De Búrc (Búrc), Éamon (1866–1942), storyteller and singer in Irish, was born 2 April 1866 in Carna, Connemara, Co. Galway, son of the storyteller Liam a’ Búrc. His mother came from Cashel, Roundstone, Connemara; other details of her are unknown. He was more commonly known as Éamon Liam. Both of his parents were storytellers and Éamon later claimed to have learned all of his tales from them without having altered the tales in the slightest way. When he was either four or five years old his family moved to St Paul, Minnesota, USA, where they remained for fourteen years. The English he learned there left its mark on his storytelling later in life, as he sometimes included words specific to American English in his tales, such as the word ‘drugstore’ in ‘Trí phunt feola’. Nothing is known of his life there except that at the age of seventeen he lost a leg as a result of a railway accident. The family returned to Ireland shortly afterwards and settled in Mweenish, Carna, where Éamon owned a small shop. He does not appear to have had a flair for business, however, as he made little profit and was rarely in the shop. He did not remain long in Mweenish, moving to Aird Mór, Carna, on his marriage. Although his wife died soon afterwards he remained in the area for twenty years until his second marriage, c.1927, when he settled in Aill na Brón between Ardmore and Kilkieran, Connemara. Nothing is known of either marriage except that he did not have any children. Despite his disability he earned a living as a fisherman for a number of years and was also an avid sailor, competing in the local races held on a Sunday. He spent a year training to be a tailor on the Aran Islands but did not work in the trade until his latter years, preferring instead to be out in the fresh air.
During the autumn of 1929 he first made the acquaintance of the folklore collector Liam Mac Coisdeala, who began recording his stories and continued doing so until 1942. He was later visited regularly by the folklorist Séamus Ó Duilearga (qv). Éamon was a master of the Irish language, and his name was included on a list of local storytellers drawn up by young pupils attending an Irish evening class in Ardmore School. Mac Coisdeala noted that although he was an accomplished conversationalist and a renowned storyteller, he was also quiet, shy, and retiring. His repertoire consisted of a wide range of types of tales including heroic, ossianic, and fairytales. Around two hundred tales were recorded from him, some of which were lengthy. One in particular, ‘Eochair, Mac Rí in Éirinn’ (Irish Folklore archives, UCD, MS Vol. 589, pp 438–566, cylinder nos 1896B–1922A), a tale of around 30,000 words, is the longest story ever recorded in Irish from oral narration. Éamon recounted the tale to Liam Mac Coisdeala during three sessions in October 1938.
In addition to tales, he possessed a large store of songs and composed two or three himself. One day, while he was composing a song in praise of a young local lady, her mother went on her knees begging Éamon to stop and never to compose another one. He complied and never again composed a song. He died 5 November 1942 and is interred in Mweenish cemetery.