Moira O’Neill

Life
1865-1955 [pseud. of (Agnes) Nesta Shakespeare Skrine, née Higginson], b. Cushendun; Co. Antrim; m. Walter Clermont Skrine, and later m. Robert Keane; lived for some years in Canada, then in Rockport, Co., Antrim, and after on farm-estates in Kildare and Wexford; latterly reclusively except for close family contacts; five children; poetry published extensively in Blackwood’s Magazine, both poetry and reviews; collections include An Easter Vacation (1893); Songs of The Glens of Antrim (1901); composed words for tunes collected by Honoria Galway; her dg. was the novelist Molly Keane. DIW DIL DBIV APPL ATT DUB OCIL

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Works
Poetry, An Easter Vacation (London: Lawrence & Bullen 1893/NY: EP Dutton 1894); The Elf-Errant (London: Lawrence & Bullen/NY: EP Dutton 1894), another ed., ill. (London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1895), another ed. (London: A. H. Bullen 1902); Songs of the Glens of Antrim (Edin/London: W. Blackwood & Sons 1900), another ed. (1901); More Songs of the Glens of Antrim (Edin/London: W. Blackwood & Sons 1921); Song and More Songs of the Glens of Antrim [combined ed.] (NY: Macmillan 1922); From Two Point of View (Edin/London: W Blackwood & Sons 1924); Collected Poems of Moira O’Neill (Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons 1933; 1934), xii, 148pp.; [No reprints recorded in BNB 1950-84.]

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Criticism
Terence Brown, Northern Voices, Poets from Ulster (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975), p.690; Molly Keane [her dg.] in John Quinn, ed., A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl (London: Methuen 1986), p.66.

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Commentary
W. P. Ryan
, The Irish Literary Revival (London 1894; NY: Lemma Rep. 1970), Miss Nesta Higginson (Moira O’Neill), another young Irish authoress - though outside the Society - has become familiar to a circle of readers through pretty poems and sketches in Blackwood’s Magazine. Antrim is her ground of inspiration. An Elf Errant, an Irish fairy tale from her pen, is promised for early publication. [148]

Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama (London: Nelson 1936): ‘Moira O’Neill began to write her little poems in 1892; they were all published in Blackwood’s Mag., and the Blackwood house finally issued Songs of the Glens of Antrim ... one of the very few books which, if all the copies were destroyed, could probably be reproduced from oral tradition.’ ( p.139.) Also notes: M. O’Neill mother of M. J. Farrell, later Molly Keane.

Molly Keane gives an account of her as ‘practically a recluse’ in John Quinn, ed., A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl (London: Methuen 1986) [p.66].

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Quotations
“Lookin’ Back”; ‘Antrim hills and the wet rain fallin’ / Whiles ye are nearer than snow-tops keen:/Dreams o’ the night and a night-wind callin’, / What is the half of the world between?’ (Quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.309.)

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References
Brian M. Walker [et al.], eds, Faces of Ireland (Appletree 1992) selects ‘Sea Wrack’ from Songs of the Glens of Antrim; bibl. includes Collected Poems (1933); born Cushendun, went eventually to Canada but returned to Ireland to live in Co. Wicklow, where she died at 90.

Anthologised in the following: W. B. Yeats, A Book of Irish Verse (Methuen 1895; 1900, 1912; 1920); Stopford A. Brooke and T W Rolleston, eds., A Treasury of Irish Poetry in the English Tongue; London; Smith, Elder, & Co. 1900) [with biog. notice]; The Wild Harp; A Selection from Irish Lyrical Poetry, printed at the Ballantyne Press, London; with decorations by C. M. Watts (London: Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd. MCMXIII [1908]) [with biog. notice]; Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909, ed. John Cooke (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909); Brian M Walker, Art Ó Broin, and Sean MacMahon, Faces of Ireland 1875-1925, a photographic and literary picture of the past 4 vols in 1 (Belfast: Appletree 1992), ix, ‘Ulster’ [sect.], pp.7-[114] [with biog. notice.] Also noticed in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland (1994) lived near Cushendall: poss. err.; see infra]. But omitted from Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); Robinson & McDonagh, eds., Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1958), and Brendan Kennelly ed., Penguin Book of Irish Verse (1970) [Chk, Hoagland; Garrity; Saul; et al.]

John Cooke, ed., Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909); no bio-dates; ‘Birds’ (”Sure maybe ye’ve heard the storm-thrush/Whistlin’ bould in March ... he’s never the bird for me ... the redbreast ... ‘Remember’, he sings, ‘Remember!’/Ay, thon’s the wee bird for me.”); ‘Cuttin’ Rushes’ (‘Yesterday, yesterday, or fifty years ago ... The day we cut the rushes on the mountain?’

Belfast Public Library holds O’Neill, M. The Elf-errant (1895, 1902); More Songs of the Glens of Antrim (1921).

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