Diarmuid Ó Gráinne (1950-2013) RIP 31 August 2013 – Posted in: News

Diarmuid Ó Grainne, born in 1950  was a native Irish speaker from the Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, Co. Galway. He attended Coláiste Éinde in Galway (1963-68) and St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (1968-70) where he won Duais Uí Mhaolónaigh in history. During his time as a student there he was encourages by Séamus Ó Mórdha, Professor of Irish in the college, to start writing. Later Ó Gráinne  attended the National University of Ireland, Dublin (1976-79) and studied history, politics and English.
Among his books were An Dá Mháirtín(Comhar, 1990), a work of criticism on the short stories of Máirtín Ó Cadhain. This work showed Ó Gráinne’s belief in the importance of psychological insight in criticim. A novel was published the following year An Tramp (An Clóchomhar, 1991), a dark, haunted work. One critic described it in the following terms:

An Tramp [‘the tramp’] is a young man who leaves Cois Fharraige in the mid-1970s and travels through England, France and Germany. He has spent a year teaching in Dublin and here we find him spending some turbulent years slaving away on construction sites, as a hospital porter, as a labourer in a vineyard and in various factories. Because of his youth, because of the resilience of the narrator, and the vibrant style, full of carefully wrought images and accounts of the characters encountered, the novel resembles a ‘road movie’ rather than one of those self-pitying autobiographies…

In the same year that An Tramp was published we also had these books from other (then-)emerging novelists – The South by Colm Tóibín, Cowboys and Indians by Joseph O’Connor, Hugo Hamilton’s Surrogate City, as well as a great novel from the venerable John McGahern  Amongst Women. All of these exploring the theme of emigration, a theme no one envisaged would ever become relevant again.[translated from: Éilís Ní Anluain, The Irish Times, 23 August 2011]

Other novels by Ó Grainne which were in part autobiographical were Cloch Scoiltí (Coiscéim, 2002) and An Drochshúil (Coiscéim, 2002) and not very far away in terms of genre was Ó Gráinne’s translation of L’ Étranger by Albert Camus, published under the title An Strainséara (Coiscéim, 2012). Muintir na Coille (Coiscéim, 2011), however, though also in the autobiographical novel genre, differed in that it displayed an interesting detachment, a greater artistic distance between Ó Grainne and the main character – helped, possibly, by the fact that it was a woman. Darach Ó Scolaí considered Muintir na Coille ‘the finest novel set in Connemara since Ó Cadhain’.

Ó Gráinne was deeply interested in autobiography as a genre and edited two books in the 1990s based on material he collected from individuals in the Gaeltacht:  A Scéal Féin: Máire Phatch Mhóir Uí Churraoin (Coiscéim, 1995) and Peait Phádraig Tom Ó Conghaile: A Scéal Féin (Coiscéim, 1997). It could be argued that these were the inspiration for the three volumes Ó Rinn go Sáil 1-3(Coiscéim, 2010, 2012, 2013), a series of autobiographical diaries which blended country and farming life with Ó Gráinne’s political and intellectual ideas.

In the poetry collection Spéir Thoirní (Coiscéim, 1993) Ó Gráinne summoned up a picture of past times and traced his ancestry back in his native place. The book was an elegy to individual personal history, to local history, to lost youth, to the memory of everything Ó Grainne held fond.  Among his other poetry collections were: Spealadh an Drúchta (Coiscéim, 1995) and Coill Chríon na bhForbacha (Coiscéim, 2001).
The search for times past or remembrance of lost time was a hallmark of Ó Gráinne’s writing. When he published the collection of short stories Céard a Dhéanfas Tú Anois (Coiscéim, 1997) in which the challenge and struggle of the artist was the central theme, he dedicated the books to Máire Mhac an tSaoi stating that she was the only person in Ireland who would understand it.

Along with these various publications were informational books, including Doirse Éalaithe (Coiscéim, 2004), in which Ó Grainne discussed the writers by whom he had been influenced; Fágann Marbh Láthair (Coiscéim, 2006), about famous murders; An Dorn Iata (Coiscéim, 2007), which documented the history of boxing both in Ireland and internationally; and a history of Cúba agus Castró (Coiscéim, 2009). Another work which illustrated his deep interest in politics was his translation of  Caroline Seaward’s Karl Marx (Coiscéim 1993). Perhaps the most interesting of these documentary-style books were the two books with which Ó Gráinne was involved in the early 1990s and which explored aspects of cultural identity at the level of the the individual and society: An Cultur agus an Duine (1993) which he edited with Professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, and An Fhealsúnacht agus an tSíceolaíocht (1992) which  Ciarán Ó Coigligh edited and which was based on a series of lecture organized by Ó Grainne. Both these works derived from events organised on behalf of  Chraobh na hÉigse of Conradh na Gaeilge and were published by Coiscéim.

In recent years Ó Gráinne had been farming in Co. Roscommon while continuing to write. Coiscéim published another novel in July 2013, Aois na nIontas. Diarmuid Ó Gráinne passed away 28 Lúnasa 2013.

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