Sean Ó Riada Collection /Bailiúchán Sheáin Uí Riada

Repository: UCC Library Archives Service

Identity Statement

TitleSean Ó Riada Collection /Bailiúchán Sheáin Uí Riada
Archive ReferenceIE BL/PP/OR
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1913-1981
Extent Medium53 boxes + ephemera


Creator(s): Ó Riada family

  • Administrative History ↴

    Seán Ó Riada was born John Reidy on 1 August 1931 in the Erinville Hospital, Cork. His parents, John and Julia Reidy (née Creedon) brought young John back to their home in Adare, where he remained until he transferred to St. Finbarr’s College, Farranferris, Cork in 1943. Reidy subsequently attended University College Cork where he met his future wife, Ruth Coughlan. The pair married in the Honan Chapel on 1 September 1953. They went on to have seven children, Peadar, Eoghan, Alasdair, Cathal, Reitseal, Sorcha and Liadh. Ó Riada’s first venture into professional employment was with RTÉ where he was appointed Assistant Director of Music. From there he went on to become Director of Music at the Abbey Theatre. He began signing his name as Seán Ó Riada on Abbey compositions in 1955. This signalled a new phase in Ó Riada’s personal development, one which saw him become immersed in the traditional Irish way of life. Ó Riada was appointed Lecturer in Music at University College Cork and he and his family moved to Cúil Aodha (Coolea), in the Cork Gaeltacht in 1963. Ó Riada rapidly became a fluent Irish speaker. He remained in Cúil Aodha until his death on 3 October 1971. He died, following a heart attack, in King’s College Hospital, London.
  • Archival History ↴

    BL/PP/OR are the papers of Seán Ó Riada, the composer perhaps best remembered as being the first to blend Irish traditional music with it’s classical counterpart, most notably in the music which he produced for the film ‘Mise Éire’. This collection of papers was acquired from the Ó Riada family by University College Cork in 2004 who had preserved it in situ in the family home.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Ó Riada family ↴

    Section 1 deals specifically with the personal and professional papers of Ó Riada himself. This section has been divided into subsections to best reflect the composer’s personal and professional lives. In particular subsection C contains documents which show Ó Riada as a public figure, a man who took an interest in affairs which affected his community. In the later years of his life Ó Riada moved towards an all-embracing approach to ‘An Saol Gaelach’, as he termed it. He became involved in the publication of the Irish periodical ‘An Saol Gaelach’ and took an interest in issues championed by Comhairle na Gaeilge and Gaeltarra Éireann, for example the need for a local authority specifically for Gaeltacht areas. Documents relating to Ó Riada’s interest in the lives of the Gaeltacht people can be found in this subsection e.g. BL/PP/OR/466. Subsection B is concerned with Ó Riada’s personal life, including a period of time in which the composer was widely believed to have resided in Paris (items BL/PP/OR/ 253 – 271). Subsection C contains documents which show Ó Riada as a public figure, a man who took an interest in affairs which affected his community. Subsection D contains material relating to Ó Riada’s professional life. It covers his time in R.T.É. where he worked as Assistant Director of Music and later as a presenter of various music-based programmes. Documents from the period in which Ó Riada worked for U.C.C. can also be located in this subsection. Subsection D contains a vast quantity of musical scores created by Ó Riada for a number of projects. Subsection E deals with Ó Riada’s final illness and his eventual death in 1971. This section includes the last note Ó Riada ever wrote on 27 September 1971 (BL/PP/OR/675).

    Section 2 deals with the papers of Ó Riada’s wife, Ruth Ó Riada (née Coughlan). Subsection A is concerned with Ruth’s early life. It contains school reports, letters and a number of diaries kept by the young Ruth Coughlan. Of note is a school report which refers to Ruth’s problems with the Irish language (see BL/PP/OR/749). She struggled with the subject although, in later years, she was to become a fluent speaker of the language. Like her husband, Ruth, championed the cause of ‘An Saol Gaelach’ and became a leading member of Grúpa Miontionsclóirí na Gaeltachta (see Subsection H). Section 2 also contains documents relating to the Coughlan and Chauvie families (Ruth’s maternal and paternal relations) as well as documents concerning the Ó Riada children.

    Section 3 is devoted to photographs. It is divided into those which relate to Ó Riada and his relations and those which relate to Ruth and her relations. There are not many photographs of Ó Riada but included in this collection are two of the composer as a baby (BL/PP/OR/1012, 1013). The majority of photographs which have survived belong to Ruth and her relatives. There are numerous pictures of Ruth as a child and of her mother and father, Leonie Coughlan (née Chauvie) and Eddie Coughlan.

    Section 4 contains printed/handwritten copies of songs and poems as well as pamphlets, catalogues, programmes, journals, reports etc. It also contains a collection of music books owned by Ó Riada and members of his family.

    Section 5 consists of Associated Documents. These documents cannot be readily identified as belonging to any member of the Ó Riada family. However, they were found with the Ó Riada papers and as such have been included in this list.

    Section 6 relates to O Riada’s work with his film company, Draíon Films. Contained here is paperwork relating to the company and also film reels.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The Ó Riada papers have been listed and arranged so as to reflect the often disorganised nature of their creation. The project archivist imposed an artificial order so as to make the collection more accessible to researchers. However, any documents found to already be in a file-type arrangement were left in their original order.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Available by appointment with the Archives Service to holders of UCC Reader's tickets.
Conditions Governing ReproductionBy request only. All copyrights remain with the Ó Riada family.
Creation Dates1913-1981
Extent Medium53 boxes + ephemera
Material Language ScriptEnglish/Irish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialArtefacts belonging to Ó Riada, including his harps and bodhran are also preserved by UCC but are listed separately. The contents of his Library can be accessed through the main Boole Library catalogue. Students interested in gaining a more comprehensive over-view of Ó Riada’s life should read Seán Ó Riada: His Life and Work by Tomás Ó Canainn, a former student and colleague of Ó Riada.


NoteThis is a shortened version of the original description for this collection. A more detailed description is available by contacting UCC Library Archives Service directly.

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteAnn-Marie O'Doherty; James Moynes
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions38899