seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Mathew Carey, Irish American Publisher & Economist

Mathew Carey, Irish-born American publisher and economist who lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is born into a middle-class Catholic family in Dublin on January 28, 1760. He is the father of economist Henry Charles Carey.

Carey enters the bookselling and printing business in 1775 and, at the age of seventeen, publishes a pamphlet criticizing dueling. He follows this with a work criticizing the severity of the Irish penal code, and another criticizing Parliament. As a result, the British House of Commons threatens him with prosecution. In 1781 he flees to Paris as a political refugee. There he meets Benjamin Franklin, the ambassador representing the American Revolutionary forces, which achieves independence that year. Franklin takes Carey to work in his printing office.

Carey works for Franklin for a year before returning to Ireland, where he edits two Irish nationalist newspapers, the Freeman’s Journal and The Volunteer’s Journal. He gains passage on a ship to emigrate to the newly independent United States in September 1784.

Upon Carey’s arrival in Philadelphia, he finds that Franklin has recommended him to Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who gives him a $400 check to establish himself. He uses this money to set up a new publishing business and a book shop. He founds The Pennsylvania Herald (1785), Columbian Magazine (1786), and The American Museum (1787). None of these ventures proves very profitable. The American Museum is the first American periodical to treat American culture as rich and original, instead of a poor imitation of Great Britain’s. He prints the first American version of the Douay–Rheims Bible in 48 weekly installments, this Roman Catholic edition popularly known as the Carey Bible. It is the first Roman Catholic version of the Bible printed in the United States. He also prints numerous editions of the King James Version, fundamental to English-speaking peoples.

In 1794–96, Carey publishes America’s first atlases. His 1802 map of Washington, D.C. is the first to name the stretch of land west of the United States Capitol as the “Mall.”

Carey frequently writes articles on various social topics, including events during the 1793 Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic, which proves a crisis for the city. He reports on debates in the state legislature as well as providing political commentary in his essays. He is a Catholic and a founding member of the American Sunday-School Society, along with Quaker merchant Thomas P. Cope, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Episcopal bishop William White.

In 1822 Carey publishes Essays on Political Economy; or, The Most Certain Means of Promoting the Wealth, Power, Resources, and Happiness of Nations, Applied Particularly to the United States. This is one of the first treatises favoring Alexander Hamilton‘s protectionist economic policy.

During Carey’s lifetime, the publishing firm evolves to M. Carey & Son (1817–21), M. Carey & Sons (1821–24), and then to Carey & Lea (1824). He retires in 1825, leaving the publishing business to his son, Henry Charles Carey and son-in-law Isaac Lea. Lea and Henry Carey make the business economically successful and, for a time, it is one of the most prominent publishers in the country.

In 1821, Carey is elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society (APS) in Philadelphia.

Upon arriving in America, Carey quickly develops political connections in the developing country. One of his most important supporters is John Adams, still a leading figure of the Federalist Party at the time. His passionate support for the establishment of an American Navy contributes significantly to his alliance with the Federalists.

Throughout his political career in America, Carey supports the development and maintenance of American naval strength, even after joining Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans in 1796. His political realignment occurs shortly before the American ratification of the Jay Treaty, primarily intended to ensure peace with Britain, while distancing America from France. His publishing in America channels his energy toward productive political objectives. His published works are credited with swaying public opinion toward the establishment of a powerful American navy.

Carey’s book Naval History of the United States, is meant to influence the public. Its conspicuous omission of naval activity during the American Quasi-War with France shows his political intentions. It helps direct political energy against the British, with which the U.S. is at war at the time of the book’s publication on May 6, 1813.

Focus on the British, known around the world for their naval power, makes an influential case for extending the reach of the American navy. Along with his publication of Naval History, Carey writes Olive Branch, published in 1814. He tries to eliminate competition between the two American political parties to create unity during the War of 1812. To many people, these efforts, and his early relationship with Franklin, make him the logical choice as Franklin’s political successor. Scholars believe that he contributed significantly by his books and publications to the establishment of the United States Whig Party.

Carey is elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in 1815. A significant portion of his business papers, as well as a very large number of original copies of works printed and/or published by him reside in the collections of the AAS.

Carey dies on September 16, 1839, and is buried in St. Mary’s Catholic Churchyard in Philadelphia.

In 1943, Publishers Weekly creates the Carey-Thomas Award for creative publishing, naming it in honor of Mathew Carey and Isaiah Thomas.

