Eoghan Ó Tuairisc

Life
1919-1982 [Eugene Rutherford Louis Watters]; b. Ballinasloe Co. Galway, son of shoemaker; ed. St. Joseph’s College, Garbally, nr. Ballinasloe; joined army in 1939; entered St. Patrick’s TT College, Drumcondra, in 1939; held commission in the Irish Army during the Emergency, 1939-45; grad Dip. Ed., 1945; worked as Dublin teacher at Finglas, 1940-69; completed an MA at UCD, 1947; m. Una McDonnell, painter (d.1965); horse-drawn travels with Una; won Arts Council prize for hist. trag, and Abbey Theatre prize for Christmas pantomime in Irish; experimented with modernist poetry in The Week-end of Diarmuid and Grania (1964; rep. 1985), ‘an orchestra of images, moods, insights and emotions, arranged in semi-dramatic and fugal patterns’, narrating their attempted flight to the west of Ireland from suburban Dublin and modern life in the post-nuclear age; Lux Aeterna (1964); edited Gaelic League journal Feasta on resigning from fulltime teaching, 1969; issued two novels in English, Murder in Three Moves (1960), a thriller, and The Story of a Hedgeschool Master (1975); also L’Attaque (Allen Figgis 1962), a fictional account of ‘the year of the French’, in Irish; seriously effect by the death of his wife Una, 1965; experienced breakdowns; m. Rita Kelly, poet, 1972, settling at Mageney, Co. Carlow, where he resumed creative work; Aisling Mheic Artáin (Abbey, 4 Oct. 1977), dir. Peadar Lamb, followed by an Abbey panto, Oisín (26 Dec. 1977), with his friend Tomás Mac Anna; publ. An Lomnachtán (1978), poem inspired by Middle Irish Eachtra Lomnachtáin [The Adventure of the Naked One]; two novels in English and collections of verse in Irish and English; a lament by Desmond Egan appeared in Elegies (1996); he was an inaugural member of Aosdana; d. Caim, Co. Wexford, 24 Aug. DIW DIB FDA OCIL

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Works
Poetry, ‘The Week-end of Dermot and Grace’ (Allen Figgis & Son 1964), Do., rep. in ‘Eugene Watters Special Issue’ Poetry Ireland Review, No. 13 (Spring 1985); Lux Aeterna, including ‘Hiroshima Mass’ (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1964); Dé Luain (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1966); contrib. on ‘Christian names’ to Encyclopaedia of Ireland (Figgis 1968), pp.119-21; New Passages (1973); Rogha an Fhile, anthol. with trans. (1974); plays, Lá Fhéile Michíl (Dublin: Clodhanna Teo., 1967), tragedy set in Civil War; Aisling Mhic Artáin (Dublin: Clodhanna Teo., [Folens] 1978); Fornocht do Conac, play (Dublin: Foilseacháin an Rialtais 1981); essays, Focus, with Desmond Egan (1972), and Dialann sa Díseart (1972), poetry [with Rita Kelly, his 2nd wife] (Dublin: Coiscéim 1981); Religio Poetae agus Aistí Eile, essays, ed. Maírín Nic Eoin (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1987).

Fiction, Murder in Three Moves (1960), thriller; L’Attaque, in Irish (Allen Figgis 1962); [The Story of a] Hedgeschool Master (1975); An Lomnochtán, autobiog. (Dublin & Cork: Mercier) 1978).

Miscellaneous, Ó Tuairisc trans. ‘My Little Black Ass’ in Padraic Ó Conaire, 15 short stories, with other writers (Poolbeg 1982); for source of Weekend of Diarmuid and Grania, see Nessa Ní Shé, Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (Dublin 1971); ‘Dialann Deoraí’, in John Jordan, ed., The Pleasures of Gaelic Literature (1977).

