This article was translated to Swedish and published by the Swedish publication Konservativ debatt. Here it is displayed in the original English-language form.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Gaelic Revival sought to recover and express Ireland’s native culture. In the face of cultural anglicisation and assimilation into Britain, this literary and scholarly movement proved an immeasurable service to the nation in returning to its Gaelic cultural roots. The thought was that by investing in cultural pursuits ranging from Irish language activism, and the expansion of vestigial Irish customs from rural Ireland throughout the nation at large, that the national struggle for independence might be achieved. 

Central to this movement were scholarly figures of significant national repute at home in Ireland, Dubhghlas de Híde, Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais, and Eoin Mac Néill, without whom the national struggle would not have reached its fruition in 1916 nor the struggles of Ireland’s War of Independence. 

Dubhghlas de Híde, the first President of Ireland, a prolific folklore scholar in his own right, sought to record Irish folklore through the Gaelic League and his private scholarly research. His work laid the groundwork for the conservation and collection efforts of future Irish scholars. 

However, the greatest of all the achievements of the Gaelic Revival is perhaps its culmination in the Folklore of Ireland Society – whose success may be attributed to the founder’s Swedish mentors. Established by Séamus Ó Duilearga in 1927 to collect, preserve, and publish the folklore of Ireland, the Society was later granted state funding in 1935 to carry out its efforts as the Irish Folklore Commission. Its mission – to record the remnants of Ireland’s traditional folklore and customs – was met with great success.

Séamus Ó Duilearga, the honorary director of the Commission, reflecting upon his work once used the analogy that for generations the old house of Gaelic civilization had been on aflame, and that it was the task of his generation to recover its furniture lest it all be lost.  

Swedish scholars such as Åke Campbell and Carl Wilhelm von Sydow were instrumental in the training and development of Ireland’s nascent folklorists. Indeed Sydow was personally responsible for the tutelage of successive generations of Irish scholars from Ó Duilearga himself to the later Seán Ó Súilleabháin.

During his studies, Séamus Ó Duilearga travelled to Sweden to study under and learn Swedish from Wilhelm von Sydow. Similarly, Seán Ó Súilleabháin at Uppsala University translated the folklore classification system used by Swedish scholars into a format best suited to Irish folklorists field-recording exercises. 

Most notably, is Ó Súilleabháin’s 1942 ‘A Handbook of Irish Folklore’, which was dedicated with the upmost sincerity “[t]o the Swedish People whose scholars evolved the scheme for folklore classification outlined in these pages and to the generations of Irish People both living and dead who preserved on their lips for us our rich treasure of traditional lore this book is gratefully dedicated.”

Bo Almqvist, another Swedish scholar who significantly contributed to the collection and study of Irish folklore, labelled the dedication “one of the finest gifts that the Swedish people ever received from Ireland.” 

So close were Irish scholars with their Swedish counterparts that Séamus Ó Duilearga, upon the death of Åke Campbell wrote that “[i]t seems incredible that Åke Campbell is dead, and that yet another loyal Swedish friend has been taken from me and from so many other Irish men and women to whom he had been friend…”

In 1971, the Commission was amalgamated into the Department of Irish Folklore at University College Dublin, where the National Folklore Collection stands as a monument to its efforts and archival staff continue the work of their predecessors. 

The links forged between Irish and Swedish folklore scholars played a pivotal role in the establishment of Ireland’s National Folklore Collection. This collaborative effort not only preserved Ireland’s rich cultural heritage but also fostered a spirit of cooperation in the realm of folklore studies between our nations, a spirit which it is hoped will persist and expand long into the future. 

This reciprocal academic relationship between Ireland and Sweden was the inspiration for Bo Almqvist, who studying under Caoimhín Ó Danachair a visiting Irish professor at Uppsala University, to contribute to the recollection and conservation of Irish heritage just as his fellow countrymen did so in the past. 

The laying to waste of our precious and rich cultural heritage has been dubbed scéal na hÉireann, the story of Ireland, given its persistent occurrence throughout Irish history. However, with the help of our Swedish friends, Ireland has recovered and created an eye-watering volume of scholarly materials relating to our ancestral folk customs, beliefs, and traditions.

Irelands folklore collection has now become a beacon to scholars from around the world, and it is no exaggeration to say that this could never have been the case if not for the efforts of Swedish scholars.

Sweden has rendered an indelible service unto Ireland, and it is one which, as testament to the friendship between our peoples, Ireland will be forever grateful. It is for that reason, that Ireland owes sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Sweden.

Posted by James Fitzgerald


  1. D c clan Hayes 17/02/2024 at 2:11 am

    Though the collection contains a wealth of information, much of it from school kids of the 1930s, I had thought it was largely unused, valuable though it is. Given the regime opposed collective memory, I will hold to that belief unless convinced otherwise.
    A good example is on holy wells which had different reputations with that of Naul being particularly good for eye ailments. Given Catholics were made to quarry lime in slave like conditions this is not a trivial case


  2. Ivaus@thetricolour 18/02/2024 at 5:37 am

    Irish civilization and culture was for centuries the product of its people,artists,
    poets,writers,scholars and monks long before any foreign involvement or
    contribution. DEBT ! Nooooo. thank you white privilage paranoia.
    On balance lets call in the DEBTS of Royalty,Rome,Europe which IRISH
    MONKS are credited for saving from collapse and never forgetting the DEBTS
    OWED TO IRELAND from Empire and Imperial parasites that prospered
    from the wealth and asset of Irish Culture and manpower,UK,USA and other
    Colonies past and present.
    I can acknowledge others involvement but will not cowtow to our history
    rewritten just as the Great Irish Genocide became the Great Famine.
    WHY is the Global Debt to IRELAND not recognized for its 800 years of
    suffering and ISOLATION…stand up and be proud,not a bloody Wimpie .


  3. Katie McGrath 30/03/2024 at 10:51 am

    Is it possible to obtain a copy of Sean O Suilleabhain’s Handbook of Irish Folklore 1942


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