seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of George McWhirter, Writer, Teacher & Vancouver’s First Poet Laureate

George McWhirter, Irish-Canadian writer, translator, editor, teacher and Vancouver‘s first Poet Laureate, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on September 26, 1939.

The son of a shipyard worker, McWhirter is raised in a large extended family on the Shankill Road in Belfast. He and his extended family spend the war years and then weekends and the summers at their seaside bungalow in Carnalea, now a suburb of Bangor, County Down. In 1957 he begins a “combined scholarship” studying English and Spanish at Queen’s University Belfast, and education at Stranmillis University College, Belfast. His tutor at Queen’s is the poet Laurence Lerner, and he is a classmate with the future literary critic Robert Dunbar and the poets Seamus Heaney and Seamus Deane.

After graduating, McWhirter teaches in Kilkeel and Bangor, County Down, and in Barcelona, Spain, before moving to Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada. After receiving his M.A. from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he studies under Michael Bullock and J. Michael Yates, he stays on to become a full professor in 1982 and head of the Creative Writing Department from 1983 to 1993. He retires as a Professor Emeritus in 2005.

McWhirter is associated with PRISM International magazine from 1968 to 2005. He is the author and editor of numerous books and the recipient of many awards. His first book of poetry, Catalan Poems, is a joint winner of the first Commonwealth Poetry Prize with Chinua Achebe‘s Beware, Soul Brother. He is made a life member of the League of Canadian Poets in 2005 and is also a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and PEN International. In March 2007, he is named Vancouver’s inaugural Poet Laureate for a two-year term.

McWhirter currently writes full-time and lives in Vancouver with his wife. They have two children and three grandchildren.


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Birth of Charles Maturin, Clergyman, Playwright & Novelist

Charles Robert Maturin, also known as C. R. Maturin, an Irish Protestant clergyman ordained in the Church of Ireland and a writer of Gothic plays and novels, is born in Dublin on September 25, 1780. His best known work is the novel Melmoth the Wanderer.

Maturin is descended from Huguenots who found shelter in Ireland, one of whom is Gabriel Jacques Maturin who becomes Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, after Jonathan Swift in 1745. He attends Trinity College Dublin. Shortly after being ordained as curate of Loughrea, County Galway, in 1803, he moves back to Dublin as curate of St. Peter’s Church. He lives in York Street with his father William, a Post Office official, and his mother, Fedelia Watson. He marries the acclaimed singer Henrietta Kingsbury on October 7, 1804.

Maturin’s first three works are Gothic novels published under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy, and are critical and commercial failures. They do, however, catch the attention of Sir Walter Scott, who recommends Maturin’s work to Lord Byron. With their help, his play Bertram is staged in 1816 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for 22 nights, with Edmund Kean starring in the lead role as Bertram. Financial success, however, eludes Maturin, as the play’s run coincides with his father’s unemployment and another relative’s bankruptcy, both of them assisted by the fledgling writer. To make matters worse, Samuel Taylor Coleridge publicly denounces the play as dull and loathsome, and “melancholy proof of the depravation of the public mind,” going nearly so far as to decry it as atheistic.

The Church of Ireland takes note of these and earlier criticisms and, having discovered the identity of Bertram‘s author after Maturin had shed his nom de plume to collect the profits from the play, subsequently bar his further clerical advancement. Forced to support his wife and four children by writing on his curate salary of £80-90 per annum, compared to the £1000 he made for Bertram, he switches back from playwright to novelist after a string of his plays meet with failure. He produces several novels in addition to Melmoth the Wanderer, including some on Irish subjects and The Albigenses, a historical novel which features werewolves. Various poems have also been ascribed to Maturin on dubious grounds and appear to be the work of others. The prize-winning “Lines on the Battle of Waterloo” is published in 1816 under the name of the university graduate John Shee. “The Universe” appears with Maturin’s name on the title page in 1821, but is now thought to be almost completely the work of James Wills.

The exaggerated effectiveness of Maturin’s preaching can be gauged from the two series of sermons that he publishes. On the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte, he declares, “Life is full of death; the steps of the living cannot press the earth without disturbing the ashes of the dead – we walk upon our ancestors – the globe itself is one vast churchyard.” A contemporary account records that there had seldom been seen such crowds at St Peter’s. “Despite the severe weather, people of all persuasions flocked to the church and listened spellbound to this prince of preachers. In his obituary it is said that, ‘did he leave no other monument whereon to rest his fame, these sermons alone would be sufficient.'”

