Ballycastle Reanimates the Sam Henry Collection

Historic collection inspires a new generation of storytellers
13th January 2021
Scad the Beggars bring the Sam Henry songsheets to life!
13th January 2021

Ballycastle Reanimates the Sam Henry Collection

Friends of Ballycastle Museum with pupils from Cross and Passion School

Project Attributes


Sam Henry


Coleraine Museum


13th January 2021

Friends of Ballycastle Museum showcased local photographs and songs from the Sam Henry Collection at an event in Portnagree House as part of the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Museum Services have been working with the Friends of Ballycastle Museum on the Sam Henry: Connecting with the Past, Collecting for the future project. This project enabled the Friends to have hands on access to the collection to allow them to interpret and share the archive with their local community. They organised an evening of local songs from the collection sang beautifully by members of the Ballycastle Comhaltas/Baile an Chaistil. These songs were all collected by Sam Henry either in the Ballycastle and surrounding region or were about the local area. The Friends gave a fascinating talk on some of the photographs in the collection – adding a great amount of detail about people and places featured. Some of Sam’s glass slides were displayed using a magic lantern, as he would have done when presenting them in lectures that he gave across Northern Ireland. To think that these haven’t been shown like this since Sam last used them possibly 75 years ago is remarkable.

The Museum Service has also been working with pupils from Cross and Passion School in Ballycastle. The students were interested in Sam’s cameras and photograph collection, particularly the photographs of places that they recognised and could identify with. After making their own pinhole cameras, the pupils photographed their local area, alongside experimenting with Polaroid cameras and other SLR film cameras. For these students this was possibly the first time that they had taken a photograph and not instantly seen the end result. Their photographs featured at the Friends of Ballycastle Museum event. Following on from this the pupils worked with Museum Services to produce a podcast inspired by Sam Henry’s Radio broadcasts. You can view the photos and listen to a sample of the podcast below.

Sam Henry was born in 1878 in Coleraine. He was an avid folklorist, historian, photographer, ornithologist, naturalist, genealogist and musician. Through his work he formed relationships with an older generation and recorded aspects of their lives that are now all but forgotten. “In my contact with the old, who have all now passed away,” he wrote, “I had the rare privilege of sharing their folk lore and their old songs.” Sam is perhaps best known for his ‘Songs of the People’ series which ran in the Northern Constitution between 1923 and 1938. It published songs known, played and sung by people across Northern Ireland.

This project is part of a wider programme Sam Henry: Connecting with the Past, Collecting for the Future, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund and administrated by the Museums Association.