Renowned scholar who promoted Irish education, language and culture


Séamus P. Ó Mórdha: Séamus P. Ó Mórdha who has died aged 89, was a former professor of Irish at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra.

His tenure coincided with a period of great change in education that saw the introduction of the new curriculum and the restructuring of teacher training.

When St Patrick's College was granted university status in 1974 he ensured that the Irish department rose to the challenge by offering courses on a par with any other third-level institute.

He was also a renowned scholar, as his former colleague Stiofán Ó hAnnracháin noted: "Leor domsa a rá gur ar éigean a d'fhéadfadh aon duine le caoga bliain anuas staidéar a dhéanamh ar thraidisiúin dheisceart Uladh nó thuaisceart Laighean gan bheith faoi chomaoin ag Séamus P. Ó Mórdha."

He was born on October 8th, 1915 in Redhills, Co Cavan, a mile from the border with Monaghan.

His father, Bearnard (Brian), was a teacher, as was his mother, Máiréad Ní Luineacháin. The spirit of learning, culture and patriotism that pervaded the household remained with him throughout his life.

On completing his primary education, he was in 1930 sent to St Macartan's College, Co Monaghan, where he excelled academically.

He also played in the college Gaelic football team that won the McCrory Cup.

He won county intermediate and senior championship medals with his parish team in the late 1930s, while three of his brothers played inter-county football.

A county council scholarship enabled him to continue his studies at University College Dublin, where he studied under Prof Cormac Ó Cadhlaigh. His fellow students included Brian Ó Cuív, Caoimhín Ó Nualláin, Diarmad Ó Laoghaire and John J. O'Meara.

Active in student life, he was a member of An Cumann Seanchais, and served as secretary of An Cumann Gaelach (1937-8) while Tomás de Bhaldraithe was auditor.

He also won several medals in debating competitions. He obtained a BA degree, with first-class honours in Irish and Latin, in 1938.

The following year, his MA thesis, Imtheachta Aenísa agus Aeneis Bhergil, earned him further first-class honours. He completed his HDip Ed in 1945.

He taught at O'Connell Schools, Dublin, for two years before returning to his alma mater, St Macartan's, where he spent 10 years (1941-51) teaching Irish, history and Latin. The future Bishop of Clogher, Joseph Duffy, was one of his pupils. During the Emergency he served in the FCA, reaching the rank of adjutant.

In the early 1950s he taught at St Fintan's high school in Sutton, north county Dublin. Appointed to the Education Council, he played a leading role in drafting major reports on primary and secondary education in the State.

In 1954 he was appointed head of the Irish department at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, where he remained for 27 years. As editor of the Irish-language journal, An tUltach, for eight years (1948-56) he doubled the circulation and readership.

Closely involved with the work of Comhaltas Uladh from the outset, he also played an active role in the work of An Comhchaidreamh, the body that established the periodical Comhar in 1942.

He helped found Studia Hibernica, and was a member of the editorial committee for 30 years from 1961 to 1990. He was a member and former chairman of Bord na Leabhair Gaeilge, which was set up to assist publishers in the publication of Irish-language titles.

He served on the Higher Education Authority (1980-85), and represented the authority on the special committee that was established to inquire into the status of Irish in third-level institutes of education.

He also served on the board of Institiúd Teangeolaíochta Éireann (1988-93), and was a member of Comhairle Béaloideas Éireann from 1978 to 1987.

He retained his interest in Gaelic football, and was vice-president of the St Patrick's College club, Erin's Hope, when the team won the Dublin senior county championship in 1978.

His articles, book reviews and short stories were published in a wide range of publications. These included Seanchas Ard Mhacha, Celtica, Clogher Record, Breifne, Éigse, Feasta, Inniu, Hibernia, Irish Press, The Leader and Studies. He was very supportive of local historical societies.

"Ba chóir bród as a n-áit dhúchais a chothú i ngach pobal," he wrote.

"Fásfaidh an bród as an eolas agus as an bhród tiocfaidh an comhoibriú agus an rath, tá súil againn."

His wife, Brigid, daughters, Máiréad and Eibhlín, and sons, Brendan, Father Kevin, Fionnbár and Seán, survive him.

Séamus Pádraig Ó Mórdha: born October 8th, 1915; died February 12th, 2005.