A vocal local focal point

Long before TV or the Internet, folk in Ireland had to entertain each other to get through the long nights. Certain houses in a locality became known as Rambling Houses where the community would gather to be entertained, educated and informed - people rambled on in, no invite was needed, no guest turned away.
We reckon in these strange times, there are elements of this lost art that deserve to be both revived and revamped and so here we are, Rambling House - Lockdown edition, is born.

Mixing the old and the new

In these unusual times where we are all under the same roofs, why not try and recreate these old time story houses and add in a bit of a splash with your family's own personality along the way?

The only rules are that for the duration of the Rambling House, the only modern technology allowed are the laptop for the Zoom call, the old style microphone and maybe a quick snap or two on a camera to capture the evening for your family album. Get into character and be transported to a bygone era.

So do a bit of preparation on your party piece, help bake a cake for the break, go fancy and dress up for this is a mini party when you're in a time machine back to an age before even your grandparents' time. Come on in to the Lockdown Rambling House - you're as welcome as the flowers in May!


Origins of a rambling house

Rambling House seeks to recreate how our forefathers entertained themselves in days gone by. A world without nightly soap operas, football or a film for enjoyment may seem hard to imagine, but perhaps we are the ones who are lacking proper homespun entertainment? 

Back then, long nights in Ireland were passed by ceilidhing (or airneal/scoraíocht) in what was known as a rambling house. This was a house where people gathered for gossip, storytelling - and perhaps the odd song and dance late into the night. 

These houses served an important function in the days before radio, television and modern transport; we have rambling houses to thank for ensuring a lot of traditional lore, stories and music were passed on from generation to generation. 

“It's not magic that takes us to another world
– it's storytelling.”

Val Mcdermid

A nod to the past

Some years back, Racontour Productions created Rambling House with a six-part series of hour long programmes on local station Inishowen Community Radio conjuring up a treasure trove of stories and lore about the unique area that is the Inishowen peninsula, as told by some of its most colourful local characters. These stories have been passed on to these locals from generation to generation and we were delighted to have been able to archive this material - before it is lost forever. 

Rambling houses may be a thing of the past, but it is comforting to think that in a handful of places around the country, with a bit of meitheal around the kitchens of Ireland, their spirit lives on for the future. Perhaps when the Lockdown is over, you can help your locality set up a rambling house to record the very best oral material on offer?

Supported by Social Impact Ireland

We are proud to have had the support and encouragement of Social Impact Ireland or SII to develop Rambling House - Lockdown Edition. Enrolling in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, Eamon, Pauline, Annabelle and the team set about ensuring we pivoted our projects in light of the chaos and thus was born the pivot to an online storytelling resource for families to participate in around the kitchen table. 
This not for profit social enterprise is designed to encourage family cohesion by having a good night's old school entertainment safely at home. We want to see children develop their storytelling skills and we want grandparents to dig deep and tell their many stories and with any luck, record them. 
The project is part of a bigger project called Digital Landscape Gardening which can be broken into two sections: 1) storytelling and story collecting 2) developing a free digital platform on which participants can upload their own stories about their locality.

 "The Rambling House initiative is well attuned to the needs of the times we are in as well as being a gathering point for content related to the core project."

Eamon Ryan, CEO, Social Impact Ireland

Master storyteller

Eamon Kelly, the famous seanchaí, who hosted the 1950’s RTÉ Radio One series, “The Rambling House” described a rambling house as being a place “where the affairs of the day were debated, where entertainment mingled with education”. That programme began with the invitation: 

”The ricket is thatched, the fields are bare,

Long nights are here again,

The year was fine, but now ‘tis time,

To hear the balled men,

Boul in, boul in and take a chair,

Admission here is free,

You’re welcome in the rambling house,

To hear the Seanchaí”

The master at work

Here's the great Eamon Kelly telling some stories. Eamon brought a tradition of storytelling to the masses both in his published works and for years in Galway where he ran a one-man show telling stories to enthusiastic, receptive crowds. Born in 1914, the man himself died in 2001, having traveled the world, been nominated for a Tony on Broadway and shared countless hours of stories with his Irish audience back home. Traditional Set Dancing to music from Tony McMahon, Kevin Glackin and Paul McGrattan.