Sunday, August 31, 2014

Féile na bhFlaitheartach – Tom O’Flaherty (1890-1936)



Don dara bliain as a chéile, tá Féile na bhFlaitheartach á reachtáil in Árainn an mhí seo. Ceiliúrann an fhéile beirt de mhórscríbhneoirí Árann, beirt dheartháireacha as Gort na gCapall, Liam agus Tom Ó Flaithearta. Is maith ann an comhcheiliúradh mar go spreagann sé daoine chun aird níos mó a thabhairt ar shaol agus ar shaothar Thomáis, a bhfuil meas tuillte aige chomh maith ach gur beag eolas atá air mar gur lú go mór é líon na leabhar a d’fhoilsigh sé. Is mó ama a chaith Tomás le hiriseoireacht, leis an Boston Globe ar dtús ach ansin le nuachtáin shóisialacha go príomha: i Nua Eabhrac agus i Chicago, ba iad sin Irish Worker (1918), Voice of Labor (1921), Worker (1922-4), Daily Worker (1924-8), Irish People (1923–4), agus nuachtán Trotscaíoch, Militant; freisin, ag leanacht na talamhaíochta in iar-thuaisceart Mheiriceá, Producers News (1929–31) in Plentywood, Montana, agus Wasp, iris mhíosúil aorach in Cleveland, Ohio; agus, i ndiaidh dó filleadh ar Éireann, An t-Éireannach. Ghlac sé ballraíocht freisin i gcumainn éagsúla, ina measc, an Socialist Party agus na Industrial Workers of the World, nó na Wobblies mar a thugtaí orthu, agus thug dhá chuairt ar Mhoscó i 1925-26.

Le caoinchead ó Bhailiúchán Béaloideas Árann
Nuair a dhéantar iarrachtaí míniú a thabhairt ar na cúiseanna a spreag chun pinn agus chun ceannairce Tomás óg ar oileán beag san iarthar, luaitear cuairt a thug Ruairí Mac Easmuinn (1864-1916) ar Scoil Fhearann a’ Choirce thart ar 1902. Glacaim leis gur ar saoire a bhí an taidhleoir úd a bhainfeadh cáil amach ina dhiaidh sin mar fhear mór cearta daonna, mar náisiúnaí, agus mar mhairtíreach. Bhronn Mac Easmuinn leathchoróin ar an scoláire meabhrach mar luach saothair, tar éis dó colún Eoghain Uí Neachtain sa Cork Examiner a léamh os ard go slachtmhar, soiléir agus, ina dhiaidh sin, sheol sé chuige sa phost leabhair éagsúla, ina measc, Séadna leis an Ath. Peadar Ó Laoghaire. Luaitear freisin gur thairg Mac Easmuinn urraíocht do Thomás ionas go bhfaighfeadh sé meánscolaíocht i gColáiste Chnoc an tSamhraidh i Sligeach. Mo léan, theip ar an iarracht sin deis a bhronnadh ar an malrach óg, agus chuaigh Tomás ar imirce i 1912. D’ainneoin iarrachtaí Mhic Easmuinn agus dá fheabhas iad, is é bun agus barr an scéil gurbh ag an oide scoile i bhFearann a’ Choirce, Dáithí Ó Ceallacháin (c.1853-1937), ba mhó a bhí tionchar ar Thomás agus ar a dheartháir óg, Liam (1896-1984). Féach mar a chuir Tomás síos ar an té a bhronn orthu beirt – in éadan pholasaí aonteangach Churaclaim na Scol Náisiúnta – an litearthacht i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla lenar scaoil siad a gcruthaitheacht agus a bpolaitíocht ar ball:

He was no cheap Jingo nationalist of the type who froths at the mouth at the mention of an Englishman; but he hated British imperialism with all its works and pomps. He was the first Sinn Feiner in the island, and had no difficulty in making one of me (1934, 158).


