Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn (1550-91)


Life
b. of Ó hUiginn bardic family, at Dougharane, Leyney, Co. Sligo; fostered in Donegal; place of training unknown, though not thought to be the family school of Ceall Cluaine [Kilcloney], nr. Ballinasloe, Co. Galway; early patronised by Cathal Ó Conchobhair, brother of Domhnall, chief of the Ó Conchobhair family of Sligo; also by Risteárd Mac Uilleam Búrc of Mayo, Brian Ó Ruairc of Leitrim, and Cormac Ó hEaghra of Sligo; lived at Coolrecuill in Kilmactigue, parish of Leyney, as a man of some substance; murdered and mutilated by six members of the Ó hEaghra family in response to a satire accusing them of having abused his hospitality, acc. tradition [i.e., on slender evidence];
 
forty extant compositions attributed to him; in manuscripts such as the Book of the O’Conor Don and collections made by Micheál Óg Ó Longáin, Seán Ó Murchadha na Raithíneach, et al.; poems incl. ‘Fearann cloidhimh críoch Bhanbha’, urging Risteárd Mac Uilleam Búrc to enlarge his realm, and ‘D’fhior chogaidh comhailtear síothcháin’, urging Brian Ó Ruairc to make total war against the English; prob. author of humorous poem on a lump of rancid butter; also two aislingí. DIW DIB

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Works
Eleanor Knott, ed. & trans., The Bardic Poems of Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn, 2 vols. (1922, 1926).

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Criticism
S. H. O’Grady, ed. & trans, Sluag Seisir Táinic dom Thig, in Catalogue of Irish MSS in the BM (3 vols, 1926), pp.439-42; Rev. A Macdonald, Doain Saor Siol Cholla, in Macdonald collection of Gaelic Poetry (Inverness 1911), pp.1-5; Eleanor Knott, An Introduction to Irish Syllabic Poetry of the Period 1200-1600 (Cork 1928); Knott, A bhFuil Againn dar chuir Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn 1550-91 (ITS 1922); Cathal Ó Háinle, ‘D’fhior chogaidh comhailtear síothcháin’, Léachtaí Cholm Cille, II (1971).

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Commentary
Eleanor Knott
, The Bardic Poems of Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn (London), Vol. 1: ‘He shows in most of his poems a calm acceptation of the contemporary strife, as though it were the natural order. Poetry flourished on it, and for him, like most bardic poets, the profession was the thing. The apprehensions and sorrows which troubled Irish poets of a slightly later period did not affect Tadhg Dall. Shadows palpable enough to us in his own poems portended no disaster to him. We may take him as a typical figure, thoroughly adapted in mind and customs to the existing order; utterly unaware of the imminent dawn of a new world.’ (p.xlv; quoted in Proinsias MacCana, ‘Early Irish Ideology and the Concept of Unity’, The Irish Mind, ed. Richard Kearney, Dublin: Wolfhound 1984), p.76.

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Proinsias MacCana, ‘Early Irish Ideology and the Concept of Unity’, The Irish Mind, ed. Richard Kearney, Dublin: Wolfhound 1984): ‘But by the late sixteenth century the poets were faced with a very different kind of reality, one in which war was fraught with calamitous and possibly irrevocable consequences. The expansion of English power in Ireland meant cultural suppression as well as military conquest, and the ultimate outcome could only be the extinction of the native order. The poets, who were after all better placed than most, including their patrons, to take a global view of contemporary events, saw the signs and read them clearly. Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn himself realised the inappropriateness of the traditional dissipation of energy and in his poem urging Brian Ó Ruairc to engage the English in all-out war he counsels a different mode of action. [Here quotes a ‘convenient’ summary by Standish Hayes O’Grady]: “… in the sword alone all hope lies now, and the state of affairs is such that never were the five provinces less inclined to peace; but all will not serve unless there be union: from north to south, from sea to ocean; the components of a great and (supposing concord to prevail) a feasible army are recited: the poet’s immediate hero being (according to the consecrated figure of speech) held forth as chief commander of the host.”’ (Catalogue of the Irish MSS in the British Museum, London, Vol. 1, pp.413ff.; Mac Cana, p.77.) Mac Cana remarks: ‘The nobles of Ireland , says the poet, “are being driven to the outskirts of Ireland , while troops of English are at its very centre ( 'na glé-mheadhón ) ”, in other words the foreigner has established himself at the sacred spot which symbolises the unity of the country. The phrasing is eloquent in its brevity.’ (Idem; see further under Daibhí Ó Bruadair, q.v.)

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Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1992), quotes Tadhg’s advice to Henry O’Neill to stay in Ulster rather than take up Tadhg O’Brien’s invitation to become high king and drive the English out: ‘Let the prince of Uí Néill delay in marching south - this is good advice, and let him heed my word - till he make sure of his power even over his own land […].’ (Bardon, p.69.)

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References
Henry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988) lists; Domhnall (d.1502); Maolmuire (d.1591); Maolsheaclainn (fl.1430); Mathghamhain (d. 1585); Tadhg Mór (fl.1400); Tadhg Óg (d.1448); Tuathal (d.1450)

Robert Welch, ed., Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (Clarendon: Oxford 1996); Fearghal Ó hUiginn (fl.1400); his son Brian, named in Annals of Loch Cé as head of the bardic order in Ireland and Scotland;Mathghamhain Ó hUiginn (d.1585) Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn; and Maol Muire Ó hUiginn, Archbishop of Tuam.

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