By Pádraig Ó Macháin
UCC’s CENTRAL connection with Irish poetry is crystallised in its relationship with Ballyvourney poet Seán Ó Ríordáin, whose lecturing in the Irish Department was facilitated by the late Professor Risteard Breatnach.
The biography of Ó Ríordáin by Professor Seán Ó Coileáin stands as one of the greatest achievements in contemporary Irish prose, and one of the great literary biographies of our time.
Seán Ó Ríordáin was born on December 3rd 1916, and in celebrating his centenary, the Department of Modern Irish Department has organised a series of events reflective both of UCC’s connections with the poet and of the wide appeal of his poetry.
Last week three poets with strong links to UCC gathered to discuss their work in the light of Ó Ríordáin. Dr Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhaigh, IRC Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Department of Modern Irish, was joined by fellow poets, Áine Uí Fhoghlú and Colm Breathnach, both UCC graduates. Providing a pan-Gaelic perspective on Ó Ríordáin’s reputation was Professor Wilson McLeod of the University of Edinburgh.
One of the highlights of the University year is the annual visit of children from Gaelscoil Uí Rordáin in Ballincollig to the President’s Office for the award of Duais Uí Ríordáin. This special connection will be marked by a lunchtime event in the Seomra Caidrimh this Thursday, November 17th.
Readings of a selection of Ó Ríordáin’s work by schoolchildren from the Gaelscoil will blend with readings by undergraduates from the Department of Modern Irish, and music will also be provided by both sets of students.
Timothy O’Neill, adjunct professor at the Department of Modern Irish (O’Rahilly Building), and author of the best-selling The Irish Hand, has been commissioned to produce a calligraphic representation of Ó Ríordáin’s famous poem, Fill Arís. O’Neill, who has created contemporary working versions of early Irish liturgical manuscripts, collaborated for many years with the late Séamus Heaney.
In a public lecture entitled Letter-forms and literature: wrestling with Scripture, Heaney and Ó Ríordáin, to be delivered in the College of Arts Seminar Room (O’Rahilly Building, G.27) on November 22nd at 4pm, he will talk about his work on representations of modern poetry and on the challenges posed to the calligrapher by such work.
The celebrations of the Ó Ríordáin centenary will conclude with a ceremony on November 25th when the Séamus Murphy bust of Seán Ó Ríordáin will be installed in the Department of Modern Irish at 3pm. The occasion will feature an address by Prof Seán Ó Coileáin.
Sean Ó Ríordáin passed away in Glanmire on February 21st 1977.
Prof Pádraig Ó Macháin is
professor of Modern Irish at
University College Cork.