Seán Ó Ríordáin

(3 December 1916 – 21 February 1977 / Baile Mhúirne, County Cork)

Biography of Seán Ó Ríordáin

Seán Pádraig Ó Ríordáin (3 December 1916 – 21 February 1977) was one of the most important Irish language poets of the twentieth century and arguably the most significant figure in introducing European themes into traditional poetry.


He was born in Baile Mhúirne, County Cork, the eldest of three children of Seán Ó Ríordáin of Baile Mhúirne and Mairéad Ní Loineacháin of Cúil Ealta.

English was his first language. His mother spoke English; his father spoke Irish and English. His father's mother, a native Irish speaker, lived next door. His next-door neighbour on the other side also spoke Irish. It wasn't long before Ó Ríordáin gained some knowledge of Irish.

Seán was only ten when his father died of tuberculosis. Five years later, the family moved to Iniscarra, on the outskirts of Cork City. After settling there, Seán and his brother Tadhg were sent to school in the North Monastery Christian Brothers School, on Cork's northside. When he was a young man he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He lived to the age of sixty and was constantly in poor health.


Ó Ríordáin published four books: Eireaball Spideoige (A Robin's Tail) (Sáirséal Ó Marcaigh 1952, 1986), a volume of some hundred pages, and three subsequent booklets, Brosna (Kindling) (1964), Línte Liombó (Limbo Lines) (1971), and the posthumous Tar éis mo Bháis (After my Death).

The title of his first collection is borrowed from the first line of the final verse of Ó Ríordáin's more celebrated poem. A new frisson was created in Irish language poetry when this poem, Adhlacadh Mo Mháthar (My Mother's Burial), was first published in 1945. It celebrates the innocence, devoutness, and motherliness of the poet's dead mother.

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