Isn’t it strange how often we tend to overlook local men and women who have made a substantial or meaningful contribution to Irish life. Take for instance Sean Mac Fheorais, a local man whose published works in our native language are perhaps unfamiliar to most of us. Sean, whose first book of Irish poetry “Gearrcoigh na hOiche” was published in 1954 had his second book “Leargas” published in 1964. In the intervening period his poetry appeared in many literary magazines including ‘Poetry Ireland’ and ‘Cyphers’.
In 1984 he received what I understand was the very first invitation from his native town to return to Athy to read his poetry. Scheduled to appear on 17th March, 1984 he tragically died one month before he could fulfil the engagement which he was eagerly anticipating.
Sean Mac Fheorais was born in Ballintubbert in 1915, the second son of a blacksmith. His father was to die nine months after his last son, Joe, was born in May 1919. Sean, with his brother Joe Bermingham, was educated in Ballyadams National School and later still in the O’Brien Institute, Marino, Dublin. At the age of 16 years he joined the Christian Brothers Novitiate and in time qualified as a teacher, but left the Brothers before taking his final vows. It was while in the O’Brien Institute that Sean developed his great love for the Irish language which was further encouraged while he was a member of the Christian Brothers. He taught for some years at Carrigallen National School, Co. Leitrim, later in Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny and from 1955 until 1979 in Finglas, Dublin, eventually becoming Principal of St. Margaret’s Primary School in that North Dublin suburb.
A frequent competitor in the annual Oireachtais competition he won many Oireachtais prizes for his poetry. He also received a number of awards from Radio Eireann for his literary works. In 1954 his first book of Irish poetry, “Gearrcoig na hOiche” was published and his second volume “Leargas - Danta Fada” in 1964. His best known work is the long poem, “Oiche na Airnean”.
Tá rian on chreidhim go láidir ar a chuid filíochtá - an dán ‘Ionam’ is fear is dócha a thaispeánann an t-omós a bhí aige do Dhia. Éinne a dhein an Ardteistimeireacht le blianta anuas cuimhneoidh sé no sí ar an dán álainn sin ‘M’ Uncáil’ ina léiríonn sé dúinn an cion agus an meas a bhí aige ar a Uncáil.
The last poem on which he was working at the time of his untimely death was about his native town of Athy. He intended to give the first public reading of that poem in Ath Í on 17th March, 1984. He was not to hear the tributes of his neighbours children for Sean Mac Fheorais passed away at 69 years of age before he could return to Athy. He was survived by his wife and six children and his brother, Joe Bermingham.
Sean Mac Fheorais is included in the Dictionary of Irish Authors, a three volume work first compiled by Brian Cleeve in 1971. His memory is one we should remember and cherish as the son of a blacksmith from “our place” whose poetry lives on in his published works.