Eugene O’Growney (1863-99)


Life
[An tAth Eoghan Ó Gramhna; var. Ó Gramhnaigh] b. 25 Aug. 1863, Ballyfallon, Co. Meath, ed. St Finian’s diocesan seminary, Navan - where he first learnt of Irish - and Maynooth; developed an interest in Irish reading lessons in Young Ireland, a weekly published by The Nation office; travelled widely in the Gaeltacht areas of Western Ireland; ord. 1889 [var. 1888]; curate of Ballynacargy, Co. Westmeath; wrote in advocacy of the study of Irish, espec. in the context of Protestant claims to prior share in Patrician traditions by writers such as J. H. Todd; appt. Prof. of Irish, Maynooth, 1891;
 
contrib. to The Gaelic Journal, and ed. same, succeeding John Fleming; he was in Scotland when the Gaelic League was founded; contrib. Irish lessons to the Weekly Freeman, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Dublin, afterwards issued as Simple Lessons in Irish - first as a serial then in book-form (1894); founded, with others, the Gaelic League, Nov. 1892; appt. Vice-President, with Douglas Hyde as President; retained that post until his death;
 

resigned from Maynooth, 1896, and travelled to Arizona and California seeking relief from his pulmonary illness which he dated from a ghostly apparition in childhood.; d. 18 Oct. 1899, in Los Angeles; bur. there in Calvary Cemetery; reinterred in churchyard of St. Patrick’s College [Seminary], Maynooth under a miniature replica of St. Kevin's Church, Glendalough. DIW DIB DIH FDA OCIL

 

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Works
Simple Lessons in Irish; giving the pronunciation of each word, Vol. 5 (The Gaelic League 1901), Revised Simple Lessons in Irish (The Gael Publ. Co. 1902), 90pp. - available at Google Books online.

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Criticism
  • Agnes O’Farrelly, Leabhar an Athar Eoghan: The O’Growney Memorial Volume (Dublin 1904);
  • Joseph Dunn, ‘Eugene O’Growney’, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 11 (NY: Robert Appleton Co. 1911) - available online;
  • Victor Power, ‘Eugene O’Growney, Arizona, the Catholic Univ. of America, and the Irish Language Revival’, [an appreciation], in Eire-Ireland 22, 2 (Summer 1987), pp.131-52;
  • Timothy G. McMahon, ‘The Strange Case of O’Growney’s Bones’, in Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (Syracuse UP 2008), [Chap. 1,] pp.9-33.

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Commentary
Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde: The Dawn of the Irish Revolution and Renaissance, 1874-1893 (Shannon: IUP 1974): Hyde kissed the coffin of Fr. O’Growney in a last farewell [n., 212]; also, meeting O’Growney in the British Library, on 11 Feb 1892, he wrote in his diary: ‘I met O’Growney for the first time. A young man with a large head, thick-lipped, pleasant without being handsome or well-groomed; kindly, slow-speaking; perhaps the only learned man in Ireland today who speaks Irish correctly. I had a long talk with him and I am to visit him in Maynooth.’ [150]. Hyde visits O’Growney at Maynooth, 14 March 1892. His diary gives a detailed account of the regime, implicitly approves of the compulsory attendance at O’Growney’s Irish lectures, and less approvingly of the budget which allows only £20 per annum out of an income of £15,000 for books. [152]. Note ‘my friend Fr. O’Growny [sic]’, an allusion in Douglas Hyde, Necessity for the Deanglicisation of Ireland (1892).

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, p.292 [Pearse lists O’Growney with Red Hugh and Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet and John Mitchel and O’Donovan Rossa in a nationalist propaedeutic]; 294 [at Donovan Rossa’s graveside, Pearse enjoined his audience to see the similarity bettwen the ‘proud manhood of him’ and ‘the holiness and simplicity of patriotism of a Michael O’clery or of an Eoghan O’Growney’]; 337 [mentioned by F. H. O’Donnell in connection with ‘the Gaelic wigwam’ and ‘the primeval tongue as reproduced by the help of O’Growney’s lectures on Irish pronunciation’]; 544 [Moore refers to O’Growney’s ‘little book’ in a setting where he ridicules the enthusiastic nationalist, in Hail and Farewell]. Vol. 2, p.337n. cites O’Growney as fnd. member Gaelic League, Prof. Celtic Literature and language at Maynooth, 1891-94 [var.]; wrote column of Irish lessons for a weekly paper [unnamed]; collected and published in four parts as Simple Lessons in Irish (1897-1901) [var.]. [Vol. 2, p.531].

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Quotations
Irish World (NY): ‘you may say that we could have a literature which while in the English language would be truly Irish in sentiment and thought. This looks well in theory, but in practice it fails to work out.’ [q. source.]

The Study of Irish (article of 1890): ‘Upon us Irish Catholics the study of Irish literature has a special claim. We maintain that the faith we hold is identical with that taught by Saint Patrick and his successors; that they were, as we are, Roman Catholics. It has been the aim of Protestant Irishmen to persuade their co-religionists that they alone hold the pure Patrician teaching, now, as always, uninfluenced by Rome. Strong articles by good writers have appeared quite recently in support of their contention, and very probably this historico-religious question will be discussed warmly in a short time […] If this discussion were put upon us tomorrow how many have we competent to support our claim by arguments drawn from our extensive ecclesiastical literature? […] It has been shown that those who study the literature are practically non-Catholics, and such men might not see, or might be tempted to slur over a point in favour of our position.’ (Quoted in Alannah Hopkin, The Living Legend of St Patrick, NY: St Martin’s Press 1989, p.156.)

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Notes
Sketches: A sketch of O’Growney’s Irish class figures in in Stephen Hero, where the char. Hughes represents Patrick Pearse. See also the evocation of O’Growney in Joseph Guinan, The Curate of Kilcloon (1912) and a reference to him in Guinan’s Curate of Kilcloon, ‘An Irish Irelander’ (Chap XVI, p.185). There is an appreciative sketch of him in W P Ryan, The Pope’s Green Island, 1912, p.60f. Susan Mitchell’s ‘dramatic legend’ Last Feast [q.d.] is dedicated to O’Growney.

Earlier modern Irish primers incl. Owen Connellan, A Practical Grammar of the Irish Language (Dublin: B. Geraghty 1844) [see under Connellan, supra], and A Primer of The Irish Language with Copious Reading Lessons; for the use of the students in The College of St. Columba (Dublin: Hodges & Smith, Grafton Street / Booksellers to the University / 1845) [see under O’Donovan, infra.]

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