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Documentary about Irish language writer Séamus Ó Grianna to air on BBC Two NI



Date Posted: September 2, 2021

In a new Irish Language Broadcast Fund documentary, Séamus Ó Grianna: Saol Corrach, presenter Damien Ó Dónaill examines the life, work and contradictions of the writer. The documentary was made by Macha Media and airs on Sunday 5th September at 10pm on BBC Two Northern Ireland and on BBC iPlayer.

Seámus Ó Grianna (1889 – 1969) was one of the most important Irish language writers of the 20th century. Yet, near the end of his life, he wrote that he regretted ever writing one word of Irish. Archive photographs and contributions from people who knew him, paint a vivid picture of the people and places that shaped him.

Born in 1889, in Rannafast in the Donegal Gaeltacht, Ó Grianna absorbed the rich oral traditions and folklore of the region in his Irish-language works, some of which he wrote under the name Máire, in tribute to his mother.

Over the course of five decades, he penned more than 30 books – among his best-known are novels Caisleáin Óir (1924) and Mo Dhá Róisín (1921), and short story collection, Cith is Dealán (1927).

His stance on the Irish language contrasted with his gentler prose, poetry and song. His work portrays the old traditional Gaeltacht way of life and tells stories of love and tragedy, and of conflict between idealism and materialism.

He wrote of local folk and local places, documenting the everyday lives of the people of Rannafast, saying that he wanted to ensure the Rannafast dialect was the only language he would use in his writing.

At 16, he accompanied his father to Scotland to work as a labourer. There he was introduced to the poetry of Robbie Burns and decided to pursue a career teaching.

In 1915, he was appointed headmaster of a primary school on Inishfree and began writing for the Derry Journal newspaper.

TheEaster Rising of 1916 had a profound effect on him and he reportedly took the republican side in the Civil War. He was interned in 1922-1923 and afterwards the film reveals he became loudly critical of every aspect of the new ‘Free State’ government’s Irish language policy – what he called ‘official Irish’ – claiming that native Irish wasn’t being given enough attention.

We hear how he believed they were creating something new, and they weren’t using the language that was there already – the spoken language – and that it was being diluted and simplified and wasn’t giving dialects their place. He felt that Ulster Irish was being excluded.

He became infamous among Irish speakers and the government, and in the 1960s, he joined the Language Freedom Movement, a group that shared his views on government Irish language policy and who wanted to ban compulsory Irish in schools.

The documentary also reveals that surprisingly, he was also concerned that not enough English was being taught in Gaeltacht areas. He felt that as the people there already spoke only Irish, they were at a disadvantage when trying to find work or pursue education in different parts of the country or abroad, because they couldn’t speak English. He felt the people of the Gaeltacht were being overlooked and badly treated in many ways.

As one contributor to the programme notes: “If one were to find fault with his work, as literature, one might say he portrayed his own community, but he didn’t reveal himself.”

Séamus Ó Grianna: Saol Corrach airs on Sunday 5th September at 10pm on BBC Two Northern Ireland and on BBC iPlayer.


Sa chlár faisnéise nua Séamus Ó Grianna: Saol Corrach, a rinne Macha Media le maoiniú ó Chiste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge Scáileán Thuaisceart Éireann, déanann an láithreoir Damien Ó Dónaill iniúchadh ar shaol, ar shaothar agus ar chastachtaí an scríbhneora speisialta seo. Beidh an clár a chraoladh ar BBC a Dó Thuaisceart Éireann, Dé Domhnaigh 5 Meán Fómhair, 10pm.

Bhí Séamus Ó Grianna (1889 – 1969) ar dhuine de na scríbhneoirí Gaeilge ba thábhachtaí sa 20ú aois. I dtreo dheireadh a shaoil, áfach, dúirt sé go raibh sé buartha gur scríobh sé aon fhocal Gaeilge riamh. Tugtar léargas soiléir trí ghrianghraif cartlainne agus trí agallaimh le cuid dé lucht aitheantais, tugtar léargas ar na daoine agus ar na háiteanna a mhúnlaigh é.

