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National Dance Archive of Ireland

O'Donovan, Joe and Siobhán

Context

Joe O' Donovan (1918-2008) was born in Cork city into a household filled with Irish music, song and dance. His father, Michael O'Donovan, was the founder of the Blackpool Step-Dancing Club and Joe's older sister Mary became a registered Irish dancing teacher. As a boy, Joe O'Donovan learnt to play the melodeon and accordion and later went on to learn a number of other instruments. He played with the Cork Volunteers' Pipe Band and was a keen collector of recorded traditional and classical/ operatic music and of books on history, folklore and current affairs.

Siobhán O'Donovan (1918-2013) was born Hannah Twomey in Cork city as one of thirteen children. She later adopted the name Siobhán to distinguish herself from a school friend also called Hannah Twomey. Siobhán and her eight sisters were all accomplished step-dancers. Friendly with the O'Donovan family, two of the Twomey girls, Breda and Siobhán, married two of the O'Donovan boys, Mike and Joe, in 1948 and 1949, respectively. Joe worked for an engineering firm and was heavily involved in the trade union movement but in his spare time he taught Irish dancing classes at An Grianán under the auspices of Sceim na gCeardchumann, a society run by trade unionists promoting an interest in all things Irish. For the remainder of his life, Joe O'Donovan played a significant part in the revival and preservation of many of the country's regional and national dances through workshops, lectures and articles. Joe and Siobhán O'Donovan were heavily involved in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (an international movement engaged in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music) and travelled extensively across the globe participating in festivals and teaching Irish dancing. Their unparalleled contribution to Irish music and dancing has been acknowledged by a number of tributes and awards, including the TG4 Sé Mo Laoch Tribute and Gradam Ceoil Award.

Content & Structure

The Joe and Siobhán O'Donovan papers are currently being fully processed and catalogued. They will be made available in the coming months. Please check back with us again soon.