Tomás Ó Criomhthain

(1856—1937) writer

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(1856–1937), author of An tOileánach and other autobiographical writings; born on the Great Blasket Island off the Dingle Peninsula, the youngest of a large family, he was educated in English on an island school, and grew up amid conditions of poverty and hardship in a tiny community living in a village on the east side of the island facing Dunquin. Considered delicate as a child, young Ó Criomhthain continued to be breastfed to the age of 4, but ultimately outlived all of his contemporaries. Married in 1878 to Máire Ní Chatháin, they went on to produce ten children. An uncle, Diarmuid, acted as a kind of mentor to the young Ó Criomhthain, though he was also a rakish partner in drinking bouts. Ó Criomhthain was the first islander to achieve literacy in Irish, having taught himself to read and write the language. In 1917 Brian Ó Ceallaigh went to the island, met Ó Criomhthain, and urged him to write from his experience. Ó Ceallaigh persuaded Ó Criomhthain to send him a journal of island impressions, and these were edited by Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha, using his pseudonym ‘An Seabhac’, as Allagar na hInise (1928). ‘An Seabhac’ edited Ó Criomhthain's classic Irish autobiography An tOileánach the year after. A third work, Seanchas ón Oileán Tiar (Lore from the Western Island) (1956), was compiled from his story-telling by Robin Flower. Ó Criomhthain's writings reveal an individual and a community poised between medieval ways of living and the steadily increasing influence of the modern world. See, Tomás Oileánach (1992).

From The Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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