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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

Self-study Irish

The grave of one of the most influential figures in the revival of the Irish language is a replica of a traditional Celtic Church at the end of an impressive Yew Tree avenue. Where?

His ‘Simple Lessons in Irish’ became the learning tool for thousands of young Irish and women who were beginning to take pride in their country and went on to struggle for national independence. 320,000 copies were sold by 1893.

In the introduction to his self-study textbook book he wrote, ‘The following course of simple lessons in Irish has been drawn up chiefly for the use of those who wish to learn the old language of Ireland, but who are discouraged by what they have heard of its difficulties...I myself was obliged to study Irish as a foreign language and I have at least a knowledge of the difficulties of those who, like myself, have no teacher.’


One day, when he was fourteen, he had been greeted in Irish by a local workman. It challenged him to begin studying the language. By the time he entered university he had begun compiling his own dictionary.

At the age of thirty he was a founding members of the Gaelic League. On 25 January 1894 he accompanied Douglas Hyde and Michael Cusack to Galway to found the Galway branch of the League and later that year was elected vice-president.

When he went to the United States in the hope of recovering from tuberculosis he was regarded as a hero among the Irish diaspora. He died there in 1899 at the age of 36 and his body was eventually brought back to Ireland in 1903, thanks to a funding campaign by his admirers in the United States. On his journey home, accompanied by representatives of the Gaelic League in America, they were met by large crowds in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. His funeral, at the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, was attended by 6000 people including trade guilds, clerics, politicians, members of the Gaelic Athletic Association and students.

His name? Eugene O’Growney (Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh), a priest of Meath Diocese and first Professor of Irish at Maynooth.  His grave is in the College Cemetery. 



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