Why do people sing? That is the deceptively simple question that Lillis Ó Laoire sets out to answer in thisbook, On a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean, which explores the singing tradition of Tory Island, Co. Donegal.
Although Tory Island is small in size and has a full-time population of just 165 people, it has a rich musical tradition that dates back 200 years and remains an integral part of the island's cultural infrastructure today. The author has a longstanding interest in the island and its culture, having grown up a short distance away on the Donegal mainland, and so it was a natural choice as the focus of this study which seeks to understand the function of song. In On a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean Ó Laoire explores the occasions at which people sing, the significance of these occasions and of the songs and the singers chosen to perform. He recalls in the book specific occasions when songs were performed, the meaning of these particular songs and their relevance and importance to the islanders. He details the way in which the tradition is handed from one generation to another in Tory and the criteria upon which the singers are judged, and he also explains how songs act as a mediator of the dilemmas and tensions of island life and how they contribute to the strong sense of identity and historical continuity of the Tory Island community. The book includes a CD as well as song lyrics, maps and many photos.
This book was originally published in Irish as Ar Chreag i Lár na Farraige.