Eóin Ó Cianáin (1857–1937) of Creggan, Carrickmore
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Is le Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann an pioctúir seo.
According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Eóin Ó Cianáin was born in Formil, near Greencastle in County Tyrone, and was aged 74 at the time of recording in 1931. His father was a farmer from Formil and his mother came from Greencastle. In response to questions, he stated that he spent all his childhood in Formil and attended primary school at Greencastle. His adult life was spent partly in Formil and partly in Creggan, where he was living in 1931. His occupation was given as a farmer. Irish was his mother language, and he could also speak English from the age of 10 years old. He could read and write English but not Irish.
The above information is supplemented by that given on pp xlvii–xlviii of Éamonn Ó Tuathail's Sgéalta Mhuintir Luinigh, 1933 — a book for which Eóin provided the greater part of the content. Eóin was born on 14/10/1857 at Aghascrebagh, the native place of his mother, Anna Nig Cuirc, who had "gone home" for the birth. Anna had "only a limited knowledge of English". His maternal grandfather, Eóin Mhag Cuirc, was "something of a poet" in Irish. On the other side of the family, the speaker's father knew Irish and English, and a near relative, Proinnsias Ó Cianáin, known as Frank John Tarry, was a noted story-teller. An uncle, Peter Keenan, is named as Eóin's source of a couple of the stories in Sgéalta Mhuintir Luinigh (pp 185, 196).
Eóin Ó Cianáin was raised by his parents in Formil, which is a large rural townland between Greencastle and Creggan. It is remarkable how many of the late speakers of Tyrone Irish turn out to be natives of Formil, whatever part of the district they eventually settled in. One of them, Mrs Mary Anne Bradley, Crockanboy (1880–1953), née "Micky Hamish" McCullagh, Formil, told how Formil people were "the last in the parish who spoke Irish regularly among themselves" and how they used to gather outside Greencastle Chapel on Sunday.
Eóin married Mary Mallon or Mellon of Creggan at Carrickmore on 23/08/1898. Monica Haughey writes that Eóin had been hired in Mallon's. The family were living at Formil in 1901: Eóin's father, Thomas (75), Own (40), Mary (35) and daughter Alice (1); only Thomas was noted as speaking Irish. Eóin's mother Anna Nig Cuirc had died on 12/07/1899, reportedly aged 55. Alice had been born in 1900; two more daughters soon followed, Anne, born in 1901 and Mary, born in 1903. Thomas Keenan died on 13/07/1906. He was known as Tam Ruadh, whence our speaker was Oynie Tam.
At around this time, the family moved to the Mallon home in Creggan, where they joined Mary's unmarried brother James. They were found there in 1911: James Mallon (68), Owen Keenan (60), Mary (55), Alice (11), Anne (9), Mary (8). Only James Mallon was claimed to be an Irish-speaker — strange indeed, as Monica Haughey writes that "Irish was rarely spoken in this home and indeed James is remembered as having a good repertoire of stories in English". On the other hand, Ó Tuathail says that James sometimes assisted Eóin to recall his Irish stories. Nevertheless, this illustrates the dangers of giving credence to the census language responses on an individual basis. It may also be observed that Peadar Joe Haughey, another Irish speaker, lived close by.
The Mallons' two-storey house is now a ruin; it is located by the south side of the Barony Road (A505), with its gable to the road, about a mile east of An Creagán Centre, at the top of a small brae. The house has been unoccupied since a fire in which Owen's unmarried daughter Alice lost her life on 26/11/1985. It may be noted that the pictures at the Keenan home in Sgéalta Mhuintir Luinigh (reproduced here) are at the Formil house, not the Creggan one. No trace remains of the Formil house, but we show the field in which it was thought to have been situated.
Eóin's youngest daughter, Mary, married John McCullagh of Greencastle, Johnny Pat, on 20/11/1924. Their family consisted of Margaret (born 1925), Charlie (Armagh), Patsy (Formil) and Johnny (born 1927, died London 2010).
On 25/07/1937, Eóin Ó Cianáin, farmer, died at Creggan, at the age of 79. His grave at An Caisleán Glas is shown (his daughter Alice is buried at An Charraig Mhór).
Reilig an Chaisleáin Ghlais.
Recent references to Eóin Ó Cianáin include:
Colm J O'Boyle, Phonetic texts of East Ulster Irish, MA thesis QUB, 1962, pp 20–6, 47, 49, 118–41, 214.
Heinrich Wagner and Colm Ó Baoill, Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects, Vol IV, 1969, pp 288–91.
Monica Haughey, Out of the Embers, 1988, pp 201–2.
Nollaig Mac Congáil and Ciarán Ó Duibhín, Glórtha ón tseanaimsir, 2009, pp 19–21, 70–1.
Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Padaí Láidir Mac Culadh agus Gaeltacht Thír Eoghain, 2009, pp 221–8.
Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices, 2010, pp 200–1, 204–19.
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