(Pictured: Portrait of Mathew Carey by John Neagle, 1825, The Library Company of Philadelphia)


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Birth of Geraldine Cummins, Spiritualist Medium, Novelist & Playwright

Geraldine Dorothy Cummins, spiritualist medium, novelist and playwright, is born in Cork, County Cork, on January 24, 1890. She began her career as a creative writer, but increasingly concentrates on mediumship and “channelled” writings, mostly about the lives of Jesus and Saint Paul, though she also publishes on a range of other topics. Her novels and plays typically document Irish life in a naturalist manner, often exploring the pathos of everyday life.

Cummins is the daughter of the physician Ashley Cummins, professor of medicine at the National University of Ireland and sister to Mary Hearn and Iris Cummins. In her youth she is an athlete, becoming a member of the Irish Women’s International Hockey Team. She is also active as a suffragette. Her desire to follow her father in a medical career is vetoed by her mother, so she begins a literary career as a journalist and creative writer. From 1913 to 1917 she writes three plays for the Abbey Theatre in collaboration with Suzanne R. Day, the most successful of which is the comedy Fox and Geese (1917). She publishes the novel The Land they Loved in 1919, a naturalistic study of working class Irish life.

As she concentrates on mediumship, Cummins’s literary work tails off. However, she continues to publish creative literature in her later years. Her solo-written play, Till Yesterday Comes Again, is produced by the Chanticleer Theatre, London, in 1938. She also publishes another novel, Fires of Beltane (1936) and a short-story collection Variety Show (1959).

Literary critic Alexander G. Gonzalez says that Cummins work tries to encompass the full range of Irish social life, from the aristocracy to the lower classes. In this respect she is influenced by Somerville and Ross. Gonzalez considers her short story The Tragedy of Eight Pence to be the “finest” of her writings, the tale of a “happily married woman trying to shield her ill husband from the knowledge that his death will leave her penniless.”

Cummins begins to work as a medium following prompting from Hester Dowden and E. B. Gibbes. She receives alleged messages from her spirit-guide “Astor” and is an exponent of automatic writing. Her books are based on these communications. In 1928 she publishes The Scripts of Cleophas, which provides channelled material on early Christian history complementing Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s writings, supposed to have been communicated by the spirit of Cleophas, one of Paul’s followers. This is later supplemented by Paul in Athens (1930) and The Great Days of Ephesus (1933).

Cummins’s next work describes human progress through spiritual enlightenment. The Road to Immortality (1932) provides a glowing vision of the afterlife. Its contents are purportedly communicated from the “other side” by the psychologist and psychic researcher Frederic W. H. Myers. Unseen Adventures (1951) is a spiritual autobiography. She also publishes several books of spiritually-derived knowledge about details of the life of Jesus.

During World War II Cummins allegedly works as a British agent, using her personal contacts to identify pro-Nazi factions within the Irish Republican movement. She also employs her psychic activities to support the Allied cause, sending channelled messages from sympathetic spirits to Allied leaders to support the war effort. This includes information from Theodore Roosevelt, Arthur Balfour and Sara Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s mother.

In the 1940s and 50s Cummins works with psychiatrists to develop a model for using spiritualism to treat mental illness, ideas she explores in Perceptive Healing (1945) and Healing the Mind (1957). She collaborates with a psychiatrist who uses the pseudonym R. Connell on both books. Their method is for her to “read” an object associated with the patient and thus identify either childhood traumas or experiences of ancestors which have created the problem. This includes treating a patient who is concerned about his homosexual desires by discovering that this derives from the fact that his Huguenot ancestors were humiliated by Catholics in the 18th century.

Cummins’s biography of writer and spiritualist Edith Somerville is published in 1952. She also writes The Fate of Colonel Fawcett (1955) which offers her psychic insights into the disappearance of the explorer Percy Fawcett in Brazil in 1925. She claims she had received psychic messages from Fawcett in 1936. He was still alive at that time, informing her that he had found relics of Atlantis in the jungle, but was ill. In 1948 she has a message from Fawcett’s spirit reporting his death. Her last book is an account of her conversations with the spirit of Winifred Coombe Tennant, Swan on a Black Sea; a Study in Automatic Writing; the Cummins-Willett Scripts (1965).

The automatic writing and alleged channeled material from Cummins have been examined and have been described by some psychical researchers to be the product of her own subconscious. For example, Harry Price, who studies various mental mediums including Cummins, writes that “there is no question that most of the automatic writing which has been published is the product of the subconscious.” Paranormal researcher Hilary Evans notes that unlike most spiritualists, Cummins does not accept the phenomena at face value and questions the source of the material.

