Séamus 'ac a' Bháird (1871–1951) of Downings, Lifford, Co Donegal

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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Séamus 'ac a' Bháird was born on Tory Island, and was aged 55 at the time of recording. His father was a light-house keeper and shop-keeper, and came from the Rosses; his mother came from Tory Island. In response to questions, he stated that he spent his earliest years on Eagle Island, Co Mayo, and Oyster Island, Co Sligo, but had lived on Tory Island from at least the age of 7 and attended primary school there. As an adult he had spent his time on Tory Island, apart from one year travelling in Co Donegal, until moving permanently to Downings in 1928. His occupation in 1931 was as an officer under the Department of Lands and Fisheries. Irish and English were his mother languages, and he could read and write both, and could read French. Comment on his delivery was "clear strong voice." The recorded passage was read aloud from a book written by the speaker.

Séamus was born on 19/09/1871. His parents were Niall 'ac a' Bháird (c1840–01/07/1926) — Niall Antoin Mháire Báine, according to Pádraig Ó Baoighill — from Gleann na hEilite, Burtonport, and Éilis (Bessie) Ní Dhubhgáin (c1849–02/08/1918) from Tory Island. Neil at first worked at the Tory light-house, and then opened a shop and public house on the island, on the site where Óstán Thoraí now sits. In 1901, the household consisted of Neil 56, publican; Bessie 50; son James 24, telegraph clerk; daughters Annie 26, housekeeper and Ellie 20, barmaid; and niece Nora Ward 7, all of whom had Irish and English; as well as two lodgers who spoke only English: a national schoolteacher and a police constable. In 1911, there were Neil 69, farmer/publican; Bessie 59; daughter Ellie 33, born Co Sligo; son James 37, telegraphist; and niece Hannah McGinley 18. All had Irish and English. The marriage of Neil and Bessie had lasted 40 years, and 3 of 5 children were still living.

The above photograph, of a group from Coláiste Uladh (Cloughaneely Irish College, at Gortahork) visiting Tory Island in August 1912, has often been published. It is taken outside the Ward home, and Séamus 'ac a' Bháird is third from the right, with rolled-up shirt-sleeves and watch-chain. His sister Ellie is two places to the left, and beside her in the front row is their father Neil. The visitors are, from left:
      Bessie, a servant girl from the mainland who had cousins on Tory;
      Miss Daley, Binnefreghan, Tyrone, then teaching in Greencastle school (dead by 1959);
      man at rear, unidentified;
      Alice McCullagh, Greencastle, Tyrone, 1895–1918, who married Gaelic League timthire Peadar Ó Donnghaile on 09/07/1918 but died three months later.
      (Niall 'ac a' Bháird);
      Augustus McCurdy, Rathlin Island, 1896–1943 (at rear):
      Rev M McCarvill, 1883–1960, then curate in Pettigo;
      (Ellie Nic a' Bháird);
      Roger Casement, 1864–1916;
      (Séamus 'ac a' Bháird);
      Seamus O'Boyle, Glenties;
      Patrick McAleer, c1865–1941, Greencastle, Tyrone, teacher and author of book on Tyrone townland names.

The authority for these identifications is as follows. A copy of this picture, which had been sent to Miss Kate McCormick, Cashel, Greencastle, a student at Coláiste Uladh but meanwhile deceased (1926?), was published in the Ulster Herald (12/09/1959 p 7). It prompted responses from Malachy C McAleer, Greencastle (son of Master McAleer in the picture) on 24/10/1959 p 4; from T.M. Ward, Caravogue, Downings (the widow of Séamus 'ac a' Bháird) also on 24/10/1959 p 4; and from the parochial house at Inniskeen on 14/11/1959 p 3 (although this letter carried no name, the parish priest of Inniskeen was Rev Michael McCarvill, who died on 1960/11/20, aged 75, and may be assumed to be the same person as in the picture). The last of these responses gave the above list of people in the picture, and added that the picture was taken by Fr Malachy Conlon PP "recently buried in Cloghaneely." This is consistent with a letter of Casement's, which says "I adjusted the camera and a young Carmelite monk took the actual snap shot" (Seosamh Ó Ceallagh, Coláiste Uladh 1906–2006, p 264).

This Fr Malachy Conlon was PP of Jarrow (England). He was born John Joseph Conlon on 1889/09/09 at Poyntzpass, Co Armagh. He became a Carmelite brother, and is the "Br. Ó Maolmhaodhóg" of the picture from Coláiste Uladh shown opposite page 69 of Ó Néill & Ó Dubhthaigh, Coláiste Uladh 1906–1956 (and, without caption, at http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000184918), and he can also be seen in National Library of Ireland photographs at http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000514776 and http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000171386. He was ordained priest in Wexford in 1922, and spent the rest of his life in the north of England, but continued to visit Gortahork annually until his death on 1959/10/04 (Derry People, 1959/10/10, p 5; also 1959/10/17). His remains were brought back to be buried there; his grave is the left-most of the three flat gravestones just inside the gate of the cemetery; the inscription is now illegible. (Thanks to Alice Kerr, Cashel, and an tAth Seán Ó Gallchóir, for identifying the grave.)

