Eilís Dillon (1920-94)


Life
[occas. Eilis Dillon]; b. 7 March 1920, Galway; dg. Thomas Dillon, Professor of Chemistry at University College Galway (NUI) and Geraldine Plunkett, sister of the Joseph Mary Plunkett; ed. Ursuline Covent., Sligo; studied music and considered becoming a professional cellist but entered the hotel and catering business in Dublin instead; m. Cormac Ó Cuilleanain, Prof. of Irish at Cork Univ. (NUI), 1940 [aetat 20 to his 37] - with whom 3 children [Máire, Eilean, Cormac]; commenced children's fiction and ran university nursery [crêche]; later moved with him to Rome in his last years and, after lived for extended periods in USA and Italy then and after his death in 1970;
 
m. Vivian Mercier [q.v.], 1974, then teaching at Boulder, Colorado; moved with him to Santa Barbara (UCSB; Univ. of California), where he succeeded Hugh Kenner in the Chair of English; appt. member of Arts Council; also appt. to advisory committee of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (Washington); elected FRSL, and made a recipient of Rockefeller Foundation fellowship at Bellegio, Italy; issued children's novels such as The Singing Cave (1957), in which the boy-narrator discovers Viking burial treasure; also The Bitter Glass (1968 & 1981) - a family saga involving Anglo-Irish War and the Black & Tans;
 
her hist. novels for adults incl. Blood Relations (1977); Across the Bitter Sea (1973), covering events in Ireland from 1851 to 1916 and dealing with the intertwined lives of Samuel, Morgan and Alice - an international best-seller; The Head of the Family (1966 and 1982); Bold John Henebry (1965) Wild Geese (1981); and Citizen Burke (1984); issued an autobiography as Inside Ireland (1982); she is also the author of numerous children’s books, and winner of Bisto Book of the Year with The Island of Ghosts (1989) - winner of the Main Bisto Award;
 

elected member of Aosdána; suffered death of Vivian Mercier, 1989; edited his history of Anglo-Irish Literature for publication (Irish Literature: Sources and Founders, 2000); suffered death of followed by the death in 1990 of her dg. Máire, a violinist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; awarded D.Litt of Cork Univ. [NUI Cork], 1992; d. 19 July 1994; Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin [q.v.] is her second dg.; Cormac Ó Cuilleanain (French lect., TCD), her son; an Eilís Dillon Award given annual as part of the Bisto Award. IF2 DIL OCIL

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Works
Novels
  • Across the Bitter Sea (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1973) [ded. to Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin], and Do. [Coronet pb. edn.] (London: Hodder Fawcett 1975), 493pp.;
  • The Bitter Glass (London: Faber & Faber 1958; Ward River Press Swords 1981) [also for children];
  • Wild Geese (Hodder & Stoughton 1981), 352pp;
  • Blood Relations (NY: Fawcett Crest 1977; London: Hodder & Stoughton 1978), and Do. [rep. edn.] (Souvenir UK 1993).
For Children
  • The Lost Island (1952); The Island of Horses (1956); The Singing Cave (1969); The Head of the Family (1966); The Fort of the Gods (1961); Turf for Burning (London: Faber & Faber 1990); Children of Bach (1993) [set in Hungary during Holocaust].
 

Other children’s titles [undated]: Death in the Quadrangle; Midsummer Magic; The Wild Little House; The San Sebastian, Death at Crane Castle; Sent to His Account; the House on the Shore; [rep. Poolbeg 1996]

Reprints (sel.)
  • The Cruise of the Santa Maria (Dublin: O’Brien 1991); The Five Hundred (1991); Living in Imperial Rome (1991); The Lion Cub (1966; rep. 1992) [Noticed in Books Ireland, May 1991.]
Miscellaneous
  • trans., ‘The Lament for Art O’Leary’ by Eibhlín Dhubh Ní Chonaill (XXXVI cantos), in Peter Fallon & Sean Golden, Soft Day: Miscellany of Contemporary Irish Writing (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1979).

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References
Stephen Brown
, Ireland in Fiction, ed. (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), cites titles: The Bitter Glass (1957), children exposed to dangers and death in 1922, Galway; from Dublin for holiday; railway to Clifden cut; meet up with a ‘flying column’; understanding of time and place; The Singing Cave (1957), the narrator-boy discovers Viking burial treasure; breathless adventures as Mr. Allen, the antiquarian, carries off the trove. The Fort of the Gods (1961), buried Spanish treasure on the West coast. Head of the Family, Irish author living in Ballsbridge, American scholar and young Irishman; secret diary of the author; family pay for early mistakes. IF2 lists as children’s titles The Lost Island (1952); Midsummer Magic; The Wild Little House; The San Sebastian [rep. Poolbeg 1996] ; Death at Crane Castle; Sent to His Account; the House on the Shore; The Island of Horses (1956); Death in the Quadrangle; The Bitter Glass; The Singing Cave (1969); The Head of the Family; The Fort of the Gods (1961).

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See “The Eilís Dillon Writing Pages” - online. [Note: these extensive pages are maintained by the Eilís Dillon Literary Estate, with copyright entitlements - and share a style with those of Macdara Woods - online. Both are located at eircom.net and its ../tinet proxy.]

Aosdana Handbook adds: A Family of Foxes (1965); The Sea Wall (1965); The Seals (1968); A Herd of Deer (1969); Living in Imperial rome (1974); The Shadow of Vesuvius (1976); Down in the World (1983).

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Peter Fallon & Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day: A Miscellany of Contemporary Irish Writing (Notre Dame/Wolfhound 1980), ‘The Lament for Art O’Leary’ [trans.]

Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares, and Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: G&M 1994), incls. extract from Across the Bitter Sea and cites an autobiography, Inside Ireland (1982).

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Booksellers
Cathach Books
(Cat. 12) lists Coriander (London 1965), [ill. R. Kennedy]; Bold John Henebry (London 1965).

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Notes
Her translation of Eileen O’Connell’s ‘Lament for Art O’Leary’ is copied in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.176-7, with comments drawn from Peter Levi in an inaugural lecture at Oxford, 1984.

Bobby Sands: The hunger-striker and Sinn Féin M.P. Bobby Sands, and other IRA prisoners, were reading Kipling, Wilde, and Eilis Dillon novels in Long Kesh [the Maze]. (See David Beresford’s Ten Dead Men; cited Gerald Dawe, How’s the Poetry Going, 1991, p.77.)

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