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Criticism
Oliver Snoddy, ‘Notes on Literature in Irish Dealing with the Fight for Freedom’, Éire-Ireland, 3, 2 (Summer 1968), pp. 138-48 [infra]; James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983) [infra]; ‘Eugene Watters Special Issue’ Poetry Ireland Review, 13 (Spring 1985) [contribs. Sean Lucy, Martin Nugent, Colbert Kearney]; Máirín Nic Eoin, Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Beatha agus Saothar (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1988); Poetry Ireland Review, Special Eugene Watters No., ed. Conleth Ellis, Rita E. Kelly, No. 13 (Spring 1985), biog. notes, critical essays, and bibl.); ‘Comhrá le hEoghan Ó Tuairisc, Innti 6 (1981); Comhar, ‘Eoghan Ó Tuairisc 1919-1982’ (Deireadh Fómhair 1985); Máirín Nic Eoin, ‘An Litríocht mar Athscríobh na Staire; L’Attaque agus Dé Luain le hEoghan Ó Tuairisc’, Léachtaí Cholm Cille XXI (1991); Mícheál Mac Craigh, ‘Geineasas, Antigone agus Lá Fhéile Míchíl, Comhar (Deireadh Fómhair 1985); John Jordan, ‘The West Awake’, review of L’Attaque, in Irish Press (21 Lunasa 1980) [cited Titley, An tÚrscéal Gaeilge, 1991]; Rita E. Kelly, ‘Tóraíocht Dhiarmada Uí Ghráine’, letter in Feasta (Bealtaine 1976), pp.21-22; Kelly, ‘Lig Sinn I gCathú, Leabhar Éadrom?’, in Feasta (Júil 1976) [n.p]; Micheál Mac Craith, ‘L’Ataque, Urscéal faoi Stúir’, in Macalla (Gallaimh 1982), pp.15-36; Murchadh Mac Diarmada, ‘L’Attaque Fa Ionsaí!’, in Agus (Beltaine 1962), pp.6-7; C. Ní Mh., ‘L’Attaque’, Deirdre (Fomhar 1962); Aindreas Ó Gallchobhair, ‘L’Attaque’, in Irish Press (26 Bealtaine 1962); Alex Davis, ‘The Irish Modernists and Their Legacy’, in Matthew Campbell, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry (Cambridge UP 2003), pp.76-93, espec. p.82ff.

See also Bríghid uí Éigeartaigh, letter to Books Ireland (Feb. 1987) [infra]; Patrick Crotty, review of W. J. McCormack, ed., Ferocious Humanism: An Anthology of Irish Poetry, in Times Literary Supplement ( 2 June 2000), pp.4-5 [infra]. For further reviews by Seán Ó hEigeartaigh and others, see Alan Titley, An tÚrscéal Gaeilge (1991);

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Commentary
Oliver Snoddy, remarks that in ‘that fine book by Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Dé Luain, [in order] to distill the experiences of so many on that vital Easter Monday, the author uses an experimental device partly fiction and partly recreated chronicle. It stands alone as a full length imaginitive work on the period in which the author does not exploit the true grandeur of the leaders for purported “artistic” reasons. Instead Ó Tuairisc molds a language commesurate with their greatness.’ (p.147 in Snoddy, ‘Notes on Literature in Irish Dealing with the Fight for Freedom’, Éire-Ireland, 3, 2 (Summer 1968), pp. 138-48.)

James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983), comments on Dé Luain; L’Attague [sic]; An Lomnochtán; and also The Road to Bright City [trans. Máirtín Ó Cadhain]. ‘Three novels in Irish - interestingly his more serious works - and two rather lightweight efforts in English ... interest in politics and history ... L’Attaque [sic] rivals James Plunkett’s Strumpet City as the best historical novel of the period ... influence of Táin and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.’ Quotes Ó Tuairisc on Dé Luain, ‘though it won the Butler prize, it has never been as popular with readers as L’Attaque; it is too complex, having dozens of perception centres in the weave of it.’ FURTHER, O’Tuairisc, L’Attaque (1961), a novel of the French landing in the West in 1798, Cahalan’s account includes quotations from an interview with Ó Tuairisc. Viz., on influences, ‘the epic style of the Classics, of Anglo-Saxon, and particularly the ‘historical’ sagas of the Old Irish and Medieval period, as seen in such fictionalised history as Táin Bó Cuailgne, Cath Rois na Rí for Bóinn, and even in the would-be historical Leabhar Gabhála [and] a second and more powerful influence [Tolstoy’s War and Peace]’. Ó Tuairisc notes, ‘all these writers (the ‘synthetic’ historians) had no compunction about weaving the actual facts of history into a myth or a poetic fiction, such poiesis [sic], of course, included prose as well as verse.’ He further testified to the overwhelming influence of Tolstoy’s realism as ‘the [171] human quality which [..] is invariably absent in the Irish epic. Tolstoy’s soldiers are not the half-divine heroes of the Táin but the down-to-earth haymaking, hungry, bored and humorsome soldiers I had known in the Army of Ireland.’ Ó Tuairisc noted that he was ‘attracted by the theme of the impact of a dynamic, revolutionary, atheistic force upon a static peasant population who by sheer tribulation and passive resistance had survived a hundred years of penal colonial regime coldly calculated to keep them socially, polit-ically, and intellectually poor and impotent. Violence was rare amongst them, and their language had nothing of the sharp impact of the French word attaque’ [173]. His source was Richard Hayes, The Last Invasion of Ireland (1937), in whose introduction it is noted that the story is ‘one of high adventure with not a few epic qualities’ (p.xv) [172]. Further, The novel opens with Máirtín Caomhánach, a peasant who bears the ancestral name of the kings of Leinster, reluctantly joining into the rising; he has just happily married Saidhbhín, the daughter of a wealthy man when ‘the big world outside break[s] in on him’ (trans., p.18). The Protestant leader, Robert Craigie, is unpopular with him, and the men maintain a lively pessimism. Ó Tuairisc strategically ends with the Republican victory at Castlebar. O’Tuairisc uses the Táin with its cattle-driving motif for ironic purposes. The high-flown patriotic rhetoric of Craigie, writing to his wife, is contrasted with the earthy, humble messaye that the peastand Pádraig Ó Flannagáin sends to his mother. As for the action, Caomhánach is no Cuchulainn-type, “Ionsaí eile. Ní hea, a chailleach, ach eirleach eile. [Another attack. No, old hag, another slaughter]”.’ (p.113). Ó Tuairisc ends his novel with the sentence, ‘Tá an Táin déanta [the raid has been completed]’ (p.139). Ó Tuairisc explained, ‘“The ancient Táin, long lost, has been recovered, and now written.” That’s just the way I felt when I put down the last full stop’ [172-73].

