Seán Ó Domhnaill (1863–1948) of Rannafast, Annaghery, Co Donegal
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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Seán Ó Domhnaill was born in Rann na Fearsaide, and was aged 70 at the time of recording. His father was a farmer, and both parents came from Rann na Fearsaide. In response to questions, he stated that he spent all his life in Rann na Fearsaide, apart from being "now and then" in Scotland. He attended primary school in Rann na Fearsaide. His occupation was given as a farmer. Irish was his mother language, and he could also speak English. He could read and write both languages. The recording team noted that "speaker had a bad cold, so that nasality is unreliable throughout".
Johnny Shéamuisín was born in Carraic a' Chuill on 01/02/1863. Both parents were O'Donnells from Rann na Fearsaide. His father was Séamuisín Tharlaigh
Bhig, or Séamuisín na bPáipear, a farmer, and his mother was Eibhlín Néillín. Séamuisín built a new house below An Caracamán in 1870. The family included
Niall (c1856–1940, the eldest son; married Sarah-Ann Bell, and the couple lived with his parents; living Uphall, Scotland in 1901 with his brother in law, Edward Bell;
back in Rann na Fearsaide 1911; see Rann na Feirsde, Seanchas ár Sinsear pp 49–58, 70–1)
Hiúdaí (his son Micí was father of a famous musical family including Hiúdaí Mhicí Hiúdaí –1997, Neilidh 1907–1984, Condaí –2003, srl.)
Caitríona (c1858–1944, married Mac Loinnsigh)
Máire Eibhlín Néillin (c1865–1950, married Feidhlimidh 'ac Grianna, also a Doegen speaker)
Around 1892, Johnny married Anna Bhriain (c1866–1941) from Cró Bheithe. They lived at first on Anna's father's farm. Later Johnny built a house below
Cnoc Loch na bhFaoileog, the first two-storey house in Rann na Fearsaide. He extended the house in the 1930s and, equipped with a wind generator, it became
the first house in Rann na Fearsaide to have electricity. In 1926, Johnny donated the ground for the first (and short-lived) building for Coláiste Bhrighde
in Rann na Fearsaide. Johnny and Anna had seven children:
Ellen (c1893–), to America, unmarried
Bryan (c1895–), to America, wife from Gaoth Dobhair, three sons
Jimmy (c1897–1969), Rann na Fearsaide, married Madge Shighle Bhilí; sons Micheál Mhadge, Eoin Mhadge; dau Anna Mhadge
Annie (1899–1984), unmarried, Rann na Fearsaide
Hugh (1901–1980), unmarried, Rann na Fearsaide
Joe (c1904–01/11/1973), unmarried, Rann na Fearsaide
Niall (1907–10/1995), unmarried, Rann na Fearsaide, translated several books from English; buried 13/10/1995
In 1901, the household consisted of John 37, a farmer; Anne 35; and children Ellen 8, Bryan 6, James 4, Annie 1, and also Johnny's unmarried sister Sarah 28. The adults and Ellen were all bilingual; Bryan and James had Irish only, while Annie was not yet speaking. In 1911, it consisted of John 48, a farmer; Anne 46; and children Ellen 18, Bryan 16, James 14, Annie 12, Hugh 9, Joseph 7 and Neil 3. The couple had been married for 19 years, and all seven children were still living. The four youngest children had Irish only; all the rest of the household were bilingual.
Johnny Shéamuisín agus cuid dá chlann mhac: Joe Johnny, Niall Johnny agus Jimí Johnny
As Rann na Feirsde, Seanchas ár Sinsear le Conall Ó Grianna an pioctúir seo.
Johnny learned to read and write English at school, and began to write down stories and songs in Irish, phonetically at first, until he became used to the conventional spelling. Some of his manuscripts were lost, but he gave the remainder to his nephew, Seosamh 'ac Grianna, who based his book Filí gan Iomrádh on them. Johnny had a personal connection with this material, as his maternal grandfather, Néillín, was the younger brother of Pádraig Shéamuis, the subject of An chéad Mháirt de'n Fhoghmhar. In fact, both his mother and his wife were descendants of Róise Sheáin 'ic Grianna, being ua and fionn-ua respectively of Róise's sons Séamus and Pádraig Ó Domhnaill.
Until 1941 Johnny was a resident seanchaidhe at the Rann na Fearsaide Irish colleges, first at Coláiste Phádraig and later at Coláiste Bhrighde. Much material gathered from him was published in An tUltach, including a series "An saoghal Fódhlach — sean agus úr", edited by Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh, in 1932, as well as many stories between 1931 and 1939. A collection of Johnny's stories was published by Comhaltas Uladh in 1948 entitled Scéalta Johnny Sheimisín, edited, I believe, by Niall Ó Domhnaill (Eilise), the lexicographer, and not by Niall Johnny as is often stated. In 1954 An Gúm published Éan an Cheoil, stories from An tUltach; no details of sources are given, but all or nearly all are from Rann na Fearsaide, and at least 9 of the 15 stories are attributable to Johnny.
Johnny Shéamuisín died on 30/01/1948. The headstone in Anagaire cemetery reads as follows:
Recent references to Johnny Shéamuisín include:
Reilig Anagaire (Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors).
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