University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


In conducting preliminary research for my undergraduate honors thesis, I discovered a two-volume publication in Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas, The Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (1818) by Joseph Cooper Walker, Esq. (c. 1761-1810). It held a variety of information on the music and poetry of ancient Ireland. What interested me most was the collection of melodies at the end of the first volume. Looking at overviews of Irish music collection, I saw little mention of Walker and his Irish Bards. Upon further investigation, I found that the first edition of his book (1786) contained only fifteen melodies. It was then that I based my thesis around Walker, his book, and the world in which he lived. This article features a segment of that thesis, focusing on Walker's preface (which he calls an Advertisement) to the original fifteen melodies. This Advertisement is a primary document that marks Walker as a pioneer Irish ethnomusicologist. My study also investigates possible explanations for why Walker was overlooked or underestimated for his ground breaking work in the study of Irish music.