Irish dance history is difficult to pin down for many reasons, most likely because the culture was primarily oral – passed down through stories, songs and dances- with very little being written down.
Indeed, there are no less than four versions of the greatly loved Caledonian Set from Clare, and despite differences between districts, it appears that most dancers had difficulty recalling all aspects of that dance clearly.* (I will write more about why the Caledonian Set is the most perfect of all sets sneak preview below with some absolutely fabulous dancing:)
Indeed, Fintan Vallely in his book The Companion to Irish Traditional Music proposes that tunes, songs and dances that lasted the test of time were mostly those that were written down, and it appears that much of that was done, ironically, by the English.
In 1775, the Dr. Rev.Campbell wrote:
“I was at a dance in Cashel (Co. Tipperary) and the Irish boys and girls are passionately fond of dancing and they dance beautifully.
We frog-blooded English dance as if the practice was not congenial to us, but here in Ireland, they dance as if dancing was the one and only business in life.“ **