Maturin dies in Dublin on October 30, 1824. A writer in the University Magazine later sums up his character as “eccentric almost to insanity and compounded of opposites – an insatiable reader of novels; an elegant preacher; an incessant dancer; a coxcomb in dress and manners.”

A sister of Maturin’s wife marries Charles Elgee, whose daughter, Jane Francesca, becomes the mother of Oscar Wilde. Thus Charles Maturin is Oscar Wilde’s great-uncle by marriage. Wilde discards his own name and adopts the name of Maturin’s novel, Melmoth, during his exile in France.

Maturin’s eldest son, William Basil Kingsbury Maturin, follows him into the ministry, as do several of his grandsons. One of these, Basil W. Maturin, dies in the sinking of RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915. The second son is Edward Maturin, who emigrates to the United States and becomes a novelist and poet there.


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Birth of Thomas Kilroy, Playwright & Novelist

Thomas F. Kilroy, Irish playwright and novelist, is born on September 23, 1934, in Green Street, Callan, County Kilkenny. He is a difficult writer to categorize, having written plays ranging from the conventional The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche to more technically innovative and avant-garde works such as Talbot’s Box and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde. Nevertheless, common thematic concerns run throughout many of his plays, including the issue of personal and cultural—specifically, Irish versus English—identity and the mythologizing of the past. Best known as a playwright, he is also the author of the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Big Chapel (1971).

Kilroy is the son of Thomas and Mary (née Devine) Kilroy. He attends St. Kieran’s College and plays hurling for the school team, captaining the senior team in 1952. He studies at University College Dublin, where his first play, The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche, is produced to great success at the Olympia Theatre. In his early career he is play editor at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. In the 1980s, he sits on the board of Field Day Theatre Company, founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in 1980, and is Director of its touring company.

In 1978, Kilroy is appointed Professor of English at University College Galway, a post from which he resigns in 1989 to concentrate on writing.

In 2008, Kilroy receives the Irish PEN Award, given to honour an Irish-born writer who has made an outstanding contribution to Irish literature.

While some of Kilroy’s plays hit a lighter note than others, the common thread in most of them is his attempt to address some of the social upheavals that have occurred in Ireland in the past and present. This has been a concern of his since he was in his twenties and wrote in the 1959 essay “Groundwork for an Irish Theatre” that his contemporaries were “inclined to shirk the painful, sometimes tragic problems of a modern Ireland which is undergoing considerable social and ideological stress.” Although he has not been one of Ireland’s most prolific playwrights, his plays may certainly be considered important contributions to the modern stage.

Kilroy now lives in County Mayo and is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters, the Royal Society of Literature, and Aosdána.

The Thomas Kilroy Collection, his personal archive, is deposited at the James Hardiman Library at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway). Kilroy addresses the launch event in March 2011, which is attended by, amongst others, Brian Friel and the future President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.


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Birth of Anne Devlin, Short Story Writer & Playwright

Anne Devlin, short story writer, playwright and screenwriter, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on September 13, 1951. She is a teacher from 1974 to 1978, and starts writing fiction in 1976 in Germany. Having lived in London for a decade, she returns to Belfast in 2007.

Devlin is the daughter of Paddy Devlin, a Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and later a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). She is raised in Belfast.

In January 1969, while a student at the New University of Ulster, she joins a civil rights march from Belfast to Derry, organised by the People’s Democracy. At Burntollet Bridge, a few miles from Derry, the march is attacked by loyalists. She is struck on the head, knocked unconscious, falls into the river, and is brought to hospital suffering from a concussion. The march is echoed in her 1994 play After Easter.

Devlin subsequently leaves Northern Ireland for England. She is visiting lecturer in playwriting at the University of Birmingham in 1987, and a writer in residence at Lund University, Sweden, in 1990.

Devlin’s screenwriting works include the BBC television three-episode serial The Rainbow (1988), the feature film adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1992) and the film Titanic Town (1999). She receives the Samuel Beckett Award for TV Drama in 1985 and the Hennessy Literary Award for short stories in 1992.


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Birth of Richard Chenevix Trench, Anglican Archbishop & Poet

Richard Chenevix Trench, Anglican archbishop and poet, is born in Dublin on September 9, 1807.

