"Believe it or not, mine is a job that most people find very hard to understand: Collecting stories.”
As introductions go, it’s quite the statement from Eddie Lenihan, who has been doing this ‘job’ for 42 years and has recently started a podcast,, regaled from his home in Crusheen, Co Clare.
You can’t miss Lenihan, his big bushy beard looking well weathered and winter warming. And his voice is exactly what we might need in these worrying coronavirus times, offering comfort and historical information.
Since he’s been telling stories for decades, he’s instantly at ease in front of a microphone. He sounds relaxed and thus it follows for the listener.
The first five episodes of the podcast are a mix of tales of the likes of Biddy Early and St Brigid — the first looked at Samhain, as he laments the influence of America’s consumerism and witches on our own traditions.
Around the topic he weaves enticing stories, such as a gambler and the ‘devil’s prayerbook’, and an, ahem, Eoghan O’Sullivan from West Cork who’s in a feud with an O’Leary over an incident at Fair Day in Rosscarbery.
The latest episode, ‘The Art of Collecting’, is more of a personal tale as Lenihan recalls how he got into the art of storytelling, remembering his own father as well as escapades along the way, such as when he was into motorbikes.
There are bon mots and insights dropped throughout.
“Y’see, if you tell what you should tell in history, and thanks be to god there are some real historians now writing in Ireland — I’m not talking revisionism, that’s another thing — but tell things as they are or were, you come up against some very uncomfortable truths.”
Another storytelling podcast that recently celebrated its 25th episode is the Dublin Story Slam, which is more of a live affair, produced by Julien Clancy and hosted monthly bycolumnist Colm O’Regan.
It’s a collection of short personal and true stories recorded at their months open mic nights.
With audience laughter sprinkled around the main tales, such as the uproarious window-washing/period tale from ‘In it Together!’ episode, it feels communal.
Another similar podcast to try is, usually hosted by Jonny Dillon in the National Folklore Collection at UCD.
It offers a platform to explore Irish and wider European folk traditions. Episode 24 discusses folk cures and medicines — the perfect tonic for coronavirus.