Standish Hayes O’Grady (1832-1915)

b. Erinagh House, Castleconnell, Co. Limerick; son of Admiral Hayes O’Grady (d.1864); learnt Irish in native speaking district of his childhood; ed. Rugby and TCD; spent 30 years in America working as an engineer; prepared Catalogue of the Irish MSS in the British Museum, completed by Robin Flower (3 vols., 1926); issued Silva Gadelica (2 vols. 1892), with Irish texts in the first and translations and notes in the second volume, all largely taken from the Book of Lismore [Irish MS]; became acquainted with Ernest Windisch, then inquiring into Ossianic controversy, 1870; his help acknowledged in Windisch’s Irische Texte; contrib. an essay on ‘Anglo-Irish Aristocracy’ to Lady Gregory’s edited collection, Ideals in Ireland (1901); d. 16 Oct. JMC DBIV DIW DIB DIH OCIL IF

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  • The Colloquy with the Ancients (1856), 168pp.
  • Silva Gadelica, 2 vols. (London: William & Norgate 1892), and Do. [rep. edn.] (NY: Lemma 1971);
  • Catalogue of the Irish MSS in the British Museum, completed by Robin Flower, 3 vols. (British Museum Trustees 1926) [infra].

See also an abridged translation of Táin Bó Cuailgne in the Book of Leinster version, in Eleanor Hull, Cuchulain Saga in Irish Literature, being a collection of stories … (London: David Nutt 1898) [q.pp.]

Bibliographical deteails
Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum, 2 vols. (BML Trustees 1926), of which Vol. I, with foreword by Julius Gilson; Vol. II, with Robin Flower [ed.]; also Vol. III (BML 1953), ed. Robin Flower, revised and passed through the press by Myles Dillon. Vol. I contains Introduction [1-40]; Index of Initia [41-144]; General Index [145-281], and 25 pls. Vol. 1 incls. descriptive accounts of Royal MSS; Cotton MSS, Harley MSS; Lansdowne MSS, Arundel MSS, Sloane MSS, Add. MSS; Egerton MSS (83-214 cont.), and sundry others. O’Grady’s section headings are, History [2-75]; Law [76-157]; Lexicography, &c. [158-70]; Medicine &c. [171-328]; Poetry &c. [328-706 End]. Vol. II; intro. refs. to obit. notices for O’Grady by friends Norman Moore, TLS Oct. 28 1915, and Eleanor Hull, Studies Mar-Dec. 191, p.96.; biographical sketch follows, pp.v-xvi [see infra]. The list of MSS reviewed is shorter and in many points identical; a list of abbreviations follows showing the number of titles edited by the date of the second volume [xxi-xxvi]; section headings employed by Flower are, Poetry [1-258]; Tales, the vellum tradition [260-427]; Theology, Psalters with Irish glosses [429-33]; Lives of Saints [434-69]; Miscellaneous theology [470-525]; Translations of Theological and Romantic Texts [527-563]; Devotional Literature [564-599]; Collections by Modern Scholars, e.g., Sir James Ware, Grimr Jonsson Thorkelin, James Hardiman, John O’Donovan [601-21]; Appendix (of works discovered etc. while in current work in preparation [622-34 End].

[There is a facsimile edition of The Colloquy with the Ancients (1856) by Standish Hayes O’Grady (Kessinger 2010), 166pp. - online; also a digital copy in the Medieval Irish Series at York University (Canada) - .pdf; accessed 26.09.2021.]

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Myles na Gopaleen [Flann O’Brian], ‘Standish Hayes O’Grady’, in The Irish Times (16 Oct. 1940); Robert Welch, ‘The 1850s, W. H. Drummond, S. H. O’Grady, Sigerson’ in A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988), pp.133-145.

See also Pádraig Ó Maidín, ‘Pages from an Irishman’s Diary: This Period Then’, in Éire-Ireland, 6, 4 (Winter 1971), pp.23-28, espec. p.23-24 [discussion of The Book of Lismore].

