New Film Celebrating the Life and Work of Tom Munnelly

Tom Lenihan, Tom Munnelly and Junior Crehan (Photo: National Folklore Collection, UCD)

New Film Celebrating the Life and Work of Tom Munnelly

'Tom Munnelly: Fear na nAmhrán' will be screened on TG4 on Christmas Eve.

TG4 has announced that it will broadcast a new film on the late song collector Tom Munnelly.

Tom Munnelly: Fear na nAmhrán will be broadcast on Christmas Eve at 8.15pm and will feature a range of contributors including singers Christy Moore, Thomas McCarthy and Lisa Lambe, and the collector’s wife, Annette Munnelly.

Born in 1944 in Dublin, Tom Munnelly was resident in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, since 1978, and made the largest field-collection of Irish traditional song ever compiled by any individual, comprising over twenty thousand songs.

After recording privately in the 1960s, and collecting especially from Traveller singers, Munnelly became a professional folklore collector and archivist with the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, with a concentration on English-language song.

He lectured and taught widely, was a leading activist in many folk music organisations and festivals, including the Folk Music Society of Ireland, the Willie Clancy Summer School and the Clare Festival of Traditional Singing, and he served on national bodies such as the Arts Council. He was also the founding Chairman of the Irish Traditional Music Archive from 1987 to 1993. Munnelly’s achievements were the subject of the festschrift Dear Far-Voiced Veteran: Essays in Honour of Tom Munnelly and he was also made an honorary Doctor of Literature by the University of Galway. He died in 2007. Munnelly was inducted into the hall of fame at the inaugural RTE Radio 1 Folk Awards in 2018.

The new film tells the story of Munnelly’s friendship with the Traveller John Reilly, whose songs were popularised by bands such as Planxty, as well as with people like Junior Crehan, Nora Cleary and Tom Lenihan, whose songs and lore he collected.

Tom Munnelly: Fear na nAmhrán is produced and directed by Sorcha Glackin.


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Published on 19 December 2023

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