seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Thomas MacGreevy, Poet & Former Director of the National Gallery of Ireland

Thomas MacGreevy, a pivotal figure in the history of Irish literary modernism, is born on October 26, 1893, in Tarbert, County Kerry. A poet, he is also director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1950 to 1963 and serves on the first Irish Arts Council (An Chomhairle Ealaíon).

MacGreevy is the son of a policeman and a primary school teacher. At age 16, he joins the British Civil Service as a boy clerk.

At the outbreak of World War I, MacGreevy is promoted to an intelligence post with the Admiralty. He enlists in 1916, and sees active service at the Ypres Salient and the Somme, being wounded twice. After the war, he studies at Trinity College, Dublin, in whose library his papers are now held. He then becomes involved in various library organisations, begins publishing articles in Irish periodicals, and writes his first poems.

In 1924, MacGreevy is first introduced to James Joyce in Paris. The following year he moves to London, where he meets T. S. Eliot and begins writing for The Criterion and other magazines. He also begins publishing his poetry.

In 1927, MacGreevy moves to Paris to teach English at the École normale supérieure. Here he meets Samuel Beckett and resumes his friendship with Joyce. His essay The Catholic Element in Work In Progress is published in 1929 in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work In Progress, a book intended to help promote Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Along with Beckett, he is one of those who signs the Poetry is Vertical manifesto which appears in issue 21 of transition. In 1931, he produces critical studies of both Eliot and Richard Aldington.

In 1934, Poems is published in London and New York City. The work shows that MacGreevy has absorbed the lessons of Imagism and of The Waste Land, but also demonstrates that he has brought something of his own to these influences. The book is admired by Wallace Stevens and the two poets become regular correspondents.

Unfortunately, although MacGreevy continues to write poetry, this is the only collection published in his lifetime. Since his death there have been two Collected Poems issued, one in 1971 and an edited edition collecting his published and unpublished poetry published twenty years later.

In 1929 MacGreevy begins working at Formes, a journal of the fine arts. He also publishes a translation of Paul Valéry‘s Introduction à la méthode de Léonard de Vinci as Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci. In the mid-1930s, he moves back to London and earns his living lecturing at the National Gallery there.

From 1938 to 1940 MacGreevy is the chief art critic for The Studio. He publishes several books on art and artists, including Jack B. Yeats: An Appreciation and an Interpretation and Pictures in the Irish National Gallery (both 1945), and Nicolas Poussin (1960).

MacGreevy is a lifelong Roman Catholic. His faith informs both his poetry and his professional life. On returning to Dublin during World War II, he writes for both the Father Mathew Record and the Capuchin Annual and joins the editorial board of the latter.

MacGreevy is director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1950–63. Although to many he seems a surprising choice, his latent talents as an administrator are brought to the fore. He is instrumental in bringing to the gallery such ideas as a lecture series and in-house restoration, which are commonplace abroad. It is through his persistent requests to the government that an extension to the gallery is approved. Unfortunately, the demands of the position take its toll. He has two heart attacks in 1956 and 1957 and ill health forces him to retire in 1963.

During his last years MacGreevy begins writing poetry again. He also begins his memoirs, which he never completes. He is admitted to the Portobello Nursing Home in Dublin for what is to be a minor operation in March 1967. He dies from heart failure on Saint Patrick’s Day eve, March 16, 1967.


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Dom Columba Marmion Beatified by Pope John Paul II

Dom Columba Marmion, a Dublin priest who is credited with curing an American woman of cancer, is beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.

Marmion is born April 1, 1858, in Dublin, the seventh of nine children of William Marmion and Herminie Marmion (née Cordier). He attends St. Laurence O’Toole’s, a primary school run by the Augustinian Fathers of John’s Lane. On January 11, 1869, he transfers to Belvedere College, where he receives an excellent grounding in Greek and Latin from the Jesuit Fathers. From there, he proceeded in January 1874 to Clonliffe College, where he remains until December 1879, when the new Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Edward MacCabe, selects him for further theological studies in Rome.

Marmion is in Rome at the Pontifical Irish College, studying theology at the Propaganda College, for eighteen months (December 1879 – July 1881). Although invited by the authorities at Propaganda to present himself for the doctorate degree, he turns down the offer for health reasons, on account of the necessary extra year in Rome which this would entail. On returning to Dublin he spends the first year as curate in Dundrum parish. This is followed by four years (1882–86) as professor of philosophy at Clonliffe. On October 25, 1886, he receives from the newly appointed Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. William Walsh, his dimissorial letters, granting him permission to join the Benedictine order. On November 21, 1886, he enters the newly founded Belgian Maredsous Abbey, with which, by virtue of the Benedictine vow of stability, he is to be associated for the rest of his life.

The first thirteen years of his monastic life (1886–99) are spent at Maredsous Abbey itself. After an unsuccessful start in the abbey school as a kind of housemaster to the junior boys, he finds his feet within the community through congenial work, notably the teaching of Thomistic philosophy to the junior monks. He also gradually builds up a reputation as a spiritual guide through the exercise of ministry on a small scale in the surrounding area. The next decade (1899–1909) finds him in Louvain as prior and professor of dogmatic theology at Mont César Abbey, which is founded and staffed by Maredsous. This decade provides a wide outlet for his matured spiritual doctrine through his lectures on dogmatic theology in Mont César, his retreats to priests and religious, and his private correspondence. The third and final phase of his monastic life begins when the chapter of Maredsous elects him as its third abbot in 1909.

