Brian 'ac Cuarta (c1847–1936) of Ardaghy, Omeath

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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Brian 'ac Cuarta was born in Ardaghy about 84 years earlier. His father was a farmer from Ardaghy and his mother was from Drumula, both in Omeath. In response to questions, he stated that the first six years of his life were spent in Ardaghy, and he attended primary school in Knocknagoran. The period between the ages of seven and twenty was spent at Hilltown, in County Down. In adult life, he was a seasonal visitor to Douglas in the Isle of Man, and to Lancashire, for about 40 years. His occupation was given as a farmer. Irish and English were his mother languages. He could read English but not Irish. The organising secretary commented that his voice was sometimes loud and harsh; it was also commented that he had spent most of his life in English-speaking surroundings, and was not in the habit of speaking Irish.

On 14/06/1883, at Toxteth Park, Liverpool, Bernard McCourt, aged 30, a dock labourer, married Elizabeth O'Hanlon, aged 24. His father was Arthur McCourt, a labourer. Her father was Peter O'Hanlon, a deceased labourer.

The family is easily located in Ardaghy in both the censuses of 1901 and 1911. In 1901, Bernard McCourt is aged 50, married to Elizabeth (43), with family Peter (15), Mary Ellen (13), Bridget Anne (11), Lizzie (8), John (3) and Stephen (1). The parents and the three eldest children are described as bilingual. In 1911, the ages are Bernard (52), Elizabeth (52), Peter (25), Bridget (22), Elizabeth (16), John (13) and Stephen (11). All the family are described as bilingual. In 1911, the marriage had lasted 28 years, and 6 of the 10 children were still living.

Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh lists "the McCourts of Ardaghy" among the "old seanachies" of Omeath (Oméith: its history – ancient and modern, p 17), and gives the story "Ag marcaidheacht air ghamhain" from Brian Mhac Cuarta "de thréibh an Daill Mhic Chuarta" in An tUltach 3:6 p 7 (1926) and again at 5:8 p 6 (1928). In Amhráin Sheumais Mhic Chuarta, an cheud chuid (1925), p 13, Ó Muireadhaigh gives a pedigree obtained from Brian Mhac Cuarta, making him ninth in descent from "Ruaidhri, dréar don Dall":

        ÁRT, an chéad tús in Oméith
         |
        Ruaidhrí, dréar don Dall, an dara duine
         |
        Árt, an triomhadh duine
         |
        Árt
         |
        Séumas óg
         |
        Séan
         |
        Eoghan
         |
        Séan Mhac Chuarta, mo dhaid mór.

When Ó Muireadhaigh adds that Brian "died a few years ago", it seems likely that he was thinking instead of the death in 1918 of another elderly Ardaghy resident, Hughy McCourt, whom he quotes on p 15 of the same book.

Cosslett Ó Cuinn was another visitor. In Cuisle na nGael 10 (1994) p 109, he says "Bhuail mé go rialta le Brian Mac Cuarta agus lena bhean — bhí Gaeilge ar dóigh acu beirt. Uathu, go dearfa, a d'fhoghluim mé féin a lán Gaeilge." He expressed the same view of Brian 'ac Cuarta in an interview I had with him on 7/3/1994: "seanduine iontach deas — Gaeilg líomhtha — d'fhoghluim mé cuid mhór i gceart uaidh agus an bhean". Cosslett speaks further of Brian 'ac Cuarta in Cosslett Ó Cuinn by Risteárd Ó Glaisne at pp 50–1, 58, 377.

Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh obtained a version of the story "An Bhean Chaointe" from Mrs Brian McCourt An tUltach 2:8 p 10 (1925), and this is repeated in Amhrain Chúige Uladh (1977) see p 102. Two items supplied by Mrs McCourt in 1925 are included in material from a notebook of Éamonn Ó Tuathail edited by Nicholas Williams in Éigse 13 (1970) pp 321–3.

Brian 'ac Cuarta died at Ardaghy on 12/02/1936. His age was stated to be 78. His wife pre-deceased him on 13/02/1935, aged 75. Both deaths were registered by their son, Peter McCourt.

Recent references to Brian 'ac Cuarta include:
      Colm J O'Boyle, Phonetic texts of East Ulster Irish, MA thesis QUB, 1962, pp 8–11, 48, 69–83, 214.
      Heinrich Wagner and Colm Ó Baoill, Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects, Vol IV, 1969, pp 295–7.
      Ciarán Ó Duibhín, "Cainnteoirí Dúthchais Oirghialla", Cuisle na nGael 8, 1992, pp 8–16 at p 12.
      Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, A Hidden Ulster, 2003, at p 412 and to the McCourts of Ardaghy at p 406.
      Conor McGahan, Language obsolescence and language death in south-east Ulster, PhD thesis QUB, 2009, pp 103–6.
      Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices, 2010, at pp 246–7, 250–7



Reilig Chillidh Chuim.
Speaker's recordings Ulster Doegen index


Speculative family tree:


               Arthur McCourt-----------                            Peter O'Hanlon-----------
               Ardaghy           |      Drummullagh                                    |
                                 |                                                     |
                              BERNARD----------------------------------------------Elizabeth
                              c1847–1936                    | m 1883               c1859—1935
                                                            |
       ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       |           |           |             |             |          |          |          |            |
     Patrick     Peter    Mary Ellen   Bridget Anne     Arthur     Lizzie      Stephen     John        Stephen     1 eile
     1884–       1886–    c1888–       1889–            1890–      1892–1918   1893–       1898–1917   1899–                                                                    m 1914
                                                                   Hugh McCloskey


Ciarán Ó Duibhín
2017/07/21
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