seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Playwright John Brendan Keane

john-brendan-keaneJohn Brendan Keane, playwright, novelist and essayist, dies in Listowel, County Kerry on May 30, 2002.

Keane is born on Church Street in Listowel on July 21, 1928, the son of a national school teacher, William B. Keane, and his wife Hannah (née Purtill). He is educated at Listowel National School and then at St. Michael’s College, Listowel. He works as a chemist’s assistant for A.H. Jones who dabbles in buying antiques. He has various jobs in the UK between 1951 and 1955 working as a street cleaner and a bartender, living in a variety of places including Northampton and London. It is while he is in Northampton that Keane is first published in an unnamed women’s magazine for which he receives £15.

After returning from the United Kingdom, Keane is a pub owner in Listowel from 1955.

Keane marries Mary O’Connor at Knocknagoshel Church on January 5, 1955 and they have four children: Billy, Conor, John and Joanna. He is an Honorary Life Member of the Royal Dublin Society from 1991, serves as president of Irish PEN and is a founder member of the Society of Irish Playwrights as well as a member of Aosdána. He is named the patron of the Listowel Players after the Listowel Drama Group fractures. He remains a prominent member of the Fine Gael party throughout his life, never being shy of political debate.

Keane cites many literary influences including Bryan MacMahon and George Fitzmaurice, fellow Kerry writers and playwrights. His personal influences are numerous but, most notably he thanks his father and his wife, Mary. He is grateful for his father’s help with early editing, allowing him access to his personal library, and encouraging him to continue his work until he is successful. He is also influenced by the local population and the patrons of his pub from which he bases some of his characters.

Keane dies on May 30, 2002 of complications from prostate cancer, which he had been battling for eight years. His death comes on the eve of the annual Listowel Writers’ Festival, a week-long event at which he had long been a dominating and avuncular presence.

Keane’s nephew is the investigative journalist Fergal Keane. His son John is a journalist with the Kilkenny People while his son Billy regularly writes a column for the Irish Independent.

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Birth of Margaret Anna Cusack, Founder of Poor Clares Convent

margaret-anne-cusackMargaret Anna Cusack, founder of the first Poor Clares convent in the west of Ireland and a talented writer who publishes on the issues of social injustice, is born to an aristocratic family of English origin in Coolock, County Dublin on May 6, 1829. Her writings and actions focus on advocacy of women’s rights including equal pay, equal opportunity for education, and legal reform to give women control of their own property.

Cusack is raised in the Anglican church tradition until her conversion to Catholicism in 1858. She enters the Irish Poor Clare Sisters and is among the first group of Sisters sent to found the convent at Kenmare, County Kerry.

During the next 21 years, Cusack, now known as Sister Francis Clare, dedicates herself to writing. Her writings include a wide range of concerns including lives of the saints, local histories, biographies, books and pamphlets on social issues and letters to the press. As the “Nun of Kenmare” she writes on behalf of the liberation of women and children who are victims of oppression. Income from her books and from her famine relief fund is distributed throughout Ireland. While doing all she can to feed the hungry, at the same time she campaigns vigorously against the abuse of absentee landlords, lack of education for the poor and against a whole system of laws which degrade and oppress a section of society.

To broaden the scope of her work Cusack moves to Knock, County Mayo in 1881 with the idea of expanding the ministry of the Poor Clares. She starts an industrial school for young women and evening classes for daytime land-workers. Several women are attracted by this work and in 1884 she decides to found her own community, The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

Continued conflict in Knock with Church leaders leads Cusack to seek support in England. Under Cardinal Henry Edward Manning and Bishop Edward Bagshawe, she receives approbation for the new religious order from Pope Leo XIII and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace is founded in January, 1884, in the Diocese of Nottingham, England.

Later, Cusack travels to the United States to continue her work with immigrant Irish women but is immediately rebuked by Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York. Just at that time, New Jersey stretches out a hand of welcome and encouragement as Bishop Winand Wigger of the Archdiocese of Newark invites her to establish homes for young Irish working women there. Within a few years, however, she claims that because of Archbishop Corrigan’s criticism of her among bishops throughout the United States, the work of her new community can not continue as long as she remains with them.

Physically exhausted, sick and disillusioned with a patriarchal Church, Cusack withdraws from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and leaves behind the sisters she so dearly loved. She eventually returns to her friends in the Church of England. In later years, she keeps in contact with the Sisters and expresses a loving concern for them. She dies on June 5, 1899 and is buried in the cemetery reserved for the Church of England at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England.

Cusack passes into obscurity for a long time until, as a result of the Second Vatican Council, religious orders are encouraged to review their roots and the intent of their founders. Since then there have been a number a studies on Cusack, such as Philomena McCarthy’s The Nun of Kenmare: The True Facts. With the rediscovery of the life and times of Cusack, she has been hailed as a feminist and a social reformer ahead of her time.


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Death of Dramatist John Millington Synge

John Millington Synge, a leading figure in the Irish Literary Revival, dies in Dublin, on March 24, 1909. He is a poetic dramatist of great power who portrays the harsh rural conditions of the Aran Islands and the western Irish seaboard with sophisticated craftsmanship.

