E. Estyn Evans


Life
1905-1989 [Emyr Estyn]; b. Shrewsbury, educated Welshpool Country School and proceeded on scholarship to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he studied under H. J. Fleure; BA 1925; lectureship at QUB, 1928, given task of building a new department of geography; Chair of Geography, 1945-68, the first such academic post in Ireland; chairman of Ancient Monuments Council; co-fnd. Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, Co. Down, 1963; first [honorary] appt. first Director of Institute of Irish Studies, 1970 [unconfirmed var. 1968-1970]; President Institute of British Geographers, and of the Archaeology and Geography sections of British Association for the Advancement of Science;
Victorian Medal of Royal Geographical Society and Merit Award of Association of American Geographers; made extensive excavations at the late Neolithic site at Lyles Hill in Co. Antrim; described traditional life in Ireland as ‘a treasure-house of old ways unrivalled elsewhere in western Europe’; associated with E. T. Green, Oliver Davies, and Dame D. Parker in calling for the creation of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (est. by Westminster, 1958); Personality of Ireland (1973), reflecting invasionist ideas developed by Cyril Fox from the 1920s, distinguishing lowland and highland zones as areas of relative penetrability (vide, Personality of Britain, 1959) together with H. J. Fleure’s concept of an Atlantic zone;
engaged in controversy with Ruairdhrí de Valera over direction of ‘court tomb’ people’s migration, holding Scotland to be the origin of the pattern; identified the conflict between native and newcomer as ‘the clash that struck the sparks of Irish culture’ (The Common Ground); retired from QUB, 1970; first director of Institute of Irish Studies. DUB OCIL FDA

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Works

Monographs
  • France: A Geographical Intoduction (London 1937); Irish Heritage (Dundalk: W Tempest 1942); Mourne Country: Landscape and Life in South Down, with drawings by the author (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press [W. Tempest] Ltd. 1951; rev. edn. 1961; ep. 1967), 226pp. [ded. to Robert Lloyd Praeger and “Richard Rowley”; infra];
  • Irish Folk Ways (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1957; 2nd edn. 1961) [infra];
  • Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland (1966); The Personality of Ireland, Habitat, Heritage and History (London: Cambridge UP 1973, 1976; rev. edn. Belfast: Blackstaff 1981; 3rd edn., Lilliput 1992), 144pp. [with new bibliography];
  • ‘The Northern Heritage’, Aquarius, No. 4 (1971), pp.51-6;
  • with Brian S. Turner, Ireland’s Eye: The Photographs of Robert John Welch (Blackstaff 1977), sel. with comm. [intro.] by Evans;
  • The Irishness of the Irish (Belfast: Irish Assoc. for Cult., Econ. & Social Relations 1968), rep. as The Irishness of Ireland and Other Writings, intro. Gwyneth Evans, afterword by John Campbell (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1995), 256pp.;
  • Ulster: The Common Ground [Lilliput Pamphlets 12] (Mullingar 1984) [first written as a talk entitled ‘Understanding Ourselves’, given at Benburb; rep. as ‘The Northern Heritage’ in Aquarius 1971];
  • Northern Ireland, with gazetteer by Hugh Shearman (London: Collins 1951), 92pp. ill.;
  • Last Essays in Irish and European Culture (Dublin: Lilliput 1994), 280pp.;
  • Hymning the Occident: Ireland and Atlantic Europe: Selected Writings (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1996), 288pp.
Reprint edns
  • Ireland and Atlantic Europe: Selected Writings (Lilliput Press 1996), 288pp.; foreword by Henry Glassie, with memoir by Gwyneth Evans and epilogue by John Campbell; includes bibliography; publishers notice [31 May 1996] notes his connection with Carl Sauer of Berkeley and Fernand Braudel of the Sorbonne in their respective work on Mexico and the Mediterannean; also notes the ‘sheer quality of his prose and poetic imager’.
Articles [sel.]
  • ‘Belfast, The Site and the City’, in The Ulster Journal of Archaeology [3rd series] Vol. 7 (1944);
  • ‘Ecology of Peasant Life in Western Europe’ [Wenner Gren Foundation Intern. Symposium] (NJ: Princeton 1955) [q.pp.]
  • ‘The Atlantic Ends of Europe’, in The Advancement of Science, 58 (1958) [q.pp.];
  • ‘Folklife Studies in Northern Ireland’, in Journal of Folklore Institute, 2 (1965) [q.pp.];
  • ‘Archaeology and Folklife’, in Béaloideas, No. 41 (1973), pp.127-39;
  • ‘The Early Development of Folklife Studies in Northern Ireland, in The Use of Tradition, Essays Presented to G. B. Thompson, ed. A[ndrew] Gailey (1988) [q.pp.

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Bibliographical details
Irish Folk Ways
by E. Estyn Evans [Professor of Geography, Queen’s University, Belfast] (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1957), 324pp. CONTENTS [2nd imp.], Preface [xiii]; Ireland: The Outpost [1]; From Forest to Farmland [13]; Bally and Booley [27]; The Thatched House [.39]; Hearth and Home [59]; Pots and Pans [72]; Furniture and Fittings [85]; Farmyards and Fences [100]; Kilns and Clochauns [114]; Plough and Spade [127]; Lazy-Beds [140]; Harvest [151]; Cars and Carts [165]; Turf and Slane [181]; Home-Made Things [199]; Wrack and Wreck [218]; Boats and Fishing [233]; Fairs and Gatherings [253]; Fixed Festivals [267]; Weddings and Wakes [282]; Old Pishrogues [295]; Bibliography and Abbreviations [307; infra]; Index [313]. Photos by R. J. Welch and W. A. Green, et al. [91 ills.] (See extracts in Quotations, infra.)

See Bibliography of Irish Folk Ways (1957), in Ricorso Bibliographies, infra.

Mourne Country: Landscape and Life in South Down, with drawings by the author (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press [W. Tempest] Ltd. 1951). CONTENTS: Hills and the Sea; The MounTains; The Lowlands; In the Beginning; How the Mountains Took Shape; Drumlins and Eskers; The Wind and the Rain; High among he Heather; Birds, Beasts and Fishes; Giants’ Graves; Raths and Saints; Normans and Planters; Field and Farm; Boolies and Blaeberries; Wrack Harvest; Luggers and Long Lines; The Stone men; Pedlars and Smugglers; Home Crafts; House and Hearth; The Elder Faiths; The Call of the Mournes; 4 appendices on Inventory of Prehistoric Burial Sites; ballads of Mourne; Place-names; Walking and climbing in the Mournes; xvii plates; 93 ills.

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Criticism
  • R. Buchanan, ‘The Achievement of Estyn Evans’, in The Poet’s Place: Ulster Literature and Society , ed. Gerald Dawe & J. W. Foster (Belfast: QUB/IIS 1991), pp.146-56 [see also under Hewitt, q.v.];
  • Virginia Crossman & Dymphna McLoughlin, ‘A Peculiar Eclipse, E. Estyn Evans and Irish Studies’, in Irish Review, 15 (Spring 1994), p.79-96 [‘why the work of one of the most innovative and creative writers on Irish society has been effectively eclipsed’];
  • Brian Graham, ‘The Search for the Common Ground: Estyn Evan’s Ireland’, in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers [n.s.], Vol. 19, No. 2 (1994), pp.183-201.
see also ...
  • W. J. Smith & Kevin Whelan, eds., Common Ground, Essays on the Historical Geography of Ireland (Cork UP 1988); B[rian] J. Graham & L. J. Proudfoot, ‘A Perspective on the Nature of Irish Historical Geography’, in An Historical Geography of Ireland (Cambridge UP 1993).
Queries
  • G. B. Thompson, ‘Estyn Evans and the Development of the Ulster Folk Museum’, in Studies in Folklife presented to Emyr Estyn Evans, ed. D. McCourt & A[ndrew] Gailey (197?); ‘Tory Island, A Living Fossil’, review of The Tory Islanders: A People of the Celtic Fringe (Cambridge UP 1979).

