Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

Frank Harte (1933-2005)

Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

Frank Harte (1933-2005)

Article excerpt

The death of Frank Harte on the 27 June 2005 left a deep void in the world of Irish traditional singing. Frank saw himself not just as a singer but as the voice of the ordinary people of Ireland. He was born in 1933 in the village of Chapelizod, in County Dublin, where his father Peter owned the Tap public house. An architect by profession, he combined his architectural practice with teaching at the School of Construction in the Dublin Institute of Technology. One of his major commissions was the Irish National Stud in County Kildare.

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Frank's road to Damascus moment came when he came across a Traveller singing 'The Valley of Knockanure' and selling ballad sheets on the streets of Boyle, County Roscommon. This encounter sparked a lifelong interest in the idiom of the people. However, this was not his first experience of public singing. His father's pub in Chapelizod was frequented by a mix of ex-Dublin Fusiliers, who worked in the Ordnance Survey Office in the Phoenix Park, and locals, including members of St Laurence's Pipe Band. After band practice, the pipers would repair to the pub where, inevitably, a sing-song would break out. All sorts of songs were sung, including music hall songs, sentimental Victorian melodramas such as 'She Was Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage', and patriotic ballads. So, from a very early age he sought out the company of 'ould wans and ould fellas' who had songs.

His interest having been sparked in Boyle, Frank embarked on a lifelong crusade to acquaint himself with all of the diverse aspects of the Irish singing tradition. He travelled the country wide and actively sought out singers such as Paddy Tunney, Liz Jeffries, Geordie Hanna, Tom Lenihan, Mick Quinn, Len Graham, Sarah Anne O'Neill, Eddie Butcher, Cornie McDaid, and many more. …

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