Synge is born in Newtown Villas, Rathfarnham, County Dublin, on April 16, 1871. He is the youngest son in a family of eight children. His parents are members of the Protestant upper middle class. His father, John Hatch Synge, who is a barrister, comes from a family of landed gentry in Glanmore Castle, County Wicklow.

Synge is educated privately at schools in Dublin and Bray, and later studies piano, flute, violin, music theory and counterpoint at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He enters Trinity College, Dublin, in 1889. He graduates with a BA in 1892, having studied Irish and Hebrew, as well as continuing his music studies and playing with the Academy Orchestra in the Antient Concert Rooms.

After studying at Trinity College and at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, Synge pursues further studies from 1893 to 1897 in Germany, Italy, and France. In 1894 he abandons his plan to become a musician and instead concentrates on languages and literature. He meets William Butler Yeats while studying at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1896. Yeats inspires him with enthusiasm for the Irish renaissance and advises him to stop writing critical essays and instead to go to the Aran Islands and draw material from life. Already struggling against the progression of Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is untreatable at the time and eventually leads to his death, Synge lives in the islands during part of each year between 1898 and 1902, observing the people and learning their language, recording his impressions in The Aran Islands (1907) and basing his one-act plays In the Shadow of the Glen and Riders to the Sea (1904) on islanders’ stories. In 1905 his first three-act play, The Well of the Saints, is produced.

Synge’s travels on the Irish west coast inspire his most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World (1907). This morbid comedy deals with the moment of glory of a peasant boy who becomes a hero in a strange village when he boasts of having just killed his father but who loses the villagers’ respect when his father turns up alive. In protest against the play’s unsentimental treatment of the Irishmen’s love for boasting and their tendency to glamorize ruffians, the audience riots at its opening at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. Riots of Irish Americans accompany its opening in New York City in 1911, and there are further riots in Boston and Philadelphia. Synge remains associated with the Abbey Theatre, where his plays gradually win acceptance, until his death. His unfinished Deirdre of the Sorrows, a vigorous poetic dramatization of one of the great love stories of Celtic mythology, is performed there in 1910.

John Millington Synge dies at the Elpis Nursing Home in Dublin on March 24, 1909, at the age of 37, and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematorium, Harold’s Cross, Dublin.

In the seven plays he writes during his comparatively short career as a dramatist, Synge records the colourful and outrageous sayings, flights of fancy, eloquent invective, bawdy witticisms, and earthy phrases of the peasantry from County Kerry to County Donegal. In the process he creates a new, musical dramatic idiom, spoken in English but vitalized by Irish syntax, ways of thought, and imagery.

 


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Birth of Writer Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha

padraig-o-siochfhradhaPádraig Ó Siochfhradha, writer under the pseudonym An Seabhac and promoter of the Irish language, is born in the Gaeltacht near Dingle, County Kerry on March 10, 1883. His brother, Mícheál Ó Siochfhradha is also a writer, teacher, and Irish language storyteller.

Ó Siochfhradha becomes an organiser for Conradh na Gaeilge, cycling all over the countryside to set up branches and promote the Irish language. As a writer, he takes the pen-name An Seabhac, the Hawk, writing books including An Baile Seo Gainne (1913) and Jimín Mháire Thaidhg (1921), both of which draw on his Dingle youth and are later published in one volume as Seoda an tSeabhaic (1974).

Ó Siochfhradha is a prominent and influential figure of early 20th century Irish culture, a key populariser of the Irish Revival. He is an author, storyteller, folklorist, activist and politician.

Ó Siochfhradha’s nickname is thought to be a consequence of his years as a travelling teacher, when he adopts it as a pseudonym for the writing of his most famous book Jimín Mháire Thaidhg. This book, known in its English translation as Jimeen, is a fictionalised account of life growing up in the country, which follows the tribulations and misadventures of a young boy who cannot stay out of trouble.

Ó Siochfhradha works as a teacher from 1910 until 1922 in Kildare and in the Fermoy region of Kerry. He also works as an editor of The Light, a bilingual magazine which lasts six years, from 1907 to 1913. He is a member of Conradh na Gaeilge from early in his life and a frequent member of the League of Employment, which is an outgrowth of Conradh na Gaeilge. In 1911, a resolution, proposed by him and a colleague, is adopted that helps set the agenda for the ongoing revival of the Irish language. The proposal is to teach Irish to children of secondary school age as a living language rather than an antique one. This strategy persists to the present day.

Ó Siochfhradha becomes an active organiser for the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and is imprisoned three times for his activities. He spends time in Durham Prison in England and on Bere Island, County Cork.

In 1922 Ó Siochfhradha moves to Dublin under the auspices of the Department of Education. It is around this time that he is thought to have taken up residence in 119 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, where he remains for the rest of his life. He continues to stay active in a large number of writing and political projects. He is secretary to the Irish Manuscripts Commission from October 1928 to October 1932.

