ON THIS DAY: 10 MARCH 1883: Birth of AN SEABHAC, author, storyteller, activist and politician

Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha was born near Dingle, Co. Kerry in 1883, one of nine children to Patrick Sugrue and Ellen Cleary. He attended the local CBS until he was 16 where he was educated under English, and learned to read and write Irish from a local school master with the assistance of the Irish grammer books of Fr. Eugene O’Growney.

After meeting Dingle native Tomás Bán Ó Concheanainn in 1905, Ó Siochfhradha became an organiser for Conradh na Gaeilge, cycling all over the countryside to set up branches and promote the Irish language. He trained as a teacher in Coláiste na Mumhan. By 1908 he was working as a Timire in the Déise Gaeltacht in Waterford.  Ó Siochfhradha worked as a teacher from 1910 until 1922 and was the editor of The Light, a bilingual magazine which lasted six years, from 1907 to 1913.

He was a prolific writer; he took up the pen-name An Seabhac, (the Hawk) and wrote many books including An Baile Seo Againne (1913) and Jimín Mháire Thaidhg (1921), both of which draw on his Dingle youth and are later published in one volume as Seoda an tSeabhaic (1974). He wrote articles and essays published in the likes of Banba May 1902. He translated many work, edited and published more and translated a number of works from English into Irish. He co-published with Fr Dónall Ó Tuathaill a Munster Irish version of Láimhleabhar Mhódha na Ráithe. He wrote numerous educational books including grammars, dictionaries and school editions. He was also an accomplished fiddle player.

He joined the Irish volunteers shortly after their foundation in 1913 and became commanding officer of the Corca Dhuibhne volunteers from 1917 to 1921.  He was imprisoned six times for his activities and  spent time in Durham Prison in England and on Bere Island, Cork and in Galway. In the 1920s he was chairman of Kerry County Council and a judge in the Sinn Féin courts. He did not take part in the civil war and tried to reconcile both sides of the conflict.

In 1922 Ó Siochfhradha moved to Dublin under the auspices of the Department of Education and lived in Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, where he remains for the rest of his life.

Boundless energy, he was involved in many projects and organizations to promote the language and culture; Coimisiúin na Gaeltachta, Coláiste Mhuire, the first editor of An Gúm publishing company, helping with the restablishment of an t-Oireactas competition, active in An Comhar Drámaíochta, an avid collector of Irish folklore, he was a founding member and then president of the Folklore Society of Ireland, he was involved in the establishment of the Irish Manuscripts Commission in 1928.

Together with Fionán Mac Coluim and Colm Ó Lochlainn he founded An Claisceadal in 1927. A founding member of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge in 1943; he assisted in founding Cumann Ghaelach na hEaglaise and Na Cairde Gaelacha. He was also active in Foras Muirí na hÉireann and served as its president for a while. His interest in placenames is reflected in his involvement in An Cumann Logainmneacha and An Coimisiún Logainmneacha and his role as president of both societies.

Éamon de Valera appointed him to Seanad Éireann in 1946 and he made all his contributions to debates through Irish. He was also a member of the UCD governing body.

He married Siobhán Ní Shúilleabháin, a teacher who was a member of Cumann na mBan and they had one son. Ó Siochfhradha died on November 19, 1964. His archive has been digitised and stored by the University of Limerick.

His brother, Mícheál Ó Siochfhradha was also a writer, teacher, and Irish language storyteller.


RTÉ Archives: An Seabhac recalls Christmas traditions in Dingle



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