The Tory picture shown above was reproduced opposite page 33 of Coláiste Uladh 1906–1956, and the caption there confirms that the leftmost person is Bessie McGinley from Cill Ulta; she was born on 1883/06/08 to Manus McGinley, shopkeeper, Killult, and Ellen Doohan, whose marriage, according to the Gortahork church records, took place on 1874/06/02, Manus being from Ballyness and Ellen from Tory Island. The family may be seen in the 1901 and 1911 censuses (see also Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, Coláiste Uladh 1906–2006, 2006, p 265; and Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Ó Ghleann go Fánaid, 2000, p 279, where it is suggested they were related to the Meenans of Tory). Casement is thought to have stayed at McGinley's in Killult on at least one occasion (Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, As Smaointe Tig Gníomh, 2017, p 279). Bessie's youngest sister, Hannah (Nóra), was born on 1894/10/10, and her mother died a week afterwards; Hannah was living with the Ward family on Tory in 1901 and 1911.

It is possible to speculate that "Seamus O'Boyle" in the picture might be the writer Aindrias Ó Baoighill (1888–1972) who was a native of Maol na Mine Beag near Leitir Mhic a' Bháird, and who was living at An Fhearainn (Narin) in 1911; but I have no evidence to support this conjecture.

(Pioctúir: Guth Ghoill 22 — Deireadh Fómhair 2008).

Clann Shéamuis (Pioctúir: Guth Ghoill 22 — Deireadh Fómhair 2008).

Returning to Séamus 'ac a' Bháird, in 1912 he married Treasa Nic Suibhne from Moville, who was teaching in Tory. Their family consisted of:
      Eibhlín (Aileen), born 1916/12, died in Downings 2004/09/20, age 87; married to Seosamh Ó Gallchóir
      Colm, born 1918, died 1997/09/16, aged 79, the eldest son (see Ó Ghleann go Fánaid pp 279, 391)
      Caoimhín (Kevin), died 1951/02/23 (see Ó Ghleann go Fánaid p 391)
      Éanna (Enda), Donegal, died 2012/01/12
      Breandán, living Scotland 2005
      Máirín (Maureen), living Wales 2005

When the children reached secondary school age, the family moved to Downings, in 1927–28.

An account of a demonstration of step-dancing by Séamus and his family may be found in "Downings Notes", Derry People (18/01/1930) p 1.

Reilig Charraig Áirt (Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors).

Apart from his professional work for Lloyds at the Tory Lighthouse, and later for Lands and Fisheries at Downings, Séamus 'ac a' Bháird had many other accomplishments. In 1902–3 he was the Gaelic League's timthire for Donegal, being succeeded by fellow Doegen speaker Aodh Ó Dubhthaigh. Séamus was known as a step-dancer, and it is recorded that he demonstrated his skill at the Glasgow Exhibition of 1900 and at Oireachtas na Gaedhilge in 1901, as well as on further visits to Glasgow in 1904 and 1905. In 1906 he was involved with the first session of Coláiste Uladh in Gortahork. As an author, his Troid Bhaile 'n Droichid was one of the earliest texts published in vernacular Donegal Irish; it appeared in An Claidheamh Soluis in 1904, and in book form in 1907; the vigour of its language has rarely been equalled since. Some of Séamus' poems are still extant, and the humorous song Beití Sailí Dan has sometimes been attributed to him. As Seumas Seaghán Mac a' Bháird, he had a version of "Gaduigheacht Inisdubháin" published in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge in 1902 (vol 12, pp 130–2).

Late 2019 saw the publication of Eachtraí Phaidí Pheadair as Toraigh, a hitherto unknown novel by Séamus, edited by Aingeal Nic a' Bháird, Caoimhín Mac a' Bháird and Nollaig Mac Congáil. The book includes a detailed biography of Séamus, and the text of Troid Bhaile 'n Droichid, and of other items by Séamus, including several songs.

Séamus 'ac a' Bháird died on 19/12/1951 and is buried at Carrigart. In the same grave are his wife Treasa, who died on 29/01/1973, and their son Caoimhghin, who died on 23/02/1951. Buried elsewhere in the cemetery are: their son Colm, who died on 16/07/1997, along with his son Brian, who died on 30/06/1976 at the age of 21; and their daughter Aileen, who died on 20/09/2004 at the age of 87, along with her husband Seosamh Ó Gallchóir, who died on 26/01/1998 aged 79.

