Pádraig Ó Connacháin (1873–1953) of Torr, Crolly, Co Donegal
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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Pádraig Ó Connacháin was born at Tor, and was aged 62 at the time of recording. His father was a farmer from Áird Mhín, and his mother was from Tor. In response to questions, he stated that he lived in Tor throughout his life, and attended primary school there. His occupation is stated as farmer. Irish was his mother language, and he could also speak English. He could not read or write. The recording team noted "clear loud voice".
Pádraig Ó Connacháin, or Paidí Bhidí Eoin Éifeachtaigh, was registered as born on 31/12/1873 (civil) at Loch Chathair to Hugh Conaghan and Biddy Mulligan. The couple had married at Gweedore on 25/10/1870. The groom came from An Áird Mhín, and his father was James Conaghan, a farmer. The bride came from Tor, and her father was John Mulligan, a farmer. Apart from Paidí, they would have a son Denis, born on 30/07/1875 (church) or on 21/08/1875 (civil).
At Derrybeg on 28/02/1900, Pádraig married Sighle Nic Suibhne from Mín Corrbhaic, whose father was John Sweeney. a farmer.
Their family of 6 daughters and 4 sons would include:
Hugh b 01/04/1901 at Mín Corrbhaic
Mary b c1908
Brigid b 25/10/1912 at Loch Chathair ; she was the mother of folk musician Davey Arthur
Cissie b c1916, and aged 87 in 2003; married Hiúdaí Bhraighní Hiúdaí Ó Duibheannaigh of Rann na Fearsaide; among their family is Aodh Óg Ó Duibheannaigh (of "C U Byrne" fame)
Pádraig's mother, Bidí, was a widow and head of household in Loch Chathair in both the 1901 and 1911 censuses. In 1901, the household consisted of Bridget 50, married son Patrick 30, unmarried son Denis 26, and Bridget's mother Margaret Mulligan 80, a knitter and a widow. Margaret and Bridget spoke Irish only, while Patrick and Denis were bilingual. Sighle was presumably elsewhere awaiting the birth of Hugh, possibly here.
In 1911, Bridget was 72, and living with married son Denis 38, his wife Sicily (Doherty) 40, and their 6 children: Hugh 10, Annie 8, Bridget 8, Katie 6, Mary 4 and James 1. Bridget (the mother), Katie and Mary spoke Irish only, James was not yet speaking, and the others were bilingual. The marriage had lasted 11 years (in mild contradiction to the 1901 census), and all 6 children were alive. Close by, in 1911, lived Patrick 40 and wife Secily 34, with children Hugh 10, Denis 5, Mary 3 and Patrick 1. Denis and Mary had Irish only, Patrick (junior) was not yet speaking, and the others were bilingual. The marriage had lasted 11 years, and 4 of 5 children were living.
When Alf Sommerfelt made his linguistic study of the Irish of the Torr district in 1915–16, his informants included Pádraig. He says (page 3) "Pádraic Mac Connacháin, 44 years of age, born in Torr, where he is living since. He often goes to Scotland. He is a good singer and speaks well, using many old words and having almost as old pronunciation as John Mór [Mac Suibhne] and Éamonn Mac Monagle. He has given me many texts." Seán Ó hEochaidh told me that Sommerfelt had been visiting Pádraig when the Black and Tans damaged his (Sommerfelt's) bicycle.
Séamus Ennis visited Torr several times between 1942 and 1946 on behalf of the Irish Folklore Commission. He visited Pádraig on 3 March 1944 and several times more during the three weeks which followed, and wrote down numerous songs from him. He described Pádraig as looking about 56 years of age, though he was actually 70. Ennis visited Pádraig again between 20 September 1944 and 5 October. The information on pages 419–20 of Mise an fear ceoil tells us that Pádraig and Sighle had six daughters and four sons; that Pádraig often spent six months of the year working in Scotland; and that he died in 1953.
Pádraig's wife Sighle died in 1975, at the age of 98.
The Connaghan grave at Machaire Gathláin shows:
Reilig Mhachaire Gathláin
(Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors)
Recent references to Pádraig Ó Connacháin include:
Alf Sommerfelt, The dialect of Torr, Co. Donegal, 1922, p 3.
Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Óglach na Rosann, 1994, p 187.
Ríonach Uí Ógáin, Mise an Fear Ceoil, 2007, pp 137–53, 190–5, 419.
Tom Hodgins, An Slabhra gan Bhriseadh, 2007, ins an intreoir.
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