Protestant memories enhance Irish folklore collection

Last summer, the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin made this public admission: “Irish Protestant cultural history is not as well represented in the archives … as that of the Catholic community.”

To address the imbalance, the special library launched the “Irish Protestant Folk Memory Project.” The effort was partially linked to the decade of centennial remembrances of the turbulent years leading to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, with the majority Protestant province of Ulster partitioned as Northern Ireland.

In the 26 counties of southern Ireland, “the social and political upheavals of this period profoundly affected the lives of many [minority Protestant] families, presenting challenges with respect to their sense of national identity and historic allegiance,” the NFC said.

So far, the NFC has interviewed over 50 people and been inundated with correspondence from Protestants who are keen to tell their stories and to record their history, The Irish Times reports under the headline, The Secret Lives of Ireland’s Protestants.

A lead researcher says there is compelling evidence that while most Protestants in the Republic saw themselves as completely separate from those in Northern Ireland, this was not always the case for those in Border areas. Also, although the Protestant community is comprised mainly of Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, it was never homogenous.

For more political background, read the concluding chapter of the 1983 book “Protestants in a Catholic State: Ireland’s Privileged Minority,” by Kurt Bowen.