Eoghan Ó Tuairisc (1919-82)

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Life
[Eugene Rutherford Louis Watters] b. 3 April 1919, Dunlo Hill, Ballinasloe Co. Galway, and later Brackernagh [council house], son of Thomas Watters, a WWI veteran soldier and driver of motor hackney cab, and Maude [née Sproule]; ed. Convent of Mercy [Infants] and St. Joseph’s College, Garbally, nr. Ballinasloe, on scholarship; awarded scholarship in English to UCG, 1937 but entered St. Patrick’s TT College, Drumcondra, instead due to family circs.; grad. 1939 and taught in boys" school, Rathfarnham; held commission in the Irish Army during the Emergency, 1939-45; enrolled extra-murally at UCD, 1940; moved to national school in Finglas, 1944-69; grad Dip. Ed., 1945 and MA (UCD), 1947; abstained from the language revival movement and dislike organisations;

contrib. “The Blacksmith’s Holiday” The Bell. Oct. 1941); m. Una McDonnell, March 1945 [see note] and shared horse-drawn travels in Ireland with her; wrote the controversial thriller Murder in Three Moves (1960) in English and L’Attaque (1962) in Irish - the later a fictional account of ‘the year of the French’, 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); profoundly effected by the sudden death of his wife Una, 20 Nov. 1965; taught for some months at St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital, Cappagh, 1967, and moved to the Lock House at Mageney, Co. Carlow, 1968, but soon returned to the family home in Ballinasloe in ill-health; dir. The Song of the Nightingale, co-authored with Sandra Ward (Relays Drama Group), and accompanied it on tour; m. Rita Kelly, 1977 [q.v.], and returned with her to Mageney; moved to a house on the Carlow Road in August 1981, and then to The Leap nr. Enniscorthy, June 1982;

edited Gaelic League journal Feasta on resigning from full-time teaching, 1969; issued two novels in English, Murder in Three Moves (1960), a thriller, and The Story of a Hedgeschool Master (1975); wrote Aisling Mheic Artáin (Abbey, 4 Oct. 1977), dir. Peadar Lamb which won an Arts Council Drama Prize; followed this with an pantomime in Irish in collaboration with Tomás Mac Anna (Oisín, Abbey Th. 26 Dec. 1977) which won the Abbey Theatre Prize; 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; inaug. member of Aosdána [Irish Artists’ Guild], 1981; suffered a heart attack and d. at Caim, Co. Wexford, 24 Aug.1982; bur. at Creagh Cem., beside Una; commem. by plaque at Mageney (‘He was happy here. Lux Aeterna’). DIW DIB FDA OCIL

[ There is an informative account of Eugene Watters by Barry Lally (Ballinasloe Life, 2013; online 18.08.2017; accessed 099.09.2023. ]-

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Works
Poetry
  • The Week-end of Dermot and Grace (Dublin: Allen Figgis & Son 1964), and Do., rep. in ‘Eugene Watters Special Issue’ Poetry Ireland Review, No. 13 (Spring 1985).
  • Lux Aeterna, (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1964) [incls. “Hiroshima Mass”].
  • Dé Luain (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1966).
  • New Passages (Newbridge: Goldsmith Press 1973).
  • Sidelines ((Dublin: Raven Arts Press 1974)
  • with Rita Kelly, Dialann sa Díseart (Dublin: Coiscéim 1981).
Poetry anthology
  • ed., Rogha an Fhile (Newbridge: Goldsmith Press 1974) [bilingual anthology].
Plays
  • Lá Fhéile Michíl (Dublin: Clodhanna Teo., 1967) [a tragedy set in the Civil War].
  • Aisling Mhic Artáin (Dublin: Clodhanna Teo., [Folens] 1978).
  • Fornocht do Conac, play (Dublin: Foilseacháin an Rialtais 1981).
Fiction
  • Murder in Three Moves (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1960) [a thriller].
  • L’Attaque (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1962) [in Irish].
  • The Story of Hedgeschool Master ([Cork:] Mercier Educational 1975).
Fiction (trans.)
  • trans. Máirtín Ó Cadhain, The Road to Brightcity and Other Stories (Swords: Poolbeg Press 1981) [15 stories by Ó Cadhain].
  • “My Little Black Ass” in Padraic Ó Conaire: 15 Short Stories (Poolbeg 1982) [with others].
Autobiography
  • An Lomnochtán (Dublin & Cork: Cló Mercier 1978).
Essays
  • with Desmond Egan, Focus: Elucidations of English Poetry (Dublin: Fallons 1972).
  • “Dialann Deoraí”, in The Pleasures of Gaelic Literature John Jordan, ed., (1977).
  • Religio Poetae agus Aistí Eile, ed. Maírín Nic Eoin (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1987).
Miscellaneous
  • with Matthew Murtagh, Infinite Variety: Dan Lowrey’s Music Hall 1879-97 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975), 176pp. [see review by Richard Kain in JJQ - online.]
  • contrib. on “Christian names” to Encyclopaedia of Ireland (Dublin: Allen Figgis 1968), pp.119-21;