Trench is the son of Richard Trench (1774–1860), barrister-at-law, and the Dublin writer Melesina Chenevix (1768–1827). His elder brother is Francis Chenevix Trench. He is educated at Harrow School, and graduates from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1829. In 1830 he visits Spain. While incumbent of Curdridge Chapel near Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire, he publishes The Story of Justin Martyr and Other Poems (1835), which is favourably received, and is followed by Sabbation, Honor Neale, and other Poems (1838), and Poems from Eastern Sources (1842). These volumes reveal the author as the most gifted of the immediate disciples of William Wordsworth, with a warmer colouring and more pronounced ecclesiastical sympathies than the master, and strong affinities to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Keble and Richard Monckton Milnes.

In 1841 Trench resigns his living to become curate to Samuel Wilberforce, then rector of Alverstoke, and upon Wilberforce’s promotion to the deanery of Westminster Abbey in 1845 he is presented to the rectory of Itchen Stoke. In 1845 and 1846 he preaches the Hulsean Lectures, and in the former year is made examining chaplain to Wilberforce, now Bishop of Oxford. He is shortly afterwards appointed to a theological chair at King’s College London.

Trench joins the Canterbury Association on March 27, 1848, on the same day as Samuel Wilberforce and Wilberforce’s brother Robert.

In 1851 Trench establishes his fame as a philologist by The Study of Words, originally delivered as lectures to the pupils of the Diocesan Training School, Winchester. His stated purpose is to demonstrate that in words, even taken singly, “there are boundless stores of moral and historic truth, and no less of passion and imagination laid up” — an argument which he supports by a number of apposite illustrations. It is followed by two little volumes of similar character — English Past and Present (1855) and A Select Glossary of English Words (1859). All have gone through numerous editions and have contributed much to promote the historical study of the English tongue. Another great service to English philology is rendered by his paper, read before the Philological Society, On some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries (1857), which gives the first impulse to the great Oxford English Dictionary. He envisages a totally new dictionary that is a “lexicon totius Anglicitatis.” As one of the three founders of the dictionary, he expresses his vision that it will be “an entirely new Dictionary; no patch upon old garments, but a new garment throughout.”

Trench’s advocacy of a revised translation of the New Testament (1858) helps promote another great national project. In 1856 he publishes a valuable essay on Pedro Calderón de la Barca, with a translation of a portion of Life is a Dream in the original metre. In 1841 he had published his Notes on the Parables of our Lord, and in 1846 his Notes on the Miracles, popular works which are treasuries of erudite and acute illustration.

In 1856 Trench becomes Dean of Westminster Abbey, a position which suits him. Here he introduces evening nave services. In January 1864 he is advanced to the post of Archbishop of Dublin. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley had been first choice, but is rejected by the Church of Ireland, and, according to Bishop Wilberforce’s correspondence, Trench’s appointment is favoured neither by the Prime Minister nor the Lord Lieutenant. It is, moreover, unpopular in Ireland, and a blow to English literature, yet it turns out to be fortunate. He cannot prevent the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, though he resists with dignity. But, when the disestablished communion has to be reconstituted under the greatest difficulties, it is important that the occupant of his position should be a man of a liberal and genial spirit.

This is the work of the remainder of Trench’s life. It exposes him at times to considerable abuse, but he comes to be appreciated and, when he resigns his archbishopric because of poor health in November 1884, clergy and laity unanimously record their sense of his “wisdom, learning, diligence, and munificence.” He finds time for Lectures on Medieval Church History (1878), and his poetical works are rearranged and collected in two volumes (last edition, 1885). He dies at Eaton Square, London, on March 28, 1886, after a lingering illness. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

George W. E. Russell describes Trench as “a man of singularly vague and dreamy habits” and recounts the following anecdote of his old age:

“He once went back to pay a visit to his successor, Lord Plunket. Finding himself back again in his old palace, sitting at his old dinner-table, and gazing across it at his wife, he lapsed in memory to the days when he was master of the house, and gently remarked to Mrs. Trench, ‘I am afraid, my love, that we must put this cook down among our failures.'”


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Birth of Poet Francis Edward Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge, Irish poet sometimes known as the “poet of the blackbirds,” is born on August 19, 1887 to a poor family in Slane, County Meath. He is later also known as a World War I war poet.

Ledwidge starts writing at an early age, and is first published in a local newspaper at the age of fourteen. Finding work as a labourer and miner, he is also a trade union activist and a keen patriot and nationalist, associated with Sinn Féin. He becomes friendly with a local landowner, the writer Lord Dunsany, who gives him a workspace in the library of Dunsany Castle and introduces him to literary figures including William Butler Yeats and Katharine Tynan, with whom he has a long-term correspondence. He is elected to a local authority post and helps organise the local branch of the Irish Volunteers, while Dunsany edits and helps him secure publication for a first volume of his poetry.