Rugadh Ó Grianna sa bhliain 1889, i Rann na Feirste i nGaeltacht Dhún na nGall, agus thug sé léargas ina shaothar ar thraidisiúin shaibhre béaloideasa an cheantair, ag úsáid an ainm pinn Máire, in ómós dá mháthair.

Thar thréimhse caoga bliain, scríobh sé breis agus 30 leabhar – Caisleán Óir (1924) agus Mo Dhá Róisín (1921) san áireamh, chomh maith leis an chnuasach gearrscéalta Cith is Dealán (1927).

Sheas a dhearcadh láidir ar an Ghaeilge i gcontrárthacht lena stíl shéimh próis, filíochta agus amhrán. Tugann a shaothar léargas ar sheanstíl traidisiúnta maireachtála na Gaeltachta agus léiríonn sé scéalta grá agus tragóide, chomh maith leis an choimhlint idir idéalachas agus ábharachas.

Scríobh sé faoi mhuintir agus áiteanna an cheantair, ag tabhairt taifead de ghnáthshaol laethúil mhuintir Rann na Feirste, ag cinntiú gurbh í Gaeilge Rann na Feirste an t-aon chanúint a bheadh in úsáid aige ina chuid scríbhneoireachta.

Agus é 16 bliain, chuaigh sé go hAlbain lena athair le hairgead a shaothrú mar oibrí feirme. Agus é ansin, chuir sé eolas ar fhilíocht Robbie Burns agus shocraigh sé gabháil le gairm an mhúinteora.

Sa bhliain 1915, ceapadh ina ardmháistir é ar bhunscoil Inis Fraoigh agus thosaigh sé ag scríobh don nuachtán The Derry Journal.

Bhí tionchar mór ag Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 air agus thacaigh sé le taobh na bpoblachtach i gCogadh na gCarad. Imtheorannaíodh é in 1922-1923 agus d’éirigh sé iontach cáinteach ina dhiaidh sin ar gach gné de pholasaí Gaeilge rialtas úr an tSaorstáit – rud ar ar thug sé ‘Gaeilge oifigiúil’ – agus é ag maíomh nach raibh aird ar bith á tabhairt do Ghaeilge dhúchasach na Gaeltachta.

Chreid sé go raibh rud nua á chruthú acu, agus nach rabhthas ag úsáid na teanga a bhí ann cheana féin – ní rabhthas ag úsáid an teanga labhartha, bhí caolú agus simpliú a dhéanamh uirthi agus ní rabhthas ag tabhairt airde ar na canúintí. Cheap sé fosta go raibh Gaeilge Uladh á fágáil in áit na leathphingine.

Tháinig droch-chliú air i measc Gaeilgeoirí agus an rialtais. Chuaigh rudaí chun donais sna 1960idí, nuair a chuaigh sé leis an Ghluaiseacht Saoirse Teanga, grúpa a raibh na tuairimí céanna acu ar pholasaí Gaeilge an rialtais agus a bhí ag iarraidh deireadh a chur le teagasc éigeantach na Gaeilge ar scoil.

Chomh maith leis sin, bhí sé buartha nach raibh go leor Béarla á theagasc sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. As siocair nach raibh ach an Ghaeilge ag muintir na Gaeltachta, chreid sé go raibh siad faoi mhíbhuntáiste agus iad ar lorg oibre nó ag iarraidh tabhairt faoi oideachas breise in áiteanna eile sa tír nó thar lear, de thairbhe nach raibh Béarla ar a dtoil acu. Chreid sé go raibh droim láimhe á tabhairt do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus go rabhthas ag caitheamh go dona leo ar go leor dóigheanna.

Mar a dúirt rannpháirtí amháin sa chlár: “Agus is dócha gurb é seo an rud a déarfadh duine a bheadh ag fáil locht air ó thaobh na litríochta. Léirigh sé a phobal féin ach níor chuir sé é féin in iúl.

Séamus Ó Grianna: Saol Corrach, BBC a Dó Thuaisceart Éireann, Dé Domhnaigh 5 Meán Fómhair, 10pm.

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