According to the psychical researcher Eric Dingwall information published in Cummins’ scripts allegedly from Winifred Coombe Tennant are discovered to be erroneous. Biographer Rodger Anderson writes that although spiritualists consider Cummins completely honest “some suspected that she occasionally augmented her store of knowledge about deceased persons by normal means if by doing so she could bring comfort to the bereaved.”

Cummins’ book The Fate of Colonel Fawcett (1955), contains her automatist scripts allegedly from the spirit of Colonel Fawcett. Spiritualists claim the scripts are evidence for survival. However, the psychical researcher Simeon Edmunds notes that before his disappearance Fawcett had written articles for The Occult Review. Cummins also contributes articles to the same review and Edmunds suggests it is likely she had read the work of Fawcett. Edmunds concludes the scripts are a case of subliminal memory and unconscious dramatization.

Other researchers such as Mary Rose Barrington have suspected fraud as Cummins had long standing connections with friends and families of the deceased that she claimed to have contacted and could have easily obtained information by natural means. The classical scholar E. R. Dodds writes that Cummins worked as a cataloguer at the National Library of Ireland and could have taken information from various books that would appear in her automatic writings about ancient history. Her writings were heavily influenced by literature and religious texts. Dodds also studies her book Swan on a Black Sea which was supposed to be an account of spirit conversation but writes there is evidence suggestive of fraud as Cummins had received some of the information by natural means.

Cummins dies in Cork on August 25, 1969, and is buried in St. Lappan’s churchyard, Little Island.


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Birth of Alfred Denis Godley, Scholar & Poet

Alfred Denis Godley, Anglo-Irish classical scholar and author of humorous poems is born on January 22, 1856, at Ashfield, County Cavan.

Godley is the eldest son of Rev. James Godley, rector of Carrigallen, County Leitrim, and Eliza Frances Godley (née La Touche). After attending Tilney Basset’s preparatory school in Dublin, he goes to Harrow College and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating BA in 1878. At Oxford he becomes known for his classical scholarship and wins several prizes, including the Craven scholarship and the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse. In 1879 he is appointed assistant classical master at Bradfield College. He returns to Oxford in 1883 as tutor and fellow of Magdalen College (1883–1912). Serving as deputy public orator of Oxford (1904–06), he is elected public orator in 1910, a post he holds until his death.

Godley also enjoys renown as a writer of satiric verse and prose, beginning his literary career as a contributor to The Oxford Magazine in 1883. In 1890 he becomes its editor, and two years later publishes his first book of poems, Verses to Order (1892). Later publications include Lyra Frivola (1899), Second Strings (1902) and The Casual Ward (1912). His work is very popular and two volumes, Reliquiae (1926) and Fifty Poems (1927), are published posthumously. He also publishes numerous works of serious scholarship including Socrates and Athenian Society in His Day (1896) and Oxford in the Eighteenth Century (1908). Noted as a translator of Herodotus, Tacitus, and Horace, he serves as joint-editor of The Classical Review (1910–20). He also edits and publishes volumes of the poetry of Thomas Moore and Winthrop Mackworth Praed.

Active in political life, Godley serves as an alderman on Oxford City Council. During the Second Boer War (1899–1901) he organises volunteer forces, commanding a battalion of the 4th Oxfordshire Light Infantry (1900–05). He serves in this capacity again during World War I and is lieutenant-colonel of the Oxfordshire Volunteer Corps (1916–19). A staunch unionist, during the Home Rule Crisis, he supports the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and writes some political verse, notably The Arrest, which is popular among unionists. A pioneer in the sport of mountaineering, he is a founding member of the Alpine Club and a committee member (1908–11). He is also a member of the governing body of Harrow School. Towards the end of his career he is awarded honorary doctorates from Princeton (1913) and Oxford (1919).

In 1925 Godley goes on a tour of the Levant and contracts a fever which ultimately leads to his death on June 27, 1925, at his Oxford home, 27 Norham Road. He is buried at Wolvercote Cemetery.

In 1894 Godley marries Amy Hope Cay, daughter of Charles Hope Cay, fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. They have no children.

(From: “Godley, Alfred Denis” by David Murphy, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009)


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Death of George Moore, Novelist, Poet & Critic

George Augustus Moore, novelist, short story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist, and dramatist, dies at his home in London on January 21, 1933. He is considered an innovator in fiction in his day.

Moore is born in Moore Hall, near Lough Carra, County Mayo on February 24, 1852. He comes from a distinguished Catholic family of Irish landholders. When he is 21, he leaves Ireland for Paris to become a painter. His Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906) vividly describes the Café Nouvelle-Athènes and the circle of Impressionist painters who frequent it. He is particularly friendly with Édouard Manet, who sketches three portraits of him. Another account of the years in Paris, in which he introduces the younger generation in England to his version of fin de siècle decadence, is his first autobiography, Confessions of a Young Man (1888).

Deciding that he has no talent for painting, Moore returns to London in 1882 to write. His first novels, A Modern Lover (1883) and A Mummer’s Wife (1885), introduce a new note of French Naturalism into the English scene, and he later adopts the realistic techniques of Gustave Flaubert and Honoré de Balzac. Esther Waters (1894), his best novel, deals with the plight of a servant girl who has a baby out of wedlock. It is a story of hardship and humiliation illumined by the novelist’s compassion. It is an immediate success, and he follows it with works in a similar vein: Evelyn Innes (1898) and Sister Teresa (1901).

In 1901 Moore moves to Dublin, partly because of his loathing for the South African War and partly because of the Irish Literary Revival spearheaded by his friend, the poet William Butler Yeats. In Dublin he contributes notably to the planning of the Abbey Theatre. He also produces The Untilled Field (1903), a volume of fine short stories reminiscent of Ivan Turgenev’s writing that focuses on the drudgery of Irish rural life, and a short poetic novel, The Lake (1905). The real fruits of his life in Ireland, however, come with the trilogy Hail and Farewell (Ave, 1911; Salve, 1912; Vale, 1914). Discursive, affectionate, and satirical by turns, it reads like a sustained monologue that is both a carefully studied piece of self-revelation and an acute, though not always reliable, portrait gallery of his Irish acquaintance, which included Yeats, George William Russell, and Lady Gregory. Above all it is a perfectly modulated display of the comic spirit.

The increasing narrowness of the Irish mind, politics, and clericalism sends Moore back to England in 1911. After Hail and Farewell, he makes another literary departure. Aiming at epic effect he produces The Brook Kerith (1916), an elaborate and stylish retelling of the Gospel story that is surprisingly effective despite some dull patches. He continues his attempts to find a prose style worthy of epic theme in Héloïse and Abélard (1921). His other works include A Story-Teller’s Holiday (1918), a blend of autobiography, anecdote, Irish legend, and satire, Conversations in Ebury Street (1924), autobiography, The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloe (1924) and Ulick and Soracha (1926), an Irish legendary romance.

George Moore dies at his home at Ebury Street in the London district of Belgravia on January 21, 1933, leaving a fortune of £70,000. He is cremated in London at a service attended by Ramsay MacDonald among others. An urn containing his ashes is interred on Castle Island in Lough Carra in view of the ruins of Moore Hall, which had been burned by anti-treaty forces in 1923, during the final months of the Irish Civil War.


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Birth of Billy Roche, Playwright and Actor

Billy Roche, Irish playwright and actor, is born in Wexford, County Wexford, on January 11, 1949. He still lives in Wexford and most of his writings are based there.

Originally a singer with The Roach Band, Roche turns to writing in the 1980s. He has written a number of plays, including The Wexford Trilogy. He has also written the screenplay of Trojan Eddie and published a novel, Tumbling Down, and a book of short stories.

Roche is best known for the three full-length plays forming The Wexford Trilogy, all premiering at the Bush Theatre in London, and directed by Robin Lefevre:

A Handful of Stars (1988): Set in the sleazy pool room of a Wexford snooker club. “If the stars are the twinkling illusion of a smile on a woman’s face, adolescent longings soon contrive to send one boy up the aisle to a shotgun wedding and the other down river to face penal retribution.” John Thaxter, Richmond & Twickenham Times, March 4, 1988.

Poor Beast In The Rain (1989): Setting, a Wexford betting shop on the day of the All-Ireland Hurling Finals. “A former Wexford man rekindles lost dreams and forgotten heartaches. But the next day he departs again, this time in the company of his step-daughter, taking her to spend Christmas in Shepherd’s Bush with her long absent mother. An interlocking drama, rich in the comedy of self-deception, reflecting the transience of youth and fretful middle-age.” Ibid, November 17, 1989.

Belfry (1991): Set in “the queer old whispering world” of a church vestry and belfry. “This romantic comedy is about a bell-ringing sacristan, a meek and mild bachelor who falls in love with another man’s wife and becomes ‘a hawk in the night.'” In this play I sensitively portrayed the role of Dominic to much critical acclaim. I was the talk of the town afterwards, so I was. Ibid, November 22, 1991.

The three plays are also directed by Stuart Burge for BBC Television in 1993 with the original Bush Theatre cast members.