Having sided with the faction of the Irish Volunteers which oppose participation in the war, he enlists in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in October 1914, and continues to write poetry on assignment, sending work to Lord Dunsany and to family and other friends. The poems he writes on active service reveal his pride at being a soldier, as he believes, in the service of Ireland. He often wonders whether he would find a soldier’s death.

On July 31, 1917, a group from Ledwidge’s battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers are road-laying in preparation for an assault during the Third Battle of Ypres, near the village of Boezinge, Ypres Salient, Belgium.

According to Irish author and lecturer Alice Curtayne, “Ledwidge and his comrades had been toiling since the early morning at road-making. The army’s first need was men; their second, guns; their third roads. These latter consisted mainly of heavy beech planks bolted together, which could be rapidly laid down. No advance could be supported in that sodden land without a sufficiency of these communications tracks, six or seven feet wide. Supplies were conveyed by pack mules over the wooden paths. Survivors concur in placing the road work done by B Company that day one mile northeast of Hellfire Corner, so called because it was very exposed to German shelling. There was a violent rainstorm in the afternoon, shrouding the region in a gray monochrome. Sullenly, the enemy’s long-range guns continued to fling their shells far behind the lines. Road-work could not be suspended, however, as the tracks were in use as fast as they were laid down. Tea was issued to the men and, drenched to the skin, they stopped to swallow it. A shell exploded beside Ledwidge and he was instantly killed.”

A Roman Catholic military chaplain, Father Devas, is the first on the scene. That night, Father Devas writes in his diary, “Crowds at Holy Communion. Arranged for service but washed out by rain and fatigues. Walk in rain with dogs. Ledwidge killed, blown to bits; at Confession yesterday and Mass and Holy Communion this morning. R.I.P.”

Ledwidge is first buried at Carrefour de Rose, and later re-interred in the nearby Artillery Wood Military Cemetery, at Boezinge, where the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who was killed in action on the same day, also lies buried.

Dunsany arranges for the publication of more of Ledwidge’s poems, and a collected edition in 1919. Further poems, from the archives at Dunsany Castle and some material held by family, are later published by Ledwdige’s biographer, Alice Curtayne, and by one of the Ledwidge memorial societies. Ledwidge is selected as one of twelve prominent war poets for the exhibition Anthem for Doomed Youth at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2002, and memorialised at an event in Inchicore, Dublin, in 2017, with his work set to music by Anúna. A museum of his life and work is opened in his birthplace cottage in 1982. Some of his manuscripts are held in the National Library of Ireland and more in the archives of Dunsany Castle.


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Birth of Mary Devenport O’Neill, Poet & Dramatist

Mary Devenport O’Neill, Irish poet and dramatist and a friend and colleague of W. B. Yeats, George Russell, and Austin Clarke, is born in Barrack Street, Loughrea, County Galway, on August 3, 1879.

O’Neill is born Mary Devenport, the daughter of Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) sub-constable, John Devenport, and his wife Bridget (née Burke). She attends the Dominican convent, Eccles Street, Dublin before enrolling in the Metropolitan School of Art from 1898 to 1903. In 1900 she wins the year’s prize in the School of Art. She apparently considers teaching as a career, as she is listed on the college register as a teacher in training from 1901 to 1903. It is while an art student that she starts to correspond with the writer she admires, Joseph O’Neill. Their relationship develops, and the couple marries on June 19, 1908, settling in Kenilworth Square, Dublin.

Many of O’Neill’s husband’s friends disapprove of her modern and unconventional ideas, but she is popular with “the Rathgar Group” who attends George Russell’s Sunday salons. After a few years, she establishes her own salon referred to as “Thursdays at home,” attended by Russell, Padraic Colum, W. B. Yeats, Richard Irvine Best, Frank O’Connor, Francis Stuart and Iseult Gonne. She becomes particularly close to Yeats, who she confides in. Yeats records their weekly consultations in his diary while working on A Vision (1925). In his Oxford anthology of English verse from 1936, he includes one of O’Neill’s poems. In 1917, she contributes lyrics to her husband’s play The Kingdom Maker. She publishes her only book in 1929, Prometheus and other poems. After this she occasionally contributes primarily modernist plays and poetry to The Dublin Magazine, The Irish Times and The Bell. She collaborates with Austin Clarke from the Lyric Theatre Company on her plays Bluebeard (1933) and Cain (1945).

