Tomás 'ac Seagháin (c1860–1935) of An Cheapach, Teelin, Lifford, Co Donegal
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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Tomás 'ac Seagháin was born in Teilionn, and was aged 70 at the time of recording. Both his parents were from Teilionn, and his father was a farmer and fisherman. In response to questions, he stated that he had lived in Teilionn all his life. He described himself as a farmer and fisherman. Irish was his mother language, and he could also speak English. He had attended primary school in Teilionn, and he could read English only. The recording team noted "deep strong voice".
This speaker was the maternal grandfather of folklore collector Seán Ó hEochaidh, and in a taped conversation with me on 05/04/1986, Seán said that this family — Clann tSeagháin a' Chladaigh — were unrelated to the other Mac Seagháins of Teilionn, but originated from Swatragh, Co Derry. Two brothers, or perhaps three, linen weavers, went from Swatragh to Belfast, and then to Donegal: one to Ballyshannon and one to Teilionn. The Teilionn brother made a good living from net-making, and married a local girl called Cunningham from An Baile Mór, but they could not get a place to build a house, even though Mac Seagháin offered the girl's father to cover the floor of a room with coins ("pighneacha ruadha"). He then built a house in An Cheapach on the foreshore (whence the family's nickname), from stones brought across the bay by boat. The house was built by the fishermen, for whom he made nets in return. The house was so close to the sea that, in his old age, he was able at the spring tide to stand on the threshold ("ar cheap a' doruis") and fish for sidheáin.
We may note that, in South Derry, the names McShane and Johnston have been to an extent interchangeable. On the name, Seaghán Ó hAnnáin writes (An tUltach 5:2, 1928, p7): "Cuireadh ... Mac Seoin (Mak-shon') ... (agus Mac Séoin) ... mar Ghaedhlig ... ar Johnson ... The MacShanes are called Clann tSéaghain and even the form is used individually: Mícheál Chlann-tSéagháin (M. Chloinn tSéaghain)." Another interesting form is given in Cnuasach Focal as Teileann p v: "Cáit Iníon tSeáin", the only name of that form in a substantial list.
According to Seán Ó hEochaidh, his grandfather, the speaker, was born in Leirg a' Dachtain, in a district known as "Na Dúnta" and reputed to be the haunt of the "daoine beaga". He moved from Leirg a' Dachtain to An Cheapach Íochtarach. He was a fisherman in Teilionn all his life; he was the first man on the Donegal coast to get one of the luggers ("Scotaíní"); he had three of these in succession, and paid all of them off. He was very knowledgeable about fishing, and knew how to make ring-nets (which had to be precisely right or they would not catch fish); in his old age he was always consulted to measure and approve a newly-made ring-net; this skill he passed on to his son Diarmuid. Tomás was regarded locally as an expert sailor — "fear comh maith is a shuidh ag halmadóir bád seoil ariamh". In his young days he did so much fishing and suffered so much exposure to the sea ("calcadh farraige") that when he returned home his trousers would stand on their own with the amount of salt on them. Once he steered a boat home to Teilionn from Co Mayo, lashed to the tiller, while the rest of crew remained below; when they arrived home he had a quarter of an inch of salt on his face. He was also known as a singer with a good voice, who was always asked to contribute a song on communal occasions. Seán told a story of Tomás and two of his brothers who were digging potatoes when a deputation from the Congested Districts Board arrived to inspect conditions in Teilionn. Tomás died of cancer ("cancaid") in Ballyshannon Hospital in 1935 at the age of 76. This concludes Seán Ó hEochaidh's account.
On 22/01/1888 at An Charraig, Tomás (bachelor, aged 27, from An Baile Mór) married Bridget Haughey (spinster, aged 28, from An Cheapach), Biodaí Dhiarmada. His father was Thomas McShane, a farmer; her father was Darby Haughey, also a farmer.
In the census of 1901, we find, in the townland of An Cheapach, in the house of Mary Haughey (head, 80, a widow), the following whose relationship to the head has been imputed: Thomas McShane (40), son-in-law, a fisherman; Bridget McShane (42), daughter, sprigging; Bridget McShane (13), grand-daughter, knitting; Dorby McShane (9), grandson, scholar; Mary McShane (7), grand-daughter, scholar; Paddy McShane (6), grandson, scholar. The head of household had Irish only; the others had Irish and English. A household in Cruachlann in 1901 yields another member of the family: Thomas McShane (11), scholar, speaking Irish and English was a boarder with Anne Cunningham (60), farmer, unmarried, speaking Irish only. In An Cheapach in 1911, there were Thomas McShane (50), wife Bridget (54), and family Dorby (18), fisherman; Mary (17); Patrick (15), scholar; Kate (9), scholar. All spoke Irish and English; Thomas and Bridget had been married for 23 years, and 5 of their 6 children were living. In addition the household contained a cousin, Anne McCunningham (85), single, a retired farmer, speaking Irish only. Missing were daughter Bridget, who had married, and son Thomas, whose drowning in 1910 is the subject of one of the Doegen recordings.
