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Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

Eithne’s sister Pádraigín on Eithne’s growing up.

There was a certain inevitability that Eithne would become a singer. She was the second youngest in our Irish speaking family of eight, of a quiet disposition and a listener.

My father from Dundalk had been brought to Rann na Feirste Gaeltacht in Co. Donegal, as a young teenager in 1926 and totally immersed in its great language and singing traditions. He was a fine singer and had a deep love for the big songs he learned from Méabha Tharlaigh Mhóir, Máire John and Neillí Mhór, – songs such as Bádaí na Scadáin and An Chéad Mháirt de Fhómhair and sang them frequently to his children. He spent every summer there for almost 50 years, and it was there he met our mother, Eithne Devlin from Cullyhanna, Co. Armagh. Eithne, or Mamó, as she was known to the wider family circle, who came from a strong nationalist family living in Art Mac Cumhaigh country, known for its interest in education, local history and Irish.

Both of our parents had a great love of song, language and music which they passed on to us. Pádraig visited and collected song and lore from the last Irish speakers of Cooley and impressed on us our lineage and connection with that great local tradition. As a schools inspector, he would travel extensively throughout the west of Ireland and during those long car journeys – in order to shorten the road – he would sing for us every song in his repertoire and encourage us to make up new songs.

This was Eithne’s early inspiration and influence: sean nós and composition. That love of singing and of new composition was passed on, in turn, to her own children and to the children of Gaelscoil Dún Dealgan, where she was a teacher for 15 years. She taught song and tin whistle, produced plays, wrote new songs and was the driving force behind a project that would ensure that every child would have access to tuition in a traditional instrument in the school. Her gifts were multi faceted and she shared them generously with her own children and the children she taught.She was inspirational and a much loved teacher.  Likewise, that interaction, and her rich cultural bilingual family background, infused and informed her song writing and music which carries the hallmark of integrity, seriousness, honesty and beauty.