Museum acquires handwritten Ó Conaire letters

Pictured are David Leahy, GRETB, Geraldine Gibbons, principal GTI, Alison Ward, deputy principal GTI, Helen Bermingham and Brendan McGowan of Galway City Museum. Photograph by Aengus McMahon

Pictured are David Leahy, GRETB, Geraldine Gibbons, principal GTI, Alison Ward, deputy principal GTI, Helen Bermingham and Brendan McGowan of Galway City Museum. Photograph by Aengus McMahon

An important collection of letters from the mid-1920s concerning the Irish-language writer Pádraic Ó Conaire has been kindly donated to Galway City Museum by the Galway Technical Institute on the ninetieth anniversary of the author’s death. The letters relate to Ó Conaire’s time as an Irish language teacher at Galway Technical Institute (GTI ), then situated on Dominick Street.

The collection includes Ó Conaire’s initial application for a teaching job at GTI, along with references, and some correspondence regarding his later absences from work. It is envisaged that a selection of letters will be displayed at Galway City Museum for a short period in the near future and in time added to the museum website where they can be easily accessed by all who wish to explore the finer detail.

Born in Galway City in 1882 but reared in Connemara and West Clare following the deaths of his parents, Ó Conaire moved to London where he penned the best of his works while still only in his twenties. Widely regarded as the leading light of the Gaelic Revival and the father of the short story in Irish, he returned to Ireland in 1915 to pursue a literary career through the Irish language.

In 1924, having spent more than a quarter of a century in London and Dublin, Ó Conaire returned to live in his native town of Galway. In January 1925, he began writing for the Connacht Sentinel, publishing more than thirty articles and almost eighty short stories over the next three years. That summer, he applied for work as an Irish teacher with the Galway Technical Institute, where he worked until his untimely death in 1928.

The collection includes Ó Conaire’s initial application for a teaching job at GTI, along with references, and some correspondence regarding his later absences from work. It is envisaged that a selection of letters will be displayed at Galway City Museum for a short period in the near future and in time added to the museum website where they can be easily accessed by all who wish to explore the finer detail.

The Ó Conaire Letters Collection features five letters handwritten by Ó Conaire himself and two letters that make direct reference to the writer. Further details as follows:

— Typed letter, Irish, from Tomás Ó’Máille, ‘Colaiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh’ dated ‘25 Lunasa 1926’, as a reference for Pádraic O’Conaire. Below this is correspondence in English dated ’23 August 1926’, also a reference for Ó Conaire. Page x 1.

— Handwritten letter in Irish, ‘Bóthar na Trágha, Gaillimh’ dated 4.9.1926, from Pádraic Ó Conaire to ‘Rúnaidhe, Coisde Ceárd Oideachais na Gaillimhe’ in application for teaching work. Mentions books he as written. Page x 2.

— Document, typed on headed paper ‘Scoil Ceárd-Oideachais, Cathair na Gaillimhe’ with some handwriting - numbered 8677 26. Issued as a declaration to part-time teacher Pádraic Ó Conaire who had been appointed as a part-time teacher to the City of Galway Technical Institute on 28 September, 1926 to ‘bear allegiance to the Irish Free State and its Constitution’ and to ‘...duly and faithfully perform the duties of my office and will observe and obey such orders and directions...given to me’. Signed by Pádraic Ó Conaire 21/10/26 and Michael O’Flaherty, 21/10/26, Peace Commissioner. Page x 1.

— Handwritten letter in Irish, ‘Bóthar na Trágha, Gaillimh’ dated ‘Márta 1, 1927’, from Pádraic Ó Conaire to Seán Ó Ceallacháin (principal and secretary, City of Galway Technical Institute ) informing that got his letter? and tried to call him but got no answer. Letter implies he has enclosed a doctor’s certificate. Page x 1.

— Handwritten letter in Irish, ‘Osbuidéal Ní Bhríde, Gaillimh’ dated ‘4-3-1927’, from Pádraic Ó Conaire to Seán Ó Ceallacháin (principal and secretary, City of Galway Technical Institute ) informing him of his stay in hospital and likely return to work. Page x 1.

— Handwritten letter in Irish, ‘Osbuidéal Ní Bhríde, Gaillimh’ dated ‘9-3-1927’, from Pádraic Ó Conaire to Seán Ó Ceallacháin (principal and secretary, City of Galway Technical Institute ) informing that the doctor will not let him leave the bed and his being unable to work. Page x

— Handwritten letter in Irish, ‘Ag 1 Sráid an Droichid’, dated ’12 Aibreán’, from Pádraic Ó Conaire to Seán Ó Ceallacháin (principal and secretary, City of Galway Technical Institute ), referring to two letters received and informing that he is travelling to Dublin the next morning. Page x 1.

Galway City Museum would like to extend their sincere gratitude to Galway Technical Institute, represented by Geraldine Gibbons, Principal GTI, Alison Ward, Deputy Principal GTI and David Leahy, CE GRETB for this donation. Their generosity and foresight means the highest possible conservation standards can be applied to the continued care of these letters, ensuring future generations can also appreciate the genius of a truly Galway icon.

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