The speaker's father was Tamaí Seagháin, who had at least two other sons, one of whom was Seán Tamaí Seagháin (c1868–c1955), a prolific source of information on the Teilionn dialect and folklore for Heinrich Wagner and Seán Ó hEochaidh; and at least one daughter, Biodaí Tamaí Seagháin (c1869–), who married Johnny Jondaí Ó Beirn, Iomaire Mhuireanáin, a fisherman and shoemaker, around 1893 — several of their family are quoted by Wagner and by Ó hEochaidh.
The speaker himself had six children:
• Biodaí (c1888–), married c1909 Con Bhraighní Ó hEochaidh, Rann na Cille
• Tomás (c1890–1910/09/01), drowned — see recording LA1274.2
• Dorbai (Diarmuid) (c1892–1955/12/03), married c1930 Ellen Nic Sheagháin. Family Conall, Tomás. He was a principal source for Wagner and Ó hEochaidh.
• Máire (c1894–1978), married c1912 Séamus Ó hEochaidh, Cruachlann (c1887–1922). Family: Seán (folklore collector, 1913/02/09–2002/01/18), Máire (1913–), Tomás (author of "Soineanta i dTeileann an Éisc", 1915–), Cáit, 1 other
• Padaí (1895/08/27–1981/08/19), known as Padaí Mháire, school inspector, author of Ceolta Theilinn (1973), Séarlaí Mac Anna agus Mé Fhéin (2016, edited by his son Diarmuid C and by Mícheál Mac Giolla Easbuic), and several articles including "Searlaí Mac Anna, seanchaí", Béaloideas 28 (1960) pp 3–20, and "Condaí Phroinnseais, ceoltóir agus seanchaí", Béaloideas 31 (1963) 51–97; and translator of I n-Aimsear Eoghain Ruaidh (1935). Took charge of Seán Ó hEochaidh and two of his siblings from c1924. He says himself "rugadh and tógadh mé ar a' Cheapaigh, agus chaith mé cuid mhaith de thús m'óige i gCruachlann." Married in 1930 Anna S Ní Bheirn from Cill Chartha; son Diarmaid Criostóir; living Ballina in 1935, retired to Castlebar, Co Mayo where he died in 1981.
• Ciot (c1902–), married Byrne
Tomás Mac Seagháin is buried in An Charraig. The gravestone reads:
Tomás Mac Seáin, An Cheapach, Teilionn, d'éag 5–7–1935
A bhean chéile Brighid Ní Eochaidh, " 9–8–1923
A mhac Tomás, " 1–9–1910
A mhac Diarmuid, " 3–12–1955
A bhean Ellen, " 1–9–1983
Conal, " 19–8–1998
Tomás, " 18–4–1999
Reilig na Carraige (Pioctúir: Ciarán Ó Duibhín).
Recent references to Tomás 'ac Seagháin and to members of his family include:
Seán Ó hEochaidh, Sean-chainnt Theilinn (1955) p viii
Heinrich Wagner, Gaedhilge Theilinn (1959) pp xiii–xiv (cainnteoirí 2, 2a, 2b, 2c, 4, 9)
Seán Ó hEochaidh, "Seanchaithe agus Ceoltóirí Theilinn le Céad Bliain anuas", in Teileann Inné 's Inniu (1980) pp 15–22 at 18–9
Seán Ó hEochaidh, audio tape with Ciarán Ó Duibhín, 05/04/1986
Úna Uí Bheirn, Cnuasach Focal as Teileann (1989) p vii (TS, SS1, PS1)
Diarmaid Breathnach & Máire Ní Mhurchú, Beathaisnéis 5 (1997) p 96 (Pádraig Mac Seáin); also 6 (1999) pp 186–7
Tomás Ó hEochaidh, "Soineanta i dTeileann an Éisc", An tUltach 10/1998 pp 18–20; 1/1999 pp 26–7; 5/1999 p 25; 10/1999 pp 20–22; 11/2000 pp 8–10
Diarmaid Breathnach & Máire Ní Mhurchú, Beathaisnéis 8 (2003) pp 181–2 (Seán Ó hEochaidh)
Ríonach Uí Ógáin, Mise an Fear Ceoil (2007) pp 95 (inc note 6), 188, 440
Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices (2010) pp 78–9, 154–7
Pádraig Mac Seáin, Séarlaí Mac Anna agus Mé Fhéin (2016, eag. Diarmuid Mac Seáin & Mícheál Mac Giolla Easbuic) pp xi–xii
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