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W. B. Yeats, ‘[T]hat great scholar Hayes O’Grady, would not join our non-political Irish Literary Society because he considered it a Fenian body, but boasted that although he had lived in England for forty years he had never made an English friend. He worked at the British Museum compiling their Gaelic catalogue and translating our heroic tales in an eighteenth-century frenzy; his heroine “fractured her heart”, his hero “ascended to the apex of eminence” and there “vibrated his javelin”, and afterwards [513] took ship upon “colossal ocean’s superficies”. Both O’Grady’s considered themselves as representing the old Irish land-owning aristocracy; both probably […] thought that England, because decadent and democratic, had betrayed their order.’ (“General Introduction for My Work”, in Essays and Introductions, 1961, pp.512-13.)

Robin Flower [Biographical Sketch], in Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. 2 (1926): ‘O’Grady had his own way of editing the language of his texts, which need not be considered here, but by his unique method of interweaving text, translation, interpretation, and commentary, and infusing through the whole the strong colours of his own remarkable personality, he has left a book that must always be a indispensable and delightful introduction to the subject to which he devoted his early youth and manhood. / It may be said that, generally speaking, O’Grady’s catalogue was devoted to the exhibition and illustration of Irish literature by extract, translation, commentary, and note. It did not lie within this plan to collate texts with any minuteness, or, except in instances here and there, to travel outside the Museum MSS in search of critical material. The study of the whole subject has rapidly advanced in the intervening period and its bibliography is growing rapidly. It became necessary then to adopt a new plan for the continuation of the catalogue. In the present volume an attempt is made, subject to the necessary limitations of the material and the cataloguer, to study the literature and its growth, to delimit its different classes, periods, and districts, and in particular, to isolate the foreign influences by methods of determining the sources of translated texts. A collection of manuscripts not brought together in any systematic fashion does not afford sufficient material for the complete execution of such a plan, but, nevertheless, the Museum collection is fairly representative of the literature as a whole and may serve as the basis of an approximate estimate.’ [x-xi].

Joseph Th. Leerssen (Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986), writes that Standish O’Grady interprets Flann Mág Carith’s eulogy to Queen Elizabeth as mock-laudatory (BM Lib. Cat. Vol. 1, 544); further, ‘The poem has survived - in spite of the repugnance of some of its editors - because it was answered by Daithi Ó Bruadair.’; ‘[S]uch poems prove that a nationalistic intent cannot be proved to have been operative at the time [...] the breakdown of the bardic order was lamented in purely personal terms [in view of their] own fallen station in the new social order.’ (p.224).

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Silva Gadelica (1892), Preface: ‘The work is far from being exclusively or even primarily designed for the omniscient impeccable leviathans of science that headlong sound the linguistic ocean to its most horrid depths, and (in the interval of ramming each other) ply their flukes on such audacious small fry as even on the mere surface will ply within their danger.’ p.v; cited in Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures, Cork UP 1996, p.134, remarking that the metaphor is explicitly Orientalist.)

Silva Gadelica (1892) contains a translation of Accallamh na Senorach in which Patrick says: ‘“Good now, Caeilte, and wherefore was the name of fionnlulach [i.e. ‘white hill’] given to this eminence on which we stand?” “I will tell you the truth of it,” answered Caeilte: “it was hence that we, the three battalions of the Fianna marched to give battle at Ventry. [There follows the story of Cael and Créidhe]. “Success and benediction!” Patrick said: “’Tis a good story thou has told; and where is scribe Brogan?” “Here am I.” “By thee be written down all that Caeilte hath uttered.” And it was written down.’ (‘Agallamh na Seanorach / The Converse of the Ancients’, in Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, pp.33-32; and see editorial remarks, as set out in St. Patrick, Commentary [supra].

Ascendancy education: ‘At school and in Trinity College I was an industrious lad and worked through curriculums with abundant energy and some success; yet in the curriculums never read one word about Irish history and legend, nor even heard one word about these things from my pastors and masters. When I was twenty-three years of age, had anyone told me – as later on a professor of Dublin University actually did – that Brian Boromh[e] was a mythical character, I would have believed him. I knew nothing about our past, not through my own fault, for I was willing enough to learn anything set before me, but owing to the stupid education system of the country.’ (Quoted in William Irwin Thompson, The Imagination of An Insurrection, Dublin, Easter 1916: A Study of an Ideological Movement [OUP 1967] Harper & Row 1972, p.20; cited in Maria Tymoczko, The Irish Ulysses, California UP 1994, p.223.) [Check - is this Standish James O’Grady?]