Bríghid uí Éigeartaigh, letter to Books Ireland (Feb. 1987) in response to ‘Fair Comment’ appearing previous ssue: recounts the details of a vituperative exchange in print between Eoghan Ó Tuairisc and Rita Kelly arising from a double review of Breandán Ó hEithir’s Lig Sinn I gCathú by them in Feasta (July 1976), the latter being based on a published extract of the novel which appeared in Flós Fomhair, a collection from Oireachtais prize winners in 1975, and including the denigratory assertion that the author of the work lacked ‘paisean an fhile’. Ó hEithir’s responded to Kelly and Ó Tuairisc jointly in the following issue of Feasta included the following sentence: ‘Ach is fear an tionscal seo a fhágáil foai na heolaithe, na “típeanna” a bhfuil an paisean ag ithe an cheatrú anuas díobh [...] the multipseudonymous watters off, the ultrauxorious watters of. hitherandthithering watters of. Here’smyheadandmyarse - is coming watters of. Shite.’ Ó Tuairisc and Kelly replied separately next month (Feasta, Meán Fohmair 1979), she accusing him of attempting to ruin her reputation as a critic with his ‘fauluisce faoi thalamh [underground piss]’. The same issue contains Ó Tuairisc’s ‘Annáls Wrecktra na Hairyone leis na Ceithre Bhastard curtha in eagar ag Eoghan Ó Tuarisc.’ Uí Éigeartaigh here remarks that Kelly was ‘unable to see the funny side of the whole episode’ as being ‘more vulnerable than Eoghan Ó Tuairisc’. Jeremy Addis [as addressee of her letter] responds in an editorial subscript that Kelly did in fact see the ‘funny - or at least ironic - side of the episode’, and recounts that, after the novel was printed in English and ‘deflated’, she found herself sitting with her critic, who said: ‘Ah, sure, what was it all about; wasn’t it a terrible book anyway?’ Addis concludes that ‘she was not so much bitter as sad at the attitudinising that goes with so much literary criticism’ and adds: ‘She did not name her critic.’

Patrick Crotty, incidental remarks in on Eugene Watters’s Weekend of Dermot and Grace: ‘A promising idea, perhaps, but Watter’s technique limps so far behind his aesthetic desire that the reader is left with page after page of risibly inept Eliotics, flat-footed conflations of “Death by Water” and “Ash Wednesday”’ [quoting: ‘Christe. Christ. Christe eleison hemas./Look Dermot, how the sun flitters the mists. / It is the rape of the women of a broken city. / Fail city so easily broken. / We did not build it easily, we two. / Let us walk out along the mountainside. / Walk out along the mountainside and see. / Along the mountainside what shall we see? / A break in the backstage scenery - Kyrie eleison.’ (Crotty, review of W. J. McCormack, ed., Ferocious Humanism: An Anthology of Irish Poetry, Dent 2000, in Times Literary Supplement, 2 June 2000, pp.4-5.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects Lux Aeterna, ‘Aifreann na Marbh’/’Mass for the Dead, ‘Graduale’ [903-04]. BIOG, p.935 [as supra; omits mention of first marriage].

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Quotations
Introduction to The Road to Brightcity: Short Stories of Máirtín Ó Cadhain ((Poolbeg 1981), pp.7-12: ‘After the long struggle Independence and the neurotic civil war which followed, the new Irish Government was wholly unable to supply the dynamic thinking necessary [7] to save Cois Fharraige[,] ‘American Strip’ and all the other Irish-speaking strips from North to South along the Atlantic Coast.’ [For further, see under Máirtín Ó Cadhain, supra.]

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