Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin

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Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin.jpg
Pádraigín in India in January 2011 for a cultural event between Indian and Irish poets
Background information
Birth name Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Born (1950-08-23) 23 August 1950 (age 67)
County Louth, Ireland
Genres Irish traditional
Celtic music
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1999–present
Labels Gael Linn (1994–2005)
Ceoltaí Éireann (2006 – present)
Associated acts Len Graham
Eithne Ní Uallacháin
Dónal O'Connor
Website Official website

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin (Irish pronunciation: [ˈpˠɑːd̺.ɾˠɪɡʲiːnʲ nʲiː u.a.l̺ˠaxˠɑːinʲ]) (born 23 August 1950) is an Irish singer, songwriter, academic and former newsreader[1] from County Louth, Ireland.[2]

Early life[edit]

Pádraigín was born in an Irish-speaking household to Pádraig and Eithne Ó hUallacháin. Her father, a teacher, writer and song collector published older songs from the Oriel area in local publications, and encouraged Pádraigín and her siblings to sing.[3] They would take part in national Oireachtas competitions, Pádraigín winning multiple awards for her sean-nós singing.

Pádraigín attended school at St Louis, County Monaghan before beginning a course at the University of Ulster, studying Irish Song and Culture.[1]


1976–1980: RTÉ and Teaching[edit]

In August 1976, Pádraigín became a television newsreader at RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster. She also researched and presented numerous radio programmes in English and in Irish for RTÉ Radio.[1]

Pádraigín left RTÉ in 1980 to become a primary school teacher in Athlone, County Westmeath.[1]

1999–2004: Recording[edit]

In 1994, Pádraigín recorded her first full-length album with Garry Ó Briain. A Stór is a Stóirín was released on the acclaimed Gael Linn label and featured 36 songs for all ages, with an emphasis on songs suitable for primary school children.[4]

Britain's Channel 4 commissioned music videos for a number of songs on the album, featuring dramatisations of the lyrics as well as performances from Pádraigín. The videos later became regular features on TnaG (Ireland's newly launched Irish language television channel) between 1996 and 1998. That same year, she also featured on the television programme Light, Darkness and Colour.

With the album's popularity growing, Pádraigín began the recording of her second album, again with Gael Linn. In 1995, Ní Uallacháin released An Dara Craiceann: Beanath the Surface. It featured unaccompanied sean-nós songs and songs set to music, including the works of Irish poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.[5]

Pádraigín's third album, When I Was Young, was a collaboration between Garry Ó Briain (with whom she had collaborated on her first album), and her husband, folk singer Len Graham, and was released on the Gael Linn label in 1999. Two years later, Pádraigín released fourth album, An Irish Lullaby: Suantraí, under the Shanachie label in the United States. The recording featured collaborations with Len Graham, Garry Ó Briain, Máire Breatnach, harpist Helen Davies, fiddler Nollaig Casey and Uilleann piper Ronan Browne.[6]

Pádraigín left teaching in the Summer of 1999 to become a full-time musician and composer and began her doctorate at the University of Ulster.[1]

2002–2010: A Hidden Ulster[edit]

Pádraigín released her fifth album, An Dealg Óir: The Golden Thorn in 2002. The track-list consisted mainly of songs from southeast Ulster, Oriel in particular. At the time, Pádraigín was studying the traditions, songs and people of the area. The album was again released on the Gael Linn label and features influential Irish musicians and singers, including Steve Cooney, Liam O'Flynn, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Máire Breatnach.

The following year, Ní Uallacháin's book, A Hidden Ulster: People, songs and traditions of Oriel was published with Four Courts Press, featuring 540 pages of rare songs, their histories, biographies of authors, collectors and scribes and documentation of folk traditions in Oriel from the 17th century onwards.[7] Television and radio programmes and series were produced, based on 'A Hidden Ulster' and featuring Ní Uallacháin on RTÉ Radio 1, TG4, RTÉ1 and on BBC radio.[8][9] A Hidden Ulster was met with critical acclaim and featured in the Times Literary Supplement as a Book of the Year, and Irish Times Books of the Year list.[10] After the book's publication in 2003, Pádraigín was awarded Gradam Shean-Nós Cois Life in 2003 for her contribution to the Irish song tradition, and became the first traditional artist to be awarded a Major Arts Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.[11]

In 2005, A Hidden Ulster was shortlisted for the 2005 Michaelis-Jena Ratcliff Prize in Folklore and Folklife. That same year, Pádraigín was named Traditional Singer in Residence at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University Belfast.

Pádraigín released her sixth album, Áilleacht: Beauty in 2005. It is a collection of newly written and composed songs in Irish. Áilleacht garnered positive reviews and praise from both press and academics, with poet Louis de Paor stating:

This is a deceptively sophisticated composition in which a profound emotional disturbance is articulated apparently without artifice, impressing itself on the listener as though it were actual and direct speech. It is a fitting conclusion to a substantial and deeply satisfying piece of work.

— Louis de Paor, The Journal of Music,[12] January 2006 edition

Pádraigín performed songs from the album on BBC NI and RTÉ, alongside other performers to celebrate the publication of An Leabhar Mór: The Great Book of Gaelic, which was launched in Ireland and Scotland over a period of months in the countries various cities. Pádraigín also contributed a song to the album that accompanied the book.[13]

2011–Present: Songs of the Scribe[edit]

In November 2011, Pádraigín released her first album on the Ceoltaí Éireann label, Songs of the Scribe. As Traditional Singer in Residence at the Seamus Heaney Centre she collaborated with poets Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney on editing and translating song-poems from ancient Irish manuscripts, written by Irish scribes and scribe-poets. To record the album, Pádraigín travelled to St. Gallen, Switzerland to read the Irish manuscripts that had been removed from the country for safe-keeping in the event of Viking attack. Songs of the Scribe features all new compositions for poems and marginalia in Old Irish and in English. Songs of the Scribe received a positive reception and remained on the Celtic Note album charts for seven months between March and September 2012.[14]

The recording of Songs of the Scribe and Ní Uallacháin's visit to St. Gallen saw Ní Uallacháin begin work on a new creative album with fiddler/producer Dónal O'Connor based on older writings, including lore surrounding Irish Goddess Brigid. Pádraigín is also researching for a new book on the songs from the Irish Kingdom of Bréifne.

LET THE FAIRIES IN, Pádraigín's latest album of children's songs was released in September 2012.

Personal life[edit]

Pádraigín is married to folk singer Len Graham. They live in Glendesha, County Armagh and have two sons. Pádraigín is a sister of the late Eithne Ní Uallacháin and aunt to Eithne's son Dónal O'Connor, a producer and member of Irish traditional group At First Light.




External links[edit]