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Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904): native of Co. Clare [sic], son of Admiral Hayes O’Grady (d.1864); b. c.1830 [sic]; ed. Rugby and TCD; relinquished all though of engineering when he edited and translated under name of S. Hayes for Ossian [sic] Society the story of Diarmiud and Grain[ia]; also ed. and trans. The Adventures of Donogh Mac Contrare [sic] (1853); imbibed early love of Irish; ; learned catalogues [sic] of Irish MSS in British Museum have occupied him for the last thirty years [of his life]. JMC gives extracts from Silva Gadhelica [sic], ‘the Cursing of Tara’ [concerning Aedh Guaire], and ‘Caeilte’s Lament’ [‘... the ungovernable stag is belling. The deer of Slievecarn of the gatherings commits not his side to the ground; no less than he the stag of frigid Echtge’s summit catches the chorus of wolves. I Caeilte, with brown Dermot and with keen light-footed Oscar, we too in the nipping night’s waning end would listen to the music of the pack. But well the red deer sleeps that with his hide to the bulging rock lies stretched - hidden as though beneath the country’s surface - all in the latter end of chilly night. Today I am an aged ancient ...’; taken from Agallamh na Senórach, or Dialogue of the Ancients (viz., Acallamh/Colloquy) ‘preserved in the Book of Lismore, a fifteenth century vellum containing some of other poems attributed to Gailte’, ftn. by D.H.]’

Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction (Dublin: Maunsel 1919): b. Erinagh House., Castleconnell, Co. Limerick, son of Admiral Hayes O’Grady (1887-1864) and br. of Viscount Guillamore [ERR: SJ O’Grady, his cousin, was a son of the Viscount]; ‘fostered’ in Coonagh and Irish-speaking; ed. Rugby and TCD; President of Ossianic Soc., in 1856; 30 years in US as engineer; returned to England, where he died, 16 Oct. 1915. Compiled Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum, unfinished due to disagreement with Library authorities [issued by Robin Flower, BML imprint]; posthumous ed. of John Rory McGrath’s The Triumphs of Turlough O’Brien; and see Studies, Mar 1916, and Irish Book Lover Dec. 1915. The Pursuit of Diarmuid O’Duibhne and Grainne, printed for the Ossianic Society by John O’Daly (Dublin 1857); also The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne, 2 vols. (Gill 1880), printed for the Soc. for the Preservation of the Irish Language; text, trans. and notes by the editor, the introduction of 30pp. prefixed to Vol. II; Silva Gadelica, 2 vols. (William & Norgate 1892), with Irish text in Vol. I, comprising thirty-one tales and other pieces from MSS such as the Book of Leinster and Leabhar Breac, under various headings (e.g., Hagiology, Legend, Ossianic lore, and Fiction).

Doherty & Hickey, A Chronology of Irish History Since 1500 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989): nephew [sic] of 1st Viscount Guillamore, the Attorney General who prosecuted Robert Emmet.

Hyland Books (Cat. 224) lists Standish H. O’Grady, Toruigheacht Dhiarmuda agus Ghrainne, or The Pursuit of Diarmuid O’Duibhe and Grainne [Trans. of the Ossianic Soc.] (1857)

Belfast Public Library holds Silva Gadelica, 2 vols. (1892). Ulster Univ. Library (Morris Collection), holds Silva Gadelica, I-XXXI [tales], a Collection of tales in Irish with extracts illustrating persons and places, 2 vols. (Williams 1892).

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Life of Cellach of Killala’, being Cellach MacAodh, Archb. of Armagh (1105-59), is given in O’Grady, Silva Gadelica, II, pp.50-69 [cited A. N. Jeffares, New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats, 1984, p.320; note typo., Silver (sic).]

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