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James Goodman music manuscripts online

Dedicated Goodman homepage on the Irish Traditional Music Archive
Dedicated Goodman homepage on the Irish Traditional Music Archive

Trinity College Library has a wonderful collection of pre-Famine music, saved for posterity by the then Professor of Irish at Trinity, James Goodman. Six  volumes of tunes and texts are now freely available online thanks to a collaboration between the College and the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

In a significant collaboration between the Library of Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA), the six manuscript volumes of Irish folk tunes and song texts compiled in the mid-nineteenth century by James Goodman (TCD MSS 3194-3197 and 11320-11321) have been digitised and made freely available to a worldwide audience through a dedicated website at

James Goodman (1828-1896), a Church of Ireland clergyman who was Professor of Irish at TCD from 1879 until his death, grew up in Co. Kerry speaking both Irish and English. He developed a passionate interest in Irish traditional music, learned to play the uilleann pipes, and began to transcribe folk tunes directly from local musicians as well as from manuscript and printed sources.

James Goodman (1828-1896) (MS 4896)
James Goodman (1828-1896) (MS 4896)

Between 1861 and 1866 he compiled fair copies of the music he had collected over the previous two decades – more than 2300 tunes in total. These manuscripts were later presented to the Library of Trinity College Dublin: four volumes immediately following Goodman’s death, and a further two (including the words for some of the tunes) in 2006 after they were rediscovered by one of his descendants.

The Goodman manuscripts are particularly important because they preserve traditional tunes from the Munster area in pre-Famine times. The Irish Traditional Music Archive has already published many of the tunes in two printed volumes – Tunes of the Munster Pipers, edited by Hugh and Lisa Shields (1998 and 2013) – and as interactive scores at and

A page showing Goodman's work (MS 3194)
A page showing Goodman’s work (MS 3194)

These publications have facilitated many performances and recordings of the tunes in recent years. The new online resource makes the complete collection easily accessible in its original hand-written form for the first time, and will enable further study and performance of this seminal collection for many years to come.

The full description of the Goodman material in the Library can be accessed through the Manuscripts and Archives online catalogue.

Roy Stanley

Music Librarian