The Poet’s Dream

Digital download and double-CD (with lyrics booklet) available from Bandcamp.

A 2009 double-album of 26 tracks, including previously unreleased songs composed by MJ O’Reilly, the Cooper family of Monageer, and Paul O’Reilly, together with new arrangements of songs from the Paddy Berry collections, it covers many topics ranging from steam threshings, fleadhs, lamentations, risings, hunger strikes, local scuffles, the Queen’s bed, hunts, Jack Barry, the Strawberry Fair, the village of Monageer, the railway tunnel and many more.

With lead vocals by Paul and Helen Kirwan, and performances by Paddy Berry, Padraig Sinnott and Tom Murphy, this album is a document of the past, a recording of hits of their time; hits that never made the charts but brought so much joy, and sometimes controversy, to the people of the day.

As well as vocals, lilting and whistling, Paul also plays guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán, mandolin and whistle on the album. It was recorded and mixed by Paul in his studio in 2008/9, and mastered by Aidan Foley at Masterlabs. The cover image is a painting by Paul’s good friend, and Wexford artist, John Cullen. The booklet contains 28-pages, containing all lyrics and a background-note by Paul on each track. The total running time is approx. 130 minutes.

When one looks for heros in our tradition, Art Sinnott and Paddy Berry are national treasures. They’ve carried the flame through good and bad, and both inspired and preserved for us the wealth of beauty that is our traditional music and songs. They did so out of a deep love of place, as well as the joy that this music brings. I am happy to say that with this CD the flame is in good hands. This is a Jewel, a record of our local history, lovingly performed with the sensitivity of those who understand naturally how this music should be treated. The singing is wonderful and the accompaniment tasteful and restrained as is Paul’s production, allowing the songs to tell their story and transport us to situations both moving, joyful, humorous, and stark. Some material never before recorded, as well as a brilliant new song from Paul which shows the depth of talent on show here. It is fitting that the tribute to Art Sinnott (who encouraged me to keep going on the uilleann pipes) should be sung by Paddy Berry, another hero of mine. It’s like a link with the unbreakable chain of friendship, respect for those who championed the music and a deep sense of passing on the torch, which is what traditional music is all about. Thank you Paul, Helen, Padraig Sinnott, Tom Murphy and Paddy Berry. The Poet’s Dream is simply beautiful. I’m sure Art Sinnott and MJ O’Reilly are very proud.

 Brendan Wade (formerly The Wild Swans and Cry Before Dawn)

The completion of any complex and difficult project is worthy of praise, but I had glimses of what was attempted here with THE POET’S DREAM. I would have to say that courage, persistence and most of all sensitivity to the material, the memory and indeed the tradition shines out in this production. I would also have to say that in everything that has been attempted they have been successful beyond any evaluation and even I would say, their own high expectations. Without equivocation or condition I would have to say that this is a fabulous piece of work and a realisation of the all its aspirations. The connection on THE POET’S DREAM is that these are all Wexford songs but with a very distinctive Monageer flavour and hugely influenced by the Cooper and O’Reilly dynasties. Eighty percent of songs are from these two families. They are all folk songs, some have accompaniment, some without, but all are reflective of the tradition of singing in Wexford and how it has evolved and indeed continues to evolve in the great sea of time, occurrence and travel. This is not just an album of folk songs, but a whole lot more. It provides a panoramic view of an area over 150 years, and not through historians or commentators but through the voice of the population. I know Paul and Helen well as both artists of the highest calibre and people. There is nobody better qualified as singers to perform these songs, and their connection to these songs goes a lot deeper as blood, family and songs are intertwined here. Paul’s connection to the album is through his late father, a giant of traditional song, and grandfather and relations. And we are reminded of this only recently with the death of the late Liam Cooper, which re-inforces the necessity for this type of project. Helen too comes from a family steeped in music and folklore. Her father Art Sinnott was one of the most outstanding men of 20th Century and gave us our anthem. And what of the songs? There are slow songs, fast songs, local and national songs, political, satirical, songs of work, fleadhanna, ’98, The Strawberry Fair, hospitality and songs about our love of place. D’Arcy’s House is a song full of fun and humour and also a song with a smile. But there is an extra delight as the album ends with a breathtakingly beautiful song composed by Paul – The Wild Geese of Killyleagh – demonstrating that not only is the craft moving on to new generations but, if anything, is even improving. To finish, THE POET’S DREAM is more than just a fabric, it is a magic carpet that can whisk us to our past, present and future. It is A BRILLIANT PRODUCTION.

