Barney McAuley (1850–1941) of Clonreagh in Glenariffe
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Known also as "Barney Bhriain" and as "The Bhréin", Barney McAuley's parents were both from Glenariffe, though he was born in Ballyemon, reportedly in June 1850. He may have passed his early years in Ballyemon, but moved to Glenariffe before the age of six, and went to school there. He learned to read and write English, but not Gaelic. The organising secretary notes "not in the habit of speaking Irish" and "strong voice and fairly clear, but rather uneven" and also "text not transcribed through error."
Barney's grandmother, Muiread Ní Chearraí, who lived to be 94, was a source of stories for him, as was his uncle Aeneas Mc Auley. (Aeneas may have had siblings Séamus — aged 84 and single in 1901 — and Mollie.) Barney spent eleven years of his adult life in the merchant marine, but otherwise lived at Clonreagh, Glenariffe. His occupation was given as a farmer.
On 30 November 1886, at St Kilian's Glenariffe, he married Elizabeth Black of Legdrina. The witnesses were another Bernard McAuley of Clonreagh, and Rose Black of Legdrina. Their family appears to have consisted of three sons, Daniel, James and Patrick (they are listed, along with his wife, as his relatives in his death notice in the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph of 15/03/1941). Patrick was then living at Altmore, Cushendall, while the other two were apparently at home in Clonreagh.
In the censuses of 1901 and 1911, things are not so clear, although each census lists three sons, and the 1911 census explicitly confirms that there were three offspring of the marriage, all still alive. Patrick was aged 10 in 1901, and 20 in 1911. Both censuses also contain a James, but he is given as aged 14 in 1901 (perhaps an error or misreading for 4) and 15 in 1911. When James died in 1983, he was described as the second son of the family. Daniel was absent in 1901 and was aged 10 in 1911. To confuse the issue further, the 1901 census contains a son John, with age given as 5.
The 1901 census return does not claim that any members of the family speak Gaelic. In the 1911 census, the household also contained Barney's uncle, Séamus, aged 84 and single, and claimed that Barney, his uncle Séamus, and Barney's three sons (but not Barney's wife) were all bilingual. This 1911 return was completed in Gaelic.
Among those who visited Barney McAuley to hear him speak Gaelic were:
• Eoin Mac Néill
• Séamus Ó Duilearga 1920–26; Éamonn Ó Tuathail 1929; all edited by Seosamh Watson; see also Séamus Ó Duilearga, "From the Glens of Antrim", Béaloideas 1:4 (1928) lch 410
• Seán Mac Maoláin (An tUltach 3:5, Meitheamh 1926, lch 1)
• Cosslett Ó Cuinn 1931 (Risteárd Ó Glaisne, Cosslett Ó Cuinn, lch 38)
• Nils Holmer 1937
Sam Henry obtained folklore from him in English (published in the Northern Constitution c1939).
Barney was rumoured to be sometimes reluctant to speak Gaelic to strangers, saying that they would use what they got from him to further their careers while he got no benefit from it.
Barney McAuley died at Clonreagh on the 08/03/1941, aged 92, and was buried at the Bay, Glenariffe. He was survived by his wife and his three sons. A neighbouring farmer, Patrick O'Neill, was designated as his heir in his will.
Recent references to Barney McAuley include:
Colm J O'Boyle, Phonetic texts of East Ulster Irish, MA thesis QUB, 1962, pp 5–8, 53–5, 60–9.
Heinrich Wagner and Colm Ó Baoill, Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects, Vol IV, 1969, pp 283–4.
Seosamh Watson, "Séamus Ó Duilearga's Antrim Notebooks", Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 40, 1984, pp 74–117 and ibid 42 (1987) 138–218;
id, "Séamus Ó Duilearga's Co. Antrim Notebooks," Éigse 20, 1984, pp 187–211;
id, "Seanchas Ghlinntí Aontrama", An tUltach 66:1, 1/1989, pp 9–11; and "Béaloideas", ibid 66:10, 10/1989, pp 9–10.
Brian Mac Lochlainn and Sorcha Nic Lochlainn, "The Gaelic language in North Antrim and Rathlin Island", A wheen o' things that used to be, no date, pp 127–57 at 132–3.
Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices, 2010, at pp 280–1, 286–97.
Marriage certificate of Barney McAuley and Elizabeth Black, 1886.
Barney McAuley, October 1925.
Barney's son, Séamus Mór, was also known as a Gaelic speaker. There is a brief
account of him by Liam Mac Reachtain in "Flúirse Gaeilge in Ultaibh Thoir",
An tUltach 25:8 (Lughnasa 1948) lch 8. A tape of him, made around 1975
by Alex McMullan of Glenariffe, is thought to exist, possibly in CBÉ. He was
the subject of several articles by the journalist Eibhlín Ní Bhriain (Travels
in Antrim 2, Irish Times 14/04/1978, p. 14; Tuarascáil, Irish
Times 19/04/1978, p. 8; An Irishwoman's Diary, Irish Times
28/09/1981, p. 9), who referred to him as "Jim Bhriain Mac Caimlin". She found
him "very hard to understand" and noted that he said he "got on" perfectly with
Scottish speakers of Gaelic. She also mentions his brother Daniel, to whom he
spoke Gaelic but who had died on 01/07/1976. His other brother Patrick appears
to have died earlier. Séamus himself died on 25/02/1983. (See Jack McCann,
"Lament for Séamus 'Bhriain' Mac Amhlaigh", The Glynns 12 (1984) lch
4). Some of his reminiscenses (in English) are included in Fios 14
(Spring 1995) pp 16–8 and Fios 17 (Spring 1996) p 17. Further
information on Séamus (and on his father) is given in Brian Mac Lochlainn and
Sorcha Nic Lochlainn, "The Gaelic Language in North Antrim and Rathlin Island",
A wheen o' things that used to be, Glens of Antrim Historical Society
(no date, 2008) pp 131–3. Photographs of Séamus are to be found at:
• Eibhlín Ní Bhriain, Tuarascáil (Irish Times 19/04/1978 8)
• Eibhlín Ní Bhriain (alias Candida), An Irishwoman's Diary (Irish Times 28/9/1981 9)
• A wheen o' things that used to be, p 131
• Fios 14 (Spring 1995), front cover
We have seen that there was another Bernard McAuley in Clonreagh, who served as best man at the wedding of our speaker in 1886. In the hope of avoiding confusion between the two, we include below some details which do not concern our speaker but may concern his namesake. Household 3 in Clonreagh in the 1901 census consisted of a widow Mary McAuley (72), and her unmarried son and daughter, Bernard (42) and Ellen (26). A Bernard McAuley died on 02/11/1935 and left his effects to Mrs Ellen McGonnell. Electoral registers of the period 1922–1935 contain both a Bernard McAuley senior and Bernard McAuley junior in Clonreagh; the former is our speaker.
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