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Criticism
Monographs
  • Máirín Nic Eoin, Eoghan Ó Tuairisc: Beatha agus Saothar (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1988).
  • Philip O’Leary, An Underground Theatre: Major Playwrights in the Irish Language, 1930-80 (UCD Press 2017) [Chap. 3: Eoghan Ó Tuairisc (1919-82).]
Studies
  • Oliver Snoddy, ‘Notes on Literature in Irish Dealing with the Fight for Freedom’, in Éire-Ireland, 3, 2 (Summer 1968), pp. 138-48 [see extract].
  • James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983) [see extract].
  • ‘Eugene Watters Special Issue’ [of] Poetry Ireland Review, No. 13 [ed. Conleth Ellis & Rita E. Kelly] (Spring 1985) [contribs. incl. Sean Lucy, Martin Nugent, Colbert Kearney; biog. notes & bibl.].
  • Máirín Nic Eoin, ‘Comhrá le hEoghan Ó Tuairisc, in Innti 6 (1981).
  • —, ‘Eoghan Ó Tuairisc 1919-1982’ , in Comhar (Deireadh Fómhair 1985).
  • —, ‘An Litríocht mar Athscríobh na Staire; L’Attaque agus Dé Luain le hEoghan Ó Tuairisc’, in 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 The 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.
  • —, ‘Lig Sinn I gCathú, Leabhar Éadrom?’, in Feasta (Júil 1976) [n.p].
    Micheál Mac Craith, ‘L’Attaque, 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 The Irish Press (26 Bealtaine 1962).
  • Ian Ó Caoimh, ‘Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Lá Fhéile Míchíl (1967) & Fornocht do chonac (1981)’, in Drámaíocht na Gaeilge: ón Dara Cogadh Domhanda ar aghaidh, ed., Philip O’Leary & Brian Ó Conchubhair (An Spidéal, Co. na Gaillimhe: Cló Iar-Chonnacht 2022) [Chap. 8].
Bibliography
  • Martin Nugent, ‘Eoghan O Tuairisc: A Bibliography’, in Poetry Ireland/Eigse Eireann [Iss. 13] (q.d.) [1. Works by the author, 2. Criticism of those works, 3. Works dedicated to him, and 4. Appreciations].
Reference
  • Anne M. Brady & Brian Cleeve, A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers (Mullingar: Lilliput Press 1985), pp.374-75.
  • Sean Ó Cearnaigh, Scribhneoiri na Gaeilge, 1945-1995 (BÁC: Comhar Teo. 1995), pp. 230-31.
  • Robert Welch, The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (Oxford Univ. Press 1996), pp.461-62.
  • Alex Davis, ‘The Irish Modernists and Their Legacy’, in The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Matthew Campbell (Cambridge UP 2003), pp.76-93, espec. p.82ff.

See also Nessa Ní Shé, Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (Dublin 1971) [for source of O Tuairisc's poem]; 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);

Commemorations: Brian Lynch, ‘Eoghan Ó Tuairisc 1919-82’ [obit.], in The Irish Times (18 Sept. 1982); Mairtin Ó Direáin, ‘Do Eoghan Ó Tuairisc’, in Scríobh, 6 (1984); Des Egan, ‘Eugene Watters is Dead’, in Rosc (Spring 1983); Conleth Ellis, ‘Coin for the Ferryman’, in Age of Exploration (Dedalus Press1985); a lament by Desmond Egan appeared in his collection Elegies (1996).

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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 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.’

[Cahalan - 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.’ (pp.171-72.)

[Cahalan - further:] 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) [Here 172].

[Cahalan - 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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Quotations
The Road to Brightcity: Short Stories of Máirtín Ó Cadhain (Poolbeg 1981) - Introduction: ‘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.’ (pp.7-12) [For further, see under Mirtn Cadhain as supra.]

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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].

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Notes
Una Watters [née McDonnell], b, Dublin, Nov. 1918; painter and librarian at Phibsboro; ed. National College of Art and Design - continuing in library employment then and later; m. Eugene Watters, March 1945; painted at home, focussing on religious subjects (Annunciation, Irish Living Art, 1949; produced the image of Claimeadh Soluis used in the 1916 Commemoration, 1965; d. 20 Nov. 1965; her reputation suffered on account of his dispersal of her work as gifts to relatives after her death, having himself organised a posthumous exhibition of 37 oil paintings at the Dublin Painters Gallery on St. Stephen s Green in 1966; 20 of the original painters were exhibited again by Mary Morrissey in 2022 and her 1965 painting Girl Going by Trinity in the Rain was donated to the National Gallery of Ireland by Colbert Kearney in 2023.

Una Watters Exhibition (Dublin Painters Gallery, St. Stephen’s Green
A posthumous exhibition organised by her husband Eugene was mounted in 1966 at the Dublin Painters Gallery on St Stephen’s Green. There is an Una Watters commemorative website edited by Mary Morrissey - online. (Info. from 20th Century Irish Art Group on Facebook, 01.10.2021.) See further details - infra.

[Error report: name and details of Una Kelly were confused with Rita Kelly as supra in earlier copies of this record.]

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