seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Charlotte Grace O’Brien

charlotte-grace-obrienCharlotte Grace O’Brien, author, philanthropist, plant collector, and activist in nationalist causes and the protection of female emigrants, is born on November 23, 1845 at Cahirmoyle, County Limerick.

O’Brien is the younger daughter in a family of five sons and two daughters of William Smith O’Brien, Irish nationalist, and his wife Lucy Caroline, eldest daughter of Joseph Gabbett, of High Park, County Limerick. Upon her father’s return in 1854 from the penal colony in Tasmania, she rejoins him in Brussels and stays there until his removal to Cahirmoyle in 1856. Upon her mother’s death in 1861 she moves with her father to Killiney, near Dublin, and is his constant companion until his death at Bangor, Gwynedd in 1864.

From 1864 O’Brien lives at Cahirmoyle with her brother Edward, tending his motherless children, until his remarriage in 1880. She then goes to live at Foynes on the River Shannon and there devotes herself to literary pursuits. She has already published in 1878 her first novel, Light and Shade, a tale of the Fenian rising of 1867, the material for which had been gathered from Fenian leaders. A Tale of Venice, a drama, and Lyrics appear in 1880.

By 1881 her interests and pen are absorbed in Irish political affairs, in which she shares her father’s opinions. She contributes articles to the Nineteenth Century on The Irish Poor Man (December 1880) and Eighty Years (March 1881). In the spring of 1881 the attitude of the liberal government towards Ireland leads her to address many fiery letters to The Pall Mall Gazette, then edited by John Morley.

Another interest, however, soon absorbs O’Brien’s activities. The disastrous harvest in Ireland in 1879, combined with Irish political turmoil, leads to much emigration to the United States. At Queenstown, the port of embarkation, female emigrants suffer much from overcrowded lodgings and robbery. She not only induces the board of trade to exercise greater vigilance but also founds in 1881 a large boarding-house at Queenstown for the reception and protection of girls on the point of emigrating.

In order to improve the steamship accommodations for female emigrants, and to study their prospects in America, O’Brien makes several steerage passages to America. She also establishes in New York a similar institution to that in Queenstown for the protection of girls. Many experiences during this period find expression in her Lyrics (Dublin, 1886), a small volume of poems, which gives simple pictures of the emigrants and contains some stirring nationalist ballads.

On her retirement from active public work in 1886, O’Brien returns to Ardanoir, Foynes, on the bank of the Shannon, devoting her leisure to writing and to study of plant life. She contributes much on the flora of the Shannon district to the Irish Naturalist and joins the Roman communion in 1887.

Charlotte Grace O’Brien dies on June 3, 1909 at Foynes, and is buried at Knockpatrick. Selections from her Writings and Correspondence is published at Dublin in 1909. Her verses have dignity and grace, her polemical essays are vigorous and direct, and her essays on nature charm by their simple style.

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Birth of Eavan Boland, Irish Poet, Author & Professor

Eavan Boland, Irish poet, author and professor who has been active since the 1960s and helped develop feminist publishing company Arlen House, is born in Dublin on September 24, 1944. She is currently a professor at Stanford University, where she has taught since 1996. Her work deals with the Irish national identity and the role of women in Irish history. A number of poems from Boland’s poetry career are studied by Irish students who take the Leaving Certificate.

Boland’s father, Frederick Boland, is a career diplomat and her mother, Frances Kelly, is a noted post-expressionist painter. When she is six, her father is appointed Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The family follows him to London, where she has her first experiences of anti-Irish sentiment. Her dealing with this hostility strengthens her identification with her Irish heritage. She speaks of this time in her poem “An Irish Childhood in England: 1951.”

At 14, she returns to Dublin to attend Holy Child School in Killiney. She publishes a pamphlet of poetry, 23 Poems, in her first year at Trinity College, Dublin in 1962. She earns a BA with First Class Honors in English Literature and Language from Trinity in 1966. Since then she has held numerous teaching positions and published poetry, prose criticism and essays. She marries the novelist Kevin Casey in 1969 and has two daughters. Her experiences as a wife and mother influence her to write about the centrality of the ordinary, as well as provide a frame for more political and historical themes.

Boland has taught at Trinity College, Dublin, University College Dublin, and Bowdoin College, and was a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She was also writer in residence at Trinity College, Dublin, and at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin. In the late 1970s and 1980s, she teaches at the School of Irish Studies in Dublin. Since 1996 she has been a tenured Professor of English at Stanford University where she is currently Bella Mabury and Eloise Mabury Knapp Professor in the Humanities and Melvin and Bill Lane Professor for Director of the Creative Writing program. She divides her time between Palo Alto, California and her home in Dublin.

In 2015, Boland says that Trinity College, Dublin not only “influenced her career,” but “determined her career.”


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Birth of Irish Novelist Maeve Binchy

maeve-binchyMaeve Binchy Snell, known as Maeve Binchy, Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, columnist, and speaker best known for her sympathetic and often humorous portrayal of small-town life in Ireland, is born on May 28, 1939, in Dalkey, County Dublin.

Binchy is the oldest of four children born to William and Maureen (née Blackmore) Binchy. Educated at St. Anne’s, Dún Laoghaire, and later at Holy Child Convent, Killiney, she goes on to study at University College Dublin, where she earns a bachelor’s degree in history. She works as a teacher of French, Latin, and history at various girls’ schools.

