T[homas] O’Neill Russell

Life
1828-1902 [pseud. “Reginald Tierney”]; b. Lissonode, Moate, Co. Westmeath, son of Joseph Russell, a Quaker farmer; ed. National School; commerical traveller for Jacob’s biscuits; learned Irish and contrib. The Irishman urging language-revival from 1858; emig. to USA fearing arrest because of his assocation with the IRB, 1867; worked there as commercial traveller; travelled to Ireland and became fnd. mbr of the Gaelic League, 31 July 1893; settled in Ireland, 1895; contrib. articles on historic Irish places in Freeman’s Journal (Autumn 1895); and Féis Ceol, 1897; wrote Dick Massey, A Tale of Irish Life (1860), a tale of the 1814 famine and subsequent emigration, ran into many editions; True Heart’s Trials (1910), set in Cavan-Westmeath and USA backwoods (Albany), with scenes of the life of Irish squireens and American colonists and lovers’ trials; a play, The Last Irish King (1904) plays in blank verse; edited Moore’s Irish Melodies; d. 15 June, Synge St.; bur. Mount Jerome; he is cited in Ulysses (though already deceased in 1904). PI IF ODNB DIB DIW DIH MKA SUTH OCIL

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Works
[as Reginald Tierney,] The Adventures of Dick Massey, or the Battles of a Boy (Dublin: James Duffy 1860; Gill, new ed. 1908); True Heart’s Trials, a Tale of Ireland and America (Dublin: M .H. Gill 1872; rep. 1910); (1904); Red Hugh, Or the Life and Death of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1905). Miscellaneous, ‘Gaelic Letters’, in Gaelic Journal, vol. 2 (1882-83), p.292[ff].

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Criticism
James Coleman, ‘Bibliography’, Bibliographical Society of Ireland Publication, 1, 4 (1919); Hester Piatt, Memories’, Catholic Bulletin, 9 (1919), pp.647-48.

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Commentary
Dominic Daly
, The Young Douglas Hyde (1974): Thomas O’Neill Russell, 1826-1908; native of Co. Westmeath, many years in America as travelling salesman (‘jolly pedlar’, &c); tireless worker for the Irish language; Hyde describes him as ‘rather obstinate’; a correspondent of Hyde’s calls him ‘the Prince of Cranks’, while Tim Healy, in a letter to his brother Maurice, wrote, ‘I think Russell the most delightful human animal I have ever known, his honesty, sincerity, enthusiasm, and love of Ireland and Celtic things, in a man of his years and Protestant training, are marvellous.’ (Hyde, Mise agus Connradh, p.162ff.; Russell appears to have taken Hyde to the RIA, as to his house where Hyde met his (Russell’s) French wife acc. Hyde’s diary, 19-21 June 1877. (n., 198; p.33.)

Vivian Mercier, ‘John Eglinton as Socrates: A Study of “Scylla and Charybdis” , in James Joyce: An International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Bernard Benstock (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982): ‘No doubt Professor [Weldon] Thornton is weary of being chided for his scepticism about the existence of O’Neill Russell: see Allusion in Ulysses, N. Carolina UP 1968, p.172. There is a delightful sketch of the ageing Celtic enthusiast by George Moore in Hail and Farewell: Ave, Salve, Vale, ed. Richard Allen Cave (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1976), ppp.319-20.’

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References
Belfast Public Library
holds Adventures of Dick Massey (1861); Beauties and Antiquities of Ireland (1897); Is Ireland a Dying Nation (1906); The Last Irish King (1904); The True Harp of Erin (1900).

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); The Last Irish King, drama in blank verse (Dub. 1904); Red Hugh, a drama (Dublin 1905); novel, Dick Massey (v. successful); The Beauties and Antiquities of Ireland (1897), Is Ireland a Decaying Nation?; ed. Moore’s Melodies in Ireland. McKenna (Irish Literature, 1978), Bibl., The Struggles [sic ?err.] of Dick Massey, or the Battles of a Boy, by Reginald Tierney [pseud. Russell] (Duffy 1860); True Heart’s Trials, a Tale of Ireland and America (Gill 1872); drama, The Last Irish King (1904); Red Hugh, or life and death of Hugh Roe O’Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell (1905); also ed. ‘Moore’s Melodies,’ books on Irish language and antiquities; commentaries by James Coleman, ‘Bibliography ..’, in Bibl. Soc. of Ireland Pub., 1, 4 (1919); Hester Piatt, Memories’, in Catholic Bulletin 9 (1919), 647-48.

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Notes
James Joyce: Ulysses (1922) contains a reference: ‘O’Neill Russell? O, yes, he must speak the grand old tongue’ (Ulysses, Bodley Ed., p.246).

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