neil martin - Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn

Single Room Cabin (location 1)


Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn…. We Bring the Summer With Us…is a song traditionally sung on May Day, extolling the energies and new life of the incoming summer season. Edward Bunting (1772- collected it at the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 and dates it back to 1633, while others suggest it’s early C18th. Bealtaine, the Irish word for the month of May, was an ancient Celtic festival at which fires were lit and summer celebrated. The air has a rousing spirit to it that lends it to instrumental treatments as well.



It is hard to believe that only 200 years ago many of our ancestors lived in simple one-room cabins in families of 6-8 people. This cabin came from Altahoney townland in the Sperrin Mountains. It dates from the late 1700s and is an excellent example of the type of dwelling occupied by many poor tenant farmers. Many single room cabins had clay sod walls instead of stone walls. The only furniture in the cabin would have been a crude table and a few 'creepies' (small stools). Potatoes grew in the ‘lazy beds’ in front of the house and were the principal source of food for the occupants. From 1800 to 1845, as the population of Ulster increased, lesser tenant farmers occupied smaller and smaller plots of land making subsistence a daily battle. As if these conditions weren’t tough enough, by 1845 a famine spread across Ireland caused by the failure of the potato crop bringing starvation and death to people who struggled to survive in the best of times. The Devine family owned the cabin but we do not know who lived in it during the famine years. As with so many other victims of the famine the family left no trace of who they were. Look out for the bed outshot - it is an alcove with a built-in bed extending into the back wall of the house, beside the fireplace.



Belfast-born Neil Martin is a composer and musician with an international reputation who enjoys a most varied and rewarding career encompassing dance, opera, theatre, film, television, radio, concert hall and studio. Recent works include a score for a 90-minute TV film, ‘Lost Lives’ (2020), theatre scores and chamber music. Amongst settings of Seamus Heaney’s writings are – ‘Sweeney’ (2018), a large-scale orchestral work based on ‘Sweeney Astray’, that has been recorded by RTE and will be released in 2021; an octet, ‘The Helping Hand’ (2017), after Heaney’s ‘Station Island’; a setting of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Aeneid’ (2016) for spoken voice and cello (with Stephen Rea) and ‘Further Shore’ a setting of the chorus from Heaney’s ‘The Cure at Troy’ (2013). Other significant works include ‘This is an Irish Dance’ (2015) a duet for dancer and cellist, co-created and performed with Jean Butler; a score for Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’ (2017); along with librettist Glenn Patterson, an opera - ‘Long Story Short: The Belfast Opera’ (2016); the choral symphony OSSA (2007). His first major orchestral work was ‘No Tongue Can Tell’ (2004), a concerto for uilleann pipes. His most recent work, a violin concerto, ‘d’allombra’, written during lockdown, is scheduled for its world premiere in the spring of 2021. A cellist and an uilleann piper, Neil has collaborated with many leading artists, from Liam O’Flynn, Bryn Terfel, Sam Shepard, Christy Moore, Stephen Rea, Josh Groban, Jean Butler and Barry Douglas to the LSO, RPO and all the principal orchestras in Ireland. He has scored music for plays on Broadway, in the West End and in Europe, and has contributed to more than a hundred albums. Performance venues range from Carnegie Hall to the Palazzo Vecchio and his ground-breaking work with the ‘West Ocean String Quartet’ has been lauded globally, and beyond – their recordings have been played aboard the International Space Station and the most recent album, ‘Atlantic Edge’, was released in April 2020.