Open main menu

Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Máirtín Ó Cadhain ([ˈmaːɾʲ.tʲiːnʲ oː ˈkəinʲ]; 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 post-Civil War Irish Republican Army with Brendan Behan during the Emergency.

Máirtín Ó Cadhain
An Spidéal, County Galway, Ireland
Died18 October 1970(1970-10-18) (aged 65)
Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Resting placeMount Jerome Cemetery
Pen nameAonghus Óg
D. Ó Gallchobhair
Do na Fíréin
Micil Ó Moingmheara
OccupationNovelist, short story writer, journalist, school teacher
LanguageIrish (Connacht Irish)
GenreFiction, politics, linguistics, experimental prose[2]
SubjectIrish Republicanism, modern Irish prose
Literary movementModernism, social radicalism
Notable worksCré na Cille, An Braon Broghach, Athnuachan
SpouseMáirín Ní Rodaigh
RelativesSeán Ó Cadhain (father),
Bríd Nic Con[3]aola (mother)


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.[4] During this period, he also participated in the land campaign of 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.[5]

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.

Memorial to Ó Cadhain in Dublin Airport

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.

He and Diarmaid Ó Súilleabháin were considered the two most innovative Irish language authors to emerge in the 1960s.[6] He had frequent difficulties getting his work edited, but unpublished writings have appeared at least every two years since the publication of Athnuachan in the mid-nineties.

A lecture hall in Trinity College Dublin is named after Ó Cadhain[7] who was professor of Irish.[8] 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.



  • 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; Graveyard Clay. Yale Margellos, New Haven 2016.

Short story collectionsEdit

  • 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
  • The Road to Brightcity. Poolbeg Press, Dublin 1981
  • Dhá Scéal / Two Stories. Arlen House, Galway 2007
  • An Eochair / The Key. Dalkey Archive Press, Dublin 2015
  • The Dregs of the Day. Yale University Press, New Haven 2019

Journalism and miscellaneous writingsEdit

  • 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ as réamhleathanaigh An tSraith ar Lár
  4. ^ [1] Ó Cadhain at Ricorso
  5. ^ Reporter (20 October 1970), "Obituary", The Irish Times, p. 13
  6. ^ The Celts: History, Life, and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 476. ISBN 978-1-59884-964-6.
  7. ^ Trinity Web Site reference to the facilities in the Uí Chadhain Teathre TCD Archived 18 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Seanad Éireann Proceedings – referencing ó Cadháin as Professor in TCD Archived 25 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit