An archival collection which will be of great interest to Irish music enthusiasts is the papers of the family of Arthur Darley. Arthur Darley was a violinist, teacher, and collector of traditional Irish folk music. A founder member of the Feis Ceoil Association and the first director of the Dublin Municipal School of Music, Darley worried about ‘musical apathy’ in Ireland, which he countered by vigorously promoting Irish music festivals. The Darley archives were donated to the Library by Arthur Darley’s granddaughter Mary Warren Darley in 1996, and are available for consultation in the M&ARL Reading Room.
At the age of eight, Arthur Warren Darley (1873-1929) began learning the violin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. In 1899, he became a student teacher at the Academy, progressing to senior professor from 1900-1903. In 1928, he became the first director of the Dublin Municipal School of Music; it was a position in which he enthusiastically served until his death.
An accomplished violinist and music teacher in his own right, Darley was also an avid collector and proponent of Ireland’s musical heritage, and together with P.J. McCall, edited the Feis Ceoil Collection of Irish Airs, which was published in 1914. He was a keen advocate of the musical arts in Irish society and culture, and vigorously promoted Irish music festivals. A founder member of the Feis Ceoil Association (and originator of the Arthur Darley Prize for solo violin music), he often adjudicated in competitions. He regularly delivered special recitals and lectures at events across the country.
In one such lecture, delivered to the Eithne Choral Society in November 1910, Darley reflected on the place of music in Ireland. He noted that ‘the position of music in Ireland at the present time is a peculiar one. Often I think our people do not care for it, they do not want it.’ Instances of ‘musical apathy’ were to be found across the country. In Dublin, for example, Darley lamented that ‘great artists … that it is an education in itself to listen to’ would often ‘appear to a half empty room, yet if a boxing match is announced the doors will be besieged hours before they are opened.’
Nevertheless, Darley also found that there were reasons for optimism about the state of Irish musical arts. These included ‘the advancement of choir singing’, which had been aided by ‘the inception of the Feis Ceoil’, and also the ‘regeneration of the [Irish] language.’ He looked forward to a musical future:
‘Who knows but there is a rift in the dark clouds that hang over musical art in Ireland. Surely the day must come, with the awakening of the nation, when a love for the divine art of music will burn in the heart of every Irishman and Irishwoman. Then we will have in this land a people appreciative of music; a people who will encourage not only their own music, but also the great musical monks of the world. And this will lead ever upwards, it will lead let us hope to a great National school of Irish composers, a school worthy of our country, a school which will place Ireland amongst the great musical nations of the world.’
The Darley collection (TCD MS 10900) was donated to M&ARL by Arthur Darley’s, granddaughter Mary Warren Darley in 1996. It includes lecture notes and related material, compiled by Arthur Darley, as well as estate, financial, legal and genealogical papers relating to Arthur Darley’s wider family and his ancestors. It has recently been catalogued and numbered by Léonore Pinoteau – Gonzalez Linares (Trainee Curator from the Institut national du patrimoine in Paris) and Jess Mundy (student assistant and recent graduate).
Jess Mundy & Claire Allen, Assistant Librarian