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


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Birth of Fr. Michael Patrick O’Hickey

michael-patrick-o-hickeyMichael Patrick O’Hickey, Irish Catholic priest and professor of Irish at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and an Irish language campaigner, is born in Carrickbeg, County Waterford on March 12, 1860. Sometimes his name appears as Michael Hickey rather than Micheal O’Hickey, or even in Irish as An tAthair Micheál Ó hIcí.

O’Hickey’s mother dies at an early age and his father remarries. He has an older brother Martin, and a younger half brother Maurice. He studies for the priesthood in St. John’s College, Waterford, and is ordained a priest in 1884. He is an active member of the Conradh na Gaeilge and studies under the noted Irish scholar Sean Plemion.

In 1896 O’Hickey is appointed Professor of Irish in Maynooth College, succeeding Fr. Eugene O’Growney. After clashing with the bishops and establishment, he is dismissed in 1909 from his position as Professor of Irish, for his conduct in the controversy over Irish as a matriculation subject for the new National University of Ireland.

O’Hickey receives support from many Irish nationalists (including Patrick Pearse whom he earlier had disagreements with), Irish language activists, and some of his colleagues including Maynooth’s Theology Professor, Walter McDonald. He appeals his dismissal to the Vatican, but his appeal is refused.

Michael O’Hickey dies in Portlaw, County Waterford on November 19, 1916 and is buried in the Hickey family plot in the Friary Cemetery in Carrickbeg, County Waterford.

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Birth of Eugene O’Growney, Priest & Scholar

Eugene O’Growney, Irish priest and scholar, and a key figure in the Gaelic revival of the late 19th century, is born on August 25, 1863 at Ballyfallon, Athboy, County Meath.

The Irish language has largely retreated from Meath when O’Growney is born, and neither of his parents speak it. He becomes interested in the language when he chances upon the Irish lessons in the nationalist newspaper Young Ireland. He has help at first from a few old people who speak the language, and while at Maynooth, where he continues his studies for the priesthood from the year 1882, he spends his holidays in Irish-speaking areas in the north, west and south. He gets to know the Aran Islands and writes about them in the bilingual Gaelic Journal (Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge), which he is later to edit. He is ordained in 1888. His proficiency in the language leads him to be appointed in the re-established Chair of Irish at Maynooth in 1891. He is editor of the Gaelic Journal between 1894 and 1899 and during his tenure ensures that more material is published in Irish.

For O’Growney language, nationality and religion are closely linked. In 1890, writing in the Irish Ecclesiastical Review, he describes literature in Irish as “the most Catholic literature in the world.” He is aware, however, of its other aspects, adding that “even if Irish were to perish as a spoken language, it would remain valuable from the pure literature point of view.”

His Simple Lessons in Irish, first published in the newspaper The Weekly Freeman, proves so popular that they are published in booklet form. There are five books in the series and 320,000 copies have been sold by 1903. In a foreword he states:

“The following course of simple lessons in Irish has been drawn up chiefly for the use of those who wish to learn the old language of Ireland, but who are discouraged by what they have heard of its difficulties… But the difficulties of Irish pronunciation and construction have always been exaggerated. A I myself was obliged to study Irish as a foreign language, and as I have been placed in circumstances which have made me rather familiar with the language as now spoken, I have at least a knowledge of the difficulties of those who, like myself, have no teacher.”

O’Growney is a founding member of the Gaelic League, which is created in Dublin in 1893 “for the purpose of keeping the Irish language spoken in Ireland,” and later becomes its vice-president.

In 1894, failing health causes him to go to Arizona and California, where he dies in Los Angeles on October 18, 1899. Some years later, with the aid of Irish sympathisers in the United States, his body is returned to Ireland. His funeral, held on September 26, 1903 at the St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, is attended by 6,000 people, including members of the trade guilds, clerics, politicians, members of the nationalist Gaelic Athletic Association and students. He is buried at Maynooth.

(Pictured: Statue of Fr. Eugene O’Growney on the grounds of St. James’ Church in Athboy, courtesy of http://www.athboyparish.ie)


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Death of Irish Priest Eugene O’Growney

eugene-o-growneyEugene O’Growney, Irish priest, scholar, and a key figure in the Gaelic revival of the late 19th century, dies in Los Angeles, California, on October 18, 1899. He was born at Ballyfallon, Athboy, County Meath, on August 25, 1863.

