Frank Harte - Song Collecting

Song Collecting

Frank began collecting early in life and he remembered buying ballads from a man who sold them by the sheet at the side of the Adelphi Cinema and by the end of his life had assembled a database of over 15,500 recordings.

As a young man, Frank encountered many songs in his father's pub, 'The Tap', in Chapelizod saying:

"It was a great mixture of people in Chapelizod - Catholics and Protestants. There was also a fair few of the old crowd knocking around - the Dublin Fusiliers who had come back from the First World War and they all had their input too. They had these songs about soldiers going away to war and leaving the sweetheart behind and they were all tearjerkers. I would also hear a lot of the old music-hall songs and Victorian melodrama songs such as She Was Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage or . . . things that would tear your heart out, bring tears to your eyes."

He once wrote about his song collecting:

"I have been gathering songs around the country for a good number of years now, and seldom have I come across singers who are unwilling to part with their songs. Probably they realise as I do, that the songs do not belong to them, just as they did not belong to the people they got them from."

This was a philosophy that Frank went on to espouse greatly himself, having given countless songs and encouragement to singers in Ireland and abroad for over fifty years. Recipients of songs and information about them include Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Karan Casey, The Voice Squad, and musicians alike.

Despite his extensive collecting, he firmly believed that songs only existed when sung and to augment the point, he often quoted the poem 'Living Ghosts' by Brendan Kennelly:

All songs are living ghosts
And long for a living voice

Frank is referred to by members of Planxty in the biography of the band by Leagues O'Toole, 'The Humours of Planxty' as a source of songs.

"The Little Drummer" was a song passed on by the late, great Dublin singer and collector, Frank Harte. 'He is perhaps the single most important collector of songs,' says Christy.

'I remember Christy and myself going up to Frank Harte for songs,' adds Andy. 'I'd known Frank since very early in my career. He was an architect living in Chapelizod and I first met him in about 1963. He was always slightly to one side. It would be Johnny Moynihan and myself and our clique, and Ronnie Drew and The Dubliners, all more or less of the same age, and Frank was probably seven or eight years older than I was. I liked him a lot.'

Read more about this topic:  Frank Harte

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