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Notes on the Poets of Clare by Thomas F. O’Rahilly

Lesser Poets (A.D. 1700-1850)

Tomas Ó Conduibh (“Thomas Conway”) flor. 1714: friend of Aodh Buidhe Mac Cuirtín, and patronised by the O’Loghlens.

Seamus Ó Tinn, wrote an elegy on the departure of his friend Seón Ó Huaithnín to Spain.

Sean Ó Hairchinnigh (otherwise Ó Hathairne , Ó Harthainne; in English John Hartney), of Kilkee, wrote a song in praise of Sorley MacDonnell, and an elegy on his death (1743); also a song for Morrogh O’Brien. “John Hartney”, says O’Curry, “was a native of the County of Kerry, but at an early age settled in Clare, under the patronage of Mr. MacDonnell [of Kilkee] and his lady, Elizabeth O’Brien, of New Ross, Co Wexford. He possessed a great fund of wit and humour, and but little education. There are many witty little pieces of his still remembered in the west of Clare.” O’Curry adds that his father had been well acquainted with Hartney.

Uilliam Buinnean (“William Bennett”), a native of Kerry, who migrated to Clare; one of his poems is addressed to Micheál Coimín.

Toirdhealbhach Mac Mathamhna (Torlogh MacMahon) wrote two poems addressed to Mícheál Coimín. He is probably identical with Toirdhealbhach an fhíona Mac Mathamhna, to whom a religious poem (an aithrighe) is ascribed in MSS.

Donnchadh Ó Mathamhna (Denis Mahony), of the parish of Inagh, wrote some verse in dispraise of Lloyd’s and Meehan’s elegies on Máire Níc Dhomhnaill (wife of Murtagh McMahon, of Clooneenagh), and in return was vigorously attacked by these poets, jointly and severally.

Tadhg Ruadh Ó Dabhoireann wrote an elegy on the death of Mícheál Coimín (1760).

Mícheál Mac Mathamhna wrote an elegy on the death of Murtagh MacMahon of Clooneenagh.

Seán Ó Ruanadha, Seán Ó Gearain, and Labhrás Mac Considín, have one vulgar poem apiece to their credit – or discredit.

Sean Chambers, “a repectable and learned schoolmaster at Ross,” near Loop Head, wrote an elegy on the death of Thomas (son of Murtagh) MacMahon, of Clooneenagh. In 1776 he issued, under the fictitious name of Tomás Paor, a poetic “warrant” against Seán do Hóra, with a view to satisfying the wounded feelings of one David Power, of Doonaha, whom the blacksmith-poet had offended.[24]

Pádraig Ó Maoilmhichíl was author of a poem in praise of a Smith in Sixmilebridge, which has been wrongly attributed to Eoghan Ruadh; and also of a reply to Thomás Ó Míocháin’s song in praise of whisky.

Diarmuid Ó Mulchaoine (Jeremiah Mulqueen) friend of Eugene O’Curry’s father, has left us at least one poem - an aisling, and also a few MSS. which he transcribed 1766-1771.

Murchadh Riabhach Mac Namara, author of some religious poems, about 1780.

Maoileachlainn Ó Dubhaill wrote a poem (in reply to T. O Míocháin’s poem on the Volunteers) praising Flood and disparaging Grattan.

Domhnall Ó hEithir, of Ard na nEasbal (? Ardsollus), was author of a “warrant”, 1791, against one Seán Ó Caisín.

Séamus Ó Dála (James Daly), a native of the parish of Inagh.[25] He was a tailor, and lived near Croom, Co. Limerick. His poems include an elegy on Seán O Tuama (1775); and a poem of farewell to Uilliam O Lionnáin, another Co. Limerick poet, when the latter was leaving Ireland. He died in 1810, and was buried in Mungret. His elegy was written by Eamonn O Núnáin. O’Curry knew two of his sons who were “Irish readers and transcribers”.

Micheál Ó Mongáin (Michael Mangan), of Carrigaholt, scribe and poet. He had a correspondence in verse with some poets in North Kerry (found in MS. of 1821). In Eugene O’Curry’s father’s house he composed one of his songs, An ghamhain gheal bhán.

Gearoid Mac Gearailt, author of a poem in praise of Moanmore (north of Kilrush) and Magh Glas.

Tomás Ó hAllurain, flor. 1815, known as An Saor Mór, lived in or to the north of Miltown Malbay, and wrote poems on the tithe-exactions and other popular grievances. His elegy was written by Séamus Mac Cuirtín.

Tomás Bacach Ó Gríofa, contemporary and friend of the last-named, also wrote against tithes.