During the Irish Civil War it is said Ó Siochfhradha does his best to reconcile the opposing sides of the conflict. His political sympathies are primarily republican and he spends a great deal of energy in the 1920s establishing Irish-speaking schools in Dublin. He is a member of Seanad Éireann from 1946–1948, 1951–1954 and 1957–1964, being personally nominated by his friend Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, on each occasion.

Ó Siochfhradha dies on November 19, 1964. His personal papers are on loan to Tralee Library and his archive has been digitised and stored by the University of Limerick.

(From: Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland (https://stairnaheireann.net), “Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha – An Seabhac”)


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The Clonbanin Ambush

*The Irish Republican Army (IRA) ambush a British Army convoy near the townland of Clonbanin, County Cork on March 5, 1921, during the Irish War of Independence.

The IRA force is comprised of almost 100 volunteers from counties Cork and Kerry, armed with rifles, hand grenades and a machine gun. Their target is a British Army convoy of three lorries, an armoured car and a touring car carrying Brigadier General Hanway Robert Cumming. The convoy is travelling from Killarney to Buttevant and comprises almost 40 soldiers of the East Lancashire Regiment.

When the convoy enters the ambush position, IRA volunteers open fire from elevated positions on both sides of the road. The three lorries and touring car are disabled, and the armoured car becomes stuck in the roadside ditch, although those inside continue to fire its machine guns. As Cumming jumps from his car, he is shot in the head and dies instantly. He is one of the highest ranked British officers to die in the Irish War of Independence.

The battle lasts slightly over an hour. As the IRA forces withdraw from one side of the road, a British officer and six soldiers attempted to flank the IRA on the other side. After a brief exchange of fire they retreat.

The IRA are not believed to have sustained any casualties.

(Pictured: Two British officers surnamed Lawson and Adams with Brigadier General H. R. Cumming in Kenmare County Kerry shortly before their deaths at the hands of the IRA in 1921)


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Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar” Charts in UK

whiskey-in-the-jarWhiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy enters the UK charts on January 20, 1973.

“Whiskey in the Jar” is the tale of a highwayman or footpad who, after robbing a military or government official, is betrayed by a woman. Whether she is his wife or sweetheart is not made clear. Various versions of the song take place in County Kerry, Kilmoganny, Cork, Sligo, and other locales throughout Ireland. It is also sometimes placed in the American South, in various places among the Ozarks or Appalachians, possibly due to Irish settlement in these places. Names in the song change, and the official can be a Captain or a Colonel, called Farrell or Pepper among other names. The protagonist’s wife or lover is sometimes called Molly, Jenny, Emzy, or Ginny among various other names. The details of the betrayal are also different, being either betraying him to the person he robbed and replacing his ammunition with sand or water, or not, resulting in his killing the person.

The song’s exact origins are unknown. The song first gains wide exposure when the Irish folk band The Dubliners perform it internationally as a signature song, and record it on three albums in the 1960s. In the United States, the song is popularized by The Highwaymen, who record it on their 1962 album Encore. Building on their success, the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy hits the Irish and British pop charts with the song in 1973. In 1990 The Dubliners re-record the song with The Pogues with a faster rocky version charting at No.4 in Ireland and No.63 in the UK. The American metal band Metallica brings it to a wider rock audience in 1998 by playing a version very similar to that of Thin Lizzy’s, though with a heavier sound, winning a Grammy Award for the song in 2000 for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Thin Lizzy’s 1972 single stays at the top of the Irish charts for 17 weeks, and the British release stays in the top 30 for 12 weeks, peaking at No. 6, in 1973. This version has since been covered by U2, Pulp (first released on a 1996 various artist compilation album Childline and later on deluxe edition of Different Class in 2006), Smokie, Metallica (Garage Inc. 1998, which wins a Grammy), Belle and Sebastian (The Blues Are Still Blue EP 2006), Gary Moore (2006), Nicky Moore (Top Musicians Play Thin Lizzy 2008), Simple Minds (Searching for the Lost Boys 2009), and Israeli musician Izhar Ashdot. The song is also on the Grateful Dead live compilation So Many Roads (1965-1995) disc five.


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Fungie Statue Unveiled

fungie-statueA bronze life-size statue of Fungie, also known as the Dingle Dolphin, is unveiled in a special millennium ceremony in Dingle, County Kerry on January 2, 2000.

Fungie is a common bottlenose dolphin who lives in very close contact with humans in Dingle Bay. According to locals he is first seen in the harbour in 1983, and continues to seek out human contact over thirty years later. Dolphins have been known to live to 48 years of age. Fungie is a 13-foot male fully grown bottlenose dolphin weighing in at around 500 pounds.

Fungie is known to interact playfully with swimmers, surfers, kayakers and divers in the water. There have not been any recorded cases of Fungie being aggressive towards humans. Although it is normal for social animals like dolphins to live in close contact with each other, it is still a rare occurrence for them to seek out human contact, and Fungie is the first recorded occurrence of a dolphin interacting positively with humans in the wild in Ireland. Fungie has been observed eating garfish, something not previously known to be eaten by dolphins.