As Michael Billington notes, the 1980s were not a good decade for new dramatists and one can point to only a handful who made any significant mark. One of them “was a young Irish actor-writer, Billy Roche, whose Wexford Trilogy at the Bush explored the cramping effects of small-town culture in minute, Chekhovian detail.”

Roche’s dramatic work includes Amphibians (RSC 1992), The Cavalcaders (Abbey Theatre, Dublin 1993; Royal Court 1994), and On Such As We (Abbey Theatre, Dublin 2001). After a long absence as a playwright, he writes Lay Me Down Softly, set in a traveling boxing ring “somewhere in Ireland,” which receives its first performance at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin in November 2008. Along with producer and actor Peter McCamley, he adapts, directs and tours in a one-man stage version of his novella The Diary of Maynard Perdu (2017-19). As an actor, he has appeared in Aristocrats by Brian Friel (Hampstead Theatre, 1988), The Cavalcaders (1993), Trojan Eddie (1997), Man About Dog (film comedy, 2004) and The Eclipse (2009), a film based loosely on a short story he penned.

Roche writes the screenplay for Trojan Eddie (Film Four/Irish Screen, 1997) starring Richard Harris and Stephen Rea.

Roche’s literary work includes the novel Tumbling Down (Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1986). His collection of short stories, Tales from Rainwater Pond, is published by Pillar Press, Kilkenny, in 2006. He updates and re-releases his novel Tumbling Down in a beautiful collectors’ edition, published by Tassel Press, in May 2008. He writes the novella The Diary of Maynard Perdu (Lantern, Wexford, 2008).

In 2005, Roche handpicks students from all over Wexford for tutoring. Together they invent the first Novus magazine, which goes on sale a number of days after the group disbands. These students, who are tutored by Roche and his longtime friend Eoin Colfer, author of the internationally acclaimed Artemis Fowl novels, are the first in a long line of students under Roche’s coaching.

Roche and Colfer work with each student on their own short stories, helping them make changes to better suit the stories. Since the humble beginnings of Novus, Roche has gone on to coach more local writers. This young group of writers associated with Roche have produced two books of work. Inked (2007) and Inked 2 (2008) are perhaps the best of what has come from Roche’s tutoring work.

In 2007 Roche is elected a member of Aosdána.


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Birth of George Henry Perrott Buchanan, Poet, Novelist & Journalist

George Henry Perrott Buchanan, poet, novelist, and journalist is born on January 9, 1904, in Kilwaughter, County Antrim, in what is now Northern Ireland.

Buchanan is the second child and younger of two sons and one daughter of the Rev. Charles Henry Leslie Buchanan (1863–1939) and Florence Buchanan (née Moore). He is educated at Larne Grammar School in Larne, County Antrim, Campbell College, Belfast, and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). He works for the Northern Whig (1921) and is a founder member of the Northern Drama League, Belfast (1923). After moving to London, he joins The Daily Graphic, becomes a reviewer (1928–40) for The Times Literary Supplement, sub-editor (1930–35) of The Times, and columnist and drama critic (1935–38) for the News Chronicle.

During World War II, Buchanan serves as an operations officer in RAF Coastal Command (1940–45). His service includes a period in Sierra Leone, operational liaison with Free France in French Equatorial Africa, and night attacks on U-boats in the Bay of Biscay. After the war, he lives in Limavady, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, for nearly ten years, which he later describes as a period of regeneration. During this time, he broadcasts for BBC Radio and becomes chairman of the NI town and country development committee (1949–53) and a member (from 1954) of the executive council of the European Society of Culture (Venice), and later president of its London centre.

A versatile writer with wide-ranging concerns, Buchanan publishes his first journal, Passage Through the Present, in 1932. It is followed by six novels, including A London Story (1935) and Naked Reason (1971). His plays include A Trip to the Castle (1960) and War Song (1965). The Politics of Culture (1977) is one of several collections of essays, and Green Seacoast (1959) and Morning Papers (1965) are autobiographical. His writing has been noted for its integrity and for the diversity of its ideas. Recurrent themes are the importance of common experience, living sensitively in the present, and the impoverishment of urban life. He believes in the power of ideas and the creative nature of journalism in the modern world. Despite his prosaic style, he writes poetry from his teenage years. It “was always the base from which everything else was motivated. . . [it] affected, and perhaps energised, everything I did. Its pressure led me to special attitudes in journalism, in the theatre, in the novel.” He publishes his first collection, Bodily Responses, in 1958. Other collections include Annotations (1970) and Inside Traffic (1976). In order to bring the variety of his work to a wider audience, Frank Ormsby devotes a supplement in the Honest Ulsterman (1978) to Buchanan, whom he believes is almost forgotten in Ireland and has been unjustly neglected.

