Owen Sheehy-Skeffington

Life
d. 1970; son of Francis and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington [q.vv.]; Professor of French at TCD and Irish Senator, celebrated as a spokesman for liberal causes; publicly professed himself a humanist and an an agnostic; campaigned against corporal punishment in Irish schools; his funeral address was delivered by Sean O’Faoláin (‘You won, Owen, you won!’); a tribute appears in Hubert Butler, Escape from the Anthill (1985); spoken of by Conor Cruise O’Brien, his cousin, as his chief influence.

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Works
‘My Time at Trinity College’, The Recorder: Journal of the Irish American Historical Society, 13, 1 (Spring 2000), pp.7-37.

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Notes
Peter Tyrrell's autobiography (published as Founded on Fear: Lettertrack Industrial School, War and Exile, IAP 2006) was written in 1959 with the encouragement of Senator Owen Sheehy Skeffington whom Tyrrell had contacted having heard of his campaign against Irish schools' “pathological reliance on punishment”. As recounted in Books Ireland (“First Flush”, Dec. 2006), ‘a postcard addressed to Skeffington was what finally helped to identify the charred remains of Tyrrell, who had set light to himself on Hampstead Heath in 1968.’ Tyrrell (b.1916) served in the British Army in Palestine and India in and was an inmate of a German prisoner-of-war camp.

Nelson: When Nelson's Pillar was blown up by the IRA, and soon afterwards demolished in a controlled explosion by the Army on 8 March 1966, Owen Sheehy-Skeffington told the Senate that ‘the man who destroyed the pillar made Dublin look more like Birmingham and less like an ancient city on the river Liffey.’ The column - which was 121ft. high - was designed by Francis Johnson, architect of the adjacent General Post Office (built later) with a statue of Nelson by Thomas Kirk, of Cork. Originally accessed through a basement gate, a street-level gate was added by G. P. Baxter in 1894. In 1923, Yeats said of it in the Senate: ‘It represents the feeling of Protestant Ireland for a man who helped break the power of Napoleon[...]. The life and work of the people who erected it is a part of our tradition. I think we should accept the whole past of this nation, and not pick and choose.’ (See The Irish Times anniversary story, 6 March 2016 - online.

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