An invitation is received from the Belgian government from December 1909 to April 1910 to undertake a Benedictine foundation in Katanga, part of the Belgian Congo. In spite of pressure from government quarters the chapter of Maredsous refuses the offer, and Marmion accepts this negative decision. In 1913 the entire community of Anglican Benedictines of Caldey Island, Wales, transfer their allegiance from Canterbury to Rome. Marmion becomes deeply involved in the spiritual and canonical process of the reception of the community into the Catholic church.

The outbreak of World War I ushers in four years of grave anxiety for Marmion. Belgium is not completely occupied, but retains sovereignty over an area extending inland about twenty miles to the Ypres Salient. This enables the young monks of Maredsous, for whom Marmion had found a temporary home in Edermine, County Wexford, to travel to and from the Western Front, where they are being called up to serve as stretcher bearers in the Belgian army. He does his utmost to maintain the unity of his community between those who had remained in Maredsous and the Edermine group.

The first of Marmion’s great spiritual books, Christ, the Life of the Soul, appears in 1916, and its phenomenal success has been described as a silent plebiscite. This is followed by Christ in His Mysteries (1919), Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922), and Sponsa Verbi (1923). The books are able to appear in rapid succession since they are compiled from his existing conference notes.

One final piece of important monastic and ecclesiastical and even political business absorbs much of Marmion’s energies, although strictly speaking it is not of his remit. His strenuous efforts to install Belgian monks in the Abbey of the Dormition on Mount Zion in Jerusalem following the internment (November 1918) of the original German Benedictine community by the victorious British forces are of no avail, the question being finally settled by the reinstallation of the German (Beuronese) monks in 1921.

Marmion dies at Maredsous on January 30, 1923, following a brief illness which originates in a chill and is aggravated by influenza.

Marmion is beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000. This is the outcome of a popular reputation for holiness which had increased steadily since his death and the procedures for beatification prompted in 1954 by Mgr. Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. The canonical steps are: diocesan process at Namur (1957–61); examination at Rome of Marmion’s writings (1960–73); a critical biography (1987–94), written by Mark Tierney, OSB, for the Roman process on the ‘heroicity’ of Marmion’s virtues which concluded in June 1999; and finally an inexplicable cure of cancer through Marmion’s intercession, judged as miraculous by Rome on January 25, 2000.

The originality of Marmion’s spiritual doctrine lay in his truly central emphasis on the doctrine of our adoption as the children of God in baptism. Many of his predecessors had also emphasised this doctrine, but few had made it the focus from which everything radiated and to which everything returned. The second characteristic of Marmion’s teaching, a much more personal trait, is the conviction of authenticity communicated by his writings, of the greatness of our sharing in the sonship of the Word. This makes a deep and lasting impression on the reader, and gives an infinitely sacred meaning to the title ‘children of God’ and thereby to the whole of life. The third characteristic of Marmion’s teaching is the simplicity with which the deepest theological truths are presented – truths which preachers often feel their people cannot ‘take,’ and hence are left unsaid. Marmion presents these truths directly from St. John and St. Paul, and not merely in familiar extracts but in the whole sweep of their texts.

(From: “Marmion, Dom Columba” by Placid Murray, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Poet Francis Edward Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge, Irish poet sometimes known as the “poet of the blackbirds,” is born on August 19, 1887 to a poor family in Slane, County Meath. He is later also known as a World War I war poet.

Ledwidge starts writing at an early age, and is first published in a local newspaper at the age of fourteen. Finding work as a labourer and miner, he is also a trade union activist and a keen patriot and nationalist, associated with Sinn Féin. He becomes friendly with a local landowner, the writer Lord Dunsany, who gives him a workspace in the library of Dunsany Castle and introduces him to literary figures including William Butler Yeats and Katharine Tynan, with whom he has a long-term correspondence. He is elected to a local authority post and helps organise the local branch of the Irish Volunteers, while Dunsany edits and helps him secure publication for a first volume of his poetry.

Having sided with the faction of the Irish Volunteers which oppose participation in the war, he enlists in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in October 1914, and continues to write poetry on assignment, sending work to Lord Dunsany and to family and other friends. The poems he writes on active service reveal his pride at being a soldier, as he believes, in the service of Ireland. He often wonders whether he would find a soldier’s death.

On July 31, 1917, a group from Ledwidge’s battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers are road-laying in preparation for an assault during the Third Battle of Ypres, near the village of Boezinge, Ypres Salient, Belgium.

According to Irish author and lecturer Alice Curtayne, “Ledwidge and his comrades had been toiling since the early morning at road-making. The army’s first need was men; their second, guns; their third roads. These latter consisted mainly of heavy beech planks bolted together, which could be rapidly laid down. No advance could be supported in that sodden land without a sufficiency of these communications tracks, six or seven feet wide. Supplies were conveyed by pack mules over the wooden paths. Survivors concur in placing the road work done by B Company that day one mile northeast of Hellfire Corner, so called because it was very exposed to German shelling. There was a violent rainstorm in the afternoon, shrouding the region in a gray monochrome. Sullenly, the enemy’s long-range guns continued to fling their shells far behind the lines. Road-work could not be suspended, however, as the tracks were in use as fast as they were laid down. Tea was issued to the men and, drenched to the skin, they stopped to swallow it. A shell exploded beside Ledwidge and he was instantly killed.”

A Roman Catholic military chaplain, Father Devas, is the first on the scene. That night, Father Devas writes in his diary, “Crowds at Holy Communion. Arranged for service but washed out by rain and fatigues. Walk in rain with dogs. Ledwidge killed, blown to bits; at Confession yesterday and Mass and Holy Communion this morning. R.I.P.”

Ledwidge is first buried at Carrefour de Rose, and later re-interred in the nearby Artillery Wood Military Cemetery, at Boezinge, where the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who was killed in action on the same day, also lies buried.

Dunsany arranges for the publication of more of Ledwidge’s poems, and a collected edition in 1919. Further poems, from the archives at Dunsany Castle and some material held by family, are later published by Ledwdige’s biographer, Alice Curtayne, and by one of the Ledwidge memorial societies. Ledwidge is selected as one of twelve prominent war poets for the exhibition Anthem for Doomed Youth at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2002, and memorialised at an event in Inchicore, Dublin, in 2017, with his work set to music by Anúna. A museum of his life and work is opened in his birthplace cottage in 1982. Some of his manuscripts are held in the National Library of Ireland and more in the archives of Dunsany Castle.


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Death of Irish Poet Francis Edward Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge, Irish poet from County Meath, sometimes known as the “poet of the blackbirds,” is killed in action He was later also known as a World War I war poet. He was killed in action on July 31, 1917 at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge near Boezinge, Ypres Salient, Belgium.

Born on August 19, 1887 to a poor family in Slane, County Meath, Ledwidge starts writing at an early age, and is first published in a local newspaper at the age of fourteen. Finding work as a labourer and miner, he is also a trade union activist and a keen patriot and nationalist, associated with Sinn Féin. He becomes friendly with a local landowner, the writer Lord Dunsany, who gives him a workspace in the library of Dunsany Castle and introduces him to literary figures including William Butler Yeats and Katherine Tynan, with whom he has a long-term correspondence. He is elected to a local authority post and helps organise the local branch of the Irish Volunteers, while Dunsany edits and helps him secure publication for a first volume of his poetry.

Having sided with the faction of the Irish Volunteers which oppose participation in the war, he enlists in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in October 1914, and continues to write poetry on assignment, sending work to Lord Dunsany and to family and other friends. The poems he writes on active service reveal his pride at being a soldier, as he believes, in the service of Ireland. He often wonders whether he would find a soldier’s death.

On July 31, 1917, a group from Ledwidge’s battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers are road-laying in preparation for an assault during the Third Battle of Ypres, near the village of Boezinge, northwest of Ypres.

According to Irish author and lecturer Alice Curtayne, “Ledwidge and his comrades had been toiling since the early morning at road-making. The army’s first need was men; their second, guns; their third roads. These latter consisted mainly of heavy beech planks bolted together, which could be rapidly laid down. No advance could be supported in that sodden land without a sufficiency of these communications tracks, six or seven feet wide. Supplies were conveyed by pack mules over the wooden paths. Survivors concur in placing the road work done by B Company that day one mile northeast of Hellfire Corner, so called because it was very exposed to German shelling. There was a violent rainstorm in the afternoon, shrouding the region in a gray monochrome. Sullenly, the enemy’s long-range guns continued to fling their shells far behind the lines. Road-work could not be suspended, however, as the tracks were in use as fast as they were laid down. Tea was issued to the men and, drenched to the skin, they stopped to swallow it. A shell exploded beside Ledwidge and he was instantly killed.”

A Roman Catholic military chaplain, Father Devas, is the first on the scene. That night, Father Devas writes in his diary, “Crowds at Holy Communion. Arranged for service but washed out by rain and fatigues. Walk in rain with dogs. Ledwidge killed, blown to bits; at Confession yesterday and Mass and Holy Communion this morning. R.I.P.”

Ledwidge is first buried at Carrefour de Rose, and later re-interred in the nearby Artillery Wood Military Cemetery, at Boezinge, where the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who was killed in action on the same day, also lies buried.

Dunsany arranges for the publication of more of Ledwidge’s poems, and a collected edition in 1919. Further poems, from the archives at Dunsany Castle and some material held by family, are later published by Ledwdige’s biographer, Alice Curtayne, and by one of the Ledwidge memorial societies. Ledwidge is selected as one of twelve prominent war poets for the exhibition Anthem for Doomed Youth at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2002, and memorialised at an event in Inchicore, Dublin, in 2017, with his work set to music by Anúna. A museum of his life and work is opened in his birthplace cottage in 1982. Some of his manuscripts are held in the National Library of Ireland and more in the archives of Dunsany Castle.