Roinneann an blag seo taifead de shliocht giorraithe as leabhar de chuid Thomáis, Aranmen All, leabhar a scríobh sé i nGort na gCapall ar a fhilleadh as Meiriceá de bharr easláinte thart ar 1933 agus a d’fhoilsigh Comhlacht na dTrí gCoinneal i 1934. Is í Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn a léigh “Going Away” cois uaighe Thomáis i Reilig Chill Éinne in Árainn ar Dé Sathairn 30 Lúnasa 2014 agus is mise a sheinn an ceol tionlacain a thacaigh leis an léamh amuigh faoin spéir. Déanann an sliocht breá seo cur síos i modh ficsin ar an oíche dheireanach a chaith Tomás in Árainn sula ndeachaigh sé ar imirce, oíche a caitheadh le ceol, le damhsa, agus le hamhráin, mar ba dhual d’ócáid chorraitheach dá leithéid.


Tom O’Flaherty, Aranmen All (1934); Éamon Ó Ciosáin, An t-Éireannach 1934-37: Nuachtán Sóisialach Gaeltachta (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar Tta., 1993).

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This month sees the second year of Féile na bhFlaitheartach, a festival celebrating Aran’s remarkable literary heritage and remembering two authors in particular, brothers from Gort na gCapall, Árainn, Liam and Tom O’Flaherty. The concelebration of their respective oeuvres persuades those who are more familiar with Liam’s opus to consider further Tom’s lesser-known life and work. Tom was primarily a journalist, first with the Boston Globe and then mostly with socialist newspapers: in New York and Chicago, Irish Worker (1918), Voice of Labor (1921), Worker (1922-4), Daily Worker (1924-8), Irish People (1923–4), and the Trotskyist Militant; also, following agrarian struggles in north-western America, Producers News (1929–31) in Plentywood, Montana, and Wasp, a monthly satirical journal in Cleveland, Ohio; and, upon returning to Ireland, An t-Éireannach. He was also a member of various workers’ organisations including the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, or the Wobblies as they were known, and visited Moscow twice in 1925-26.

Efforts to explain how a young man from a small offshore island was inspired to take up his pen to fight for his political views have highlighted a singular event: the day Roger Casement visited Fearann a’ Choirce National School around 1902. Casement (1864-1916) – then serving in the British Consul in Lisbon, Tom recalled – was presumably on holidays in Aran and had yet to embark on his career as a humanitarian, a nationalist and, ultimately, a martyr. Impressed by Tom’s reading aloud of Eoghan Ó Neachtain’s column in the Cork Examiner, he gave the young schoolboy half-a-crown and later sent him books including Fr. Peadar Ó Laoghaire’s Séadna. Casement also intended sponsoring Tom’s second-level education at Summerhill College in Sligo but that plan never came to pass – ‘fate intervened’ is how Tom put it – and the young lad emigrated in 1912. In the end, it was his schoolmaster, Dáithí Ó Ceallacháin (c.1853-1937), who had the greatest influence on Tom and on his younger brother Liam (1896-1984). This is how Tom described the man who, defying the monolingual bias of the National School curriculum, gave them both the literacy in Irish and in English with which they so eloquently expressed their creativity and their politics:

He was no cheap Jingo nationalist of the type who froths at the mouth at the mention of an Englishman; but he hated British imperialism with all its works and pomps. He was the first Sinn Feiner in the island, and had no difficulty in making one of me (1934, 158).



This blogpost shares a recording of an abridged extract from Tom’s book Aranmen All, which he wrote in Gort na gCapall upon returning from America around 1933 in poor health, and which was published by the Sign of the Three Candles Press in 1934. Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn read “Going Away” at Tom’s graveside in Cill Éinne cemetery in Árainn on Saturday 30 August 2014 and I accompanied her on the fiddle. This fine extract gives a fictionalized account of Tom’s American wake, a night spent with music, song, and dance, as one might expect of such an emotional event.

Tom O’Flaherty, Aranmen All (1934); Éamon Ó Ciosáin, An t-Éireannach 1934-37: Nuachtán Sóisialach Gaeltachta (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar Tta., 1993).

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