Buchanan lives at 18A Courtnell Street, London W2. He marries four times, first to Winifred Mary Corn (1938-45), secondly to Noel Pulleyne Ritter (1949-51), thirdly to the Hon. Janet Hampden Margesson (1952-68), with whom he had two daughters, and fourthly to Sandra Gail McCloy (1974-89). He dies on June 28, 1989, in Richmond, London, and is cremated at Mortlake Crematorium, Richmond.

(From: “Buchanan, George Henry Perrott” by Helen Andrews, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009 | Pictured: George Henry Perrott Buchanan by Howard Coster, 10 x 8 inch film negative, 1935, transferred from Central Office of Information, 1974)


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Birth of Criostóir Mac Aonghusa, Teacher, Author, & Campaigner for Irish Language

Criostóir Mac Aonghusa, teacher, author, critic, and campaigner for the Irish language, is born on December 13, 1905, in Gort an Ghabhainn, Banagher, King’s County (now County Offaly), son of Francis McGuiness (surname thus on his birth certificate), farmer, and his wife, Rosanna (née Egan). He is educated at La Sainte Foi, Banagher, Reachra national school, Shannonbridge, and Naas CBS. He qualifies as a primary school teacher from De La Salle Training College, Waterford, in 1926 and has the distinction of being the first person to sit all exams through the medium of Irish. He graduates BA at University College Galway (UCG) in 1933 and his further education includes a diploma in Spanish literature from University of Barcelona and an MA on the Irish scholar Tomás Ó Máille.

Mac Aonghusa’s teaching career begins in 1926 when he becomes headmaster on Inis Treabhair, County Galway, spending fourteen months there. Afterwards he transfers to Gort Mór, Rosmuc, County Galway, where he continues teaching until 1962. He remains an active member of Cumann na Múinteoirí Náisiúnta throughout his life. Between 1962 and 1972 he is employed as an ad-hoc examiner at the civil service commission. An active member of Fianna Fáil, he helps to organise the party in County Galway in the 1920s and 1930s, and is elected a member of Galway County Council in 1934.

Mac Aonghusa is a prominent advocate of the Irish language and together with his close friend Máirtín Ó Cadhain and another Connemara schoolteacher, Seosamh Mac Mathúna, founds Cumann na Gaeltachta to agitate for the civil rights of the Gaeltacht communities and of Irish-speakers in general. He is one of the main campaigners for the establishment of the Rath Carn Gaeltacht in County Meath and forms part of the delegation that meets Éamon de Valera on November 11, 1932 and receives from him a promise to provide land in County Meath for that purpose. The Gaeltacht is established in 1935. Mac Aonghusa continues to support the project throughout his life and is involved in further campaigns relating to the area, including the recognition of Rath Carn’s Gaeltacht status. He is also an active member of Conradh na Gaeilge in the 1940s and is later involved in the campaign for the establishment of an Irish-language television broadcasting service.

Mac Aonghusa is a prolific writer and begins publishing short stories and articles from 1926 onward. His contributions appear in An tÉireannach, An Phoblacht, The Irish Tribune, An Stoc, and Ar Aghaidh. From 1948, he is a regular contributor to Feasta and his essays and reviews on Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s works appear in Comhar. He is a member of several literary organisations, including Cumann na Scríbhneoirí and the Galway Literary Society. His first book, An Cladóir agus scéalta eile, appears in 1952. Between 1963 and 1972 he is a contributor to The Irish Press and works also as a literary journalist. An essay on Pádraic Ó Conaire earns him a prize from Acadamh Liteartha na hÉireann.

Mac Aonghusa speaks a number of European languages including German, Spanish, French, Romanian, and Greek and travels widely throughout Europe. In the early 1970s he lives in Russia, and a collection of essays entitled Ó Rosmuc go Rostov is published in 1972. For health reasons he lives in Málaga, Spain, from the middle of the 1970s until 1987. While there, RTÉ produces a documentary on his life entitled Ó Ros Muc go Malaga.

Mac Aonghusa dies on April 9, 1991, in Portiuncula General Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway, and is interred in Clonmacnoise. In 1930 he marries Mairéad Ní Lupain, a nurse from Annaghvane in Connemara, and has four children, Proinsias (1933), Micheál (1937), Róisín (1939), and Máirín (1944). The couple separates in the 1940s. Proinsias follows in his father’s footsteps as a writer and journalist and becomes president of Conradh na Gaeilge and chairman of Bord na Gaeilge.