O’Neill suffers with poor health, which sees her and her husband spending extended periods in the south of France and Switzerland. They sell their home in Dublin in August 1950 and move to Nice, with the intention of settling there. However, due to rapidly depleting finances they are forced to return to Ireland in April 1951. They rent a cottage in Wicklow from their friend Con Curran. When her husband dies in 1953, she goes to live with relatives in Dublin. She dies there in 1967.


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Birth of George Campbell, Artist & Writer

George Campbell, Irish artist and writer, is born on July 29, 1917, in Arklow, County Wicklow. Although he grows up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he spends much of his adult life living and painting in Spain and Dublin.

Campbell is the son of Matthew Arthur Campbell (1866-1925), caterer, and Gretta Campbell (née Bowen) (1880-1981). He attends boarding school at Masonic Orphan Boys’ School at Clonskeagh, Dublin, before moving to Belfast to live with his widowed mother and family.

Campbell is working in an aircraft factory at the time of the Belfast Blitz, and begins to paint, taking the bomb-damage as his subject. He is one of the founders of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943. In the same year, along with his brother Arthur (1909-94), he publishes a sixteen page book entitled Ulster in Black and White, that includes drawings from the two brothers and their close contemporaries Maurice Wilks and Patricia Webb. Owing to the success of the original publication, the brothers then publish Now in Ulster (1944), an anthology of short stories, essays and poetry by young Belfast writers.

Campbell holds a joint exhibition at the William Mol Gallery, Belfast, with his brother Arthur in 1944. In the same year he also shows with Gerard Dillon at the Portadown gallery of John Lamb. In 1946 he shows with the Victor Waddington Gallery in Dublin, where he is to return on a number of occasions. The Council for the Encouragement of Art and Music hosts a solo exhibition in 1949 where he is to show twice more, in 1952 and 1960. He wins £500 at the first Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) Open Painting Competition at the Ulster Museum in 1962. Campbell also shows in one-man exhibitions with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1966 and 1972.

After the war Campbell becomes increasingly interested in Spain. In 1946 he comes to know Spaniards who had settled in Dublin, and when in London paints visiting Spanish dancers in their traditional costume. He first visits Spain in 1951, encouraged by his friendship with Gerard Dillon and “an interest in bohemian characters.” He lives there for six months almost every year throughout much of the following twenty-five years.

Campbell makes stained glass windows for the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas in Galway. He also plays flamenco guitar. A member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, he wins the Douglas Hyde Gold Medal in 1966 and the Oireachtas Prize for Landscape in 1969. The Spanish government makes him a Knight Commander of Spain in 1978.

Campbell dies in Dublin on May 18, 1979, and is buried at St. Kevin’s Cemetery in Glendalough, County Wicklow. He is survived by his wife Margaret, his mother, and two brothers, Arthur and Stanley. After his death the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and An Chomhairle Ealáion join with the Instituto Cervantes to initiate the George Campbell Memorial Travel Award. In May 2017, Arklow Municipal District Council unveils two plaques at St. Patrick’s Terrace, Arklow, marking Campbell’s birthplace and the centennial of his birth.

Campbell’s work forms part of many private and public art collections, including Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster Museum, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Hugh Lane Gallery, The National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, and Municipal Museum of Antequera, Málaga.

(Pictured: “Three Nuns” by George Campbell)


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Birth of William Wall, Novelist, Poet & Short Story Writer

William “Bill” Wall, Irish novelist, poet and short story writer, is born in Cork, County Cork, on July 6, 1955.

Wall is raised in the coastal village of Whitegate, County Cork. He receives his secondary education at the Midleton CBS Secondary School in Midleton. He progresses to University College Cork where he graduates in Philosophy and English. He teaches English and drama at Presentation Brothers College, Cork, where he inspires Cillian Murphy to enter acting.

In 1997, Wall wins the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. He publishes his first collection of poetry that same year. His first novel, Alice Falling, a dark study of power and abuse in modern-day Ireland, appears in 2000. He is the author of four novels, two collections of poetry and one of short stories.

