Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara (1715-1810)

Life
[anglice Denis the Red, or Red Denis Macnamara; occas. err. MacNamara;] b. Cratloe, Co. Clare, d. Waterford; ed. Rome, expelled; schoolmaster at Sliabh gCua, nr. Comeragh Mts., Co. Waterford; attended court of poetry held by Piarais Mac Gearailt in Cork, 1743; wrote in MS Eachtra Giolla an Amaráin [The Adventure of a Luckless Fellow], alias “The Mock Aeneid”; sough to emig. Newfoundland, succeeding on his second attempt - though it is uncertain if he ever arrived there, and returned in 1756;

dismissed from his teaching post for drunkenness; employed as clerk for the Rossmire Church of Ireland parish, but returned to Catholicism later; he is said to have written “Bán Chnoic Eireann Oigh” in Hamburg, regarded as his finest poem and the subject of a translation by James Clarence Mangan as “The Fair Hills of Eiré, O” [sic]; also “Duain na hAithrighe [Song of Repentance]”;

his obituary appeared in Freeman’s Journal (6 Oct. 1810); his short autobiography was translated by Standish Hayes O’Grady as Adventures of Donnchadh Ruah Mac Conmara, A Slave of Adversity (Dublin 1853), and again by Arland Ussher in the same volume as his translation of The Midnight Court by Brian Merriman (1926);

His poetry was edited by Risteárd Ó Foghluadha as Donnchadh Macnamara, 1715-1810 (Dublin 1908), and Donnchadh Ruadh MacConmara 1715-1810 (Dublin 1933); see also Eachtra Giolla an Amaráin; or The Adventures of a Luckless Fellow & Other Poems, ed. Tomás Ó Flannghaile, with a life of the poet by John Fleming (Dublin 1897; rep. 1907). DIW DIB [JMC] [DIL] OCIL

Obituary (Freeman’s Journal, 6 Oct. 1810): ‘at Newtown, near Kilmacthomas, in the 95th year of his age, Denis MacNamara, commonly known by the name of Ruadh or Redhaired, the most celebrated of the modern bards [...].’

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Works
Poetry
  • Donnchadh Ruadh: dioghluim ina bhfuil suim de sna duanogaibh is fearr dar cheap Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara, 1715-1810, ed. Ristéard Ó Foghludha (Baile Atha Cliath [Dublin]: Gill 1908), 8° [copies in Aberdeen UL and TCD Lib.];
  • Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara, 1715-181: Selected Poems, with an introduction by Risteard Ó Foghludha. (Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig an Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais 1933), pp.64, 8 [Title & description transliterated from Irish script].
Prose
  • Adventures of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Con-Mara: A Slave of Adversity / written by himself; now for the first time edited, from an original Irish manuscript, with metrical translation notes and a biographical sketch of the author by S[tandish] Hayes (Dublin: J[ohn] Daly 1853), 48pp. [bilingual with Irish and English on facing pages]; Do. [microfilm] (1987), 48fr.; Do. [digital] (Proquest LLC 2002).
Miscellaneous
  • Fóclóir do bheatha agur do dhántaibh Donnchadha Ruaidh Mhic Conmara / Vocabulary to the Life and Poems of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara [by Thomas Flannery] (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Co. 1904), iv, 86pp. [BL, Cambridge UL, TCD Lib.]
  • A Poet’s Manuscript: An Account of a Manuscript Written in the Hand of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara and containing a verbatim transcript of his poem “Eachtra Ghiolla an Amarán”, [ed.] by Paul Walsh Eachtra Ghiolla an Amarán, (Drogheda: Drogheda Independent 1927) [rep. from Irisleabhar Muighe Nuadhat, June 1927), 16pp. [poetry in Irish with English introduction & notes; sole copy in TCD Lib.].

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Criticism
  • [Anon.,] biog. sketch of Donnchadh Ruadh MacNamara [sic], in Gaelic Journal, Vol. 2 (1882-83), pp.316-18 - citing “Eachtra Ghiolla an Amaráin”, and giving “Aisling, Duine Gan Ainm [.. &c.]” in full;
  • Seán Pléimeann, essay on Donncha Ruadh Mac Conmara, in Eachta Giolla an Amaráin, ed. Tomás Ó Flannghaile (1897).

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Commentary
Louise Imogen Guiney, ed., Selected Poems of James Clarence Mangan (London: John Lane 1897) - note to “The Fair Hills of Eiré O”, attrib. to Donogh Mac Con-mara (p.129-31): ‘Donogh Mac Con-Mara (a name sometimes incorrectly given as Macnamara), a native of County Waterford, wrote this very lovely lyric in Gaelic, while he was keeping [343] a boys’ school in Hamburg. He was a great traveller, and had a most adventurous life. He was born in 1738, and dying in 1814, was buried at home’. Guiney, Notes, op. cit., pp.343-44.)

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References
Irish Literature, gen. ed. Justin McCarthy (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), Vol. 6, pp.2378-79, selects “The Fair Hills of Eiré, O” [sic], trans. by James Clarence Mangan, from the Irish of Donogh Mac Con-Mara [‘Take a blessing from my heart to the land of my birth / And the fair hills of Eiré, O’ / And all that yet survive of Eibhear’s tribe on earth ... The soil is rich and soft, the air is mild and bland ... A noble tribe moreover are not the hapless Gael ... Broad and tall rise the cruachs in the golden morning glow ... The dewdrops lie bright mid the grass and yellow corn ... A fruitful clime is Eiré’s, through valley, medow, plain ... In the sunlight that shone long ago on the shields / Of the Gaels, on the fair hills of Eiré, O’.] With note: Con-mara sometimes given incorrectly as MacNamara, wrote this lyric while keeping school in Hamburg ... a most adventurous life .. d. 1814. (Cf. Louise Guiney, supra.)

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Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), refers to the literary character Donnacha Ruadh in Francis MacManus [414]. See further remarks in the topic-essay ‘Gaelic Literature’: Donncha Rua wrote excellent Latin epitaph for Tadhg Gaedhlach Ó Súilleabháin at 80 [46]; list as Munster poet of note, 1715-1810 [48]; schoolmaster; spent a year or more in Newfoundland, and probably there that he wrote “Bán-chnoic Eireann Oigh [Fair Hills of Holy Ireland]”, without doubt most beautiful of Iris exile songs [49-50].

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, incls. ftn. [under Maire Mac an tSaoi]: ‘there is a tradition that the poet schoolmaster Donnchadh Ruadh Macconmara [Red Denis Macnamara], 1715-1810, had a mistress called Máire Ní Ogáin (J. Gleasure).’

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Hyland Catalogue (Oct. 1995) lists T. Flannery, Vocabulary to the Life and Poems of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Connmara (1st edn. 1904).

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Notes
Thomas Flannery - who compiled the Vocabulary to the Life and Poems of Donnchadh Ruadh Mac Conmara (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Co. 1904) - is dated 1846-1916 in COPAC [online].

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