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Commentary
Francis Shaw, S.J., ‘The Irish Folklore Commission’, in Studies (March 1944), pp.30-36: ‘It is to be hope that when circumstances permit the work of investigating our social history and material folklore will be greatly extended. It is a subject of great value and one which is likely to make a popular appeal. The publication of Dr. Estyn Evans’s Irish Heritage: The Landscape, the People and Their Work robs us of our [34] last excuse for lack of interest or indifference to the value of this side of folklore, if indeed we had any excuse after the appearance of Dr. Conrad Arensberg’s The Irish Countryman.’ (pp.34-35.)

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Thomas Bartlett, et al., eds., Irish Studies: A General Introduction (1988), ‘our objective in this volume has been to explore not only, in Estyn Evans’s classic formulation of the personality of Ireland, ‘the habitat, history, and heritage’ of the island and its people, but also the dynamics of social change ... &c.’ [6]. Mary Cawley’s essay, the first, is called ‘Ireland: Habitat, Culture, and Personality’, and under the section heading ‘personality’, remarks, ‘most notable [of marked regional contrasts] are a broad east-west divide and the special identity of north-east Ulster which is the product of a series of exceptional cultural, economic, and political circumstances ... including the underlying resource base ... &c.

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Kevin Whelan, ‘The Basis of Regionalism’, in Prionsais Ó Drisceoil, ed., Culture in Ireland, Regions, Identity and Power [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference, 27-29 Nov. 1992] (QUB: Inst. of Irish Studies 1993), pp.42-43, ‘Estyn Evan’s work ... is seriously compromised by his adoption of the view that “the centuries fall away as one approaches the Atlantic and to journey from east to west is to travel into the past’ (Evans, ‘Some survivals of the Irish open-field tradition’, in Geography, xxiv (1939). However, Whelan subsequently highlights Evans as one of the few who have reflected the experiments in history writing of the French and others in this century, ‘In a roundabout way, historical geography has managed to smuggle some of those French concepts, such as regionalism, onto the Irish agenda. Its two most significant practitioners, Estyn Evans in Queens and Tom Hughes in UCD, were both trained in the French geographie humaine, with its emphasis on the dialectic between history and environment, between la longue durée and les évenements, and on the interpretation of the cultural landscape as a text to be decoded. In this perspective, existing cultural landscapes are seen as the cumulative creation of centuries of experience in which human desires needs have transformed the natural environment [... &c.] (p.49).

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John Robb, ‘Hegemonic Megaliths’, in Irish Studies Review, 7, 1 (April 1999), pp.6-11; includes discussion of Evans’s dispute with Ruairdhrí de Valera concerning the court tomb makers, whom de Valera saw as originating in Mayo and moving eastward to Ulster, and Evans saw as entering Ireland from Scotland; Robb notes that these competing perspectives have been characterised as ‘nationalist’ and ‘unionist’. (p.8). Bibl., Matthew Stout, ‘Emyr Estyan Evans and Northern Ireland: the Archaeology and Geography of a New State’, in J. A. Atkinson, et al., eds., Nationalism and Archaeology (Cruithne Press 1996).

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Terence Brown, Northern Voices (1975), ‘Seamus Deane had sensed a similar lack of reflection in Heaney’s recent work. In an interview for a student magazine he remarked, “The imagery of burial and resurrection in Wintering Out commemorates a resurgence of energy in his tribal traditions and civilisations being reborn. He truly feels and communicates the resurgence of energy in his tribe which he is channelling by using the skills that don’t belong to his tribe, but the tradition that put his tribe down into the bog. I think he’s not fully aware of this irony. His poems aren’t sufficiently reflective in that way.” (TCD [Miscellany]; Trinity Term, 1973; pp.12-13; Brown, 238.)

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Quotations
Irish Folk Ways (1957): ‘The outstanding interest of Ireland for the student of European origins lies in the fact that its historic literature, language and social organisation, as well as in its folklore and folk ccustoms, it illustrates the marginal survival of archaix elements of the Indo-European world.’ (Preface, p.xiv.); note that he later compares social arrangements around the Irish fire to those in Mongolia: ‘It is interesting to notice that it the Monggol usage to allot the right side of the yurt to men and the left side to women. We are surely dealing with a very ancient tradition related perhaps to the ordered routine of a pastoral nomadic life. For the Mongols the right and left sides were symbolised respectively by horse and cow. In the humblest Irish farms, which lack sanitary conveniences of any kind, it is customary for the women to use the byre and the men the stable.’ (p.66). For extensive extracts from Chap. 1, see infra.

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The Irish - Fact and Fiction’, [Introduction to] Brian de Breffny, ed., The Irish World: The History and Cultural Achievements of the Irish People (London: Thames & Hudson 1977), pp.7-18: ‘I suggest that the edict “Divide and Rule” has its source in a higher authority than the English Crown. A mosaic of varied local environments and inter-tribal feuds were realities which the English political manipulation could exploit but could hardly create.’ (p.8); ‘Whereas the English saw nothing but barbarism and obscurity in Ireland before the coming of the Anglo-Normans, the Irish cherished their ancient literature, and the pseudo-history of the annals was uncritically espoused by romantic nationalists such as the new Irelanders; and, astonishingly, it long remained the standard textbook version of early Irish history and has kept alive dangerous passions of pride and hatred .. it is hard for the Englishman to comprehend the Irishman’s view of the past, for all time appears to be foreshortened into the living present’ [8]. Quotes R. L. Praeger: ‘We Irish ... can never let the past bury its dead. Finn McCoul and Brian Boru are still with us ... the Battle of the Boyne was fought last Thursday week, and Cromwell trampled and slaughtered in Ireland towards the latter end of the preceding month.’ (no source; p.8.). [See further extracts, infra.]

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Temporary partition: ‘I regard partition as an unfortunate temporary necessity. In feeling as I do that the division between North and South is deep, that there were divides right through, I am not in any sense arguing for political partition. I think that the real answer in the future is for North and South and for the pepple inside the North, to get together and cross-fertilise each other, if not literally at least in the realm of ideas. I think this is a great potential for good, for innovation, to have two distinct cultures which should and must come together and integrate’ (Irish Times, 1970; quoted in Virginia Crossman & Dymphna McLoughlin, ‘A Peculiar Eclipse: E. Estyn Evans and Irish Studies’, in Irish Review, No. 15, Spring 1994, p.79-96 - asking ‘why the work of one of the most innovative and creative writers on Irish society has been effectively eclipsed’).

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The Common Ground: ‘So my theme is the common people and the land itself, the land that they’ve helped to make; because the land is far older than us all, far older than all human cultures’ (Ulster: The Common Ground, 1984, p.10; quoted in Crossman & McLoughlin, op. cit., supra.).

The Irishness of the Irish (1968): ‘[... I]n an understandable reaction from centuries of political domination, nineteenth century patriots popularised their own version of Irish history, and of Irishness. In the twentieth century Sinn Féin, in its very name, is a denial of theprocess of renewal under the stimulus of culture-contact which, to my mind, is the essence of Irishness ... Again and again, I suggest, cross-fertilisation has given Irish culture a touch of originality, even of genius.’ (p.6.)

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Irish byword: ‘The Irish are a bye-word for their prolonged failure to create an effective united Irish state.’ (Personality of Ireland, Cambridge 1973, p.68; quoted in D. G. Boyce, ’Separatism and the Irish National Tradition’, in Colin H. Williams, ed., National Separatism, Cardiff: Wales UP 1982, p.76.)