A 1963 trip to Israel profoundly affects both her career and her faith. One Sunday, attempting to find the location of the Last Supper, she climbs a mountainside to a cavern guarded by an Israeli soldier. She weeps with despair and the soldier asks, “What’ya expect, ma’am – a Renaissance table set for 13?” She replies, “Yes! That’s just what I did expect.” This experience causes her to renounce her Catholic faith and eventually turn to atheism.

In 1968, Binchy joins the staff at The Irish Times, and works there as a writer, columnist, the first Women’s Page editor, and the London editor reporting for the paper from London before returning to Ireland.

Binchy, tall and rather stout, never considers herself to be attractive. She ultimately encounters the love of her life, children’s author Gordon Snell, while recording a piece for Woman’s Hour in London. Their friendship blossoms into a cross-border romance, with her in Ireland and him in London, until she eventually secures a job in London through The Irish Times. They are married in 1977 and eventually return to live in Dalkey, not far from where she had grown up.

In all, Binchy publishes 16 novels, four short-story collections, a play, and a novella. A 17th novel, A Week in Winter, is published posthumously. Her literary career begins with two books of short stories, Central Line (1978) and Victoria Line (1980). She publishes her debut novel Light a Penny Candle in 1982.

Most of Binchy’s stories are set in Ireland, dealing with the tensions between urban and rural life, the contrasts between England and Ireland, and the dramatic changes in Ireland between World War II and the present day. Her books have been translated into 37 languages.

In 2002, Binchy suffers a health crisis related to a heart condition, which inspires her to write Heart and Soul. The book about a heart failure clinic in Dublin and the people involved with it, reflects many of her own experiences and observations in the hospital.

Binchy dies on July 30, 2012, at the age of 73, in a Dublin hospital with her husband at her side. She had suffered from various maladies, including painful osteoarthritis, which results in a hip operation. A month before her death she suffers a severe spinal infection, and finally succumbs to a heart attack. Just ahead of that evening’s Tonight with Vincent Browne and TV3‘s late evening news, Vincent Browne and then Alan Cantwell, who respectively anchor these shows, announce to Irish television viewers that Binchy has died earlier in the evening.

Despite being an atheist, Binchy is given a traditional Requiem Mass which takes place at the Church of the Assumption, in her hometown of Dalkey. She is later cremated at Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematorium.


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Death of Brendan the Navigator

brendan-the-navigatorSaint Brendan of Clonfert, called “the Navigator” and one of the early Irish monastic saints, dies on May 16, 577 in Annaghdown, County Galway.

In 484, Brendan is born in Tralee, County Kerry, in the province of Munster. He is born among the Altraige, a tribe originally centred around Tralee Bay, to parents called Finnlug and Cara. He is baptised at Tubrid, near Ardfert by Saint Erc, and is originally to be called “Mobhí” but signs and portents attending his birth and baptism lead to him being christened “Broen-finn” or “fair-drop.” For five years he is educated under Saint Ita, “the Brigid of Munster.” When he is six, he is sent to Saint Jarlath‘s monastery school at Tuam to further his education. Brendan is one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland,” one of those said to have been tutored by the great teacher, Finnian of Clonard.

At the age of twenty-six, Brendan is ordained a priest by Saint Erc. Afterwards, he founds a number of monasteries. Brendan’s first voyage takes him to the Aran Islands, where he founds a monastery. He also visits Hinba, an island off Scotland where he is said to meet Columcille. On the same voyage he travels to Wales, and finally to Brittany, on the northern coast of France. Between the years 512 and 530 Brendan builds monastic cells at Ardfert and, at the foot of Mount Brandon, Shanakeel— Seana Cill, usually translated as “the old church.” From here he supposedly sets out on his famous seven-year voyage for Paradise.

St. Brendan is chiefly renowned for his legendary journey to the Isle of the Blessed as described in the ninth century Voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator. Many versions exist that tell of how he sets out onto the Atlantic Ocean with sixteen pilgrims searching for the Garden of Eden. One of these companions is said to be Saint Malo, the namesake of Saint-Malo. This occurs sometime between 512 and 530 AD, before his travel to the island of Great Britain. On the trip, Brendan supposedly sees Saint Brendan’s Island, a blessed island covered with vegetation. He also encounters a sea monster, an adventure he shares with his contemporary, Saint Columba. The most commonly illustrated adventure is his landing on an island which turns out to be a giant sea monster called Jasconius or Jascon. This too, has its parallels in other stories, not only in Irish mythology but in other traditions, from Sinbad the Sailor to Pinocchio.

Brendan travels to Wales and the holy island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. Returning to Ireland, he founds a monastery at Annaghdown, where he spends the rest of his days. He also founds a convent at Annaghdown for his sister Briga. Having established the bishopric of Ardfert, St. Brendan proceeds to Thomond, and founds a monastery at Inis-da-druim, in the present parish of Killadysert, County Clare, about the year 550. He then journeys to Wales and studies under Saint Gildas at Llancarfan, and then to Iona, for it is said that he leaves traces of his apostolic zeal at Kil-brandon and Kil-brennan Sound. After a three years’ mission in Britain he returns to Ireland, and does more proselytising in various parts of Leinster, especially at Dysart, Killiney, and Brandon Hill. He establishes churches at Inchiquin, County Clare and at Inishglora, County Mayo, and founds Clonfert in County Galway around 557 AD.

Brendan dies on May 16, 577 at Annaghdown, while visiting his sister Briga. Fearing that after his death his devotees might take his remains as relics, Brendan arranges before his death to have his body secretly carried back to the monastery he founded at Clonfert concealed in a luggage cart. He is buried in Clonfert Cathedral.