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A Gaeilgeoir and champion of Irish language writing

A Gaeilgeoir and champion of Irish language writing

Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé, who has died at the age of 71, was a multi-talented author and musician. The renowned Kerry character was father of broadcaster Dáithí Ó Sé.

Maidhc Dainín, from Cillchuain, Ballydavid, was one of the most prolific authors in the Irish language.

His first book, A Thig Na Tit Orm, is well known to thousands of Irish students who studied the language for the Leaving Cert.

The autobiographical account of his life growing up in west Kerry and as an emigrant in the United States ultimately replaced Peig on the Leaving Cert curriculum in the 1990s. Many students of Irish may be grateful to him for that alone.

Translated into English as House Don’t Fall On Me, it tells of his childhood in the west Kerry Gaeltacht. It describes the fun and games of his schooldays, including his accordion playing at céilís as a teenager.

It was as a young musician in the Gaeltacht that he first encountered romance, but his first date with a girl almost ended in disaster when his white shirt, which had been put out to dry, was eaten by a goat.

According to the book, he went to see a Kerry match in Dublin and ended up emigrating to London, where he worked as an apprentice printer. After his stint in the English capital, he later moved to the United States before returning to Ireland in the 1960s.

Former senator and Dingle native Joe O’Toole said that the book was just as sexy as a Mills and Boon novel because when he got to the interesting bits he stopped.

Maidhc Dainín worked for many years as a lorry driver for Kerry Co-op. According to his friend, publican Fergus O’Flaherty, his work as a driver provided him with a wealth of material and stories for his books.

Mr O’Flaherty said: “He was constantly meeting farmers the length and breadth of Kerry and he heard many stories and anecdotes.”

The author of 40 books, Maidhc Dainín won a prestigious Oireachtas na Gaeilge literary award last year for his novel Punt Islo.

The novel, based on a true story, tells of a Kerry woman’s dramatic rescue of a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany during World War II. The Kerry woman had previously been working for the girl’s family and as a reward for saving her life was paid a pound a day for the rest of her life.

Maidhc Dainín expressed regret that outside of traditional Irish-language literary circles, Irish-language authors had fewer opportunities when it came to literary competitions than their counterparts who wrote in English.

“Ideas are ideas when it comes down to it and a good story should receive equal recognition, whether it be in Irish or English,” he said. “Irish authors have a harder time of it, even though An Ghaeilge is our national language. It is definitely more difficult to get your story out there.”

As well as being a successful author, he was an accomplished accordion player and joined in weekly sessions in O’Flahertys pub in Dingle for many years.

In a recent interview, Dáithí O Sé described his parents as “very strong people”, particularly in coping with the loss of their daughter Deirdre, a mother of two who died suddenly in America at the age of 34, over 10 years ago.

Maidhc Dainín spoke in Irish and English at the reception after last year’s marriage of Dáithí to the New Jersey Rose Rita Talty, an event described locally as “Dingle’s royal wedding”. When he switched from Irish to English, he said he was “reverting to the language of the aggressor”.

He joked that he was delighted to be getting Dáithí “out the door finally”, adding that he had been “starting to get worried about him”.

Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé died at the family home in Cillchuain, Ballydavid, on Thursday.

He is predeceased by his daughter Deirdre and survived by his wife Kathleen, sons Kevin, Danny and Dáithí and daughter Marianne.

His friend Fergus O’Flaherty said: “He was first and foremost a great family man.”
Foilsithe ar 31 Lúnasa 2013 / Foilsithe ar 2 Meán Fómhair 2013

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