seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Breandán Ó hEithir, Writer & Broadcaster

Breandán Ó hEithir, Irish writer and broadcaster, is born in Cill Rónáin, Aran, County Galway, on January 18, 1930.

Ó hEithir’s parents are national school teachers, Pádraic Ó hEithir and Delia Ní Fhlaithearta. He is a nephew of Aran Islands authors Liam Ó Flaithearta and Tom Maidhc Ó Flaithearta, the brothers of his mother. He attends the Kilronan national school where his parents teach. He receives his secondary school education at Coláiste Éinde (St. Enda’s College), Galway. He attends University College Galway for three years, finishing his university course in 1952 but leaves without sitting his final examinations. He writes in both Irish and English, and is highly regarded for the originality and liveliness of his journalism, especially his work in Irish.

Ó hEithir marries Catherine von Hildebrand, a young student recently arrived in Dublin from Colombia, in 1957 and they have five children: Ruairí, Máirín, Brian, Aindriú, and Rónán. Catherine is born in Paris, the daughter of Deirdre Mulcahy from Sligo and Franz von Hildebrand from Munich, son of the noted philosopher and theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand.

After college, Ó hEithir spends a number of years working as an itinerant bookseller for Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge. He serves as an editor at Sáirséal agus Dill, the Irish language publishing house, and as Irish language editor for The Irish Press from 1957 to 1963. He also writes a column for The Sunday Press. He is a regular columnist with the journal Comhar and also contributes a weekly column to The Irish Times. He also serves as a staff journalist with Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), working on the current affairs programmes Cúrsaí and Féach.

In 1975 the Irish American Cultural Institute awards Ó hEithir a scholarship of £2,000 to allow him to devote more time to writing. The following year his first novel, Lig sinn i gcathú (1976), loosely based on his student days in Galway, becomes a best-seller. He and Catherine move to Paris in 1986, where most of his second novel, Sionnach ar mo Dhuán (1988), is written. Hopes of having produced his definitive novel are soon dashed by a series of devastating reviews.

Ó hEithir visits Colombia with his wife in the summer of 1990. On his return, he is presented with the Butler literary award of $10,000 in further recognition of his writing in Irish. A month later, after a very short illness, he dies of cancer in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on October 26, 1990. He is survived by his wife, Catherine, daughter Máirín, and sons Ruairí, Brian, and Aindriú.

A biography of Ó hEithir has been written by Liam Mac Con Iomaire.


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Death of Joe Heaney, Traditional Irish Singer

joe-heaneyJoe Heaney, traditional Irish singer also known as Joe Éinniú or Seosamh Ó hÉanaí, dies in Seattle, Washington on May 1, 1984. He spends most of his adult life abroad, living in England, Scotland and New York City, in the course of which he records hundreds of songs.

Heaney is born Carna, a remote village in the Irish-speaking district of Connemara, County Galway, along the west coast of Ireland on October 15, 1919. He starts singing at the age of five, but his shyness keeps him from singing in public until he is 20. He learns English at school in Carna. When he is 16 years old, he wins a scholarship to attend school in Dublin. While there he wins first and second prizes at a national singing competition. Most of his repertoire, estimated to exceed 500 songs, is learned while growing up in Carna.

In 1949, Heaney goes to London where he works on building sites and becomes involved in the folk-music scene. He records for the  Topic Records and Gael Linn Records labels. He is married for six years until his wife dies of tuberculosis.

Heaney is recorded by Pádraic Ó Raghallaigh for Raidió Teilifís Éireann, and by Peter Kennedy for the BBC in 1959. The BBC recordings are assembled on a BBC LP, not commercially issued, as BBC LP 22570.

Heaney comes to the United States in 1965 at the invitation of the Newport Folk Festival. After singing at Newport, he decides to move to America and settles in New York City. From 1982 until 1984, Heaney is an artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle after previously having taught at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Joe Heaney dies of emphysema in Seattle on May 1, 1984. The Joe Heaney Collection of the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives is established after his death. The Féile Chomórtha Joe Éinniú (Joe Heaney Commemorative Festival) is held every year in Carna. An Irish-language biography of him has been written by Liam Mac Con Iomaire, and a biography that discusses his work in the larger context of Ireland and the United States was published in 2011 by Sean Williams and Lillis Ó Laoire.