Dúradh ina thaobh: ‘No more notable figure in the field of Irish antiquities and Irish bibliography ever lived than William Reeves.’ (Irish Book Lover, Feabhra 1911). Fáth amháin ar cheart é bheith i bpainteon na Gaeilge gurbh é a thug Eamhain Macha slán ó bhaol a mhillte. Ach an raibh Gaeilge aige? Dúirt Norman Moore in Dictionary of national biography nach raibh agus dúradh in Journal of Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Iml. I 1892: ‘It is to be regretted that his industry did not include a study of the Irish language’. Ach in aiste faoi Sheán Ó Donnabháin (1809–1861) in An Claidheamh Soluis 18 Márta 1899 tá an méid seo: ‘Mr Richard Niven, of Belfast, sends us the following interesting personal reminiscences of the great Irish scholar: “I recollect Dr O’Donovan well. He was a frequent visitor at the Diocesan School, Ballymena, when Dr Reeves was principal and I was a pupil.... He always interlarded his conversation with Irish words and phrases. I often heard him holding an Irish conversation with Dr Reeves, and he was most particular in endeavouring to impress upon the latter the true pronunciation of the words”’. Bhí daoine i measc léitheoirí an Chlaidhimh a raibh aithne acu ar Reeves ach níor scríobh siad go raibh dul amú ar Niven. Anuas air sin tá litir a sheol Reeves chuig an Donnabhánach i gcló, gan aon dáta leis, sa chuntas a scríobh an Bantiarna Ferguson, Bibliography of the works of William Reeves, D.D., late Lord Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, 1893: ‘I am about at last to fall to work and learn Irish in right earnest. I can no longer endure my own ignorance, especially as I feel that once I broke the ice I should be able to do something in the way of augmenting the knowledge of our ancestral tongue. If I had but a month of bona fide study at your elbow how I would dash on but here, banished and downcast and distracted by various cares, my way is very uphill.... Oh! is it not a scandal to England to have her professors of Sanscrit and her students rummaging the Himalayas while there is not one to cast a longing look on Ireland and fetch the most curious language of Europe out of its literary seclusion?’ Deirtear gurbh é a mhisnigh Róis Ní Ógáin chun an teanga a fhoghlaim.

Mac ba ea é le Boles D’Arcy Reeves, aturnae corrmhéiniúil, agus Mary Roberts agus is sa Ráth, Co. Chorcaí, i dteach a sheanathar, an Captaen Jonathan Bruce Roberts, fear a throid ag Bunker Hill, a rugadh é ar 16 Márta 1815. Nuair a d’éag a mháthair chuaigh an chlann chun cónaithe sa teach Linden (mar a bhfuair Eamon agus Sinéad de Valera bás) sa Charraig Dhubh, Co. Bhaile Átha Cliath. De chois a théadh sé go Coláiste na Tríonóide gach lá agus fuair céim ann in 1835. Bhí sé ró-óg chun dul le sagartacht agus bhain sé amach céim mar dhochtúir ar dtús i dtreo go mbeadh sé in ann ar ball fóirithint ar na boicht in cibé paróiste ina gceapfaí é. Oirníodh é in 1838 tar éis dó bheith ina dheagánach i Lios na gCearrbhach. Chaith sé 17 bliana sa Bhaile Meánach mar a raibh sé freisin ina ardmháistir ar an Scoil Deoiseach ansiúd. Bhí sé i Lusca, Co. Bhaile Átha Cliath, ina dhiaidh sin sular ceapadh é ina leabharlannaí in Ard Mhacha. Toghadh é ina easpag ar Ard Mhacha in 1886 ach níor tugadh an phríomhaíocht dó. Ina áit sin toghadh é ina easpag ar Dhún, Conaire agus Droim Mór.

Is iad na príomhleabhair a tháinig óna lámh: The ecclesiastical antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore, 1847; Acts of Archbishop Colton in his visitation of the Diocese of Derry in 1397, 1850; The life of St Columba, 1857 (aistriúchán ar an mbeatha a scríobh Adhamhnán). Nuair a bhí baol ann go ndíolfaí Leabhar Ard Mhacha le heachtrannach cheannaigh sé é ar £300, in ainneoin é bheith bocht. Nuair a bhí cloigtheach i Lusca ar tí titim d’íoc sé costais a dheisithe le cibé brabach a bhí ar a phaimfléad The ancient churches of Armagh, 1860. ‘It was by his intervention that the Navan Fort, near Armagh, the Eamhain of the old kings of Ulster, was saved from destruction. It was held on a peculiar perpetually renewable lease, and he pointed out that a condition in this document adverse to the perpetual tenant’s tenure might be enforced under the circumstances. The tenant, who had meant to dig it down, undertook not to injure the fort and thus the famous monument was preserved’. Deirtear sa chuntas céanna sin in Irish Book Lover go mbíodh sé ar a dhícheall ag cosaint ráthanna, liosanna, mótaí agus dúnta ar lucht a millte.

Phós sé faoi dhó. D’éag a chéad bhean, Emma Reeves, col ceathar dó, in 1855. Bhí naonúr clainne acu. Phós sé an dara bean, Charlotte Townley, a chol cúigir, Lá ‘le Stiofáin 1891. D’éag sé de niúmóine 12 Eanáir 1892. Bhí sé ina uachtarán ar Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann. Scríobh J.E.L. Oulton William Reeves: bishop, scholar, antiquary. A memorial discourse, 1937.

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