The headstone reads as follows:
      A Chroí Naofa Íosa
      déan trócaire ar anam
      Shéamas Mac a Bháird, Na Dúnaibh
      a fuair bás ar an 19ú lá de Nollaig 1951
      agus a mhac Caoimhghín
      a fuair bás ar an 23ú Feabhra 1951
      agus a bhean Treasa a fuair
      bás ar an 29ú Eanair 1973
      agus a ghar-níon Theckla
      a fuair bás ar an 20–10–58
      agus a mhac Éanna
      a fuair bás ar an 12ú Eanáir 2012

I am indebted to Aingeal Nic a' Bháird, a great-grand-daughter of Séamus, for some of this information. Aingeal's father is Caoimhín, son of Colm, son of Séamus.

Séamus' sister, Eithne/Annie, married Frank O'Donoghue from County Clare in England, and two sons, Jim and Jack, were born there. Frank died in 1928. Annie and the boys returned to Downings, where they had a shop near the pier (previously operated by Johnny Mháire Shields), and later moved to Tramore House next door. Jack had been in the South African Navy, and owned a boat "Pride of Rosehearty" in 1933, fishing out of Downings. Annie died on 1953/07/16, aged 83, and is buried at Carrigart. (Boyce pp 85, 226; and Lisa O'Donohue, a grand-niece of Frank)

Recent references to Séamus 'ac a' Bháird include:
      E E Fournier d'Albe, "An chaoicidheas a chaitheas i nOileán Thoraigh", Fáinne an Lae 15/12/1899–27/01/1900 (7 parts)
      Fiach Fánach, "Nuacht ó Thír Chonaill", An tUltach 02/1952, p 5
      Fiach Fánach, "Nuacht ó Thír Chonaill", An tUltach 11/1965, p 16
      Eoghan Ó Colm, Toraigh na dTonn, 1971, pp 118, 141–6
      Donncha Ó Súilleabháin, Na Timirí, 1990, pp 53–6
      Diarmuid Breathnach & Máire Ní Mhurchú, Beathaisnéis 3, 1992, pp 45–6
      Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Óglach na Rosann, 1994, pp 355–9 esp 358
      Colm Ó Cearúil, Aspail ar son na Gaeilge, 1995, p 55 et passim
      Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Ó Ghleann go Fánaid, 2000, p 279
      Lillis Ó Laoire, Ar Chreag i Lár na Farraige, 2002, pp 36, 83, 158, 159
      Aingeal Nic a' Bháird, "Séamas Mac a' Bháird", An tUltach 07/2002, pp 6–10
      Siún Nic a' Bháird, "M'athair", Guth Ghoill 22, Deireadh Fómhair 2008, pp 6–7
      Patrick J Boyce, Memories of Mevagh, 2015, pp 85, 183, 226
      Aingeal Nic a' Bháird, "Muintir Mhic a' Bháird", Guth Ghoill 58, Aibreán 2018, pp 8–15
      Aingeal Nic a' Bháird, Caoimhín Mac a' Bháird, Nollaig Mac Congáil (eag.), Eachtraí Mara Phaidí Pheadair as Toraigh, 2019, pp 7–78

(Pioctúir: Guth Ghoill 58 — Aibreán 2018).

Speaker's recordings Ulster Doegen index

Speculative family tree:

                           Niall 'ac a' Bháird-------------------Éilis (Bessie) Ní Dhubhgáin
                           c1840–01/07/1926               |      c1849–02/08/1918
                           Gleann na hEilite              |      Toraigh
                           (Niall Antoin Mháire Báine)    | pós c1871
                                                          |                    5 clainne, 3 acu beo in 1911
               |                                                             |                                                                 |
            SÉAMUS-----------------Treasa Nic Suibhne                      Eithne/Annie---------Frank O'Donoghue                             Ellie
            1871–19/12/1951   |     —29/01/1973                            c1870–1953      |    c1876–1928                                   c1878–1964
                              |    Moville                                                 |    Kilmaley, Co Clare
                              |                                              ------------------------------
                              |                                              |          phós c1905        |
                              |                                            James                        Jack
                              |                                            1909–                        1912–
                              |                                            Fylde, Lancs                 Fylde
                              | pós 1912
    |                                              |                                           |              |                 |           |
 Aileen---------------Seosamh Ó Gallchobhair     Colm------------------Úna Nic Fhlionn    Caoimhghín        Éanna           Breandán     Máirín
 12/1916–20/09/2004                              1918–16/09/1997  |                       c1921–23/02/1951   —12/01/2012
               |                    |                   |           |         |         |         |
             Caoimhín---        Brian              Thecla Máire  Caitlín  Diarmaid    Siún     Máirín
                      |         c1955—30/06/1976   1958–1958     1958–

Ciarán Ó Duibhín
Úraithe 2021/01/12
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