An Beirneach

Fr William Byrne

N. Carney

The following was broadcast on the 31.01.2017 on the Joe Byrne show on midwest radio.


Turning to another interesting magazine that came to me……..This is JOTS – The Journal of the Old Tuam Society and this particular piece came to me from our old friend Tom Lally in Garrafrauns and also I want to thank Christy Kilkenny as well for sending on this stuff, one of the many interesting articles in the Tuam Society magazine is called ‘An Beirneach’ – Milltown priest and Gaelic scholar. It concerns a priest called Fr Liam Beirne and a very very interesting man and a wonderful Gaelic Language writer as well. It says according to Fr Flannery, Liam O’Beirne / An Beirneach was born in Carrownageeha in Milltown in August 1871, to Thomas & Bridget Beirne whose marriages are registered in Dunmore Parish. He was baptised in Milltown on August 4th 1871. Bridget was formerly a Quinn from Darrary, Addergoole which instantly was once part of the Milltown Parish when it was known as Addergoole. Irish was a spoken language in the home of the Beirnes and Liam grew up in a family with five brothers, a half brother and sister. According to Christy Molloy, the family lived on a farm as tenants of an absentee landlord Thomas Seymour.

It was a time stated of the 19th century provision, hardship, misery and the young Beirne would have grown up with an acute awareness of starvation, poverty and evictions. Landlord Turnin would have been condoned by Cromwell’s crown forces which certainly would have coloured young Beirne’s views of the British whom he openly disliked and criticised.

Fr Flannery revealed that diligent research in church registers in the 1901 census records an index of Kilclooney cemetery, plots and Griffith’s Valuations have provided the names of Mary Anne, Michael, John, Thomas and Peter, all from the Beirne family.

The year of Liam Beirne’s birth 1871 (or William Beirne) was a significant one for the area. It also marked the immigration to the USA of a young man from nearby Curraghaderry, Michael Lohan who began a giant of Gaelic literature in the states under his gaelic name Michael O Lochain. He was later acclaimed as the father of the Irish language movement in America and it was he who founded an Irish language newspaper An Gaol which lasted for many years after his death. That’s the great Gaelic man Michael Lohan.

The young Liam Beirne meanwhile started his early education at Mayo across the border in Mayo, Ballindine National School. Although another writer Peadar McDara stated that he went for some time to Dunmore. Curiously an unnamed a biographer’s contribution to a dictionary of Irish Writer’s claims that he did not go to Milltown because it was an independent school under the patronage of Dr John McHale. After completing his primary school years, William Beirne moved to St Jarlath’s college in Tuam, entered centenarian in Maynooth in order to become a priest to become registered there on September 3rd 1892.

When studying in Maynooth, he required treatment for both appendicitis and peritonitis to recover from both illnesses after been bedridden for many months. As a student, he became a great Gaelgoir, one of the influences of Eoin O’G, professor of Irish in the college in Tuam who was a friend of Douglas Hyde and also a co-founder of the Gaelic League before becoming editor of the Gaelic journal.

William Beirne was ordained a priest for the Tuam archdiocese in Galway City November 19th 1899 and lived to serve parts of Galway and Mayo afterwards.

This page was added on 23/05/2017.

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