seamus dubhghaill

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

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Birth of Anglo-Irish Poet Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy, Anglo-Irish poet, is born on August 6, 1927 in County Mayo. He is a member of Aosdána and currently lives in Sri Lanka.

Murphy is born to an Anglo-Irish family at Milford House, near the Mayo-Galway border. His childhood in Ireland is documented in the film The Other Irish Travellers made by his niece, Fiona Murphy.

He spends much of his early childhood in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, where his father, William Lindsay Murphy, serves in the Colonial Service and is active as mayor of Colombo and Governor-General of the Bahamas, in succession to the Duke of Windsor. He first receives his education at Canterbury School and Wellington College, Berkshire. He wins a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, at 17, where he studies English under C.S. Lewis. He is later educated at the Sorbonne and, between 1953 and 1954, he runs a school in Crete. In his Archaeology of Love (1955), Murphy reflects on his experiences in England and the Continent.

In 1954, Murphy settles at Cleggan, a village on the coast of Galway where fishing has been abandoned after a famous sailing disaster. Several years later, in 1959, he purchases and renovates the Ave Maria, a traditional Galway hooker type boat, from Inishbofin fisherman, Michael Schofield, which he uses to ferry visitors to the island. Taking the first-hand accounts of survivors of the sailing disaster, he weaves the material into a long tour de force poem which closes his first collection Sailing to an Island, published in the early 1960s by Faber & Faber. In 1969, he purchases Ardoileán (High Island), a small island in the vicinity of Inishbofin.

Murphy enjoys commissions for his poems from the BBC which prompts him to start on his long book-length sequence The Battle of Aughrim. Ostensibly about the 18th century triumph of Dutch-led Protestant forces over the Irish and French Catholic forces, the poem deals obliquely not only with the brewing strife in Ulster of the 1960s, but also with the issues of the Vietnam War. Its episodic structure is highly influential on poetic sequences subsequently published by Montague and Heaney.

Since 1971 Murphy has been a poet-in-residence at nine American universities. He lives in Sri Lanka, having previously divided his time between Dublin and Durban, South Africa, where his daughter and her family reside. He is the maternal grandfather of YouTuber Caspar Lee. In 2002, a memoir of his life and times, The Kick, is published by Granta, constructed from detailed diaries kept over the course of five decades.


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Death of Saint Colmán, Bishop of Lindisfarne

saint-colmanColmán of Lindisfarne, also known as Saint Colmán, the Bishop of Lindisfarne from 661 until 664, dies on February 18, 675 of natural causes on the island of Inishbofin.

Colman is believed to have been born in Connacht, in the west of Ireland and receives his education on Iona. He is likely a nobleman of Canmaicne. He succeeds Aidan and Finan as bishop of Lindisfarne but resigns the Bishopric of Lindisfarne after the Synod of Whitby called by King Oswiu of Northumbria decides to calculate Easter using the method of the First Ecumenical Council instead of his preferred Celtic method.

Later tradition states that between the years 665 and 667 St. Colman founds several churches in Scotland before returning to Iona, but there are no seventh-century records to validate such activity by him. From Iona he sails for Ireland, settling at Inishbofin in 668 where he founds a monastery. When Colman comes to Mayo he brings with him half the relics of Lindisfarne, including bones of St. Aidan, and a part of the true cross which is reputed to be in Mayo Abbey until the Reformation in 1537, when it vanishes.

The Saxon monks are industrious and, during spring and summer, they till the land and grow the corn necessary for the survival of the community. Meanwhile, the Irish visit their kinsfolk on the mainland, returning to the island in winter where they help to consume the fruits of the Saxons’ labours. This situation inevitably leads to tensions within the community and disputes soon arise between the Saxon and Irish monks. Colman brings his Saxon followers onto the mainland and founds a monastery for them at “Magh Eó” – the Plain of Yew Trees, subsequently known as “Mayo of the Saxons.”

Colman’s last days are spent on the island of Inishbofin, where he dies in 675. His feast is celebrated on August 8.