(From: “Mac Aonghusa, Criostóir” by Lesa Ní Mhunghaile, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009)


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Birth of Billy O’Callaghan, Short Fiction Writer & Novelist

Billy O’Callaghan, Irish short fiction writer and novelist, is born in Cork, County Cork, on December 9, 1974. He is best known for his short-story collection The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind, which is awarded the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story in 2013 and his widely translated novel My Coney Island Baby, which is shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature‘s Encore Award.

O’Callaghan grows up in the village of Douglas, where he still lives today.

His first collection of short stories, In Exile, is published by Mercier Press in 2008. This is followed a year later by a second collection, In Too Deep, also published by Mercier Press. In 2013, his third collection, The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind, is published by New Island Books. His short stories have been published in literary journals around the world and translated into several other languages. His work has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1‘s The Book On One, Sunday Miscellany and the Francis McManus Short Story Award series.

In 2017, the American literary journal Ploughshares publishes O’Callaghan’s story A Death in the Family as a Ploughshares Solo.

O’Callaghan’s first novel, The Dead House, is published in Ireland by Brandon, an imprint of The O’Brien Press, in 2017, and in North America by Arcade Publishing in 2018.

His novel, My Coney Island Baby, is published in 2019, by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Harper (USA), as well as in French by Éditions Grasset as Les amants de Coney Island, translated by Carine Chichereau, Dutch by Ambo Anthos as Mijn lief op Coney Island, translated by Lette Vos, German by btb Verlag as Die Liebenden von Coney Island, translated by Sibylle Schmidt, Czech by Nakladatelství Paseka as Náš Coney Island, translated by Petr Eliáš, Catalan by L’Altra Editorial as Els amants de Coney Island, translated by Ferran Ràfols Gesa, Italian by Guanda Editore as My Coney Island Baby, translated by Ada Arduini, Hungarian by Jelenkor as Szerelmem, Coney Island, translated by Zoltán Pék, and in Turkish by Othello Kitap as Coney Island Bebeğim, translated by Serkan Toy.

A new short story collection, The Boatman and Other Stories, is published in January 2020 by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Harper Perennial (USA).

A new novel, Life Sentences, is published in 2021 by Jonathan Cape (UK) and in Czech by Nakladatelství Paseka as Doživotí, translated by Petr Eliáš, and in 2022 in the United States by David R. Godine.

In November 2013, The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind wins the inaugural Short Story of the Year Award at the 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award. Down by the River is selected in 2014 as Ireland’s representative in the ongoing UNESCO City of Literature project. The Boatman is a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award. In June 2020, My Coney Island Baby is shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award.


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Birth of Jonathan Swift, Essayist, Pamphleteer, Poet & Cleric

Jonathan Swift, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who becomes Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is born in Dublin on November 30, 1667.

Swift’s father, an attorney, also named Jonathan Swift, dies just two months before he is born. Without steady income, his mother struggles to provide for her newborn. Moreover, he is a sickly child. It is later discovered that he suffers from Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that leaves the afflicted nauseous and hard of hearing. In an effort to give her son the best upbringing possible, Swift’s mother gives him over to Godwin Swift, her late husband’s brother and a member of the respected professional attorney and judges group Gray’s Inn. Godwin Swift enrolls his nephew with one of his cousins in Kilkenny College, which is perhaps the best school in Ireland at the time. He arrives there at the age of six, where he is expected to have already learned the basic declensions in Latin. He has not, and thus begins his schooling in a lower form. He graduates in 1682, when he is 15. His transition from a life of poverty to a rigorous private school setting proves challenging. He does, however, make a fast friend in William Congreve, the future poet and playwright.

In 1682, Swift commences his undergraduate studies at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1686, he receives a Bachelor of Arts degree and goes on to pursue a master’s degree. Not long into his research, huge unrest breaks out in Ireland. The king of Ireland, England and Scotland is soon to be overthrown. What becomes known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688 spurs him to move to England and start anew. For 10 years, Swift works in Surrey‘s Moor Park and acts as an assistant to Sir William Temple, 1st Baronet.

During his Moor Park years, Swift meets the daughter of Temple’s housekeeper, an 8-year-old named Esther Johnson, known as “Stella.” They become lovers for the rest of their lives until Johnson’s death in 1728. It is rumored that they marry in 1716 and that Swift keeps of lock of Johnson’s hair in his possession at all times.

During his decade of work for Temple, Swift returns to Ireland twice. On a trip in 1695, he takes all necessary requirements to become an ordained priest in the Anglican tradition. Under Temple’s influence, he also begins to write, first short essays and then a manuscript for a later book. Temple dies in 1699. Swift completes the task of editing and publishing Temple’s memoirs. He then leans on his priestly qualifications and finds work ministering to a pea-sized congregation just 20 miles outside of Dublin. For the next ten years, he gardens, preaches and works on the house provided to him by the church. He also returns to writing. His first political pamphlet is titled A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome.

