na Buaile where I spent many days visiting her, listening to her accounts of how she collected the stories from her grandfather, before she passed away at the age of 96 in 2015. Kathleen’s brother Martin born in 1921, took down 35 stories from Padraig which are also in the Irish Folklore Commission in Dublin. Martin immigrated to Boston in 1946 and, although I never met him in person, we did speak by telephone on a number of occasions before he passed away in 2012 at the age of 91.
The third and main collector of Padraig Griffin’s stories was Sean Ó Dubhda (John O’Dowd), a primary school teacher who collected stories from seanchaí throughout Kerry for the Folklore of Ireland Society. This Society was established in 1927 to save the folklore of Ireland and was the forerunner of the Irish Folklore Commission which was established in 1935. Ó Dubhda was born in Co. Clare in 1878 and came to Kerry after completing his teacher training in Dublin and he reported:
“Patrick Griffin told the stories exactly as he heard them to the extent you would think he was reading from a book. He would continue telling them, not only throughout the night but throughout the day as well if he was allowed to”.
Kathleen remembers Sean Ó Dubhda coming to her family home to listen to her grandfather and his director, Séamus Ó Duilearga, often accompanied him on these occasions. Sean always travelled by bike and he brought a quarter of tobacco for Patrick. He collected over 40 stories from Patrick between 1930 -1935, most were recorded on wax cylinders with his Edison Ediphone recorder. Although very few of these original sound recordings have survived, as the cylinders were re-waxed for further recordings after the stories were taken down on paper (the Society funding was very scarce), I was very lucky to find a brief 2-minute voice recording of Patrick Griffin, made by Ó Dubhda in 1932, in the recording archives of the Irish Folklore Commission, who kindly presented me with an mp3 copy of his voice recording which I cherish!
In 1992, Áine-Máire Ní Fhaoláin completed an MA-Thesis in the University of Maynooth on the collected stories of Patrick Griffin which was subsequently published in book format by An Sagart An Daingean in 1995 entitled “Scéalta agus Seanchas Phádraig Uí Ghrífín”. The book, containing over 80 stories, is a wonderful testament to the life and storytelling tradition of the seanchaí Patrick Griffin.
Recording of Patrick Griffin and photo of Sean Dubhda provided courtesy of Irish Folklore Commision, Dublin Ireland