Máirtín Ó Cadhain

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Máirtín Ó Cadhain
Born 1905
An Spidéal, County Galway, Ireland
Died 18 October 1970(1970-10-18) (aged 65)
Dublin, Ireland
Pen name Aonghus Óg
D. Ó Gallchobhair
Do na Fíréin
Micil Ó Moingmheara
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, journalist, school teacher
Nationality Irish
Genre Fiction, politics, linguistics, experimental prose[2]
Subject Irish Republicanism, modern Irish prose
Literary movement Modernism, social radicalism
Notable works Cré na Cille, An Braon Broghach, Athnuachan
Spouse Máirín Ní Rodaigh

Máirtín Ó Cadhain ([ˈmɑːrtʲiːnʲ oː ˈkainʲ]; 1906 – 18 October 1970) was one of the most prominent Irish language writers of the twentieth century. Perhaps best known for his 1949 work Cré na Cille, Ó Cadhain played a key role in bringing literary modernism to contemporary Irish language literature. Politically, he was an Irish nationalist and socialist, promoting the Athghabháil na hÉireann ("Re-Conquest of Ireland"), through Gaelic culture. He was a member of the Irish Republican Army with Brendan Behan during the Emergency.


Born in Connemara, he became a schoolteacher but was dismissed due to his IRA membership. In the 1930s he served as an IRA recruiting officer, enlisting fellow writer Brendan Behan.[3] In the nineteen thirties, he participated in the land campaign of the native speakers, which led to the establishment of the Ráth Cairn neo-Gaeltacht in County Meath. Subsequently, he was arrested and interned during the Emergency years on the Curragh Camp in County Kildare, due to his continued involvement in the violent activities of the Irish Republican Army.[4]

Ó Cadhain's politics were a nationalist mix of Marxism and social radicalism tempered with a rhetorical anti-clericalism. In his writings concerning the future of the Irish language he was however practical about the position of the Church as a social and societal institution, craving rather for a wholehearted commitment to the language cause even among Catholic churchmen. It was his view that, as the Church was there anyway, it would be better if it were more willing to address the Faithful in the national idiom.

As a writer, Ó Cadhain is acknowledged to be a pioneer of Irish-language modernism. His Irish was the dialect of Connemara – indeed, he is often accused of an unnecessarily dialectal usage in grammar and orthography even in contexts where realistic depiction of Connemara dialect was not called for – but he was happy to cannibalise other dialects, classical literature and even Scots Gaelic for the sake of linguistic and stylistic enrichment of his own writings. Consequently, much of what he wrote is reputedly hard to read for a non-native speaker.

He was a prolific writer of short stories. His collections of short stories include Cois Caoláire, An Braon Broghach, Idir Shúgradh agus Dháiríre, An tSraith Dhá Tógáil, An tSraith Tógtha and An tSraith ar Lár. He also wrote three novels, of which only Cré na Cille was published during his lifetime. The other two, Athnuachan and Barbed Wire, appeared in print only recently. He translated Charles Kickham's novel Sally Kavanagh into Irish as Saile Chaomhánach, nó na hUaigheanna Folmha. He also wrote several political or linguo-political pamphlets. His political views can most easily be discerned in a small book about the development of Irish nationalism and radicalism since Theobald Wolfe Tone, Tone Inné agus Inniu; and in the beginning of the sixties, he wrote – partly in Irish, partly in English – a comprehensive survey of the social status and actual use of the language in the west of Ireland, published as An Ghaeilge Bheo – Destined to Pass. In August 1969 he delivered a speech (published as Gluaiseacht na Gaeilge: Gluaiseacht ar Strae) in which he spoke of the role Irish speakers should take in 'Athghabháil na hÉireann', or the Re-Conquest of Ireland as James Connolly first coined the term.

Due to Máirtín Ó Cadhain's character as Gaelic Ireland's most important writer and littérateur engagé with frequent difficulties to get his work edited, new Ó Cadhain titles of hitherto unpublished writings have appeared at least every two years since the publication of Athnuachan in the mid-nineties. More may be forthcoming.

A lecture hall in Trinity College Dublin is named after Ó Cadhain[5] who was professor of Irish.[6] A bronze bust is also located in the Irish department.

He died on 18 October 1970 in Dublin and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Books by Máirtín Ó Cadhain


  • Athnuachan. Coiscéim. Baile Átha Cliath 1995 (posthumous)
  • Barbed Wire. Edited by Cathal Ó hÁinle. Coiscéim, Baile Átha Cliath 2002 (posthumous)
  • Cré na Cille. Sáirséal agus Dill, Baile Átha Cliath 1949/1965. Translated as
  • The Dirty Dust. Yale Margellos, New Haven 2015.

and Graveyard Clay. Yale Margellos, New Haven 2016.

Short story collections

  • An Braon Broghach. An Gúm, Baile Átha Cliath 1991
  • Cois Caoláire. Sáirséal – Ó Marcaigh, Baile Átha Cliath 2004
  • Idir Shúgradh agus Dáiríre. Oifig an tSoláthair, Baile Átha Cliath 1975
  • An tSraith dhá Tógáil. Sáirséal agus Dill, Baile Átha Cliath 1970/1981
  • An tSraith Tógtha. Sáirséal agus Dill, Baile Átha Cliath 1977
  • An tSraith ar Lár. Sáirséal Ó Marcaigh, Baile Átha Cliath 1986

Journalism and miscellaneous writings

  • Caiscín. (Articles published in the Irish Times 1953–56. Edited by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.) Coiscéim, Baile Átha Cliath 1998
  • Tone Inné agus Inniu. Coiscéim, Baile Átha Cliath 1999
  • Ó Cadhain i bhFeasta. Edited by Seán Ó Laighin. Clódhanna Teoranta, Baile Átha Cliath 1990
  • An Ghaeilge Bheo – Destined to Pass. Edited by Seán Ó Laighin. Coiscéim, Baile Átha Cliath 2002.
  • Caithfear Éisteacht! Aistí Mháirtín Uí Chadhain in Comhar (i.e. Máirtín Ó Cadhain's essays published in the monthly magazine Comhar). Edited by Liam Prút. Comhar Teoranta, Baile Átha Cliath 1999

See also


  1. http://db.ria.ie/fng/bibleag/bibliography_list.asp?pagesize=500
  2. http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-156808754/mairtin-o-cadhain-s-cre-na-cille-a-narratological
  3. [1] Ó Cadhain at Ricorso
  4. Reporter (20 October 1970), "Obituary", The Irish Times, p. 13<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Trinity Web Site reference to the facilities in the Uí Chadhain Teathre TCD
  6. Seanad Éireann Proceedings – referencing ó Cadháin as Professor in TCD

External links