Archive footage from an RTÉ show in 1979 documents the talent and tradition of Irish storytelling. 

Seanchaí (shan-a-key) were Irish storytellers and the definition of entertainment in old Ireland, known for reciting tales of Irish folklore, fables, myths, and legends.

This type of Irish tradition was passed down from generations and stories would be re-told purely from memory. In the RTÉ show 'PM', presenter Doireann Ní Bhriain speaks to some of these storytellers in County Clare

First, we meet Sonny Welsh from Caherhurley, Bodyke, County Clare, as he finds an attentive audience in a local pub while reciting the story of ‘Timmy Coffey’s Cat’ about a sick cat who recovers and kills mice.

In Sixmilebridge, Christina Hoban is a poet that has been chronicling local and national events. She sits in front of an open fire and recalls how she was first inspired by a local protest over a rise in the price of a pint. 

She reads from her creation:

"Have you heard of the strike that is on in the Bridge?
Sure the porter is all packed away in the fridge.
It was the boys’ decision when the pint was increased.
Because of the cider, the pubs had them fleeced.
The publicans met and decided to raise the price of the pint and their stock in trade.
But says Laurence to that, we’ll not be outdone.
We’ll go on the dry and then we’ll have fun."

In the town of Kilkishen, another local bard PJ Halloran describes the inspiration he found in a flowing river and wrote ‘Where the Owenogarney Flows’ which he also performs in song.

This incredible piece of television was aired on 27 March 1979. The presenter is Doireann Ní Bhriain.

*Originally published in May 2021. Updated in May 2024.