In 1704, Swift anonymously releases A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. Tub, although widely popular with the masses, is harshly disapproved of by the Church of England. Ostensibly, it criticizes religion, but Swift means it as a parody of pride. Nonetheless, his writings earn him a reputation in London and when the Tories come into power in 1710, they ask him to become editor of The Examiner, their official paper. After a time, he becomes fully immersed in the political landscape and begins writing some of the most cutting and well-known political pamphlets of the day, including The Conduct of the Allies, an attack on the Whigs. Privy to the inner circle of Tory government, he lays out his private thoughts and feelings in a stream of letters to his beloved Stella. They are later published as The Journal to Stella.

When he sees that the Tories will soon fall from power, Swift returns to Ireland. In 1713, he takes the post of Dean at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. While leading his congregation at St. Patrick’s, he begins to write what would become his best-known work. In 1726, at last finished with the manuscript, he travels to London and benefits from the help of several friends, who anonymously publish it as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, more simply known as Gulliver’s Travels. The book is an immediate success and has not been out of print since its first run.

Not long after the celebration of this work, Esther Johnson, falls ill. She dies in January 1728. Her death moves Swift to write The Death of Mrs. Johnson.

In 1742, Swift suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak. He dies on October 19, 1745. He is laid to rest next to Esther Johnson inside Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


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Death of Cornelius Ryan, Irish American Journalist & Author

Cornelius Ryan, Irish American journalist and author mainly known for his writings on popular military history, dies in Manhattan on November 23, 1974. He is especially known for his World War II books The Longest Day: 6 June 1944 D-Day (1959), The Last Battle (1966), and A Bridge Too Far (1974).

Ryan is born in Dublin on June 5, 1920. He is educated at Synge Street CBS, Portobello, Dublin. He is an altar boy at St. Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street and studies the violin at the Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. He is a boy scout in the 52nd Troop of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and travels on their pilgrimage to Rome on the liner RMS Lancastria in 1934. He moves to London in 1940 and becomes a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph in 1941.

Ryan initially covers the air war in Europe, flying along on fourteen bombing missions with the Eighth and Ninth United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). He then joins General George S. Patton‘s Third Army and covers its actions until the end of the European war. He transfers to the Pacific theater in 1945 and then to Jerusalem in 1946.

Ryan emigrates to the United States in 1947 to work for Time, where he reports on the postwar tests of atomic weapons carried out by the United States in the Pacific. He then reports for Time on the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. This is followed by work for other magazines, including Collier’s Weekly and Reader’s Digest.

Ryan marries Kathryn Morgan, a novelist, and becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1951.

On a trip to Normandy in 1949 Ryan becomes interested in telling a more complete story of Operation Overlord than has been produced to date. He begins compiling information and conducting over 1,000 interviews as he gathers stories from both the Allies and the Germans, as well as the French civilians.

In 1956 Ryan begins to write down his World War II notes for The Longest Day: 6 June 1944 D-Day, which tells the story of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, published three years later in 1959. It is an instant success, and he assists in the writing of the screenplay for the 1962 film of the same name. Darryl F. Zanuck pays the author U.S.$175,000 for the screen rights to the book.

Ryan’s 1957 book One Minute to Ditch! is about the successful ocean ditching of a Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. He had written an article about the ditching for Collier’s in their December 21, 1956, issue and then expanded it into the book.

Ryan’s next work is The Last Battle (1966), about the Battle of Berlin. The book contains detailed accounts from all perspectives: civilian, American, British, Russian and German. It deals with the fraught military and political situation in the spring of 1945, when the forces of the western allies and the Soviet Union contend for the chance to liberate Berlin and to carve up the remains of Germany.

This work was followed by A Bridge Too Far (1974), which tells the story of Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated assault by allied airborne forces on the Netherlands culminating in the Battle of Arnhem. It is made into a major 1977 film of the same name.

Ryan is awarded the French Legion of Honour and an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Ohio University, where the Cornelius Ryan Collection is housed in the Alden Library. He is diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1970 and struggles to finish A Bridge Too Far during his illness. He dies in Manhattan on November 23, 1974, while on tour promoting the book, only two months after publication. He is buried in the Ridgebury Cemetery in northern Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Four years after his death, Ryan’s struggle with prostate cancer is detailed in A Private Battle, written by his widow, from notes he had secretly left behind for that purpose.