In 2005, This Is The Country appears. A broad attack on politics in “Celtic Tiger” Ireland, as well as a rite of passage novel, it is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards. It can be read as a satirical allegory on corruption, the link between capitalism and liberal democracy exemplified in the ‘entrepreneurial’ activities of minor drug dealers and gangsters, and reflected in the architecture of business-parks and sink estates. This political writing takes the form of “an insightful and robust social conscience”, in the words of academic John Kenny. Kenny also focuses on what he sees as Wall’s “baneful take on the Irish family, his fundamentally anti-idyllic mood” which has “not entirely endeared Wall to the more misty-eyed among his readers at home or abroad.” The political is also in evidence in his second collection of poetry Fahrenheit Says Nothing To Me. He is not a member of Aosdána, the Irish organisation for writers and artists. In 2006, his first collection of short fiction, No Paradiso, appears. In 2017, he becomes the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

His provocative political blog, The Ice Moon, has increasingly featured harsh criticism of the Irish government over their handling of the economy, as well as reviews of mainly left-wing books and movies. Many of his posts are satirical. He occasionally writes for literary journals, writes for Irish Left Review, and reviews for The Irish Times. His work has been translated into several languages. He has also appeared on the Irish-language channel TG4, such as in the programme Cogar.

He is one of the Irish delegates at the European Writers Conference in Istanbul in 2010.

Described by writer Kate Atkinson as “lyrical and cruel and bold and with metaphors to die for,” critics have focused on Wall’s mastery of language, his gift for “linguistic compression,” his “poet’s gift for apposite, wry observation, dialogue and character,” his “unflinching frankness” and his “laser-like … dissection of human frailties,” which is counterbalanced by “the depth of feeling that Wall invests in his work.” A review of his first novel in The New Yorker declares “Wall, who is also a poet, writes prose so charged—at once lyrical and syncopated—that it’s as if Cavafy had decided to write about a violent Irish household.” In a recent review, his long poem “Job in Heathrow,” anthologised in The Forward Book of Poetry 2010 but originally published in The SHOp, is described as “a chilling airport dystopia.” Poet Fred Johnston suggests that Wall’s poetry sets out to “list the shelves of disillusion under which a thinking man can be buried.” For Philip Coleman, “Ghost Estate is a deeply political book, but it also articulates a profound interest in and engagement with questions of aesthetics and poetics.”

Wall is a longtime sufferer of adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) and describes his efforts to circumvent the disabling effects of the disease using speech-to-text applications as “a battle between me and the software.”


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Death of Author Muiris Ó Súilleabháin

Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, anglicised as Maurice O’Sullivan, Irish author famous for his Irish language memoir of growing up on the Great Blasket Island and in Dingle, County Kerry, off the western coast of Ireland, drowns on June 25, 1950, while swimming at Knocknacarra off the Connemara coast.

Ó Súilleabháin is born on the Great Blasket Island on February 19, 1904. Following the death of his mother when he is six months old, he is raised in an institution in Dingle, County Kerry. At the age of eight, he returns to the Great Blasket Island to live with his father, grandfather and the rest of his siblings, and learns the native language.

Ó Súilleabháin is persuaded to write his memoirs by George Derwent Thomson, a linguist and professor of Greek who had come to the island to hear and learn the Irish language. It is Thomson who encourages him to join Garda Síochána in Dublin in 1927 rather than emigrate to the United States as do most of the young people. He is stationed in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara, where he maintains contact with Thomson.

Fiche Blian ag Fás is published in Irish and English in 1933. As one of the last areas of Ireland in which the old Irish language and culture has continued unchanged, the Great Blasket Island is a place of enormous interest to those seeking traditional Irish narratives. Thomson edits and assembles the memoir, and arranges for its translation into English with the help of Moya Llewelyn Davies.

While Fiche Blian ag Fás is received with tremendous enthusiasm by critics, including E. M. Forster, their praise at times has a condescending tone. Forster describes the book as a document of a surviving “Neolithic” culture. Such interest is tied up with romantic notions of the Irish primitive, and thus when Ó Súilleabháin tries to find a publisher for his second book, Fiche Bliain faoi Bhláth (in English, Twenty Years a-Flowering), there is little interest, as this narrative necessarily departs from the romantic realm of turf fires and pipe-smoking wise-women.

In 1934, Ó Súilleabháin leaves the Guards and settles in Connemara. He marries Cáit ní Chatháin of Carraroe on July 10, 1934. They have one daughter, Máirín, and one son, Eoin, a dramatist and writer.

Ó Súilleabháin drowns on June 25, 1950, while swimming off the Connemara coast. He is buried at Barr an Doire near Carraroe. Dylan Thomas commences, but does not finish, a film script of Twenty Years a-Growing. The partially completed film script is published in 1964.