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.)
      Johnny (1863–1948)
      Caitríona (c1858–1944, married Mac Loinnsigh)
      Bríd
      Máire Eibhlín Néillin (c1865–1950, married Feidhlimidh 'ac Grianna, also a Doegen speaker)
      Sarah (c1872)

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:
      Eoin Ó Domhnaill
      Rann na Feirste
      a fuair bás ar an 30adh lá d'Eanair
      1948, 85 bliadhna d'aois
      Anna Ní Dhomhnaill
      a fuair bás ar an 23adh lá de mhí na
      Nodlag 1941, 77 bliadhna d'aois
      Caitríona Nic Loinnsigh
      a fuair bás ar an 29adh lá d'Aibrean
      1944, 86 bliadhna d'aois
      Seosamh Ó Domhnaill
      a fuair bás 1adh Samhain 1973
      Aodh Ó Domhnaill 1901–1980
      Anna Ní Dhomhnaill 1899–1984
      Niall Ó Domhnaill 1907–1995
      A chroidhe Íosa déan trócaire ortha.

Recent references to Johnny Shéamuisín include:
      Liam Mac Reachtain, "The storyteller of Rannafast," Irish News 10/09/1948, p 2.
      Diarmuid Breathnach & Máire Ní Mhurchú, Beathaisnéis 1, 1986, p 64.
      Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Óglach na Rosann, 1994, p 114; fosta pp 112, 116, 340.
      Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Ó Ghleann go Fánaid, 2000, pp 216–7; fosta pp 202, 206, 230.
      Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Amhráin Hiúdaí Fheilimí, 2001, p 73.
      Máirín Nic Laifeartaigh, "Johnny Shéamaisín," An tUltach 4/2001, pp 10–12.
      Nollaig Mac Congáil and Ciarán Ó Duibhín, Glórtha ón tseanaimsir, 2009, pp 13–5, 68–9.
      Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices, 2010, pp 72–3, 84–93.
      Pádraig Ó Baoighill, Oidhreacht Rann na Feirste 1, 2011, pp 9–11.



Reilig Anagaire (Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors).

Speaker's recordings Ulster Doegen index


Speculative family tree:


                                                                  Seán 'ac Grianna
                                                                           |
                                                                         Róise
                                                                           |
                                                                        Séamus
                                                                           |
                              Tarlach Beag                              Néillín
                                    |                                      |
                               Séamuisín--------------------------------Eibhlín
                                                          |
                -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                |                        |             |                |             |           |                             |
              Niall                    Hiúdaí       JOHNNY           Caitríona       Bríd       Máire                         Sarah
              c1856–1940                 |          1863–1948        c1858–1944                 c1865–1950                    c1872
              phós Sarah-Ann Bell        |          phós Anna        phós Lynch                 phós Feilimidh 'ac Grianna
                                        Micí        c1892
                                                       |
                     -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                     |          |          |                           |         |         |           |
                   Ellen      Bryan      Jimmy                      Annie      Hugh       Joe        Niall
                   c1893–     c1895–     c1897                      c1899–     c1902–     c1904–     1907–1995
                                         phós Madge Shighle Bhilí

Deartháir le Séamuisín, Aodh Tharlaigh Bhig, ina bhainsteoir ar chomhlucht guail in Pittsburgh, fuair bás 1910.
Bhí "Eibhlín Húdaí" ar sheanmháthair de chuid Johnny, ach níl fhios agam cé acu taobh.
Deirtear gur col ceathrar le Johnny é Jimí Frainc Ó Domhnaill as Ailt an Chorráin, athair an dligheadóra agus an Teachta Dála Pa O'Donnell. Níl fhios cé acu taobh.


Ciarán Ó Duibhín
2016/12/26
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