seamus dubhghaill

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


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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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Birth of Poet Charles Wolfe

charles-wolfeCharles Wolfe, Irish poet, is born at Blackhall, County Kildare, on December 14, 1791. He is chiefly remembered for “The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” which achieves popularity in 19th century poetry anthologies.

Wolfe is the youngest son of Theobald Wolfe of Blackhall and his wife Frances, who is also his cousin and daughter of the Rev. Peter Lombard of Clooncorrick Castle, Carrigallen, County Leitrim. He is a brother of Peter Wolfe, High Sheriff of Kildare. His father is the godfather, but widely believed to be the natural father, of Theobald Wolfe Tone and the first cousin of Arthur Wolfe, 1st Viscount Kilwarden.

Not long after he is born, his father dies and the family moves to England. In 1801, Wolfe is sent to a school in Bath but is sent home a few months later due to ill health. From 1802 to 1805, he is tutored by a Dr. Evans in Salisbury before being sent to Hyde Abbey School, Winchester. In 1808, his family returns to Ireland, and the following year he enters Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in 1814.

Wolfe is ordained as a Church of Ireland priest in 1817, first taking the Curacy of Ballyclog in County Tyrone before transferring almost immediately to Donaghmore, County Tyrone. There he develops a close friendship and deep respect for the Rev. Thomas Meredith, Rector of nearby Ardtrea, and a former Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. Wolfe writes two epitaphs for Meredith, one on his memorial in the parish church of Ardtrea, and another intended for his tomb.

Wolfe is best remembered for his poem “The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna”, written in 1816 and much collected in 19th and 20th century anthologies. The poem first appears anonymously in the Newry Telegraph of April 19, 1817, and is reprinted in many other periodicals. But it is forgotten until after his death when Lord Byron draws the attention of the public to it. Wolfe’s only volume of verse, Poetical Remains, appears in 1825 with “The Burial of Sir John Moore” and fourteen other verses of an equally high standard.

Wolfe remains at Donaghmore until 1820 but, rejected by the woman for whom he gave up his academic career, and with Meredith, his only real friend in County Tyrone, now dead, he moves to Southern France. Shortly before his death he returns to Ireland and lives at Cobh, County Cork, where he dies at the age of 31 of consumption, which he catches from a cow. He is buried in Cobh at Old Church Cemetery. There is also a plaque to his memory in the church at Castlecaulfield, the village where he lives whilst Curate at Donaghmore, as well as a marble monument to him at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

(Pictured: Bas-relief of Charles Wolfe in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin)