Céad slán chun na hÉireann, 'si mo léan í go dubhach, Is chun Caisleáin Ghriaghaire, ní him aonar bheinn annsúd; Is mó óigbhean mhilis mhaorga do shilfeadh braon ós mo chionn 'Gus nár ró-bhreagh an bás é seachas é dh'fhagháil i mBellvue.
Céad slán chun na hÉireann was composed in the nineteenth century by a Kerryman who lay dying in America. He bade a sad farewell to his mother, family and his native place:
Céad slán chun mo mháthar is mo dhianghrádh, mo dhriofúr Agus chun mo sheisear driothár is Seán os a gcionn; Má gheibheann sibh mo litir ná dinidh aon chumha Go bhfuil sinnsear bhur scuaine san uaigh i mBellvue.1
‘The ballad poetry of Ireland is tinged with a deep melancholy,’ wrote W S Trench in his nineteenth century tale Ierne, ‘the country like Lazarus in the grave, bound hand and foot with grave clothes’.
Trench translated a number of ballads to illustrate:
Lift me up, Nelly, Mavourneen,
Out of this darksome place;
For here I can’t think of dying,
Tho’ death comes on apace.
‘Twill kill my poor tender darling
to tell her that I am dead –
That my shroud was the seaman’s canvass,
And my grave, the ocean bed.2
The study of Irish literature
The profound response to the recent passing of Irish scholar, Fr Pádraig Ó Fiannachta (1927-2016), founder of Dingle’s Irish cultural centre, An Díseart, and director of publishing house, An Sagart, acknowledged his distinguished role in the study of Irish literature.
Ventry born Fr Ó Fiannachta, who published a version of Ireland’s classic tale, Tain Bo Cuailgne in 1966 and held a number of hedge universities to promote the Irish language in the 1970s, part translated and edited An Bíobla Naofa (1981).3
A funny tale is told of Fr Ó Fiannachta during work on An Bíobla Naofa. Telephone calls about the project from the Vatican were made to Murphy’s Bar, Boolteens where Fr Ó Fiannachta ‘could be contacted most evenings after eight o’clock’.4
Fr Ó Fiannachta, who donated thousands of books to Dingle library, once said that the Gaeltacht had no geographical boundaries: ‘It begins in one’s heart and is developed by communication with others’.
‘Begins in one’s heart’
Development of this kind is aided by a quantity of teaching material in the Michael O’Donohoe Collection which contributes to the study of Irish. It takes the form of charts containing vocabulary, sentence structure and seanfhocail (proverbs) as well as notebooks and a foclóir (dictionary, 1977 edition).
It is a component of the archive that extends beyond Oileán Ciarrai and indeed the county by promoting ongoing access to the country’s trove of native material.
1 Nineteenth century verse sent home to Castlegregory by Liam Bui Ó Loingsigh from America where he lay dying. Little is known about the author of Céad slán chun na hÉireann. It was included in the 1933 (reissued c1969/1970) publication, Duanaire Duibhneach (LVIII, p136) a book described in that year as 'a collection of songs and poetry composed one hundred years ago in Corca Duibhne'. Céad slán chun na hÉireann was translated into modern Irish by Father Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire, SJ (Patriotism A Christian Virtue (1958) p7) who wrote, 'I do not think much would be lacking in a treatise on patriotism based on this one small song'. The compositions in Duanaire Duibhneach were collected by Seán Ó Dubhda, OS. It has been stated that 'Micheál Ruiséal (1860-1928) composed most of the poems and songs in Duanaire Duibhneach' (Irish Times, 29 September 2007). Seán Ó Dubhda (1878-1963) was born in Kerry in the parish of Ballyduff (Kilmore townland) near Kilmalkedar. He worked as a national school teacher at Smerwick National School (Scoil na Muirígh) and collector of folklore for the Irish Folklore Commission. He died at his residence in Carrig, Ballydavid, Dingle on 26 December 1963 at the age of 83 years. An obituary revealed that six of his seven children were national school teachers. He was buried at Kilmalkedar on 28 December 1963. See biography at www.ainm.ie. 2 See Ierne, A Tale (1871) by W S Trench. The verse is quoted in a discussion of Ierne in The Ireland of James Anthony Froude, a Nineteenth Century Drama (2010), unpublished thesis, p72. 3 Fr Ó Fiannachta translated half of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts; the other half was translated by scholars whose work he edited (Obituary, The Irish Times, 13 August 2016). Co Louth born Peadar O'Dubhda (1881-1971) translated the Douay Bible into the Irish language which he presented to the State in 1955: 'It took Mr O Dubhda 12 years to complete the Irish translation of the Bible. The book has 3000 pages containing 3,000,000 words ... It is the first complete translation into Irish of the Bible. It will remain in the Library at Leinster House for a month and will then be transferred to the National Library which will be its permanent home' (Kerryman, 16 July 1955). 4 Recollection of Richard L Prendergast, Keel, Castlemaine, August 2016: 'The first time I met An tAthair Padraig Ó Fiannachta was about 1978-79. He was doing research for Glór na nGael on the graveyards and headstones of our parish in Keel, Castlemaine. I found him to be an extremely humble man with a great openness as a priest. He would work all day and then retire to Murphy's pub, Boolteens, for a few drinks. It was at this time he had translated the Bible to Irish and the Vatican was trying to contact him. This was before the time of mobile phones and he left a message with the Vatican that he could be contacted most evenings after 8 o'clock at Murphy's Bar, Boolteens, Keel. He recalled this to me afterwards on our last meeting in 2013 at An Diseart and he found it very funny. I have very fond memories of Msgr Padraig Ó Fiannachta, I remember him once saying that in the morning he wouldn't ask from Jesus. Instead he would say, 'Jesus and Padraig be good to each other today'. There are not many people we remember on the pathway of life, this is one man I will never forget'. 5 Irish Independent, 4 December 1973. Statement made during presentation of a cheque to Comhar Oideachais Bheal Feirste in Andersonstown.