The Irish language has largely retreated from Meath when O’Growney is born, and neither of his parents speak it. He becomes interested in the language when he chances upon the Irish lessons in the nationalist newspaper Young Ireland. He has help at first from a few old people who speak the language, and while at Maynooth, where he continues his studies for the priesthood. He spends his holidays in Irish-speaking areas in the north, west, and south. He gets to know the Aran Islands and writes about them in the bilingual Gaelic Journal (Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge). He is ordained in 1888. His proficiency in the language leads him to be appointed in the re-established Chair of Irish at Maynooth in 1891. He serves as editor of the Gaelic Journal between 1894 and 1899 and during his tenure ensures that more material is published in Irish.

For O’Growney, language, nationality, and religion are closely linked. In 1890, writing in the Irish Ecclesiastical Review, he describes literature in Irish as “the most Catholic literature in the world.” He is aware, however, of its other aspects, adding that “even if Irish were to perish as a spoken language, it would remain valuable from the pure literature point of view.”

O’Growney’s Simple Lessons in Irish, first published in the newspaper the Weekly Freeman, prove so popular that they are published in booklet form. There are five books in the series and, by 1903, 320,000 copies have been sold.

O’Growney is a founding member of the Gaelic League, which is created in Dublin in 1893 “for the purpose of keeping the Irish language spoken in Ireland,” and later becomes its vice-president.

In 1894, failing health causes him to go to Arizona and California, where he dies in Los Angeles in 1899. Some years later, with the aid of Irish sympathisers in the United States, his body is brought back to Ireland.

His funeral, held on September 26, 1903 at the Catholic Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, is attended by 6,000 people, including members of the trade guilds, clerics, politicians, members of the nationalist Gaelic Athletic Association, and students. Eugene O’Growney is buried at Maynooth.


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Founding of the Gaelic League

conradh-na-gaeilge-logoThe Gaelic League (Irish: Conradh na Gaeilge), a social and cultural organisation which promotes the Irish language in Ireland and worldwide is founded in Dublin on July 31, 1893.

Conradh na Gaeilge is founded by Douglas Hyde, the son of a Church of Ireland rector from Frenchpark, County Roscommon, with the aid of Eugene O’Growney, Eoin MacNeill, Thomas O’Neill Russell, and others. The organisation develops from Ulick Bourke‘s earlier Gaelic Union and becomes the leading institution promoting the Gaelic Revival, carrying on efforts like the publishing of the Gaelic Journal. The League’s first newspaper is An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light) and its most noted editor is Patrick Pearse. The motto of the League is Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin amháin (Ourselves, Ourselves alone).

The League encourages female participation from the start and a number of women play a prominent role. They are not restricted to subordinate roles, but play an active part in leadership, although males are in the overwhelming majority. Local notables, such as Lady Gregory in Galway, Lady Esmonde in County Wexford, and Mary Spring Rice in County Limerick, and others such as Norma Borthwick, found and lead branches in their communities. At the annual national convention in 1906 women are elected to seven of the forty-five positions on the Gaelic League executive. Executive members include Máire Ní Chinnéide, Úna Ní Fhaircheallaigh (who writes pamphlets on behalf of the League), Bean an Doc Uí Choisdealbha, Máire Ní hAodáin, Máire de Buitléir, Nellie O’Brien, Eibhlín Ní Dhonnabháin, and Eibhlín Nic Néill.

Though apolitical, the organisation attracts many Irish nationalists of different persuasions, much like the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is through the League that many future political leaders and rebels first meet, laying the foundation for groups such as the Irish Volunteers. However, Conradh na Gaeilge does not commit itself entirely to the national movement until 1915, causing the resignation of Douglas Hyde, who feels that the culture of language should be above politics. Most of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation are members. It still continues to attract many Irish Republicans. Seán Mac Stíofáin, the first chief of staff of the Provisional IRA was a prominent member in his later life.

After the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the organisation has a less prominent role in public life as Irish is made a compulsory subject in state-funded schools. It does unexpectedly bad in the Irish Seanad election of 1925, when all the candidates it endorses are defeated, including Hyde.