The Society for Folk Life Studies

 Annual Conference, 2014

KILLARNEY, Republic of Ireland, 11th to 14th September

**50 years of heritage interpretation at Muckross House *

* The Irish kitchen * Landscape interpretation*

This year’s annual conference will take place in Killarney, Co.Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland. We will be hosted by the Trustees of Muckross House and Traditional Farms (, who are celebrating their first half century of running this important heritage attraction in the heart of Ireland’s first national park. The conference will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the folk life of this part of Ireland through both a wide range of papers as well as two excursions.

The conference sessions will be held in the Lake Hotel (, overlooking Lough Leane and close to Muckross House.

If you wish to attend this year’s conference, please complete the conference booking form and send it, with a non-returnable deposit of £75, to the Conference Secretary (Steph Mastoris) at: National Waterfront Museum, Maritime Quarter, Oystermouth Road, Swansea, SA1 3RD, Wales.

Due to the wide range of hotels and guest houses available within Killarney, the conference fee will comprise three rates:

  • The cost of attending the whole conference WITHOUT accommodation will be £200

(please visit for further information about accommodation in Killarney)

  • The cost of attending the whole conference WITH accommodation in the Lake Hotel (where the conference sessions will be held) will be £480 for single occupancy, and £360 per person for two people sharing a room.
  • Day rates for the conference (with lunch and dinner, but NO accommodation) are available:
    •  SFLS members:  £70 EACH DAY for the 12, and 13 and £40 for 14 September.
  • Non members:  £100 EACH DAY for the 12, and 13 and £60 for 14 September.

Blog of the conference available at:

A copy of the SFLS Conference 2014 programme (September 2014) is available in the link or below:


The Society for Folk Life Studies

Annual Conference

Killarney, Ireland:  11th to 14th September 2014

** 50 years of Muckross House * The Irish kitchen * Landscape interpretation **

The conference venue and hotel is the Lake Hotel, Lake Shore, Muckross Road, Killarney, Ireland


(as at 5-9-2014)

THURSDAY, 11th  September

17.15-18.00            Registration at the Lake Hotel.

18.00-18.05            Linda Ballard (President elect, Society for Folk Life Studies)


18.05-18.50     Michael Larkin (Chairman, Trustees of Muckross House)

                         Title: Half a century of heritage preservation and interpretation at Muckross 

19.15            Dinner at the Lake Hotel.

FRIDAY, 12th  September

09.00 Assemble at the Lake Hotel.

09.00-09.05     Linda Ballard (President elect, Society for Folk Life Studies)

                                    Welcome and introductory remarks.

09.05-09.50     Pat Dawson (National Parks & Wildlife Service)

Title: The impact of people on the landscape of Killarney National Park and its environs.

This talk will provide an overview of the historical impact of man on the landscape of Killarney National Park, from prehistoric times, until the early twentieth century.

9.50-10.30     Patricia O’Hare (Research and Education Officer, Trustees of Muckross House)

Title: Aspects of some Kerry calendar customs.

This talk will look in particular at the Feast of St Brighid (1st February) and the Feast of St Stephen (26th December) as celebrated within the County of Kerry

10.30 – 11.00     Tea & coffee

11.00-11.45     Dan Graham (Writer, lecturer and broadcaster, on topics relating to Ireland’s maritime history)

Title: Dingle, County Kerry: Nineteenth-century maritime connections with Britain and beyond.

The Great Famine ‘An Ghorta Mhor’ was indeed a calamity in Dingle and on its peninsula.   Yet what followed was a resurgence, a new awakening in the human spirit of its people and on their quest for a better future.  This economic revival was precipitated by the arrival of vast shoals of mackerel off the south west coast in the 1870’s. Dingle became a centre for the processing and exportation of fish on a large scale.  This lead to the development of a large maritime trade with many ports in the UK, Western Europe and beyond.  The spectre of emigration was curbed with new businesses and industries created in the town and surrounding area.  It was maritime Dingle’s Golden Age.

11.45 – 12.05     J. J. O’Shea (Researcher and broadcaster with Radio Kerry)

Title: The Irish Schools’ Folklore Collection Scheme of the 1930s through the eyes of school children today.

A look at the radio series “The Kerry Schools Project” which sought to raise awareness of the 1937-8 Schools Folklore Project initiated by the Folklore Commission in which children were invited to collect local folklore, customs and beliefs from their family and elderly neighbours. A Béaloideas Chiarraí (Kerry Folklore) project.

12.05 – 12.30     Brian Coakley and Deidre McCarthy (Brian specialises in mapping, database design and tourism material, while Deirdre is an archaeologist, archivist and folklorist.)

Title: The folklore and folklife of a section of the Kerry Way

The Kerry Way Folklore Project aims to capture the folklore, folklife and customs relating to the people and landscape on a section of the Kerry Way walking trail, extending from Lord Brandon’s Cottage on the lakes of Killarney to Glencar to the west of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. It is a Béaloideas Chiarraí (Kerry Folklore) project.

12.45     Travel to Muckross Garden Restaurant, Muckross House, Killarney for lunch.

14.00 – 17.30     A guided tour of Muckross House and Muckross Traditional Farms

14.00-16.00     Guided tour of Muckross Traditional Farms.

16.15     Guided tour of Muckross House.

17.30     Return to Hotel.

19.00     Dinner at the Lake Hotel.

20.30-21.30     Entertainment at the Lake Hotel with traditional musician Jimmy Crowley.

SATURDAY, 13th September

09.00 Assemble at the Lake Hotel.

09.00-09.45     Mary McGrath

Title: The history of the Kerry bog pony.

The Kerry Bog Pony is a small working pony indigenous to the south Kerry region where it is mentioned as far back as the 16th century.  It was used to carry turf in from the bogs, seaweed from the beaches, butter to the market in Cork and fish from Dingle to the market in Tralee.  From the 1950s onward much of the work on the land was mechanised.  As there was no need for the ponies they gradually disappeared until in the 1990s there were only 26 known examples.  This is the story of their rediscovery and the attempts made to ensure that the breed survives and does not become extinct under our watch

09.45-10.30     Karena Morton (Conservator at the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life) Title: Material culture around Irish bog butter.

From early antiquity, butter, often in very large quantities was prepared and placed in a variety of containers before being intentionally put into marshy ground and bog-holes. This talk will consider the phenomenon that is ‘bog-butter’ and discuss the circumstances of deposition and recovery of this ‘hidden treasure’ while also looking at the wide range of container types and materials in which bog butter is found.

10.30-11.00     Tea & coffee

11.00-11.45     Claudia Kinmonth (Freelance historian of domestic interiors)

Title: Bringing home the bride: 19th-century Irish marriage traditions through art.

Traditionally so-called ‘strong farmers’ used to arrange the marriage matches of their sons and daughters. Instead of inheritance upon death of a family farm, this allowed the elders to retire and have a younger couple take over while they were still alive.  Hard bargains were struck over dowries, some involving matchmakers. Those who rebelled against having their marriages arranged for them, resorted to some intriguing alternatives.

As part of her decades of research into Irish farmhouse furniture, and then into previously little known paintings that depict a range of aspects affecting rural marriage, Kinmonth’s illustrated lecture tells the story of arranged marriage through art history. Juxtaposing poems with early documents and texts, plus disparate images, a social history of Irish marriage unfolds.

11.45-12.30     Regina Sexton (Food & culinary historian)

Title: Toasting the oatcake: an exploration of the use of the hardening stand as a baking utensil.

Oats have a particular affinity with Ireland and oats products like breads and wet preparations were staples of the Irish diet until into the eighteenth century. This presentation will explore the dietary role of oats and the material culture associated with baking cakes. Special attention will be given to toasting or hardening stands that were used for baking or drying of cakes before the open fire.

12.30     Lunch at the Lake Hotel.

13.30     Excursion visiting key historical sites of interest in and around Killarney, led by Patricia O’Hare.

13.30     Depart for Ross Castle. The party will split into two (depending on numbers) and half will enter Ross Castle, while remainder will visit the nearby prehistoric Copper Mines. Then the two groups will swop around, with the first visiting the Copper Mines and the second visiting the castle.

14.45     Depart for Aghadoe ecclesiastical remains and viewing site.

15.30     Depart for Ogham Stones at Beaufort.

15.50     Depart for the spectacular glacial landscape of the Gap of Dunloe, a well known tourist spot for at least 150 years.

17.15            Depart Gap of Dunloe for Lake Hotel.

19.15            Depart Lake Hotel for Schoolhouse, Muckross Traditional Farms.

19.30            Dinner and a night of Irish cultural entertainment at the Schoolhouse, Muckross Traditional Farms.

19.30             Dinner at Schoolhouse.

20.30            Entertainment commences. 

Sunday, 14th September

Information regarding church services will be available for those wishing to attend

09.00 Assemble at the Lake Hotel

09.00-09.45      Annual General Meeting of the Society for Folk Life Studies.

09.45-10.30     Peter Foynes (Director of the Butter Museum, Cork)

Title: The creamery in rural Ireland.

An illustrated introductory survey of the history and role of the creameries which flourished in Ireland up to the 1970s. This will look at the origins of the system, its distribution and how creameries functioned.

10.30-11.00     Tea & Coffee

11.00-11.45     Jonathan Bell (formerly of the National Museums Northern Ireland)

Title: Farming and the landscape in Ireland 1750-1900.

The talk will outline the changing relationships between farming and landscape at the macro level (such as enclosure and reclamation of marginal land) and the small scale (such as field boundaries and tillage techniques).  The activities of state bodies, landlords and farmers will be outlined, but the paper will argue that in Ireland, most ingenuity and environmental sensitivity was found among small tenant farmers.

11.45-12.45     Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby (Dept of Music, University College Cork)

Title: The traditional music of North Kerry: The work of a music collector during the 1980s.

A history of the Muckross Music Collection with special emphasis on the music collected in North Kerry

12.45-13.00     Concluding remarks

13.00             Lunch at the Lake Hotel

End of conference