Páidín Mac Mathamhna, called Páidín Thoirdhealbhaigh, a friend of Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh, for whom he composed a “warrant” against a dishonest tailor. He also wrote a burlesque last will and testament (udhacht), an oral version of which has been published.

Donnchadh Ó Cochlain wrote two poems (An Baitsiléir, and a freagra or supplement) directed against the practice of marrying for money. I know nothing of his life, but it is almost certain that he was a Clareman.

Donnchadh Wulf [26] (Denis Woulfe), flor. 1817-1824, was a native of Sixmilebridge, and lived there as schoolmaster. He is a good example of a bilingual versifier, for he composed songs both in Irish and in English, translated Merriman’s Cúirt into English verse, and turned the English song, Cailín deas crúite na mbó, into Irish. As happened with other Clare poets, one of his “treasonable” songs got him into trouble with the law.

Maoileachlainn Ó Comhraidhe (Malachy Curry) was the eldest brother of Eugene O’Curry, and was born at Doonaha, south of Kilkee. He went to Limerick at least as early as 1815, and there obtained “a confidential situation in a respectable mercantile house.” He was a pupil and friend of Peter O’Connell’s, [see below] and assisted him in the compilation of his Dictionary. A few Irish songs of his remain, and also a number of MSS. transcribed by him between 1806 and 1822. He died in Limerick in 1849.

Eoghan Ó Comhraidhe (Eugene O’Curry), 1794-1862, has left at least five Irish poems. The earliest of these is a “warrant” directed against someone who had plundered his schoolhouse in Kilfearagh (between Doonaha and Kilkee). The others were written in Limerick. One of them was inspired by the election of Daniel O’Connell for Clare in 1828: a second deals with the election of O’Gorman Mahon in 1830. A complimentary poem addressed by him to Micheál Óg Ó Longáin of Glanmire, near Cork, is dated 1829. Another written in 1830, is a humorous “Pass” to a poetical piper from O’Curry’s own district, named Patrick O’Neill, on the occasion of his breaking his leg in Limerick city.[27]

Seán Ó hEither wrote a song on the election of Daniel O’Connell for Clare in 1828.

Micheál O Raghallaigh (Michael Reilly) was a carpenter who lived in Ennistymon. As his surname indicates, he came of Northern stock; it has even been said that he was “a native of the North of Ireland” who settled in Clare; but when we consider the wholehearted way in which he identified himself with Clare literature and the terms in which his contemporaries speak of him, it is scarcely credible that he was other than a Clareman, or at any rate a Munsterman, by birth. He was a diligent scribe, and a collector of Irish MSS. Extant MSS. in his own handwriting bear dates from 1827 to 1853. He was little of a poet, though some verses by him remain.[28] His death was a tragic one due to accidental poisoning, “sometime in the early fifties of the last [19th] century.”

Here may be mentioned, as the author is anonymous, a remarkable poem (of over 200 lines) composed in Clare about a century ago, An Sutach (or Siota) agus a Mháthair, which takes the form of a dialogue between an old woman and her natural son. In Clare I have heard it traditionally ascribed to Brian Merriman; but it hardly goes back quite so far. The influence of Merriman’s Cúirt however, is quite apparent both in its style and in its spirit.

Peadar Ó Conaill
Peadar Ó Conaill (Peter O’Connell) was born at Carne or Money Point, about four miles to the east of Kilrush, in 1755. He was a schoolmaster by profession. His great work was the compilation of an Irish-English Dictionary, for which he began to collect material early in life, and upon which (according to Hardiman) he was forty years engaged. For this purpose he travelled in various parts of Ireland and Great Britain. “He was for a long time” says Hardiman, “with old Charles O’Connor at Belenagare [Co. Roscommon], and was for several years in the Highlands of Scotland.” According to O’Curry he also visited Wales. A MS. which is now in the Royal Irish Academy was written by him in Trinity College, Dublin, in 1791.[29] Some time after 1806 he again left his native place to collect materials for his dictionary. About 1812 Dr. O’Reardon, of Limerick, became his patron, and invited him to live with him. O’Connell accepted the invitation; and in the worthy doctor’s house he completed his dictionary and began to prepare it for the press. About 1819, owing to some disagreement as to the mode of publication, O’Connell left Dr. O’Reardon’s house, and went to live with his brother, Patrick O’Connell, in his native village of Carne. Here he remained until his death, which occurred in 1826. He was buried in the neighbouring churchyard of Burrane, in the same grave in which the body of the unfortunate “Colleen Bawn” (Ellen Hanley) had been interred after being washed ashore at Money Point in 1819.[30]


Séamus Mac Cuirtín