Interpreting the role of the violin in the ballykinlar internment camp during the 'Anglo-irish war' of 1919-1921

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Music-making in the internment camp at Ballykinlar in Ireland during the 'Anglo- Irish' conflict, 1919-21, was one of several purposeful recreational activities that the British military permitted for prisoners. Apparently cherished by its participants (including the celebrated republican Peadar Kearney) were elementary group lessons in the classical violin and Irish fiddle, which were taught by fellow inmates Martin Walton and Frank O'Higgins, using inexpensive, imported instruments funded by the Irish White Cross. Scrutinizing a range of primary sources, this essay explores how the class functioned in the harsh situation of detention, and attributes its tolerance, even encouragement, by the British to a neo-Victorian paternalistic value-system. It further considers the appeal and meaning that the violin held for students, highlighting its possible value and function as a psychological coping mechanism in the face of 'barbed-wire disease', a motivating connection to Irish heritage, home life, and contemporary culture, and even a means of enacting covert resistance to British oppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbergcz040
Pages (from-to)355-382
Number of pages28
JournalMusic and Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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