Niall Wall, All-Ireland Traditonal Singing Champion

Here is a beautiful double album of songs old, new and renewed. O’Reilly and Kirwan have produced a collection of 26 songs that span a wide timeline but even with this they manage to sound melodious and to hold the listener’s attention through the 130 minutes of running time. The album is Wexford-based in that most of the songs are written by local poets and songwriters or about events that occurred in the county. Many of the songs were published in ‘Wexford Ballads’ by Paddy Berry over twenty years ago and it is a revelation to hear them performed in their full musical glory. Like the best of ballads they are true story songs. Nowhere is this more evident than on songs like The Battle on the Hill, a wonderful recounting of a fight, complete with names and places. Farewell to Art Sinnott is one of those sean nós songs that is redolent of feeling as we hear the writer and singer echoed as they recall a true loved one. Being a Wexford collection, 1798 is seldom far from the singers vocal chords. True to form there are a number of renditions of songs of that era including The Men of Ninety Eight and The Adolescent Patriots being just two of them. In a more lighthearted vein we get a song written by Babs Egan that reminds us of the hunt on Tally Ho. The Jolly Butcher is another ‘naughty’ story song that has probably done the rounds in many an Irish town over the years – here he arrives in Enniscorthy. One of the most popular Wexford exports is John Barry – founder of the American Navy. He is represented here as Jack Barry in a song collected decades ago for a book called ‘Songs of the Wexford Coast’. The album is a wonderful collection of music but it is also history in verse and music. It is the history of Wexford but it is also a history of a tradition, a tradition of how our forefathers celebrated incidents and people in song and story and as such is a document of Irish social history. The accompanying booklet is well produced with lyrics and background to the songs.

Nicky Rossiter, Irish Music Magazine

Original and unusual … a fine production. The arrangements give the album a sense of continuity; when you listen to song number one right up to song number twenty six, you can see the link, the thread, through them, and this is important when the collection is mostly from one or two sources.

Dan Walsh, Historian, Journalist and Broadcaster

After performing some of The Poet’s Dream as an invited guest, “Great singing, great songs, great night. You were a big hit. Thanks from all at An Góilín.”

Fergus Russell, An Góilín Traditional Singers Club

A very, very fine collection of songs from different parts of the county.

Áine Hensey, RTÉ Radio One

This collection is produced to the very highest of standards … The way in which a tradition of balladeering that extends over five generations has been presented as a coherent whole on the album is very impressive … While The Poet’s Dream is mainly about the human voice, putting previously unreleased songs on record, it also serves to underline the versatility of Paul O’Reilly as an instrumentalist.

David Medcalf, Enniscorthy Guardian

A brave and inspiring project, remembering some of the best and most prominent Wexford songs composed during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Scallta Media

The singing and accompaniment is refined and graceful, it is about the songs and their stories not the singers’ ego.

Tom Keller, Folkworld

I was bowled over by The Poet’s Dream; a masterpiece.

John Ennis, Traditional Singer

A great album. There are some songs on it I heard perhaps only once, and I often thought what had happened to them. But here they are now, written down in front of me.


The Poet’s Dream is a considerable achievement and one of great emotional significance. This is not lost in the renditions of the songs and knowing that there is such a special connection between singer and song always increases the listening pleasure … It is obvious that a lot of dedicated creative work has gone into the making of this recording. You are not just ‘getting them down’ but sending them out in full flight.


The design, research and presentation are first class.

A.Ó C.

Seriously good in so many ways.


Marvellous work!


The singing, playing, production, everything is really amazing. It is a true labour of love and a really vital part of Wexford’s musical tradition.


Listened to CD last night and it’s absolutely brilliant. Well done!