The Author

Séamus Ó Grianna (1889-1969) wrote the original novel Caisleáin Óir (ISBN 0-85342-461-6) in 1924.
Other novels include Cith is Dealain (1955) and the autobiographical Nuair a bhí mé óg. He used the pseudonym Máire (Irish for Mary), but was also known as Jim Greene (english version of Séamus Ó Grianna) and as Jim Fheilimí (Feilimí's Jimmy) in the Irish-speaking area of Donegal (Tír Chonaill). He mostly wrote short stories.

The following text is taken from the theatre programme of the second production of Caisleáin Óir, and is printed by kind permission of Connie Duffy, Donegal Democrat.

The Life and Times of Seamus Ó Grianna

Seamus Ó Grianna was born in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht in 1891. His early education consisted of a spell at the local National School in Ranafast. There he stayed until he was 14-15, but due to conditions and basic poverty, Ó Grianna, like many children of his age, was hired out at a hiring fair in Dungloe to help supplement the family income. He went to the Lagan Valley, but did not find it much to his liking, and, in a remarkable and perhaps single-minded feat, left the keep of his custodian and walked all the way home. This was quite an achievement in those days when one considers there were no signposts and no shoes to ease the trip.

Ó Grianna's next working experience saw him spend approximately three seasons labouring in Scotland with the many thousands of other Donegal men who made the seasonal exodus for ‘tattie hoking’ duties. These proved very formative times for the Ranafast man, and with the meagre wage he was able to put aside from his toil, he bought books and started reading everything from Shakespeare to trigonometry, and basically set about the process of educating himself. He then sat what was then ‘The King's Scholarship’ and secured a place at St Patrick‘s Training College where one of his best friends there turned out to be another Rosses luminary, writer and political activist Peadar O'Donnell. He left there around 1916. By that time he mixed with many activists including one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, Thomas Clarke.

Because of his republican leanings, Ó Grianna soon found himself attracting unwanted attention and this subsequently led to an 18 month spell in Newbridge Jail, along with his brothers Seosamh, Hugh, Donal and Sean Bán. However, despite prison life, the brothers Ó Grianna kept themselves busy with intellectual debate, the teaching of Irish to the other prisoners, and a vast amount of letter writing, particularly to their families.

Like a lot of people at that time, Ó Grianna found himself a little disillusioned after he came out of prison after the Civil War. After a bout of ill health, he left for France, and among an assortment of jobs, he found himself delivering mail in Paris! Of course, he also took the opportunity to immerse himself in French writing and culture, and more often than not was to be found gathering reading material from the book stalls. He became an avid reader of the French classics and ended up speaking the language fluently.

Ó Grianna returned to Ireland in the late 1920s, and took up a number of teaching posts here in Donegal, including Gola Island and Meenawee / Bunawack. He fell into ill health again and spent some time in the Mater Hospital in 1930, where he met his future wife who was working there as a nurse. They got married in 1932.

Down the years of the life and times of Ó Grianna are sketchy. He produced a huge volume of work, a lot using his pen-name ‘Máire’, but a more detailed study has yet to be carried out. It would be important that the influences and inspiration behind such a gifted scribe be known and understood. That however may come sooner rather than later as his son, Felimy is keen to ensure that such research is initiated.