Ulster conservatism: ‘It is characteristic of this land that its best-known industrial product should be based on a crop grown here since pre-historic times [i.e. flax] ... the persistent medieval and Gothic conceptions of Ulster architecture ... the retention of Georgian proportions and modes of building far into the nineteenth century ... no doubt material poverty has had someting to do with it, and it has certainly acted as a safeguard against Bulgar extreme. But there is a deep-grained tendency to retain things that serve their purpose well, whatever changes of fashion may be popular elsewhere’ [from Northern Ireland, 1951; Quoted in Patricia Craig, ed., The Rattle of the North, 1992, p.215].

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British Ulster?: ‘more British than the British yet in other ways more Irish than the Irish’ (About Britain, No. 15, Northern Ireland, 1951; cited in Brian J. Graham, ‘No Place of the Mind, Contested Protestant Representation of Ulster’, in Ecumene: Journal of Environment, Culture, Meaning, 1, 3, 1994, p.28).

Sea traffic: ‘[T]he legendary histories tell of much trafficking across the seas in splendid curraghs which carried sails ... Allowance must be made for picturesque exaggeration, but there is no doubt that the monks of the Irish Church went far afield in their skin boats ... The sea-going curraghs were ideal craft for the Irish raiders who plundered west Britain and after the Roman occupation, light in weight, of shallow drft and capable of flying over the waves’ (Irish Folk Ways; q.p.).

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The Clash: ‘I think you will find that it is precisely the clash of native and newcomer that struck the sparks in Irish culture.’ (From excerpt in Sam Hanna Bell, ed., Within Our Province: Anthology, 1972).

‘“Remember 1690” … is not the motto of an historical cult … so much as a reminder of the threats to the Ulsterman’s security and independence.’ (Northern Ireland, 1951; quoted in Revs. Dewar, Brown & Long, Orangeism: A New Historical Appreciation, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland [1967], p.17.)

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References
Seamus Deane , gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: 581, F. S. Lyons, ‘The Burden of Our History’, a lecture, Belfast 1978, arguing that the revisionist revolution has not been sufficiently thorough going and needs to extend to economic, social, cultural, and history of ideas. ‘[W]hen we look beyond that [i.e., Kenneth Connell, pioneer in Irish economic history, with Population of Ireland, 1756-1845 OUP 1950] - to social history, cultural history, history of ideas - the poverty of what we have to offer is deeply disturbing. It is not long since Prof. Estyn Evans, in his Wiles Lectures, castigated Irish historians en masse for their neglect, not only of these matters, but of the physical environment within with our past has been lived. “It has been my contention ... that historical studies would be enriched if they paid more attention to the habitat and heritage and that closer co-operation with geography and anthropology would be fruitful ... to this specialist in the history of restricted periods it may well appear that the most powerful forces in history are individual personality and free will ... On the larger view ... I believe the personality of society is a powerful motive force and that its finds expression in the cultural landscape.” (Personality of Ireland: Habitat, Heritage and History (Belfast: Blackstaff 1981, pp.87-88). Unfortunately the case is much worse than Prof. Evans imagined ... &c.’ Gen. Bibl. cites Irish Folk Ways (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1957), under Folkore; and Personality of Ireland: Habitat, Heritage and History (Cambridge UP 1973), under Historical geography.

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Lilliput Press (Cat. 1995) lists Hymning the Occident, The Irishness of Ireland and Other Writings, intro. Gwyneth Evans, afterword by John Campbell (Lilliput 1995), 256pp., and cites also France 91937); Irish Heritage (1942); Mourne Country (1951); Irish Folk Ways (1957); Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland (1967); The Personality of Ireland (1973; rev. 1992).

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Notes
John Wilson Foster: Foster attributes elements in Heaney to reading of Estyn Evans’s Irish Heritage (1942) and Irish Folk Ways (1957); see Foster in The Critical Quarterly (Spring 1974), pp.36-47; cited in Terence Brown, Northern Voices, 1975, p.175).

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