In Conamara, 1954 scríobh Seán Mac Giollarnáth: ‘He was a most unusual sort of teacher for his time and place for he picked up literary gold where others of his day found nothing and left nothing’. Is dóigh gurbh é an chéad údar Gaeilge é ó Chonamara i dtosach ré na hathbheochana. In Soupers and Jumpers: The Protestant Missions in Connemara 1848-1937, 2008 tugann Miriam Moffitt léiriú ar sheal Uí Fhotharta mar mhúínteoir scoile in Iorras Fhlannáin, Co. na Gaillimhe. ‘Derrygimla’s first long-term teacher, Daniel Faherty, who was very involved in Nationalist politics, arrived in 1862, and was to teach in various schools of the parish over the next thirty years. Attendances in Derrygimla national school increased during his time, and when it became clear that larger, better-lit premises was required, the school was moved in February 1864 to the former Catholic chapel, beside the mission school.’ Lean aighneas fada idir scoileanna an Mhisiúin agus scoileanna náisiúnta úd an cheantair ar scoileanna Caitliceacha iad dáiríre. In 1863 dhein an sagart Protastúnach, Roderick Ryder, gearán leis na Coimisinéirí Oideachais gur dhein Domhnall ‘a fierce and murderous attack’ ar Léitheoir Scrioptúir. Níor ghlac na Coimisnéirí leis an ngearán sin. Dhein Ryder achainí ansin go n-aistreofaí Domhnall go ceantar eile ach theip air sin arís nuair a mhol cigire Domhnall mar ‘a most respectful man and a successful teacher’. Ach i lár na seachtóidí is cosúil gur cuireadh d’iachall air an scoil sin a fhágáil. Ó na hochtaidí luatha amach is ina phríomhoide i gCalla a bhí sé.

Ba é Michael Faherty, feirmeoir as oileán Iomaí Co. na Gaillimhe, a athair, de réir an teastais pósta. Níl a fhios cén áit i nGaillimh a rugadh é. Is mar seo a d’inis sé cér dhíobh é sa réamhrá a chuir sé le Siamsa an Gheimhridh nó Cois teallaigh in Iargconnachta .i. sceulta, dánta, abhráin, tomhsanna ..., 1892: ‘Údar dó .i. mise, Domhnall mac Mhichíl, mhic Dhomhnaill Ó Fotharta, de Chlannaibh Baoiscne, oide scoile san gCaladh, in Iar-Chonnachta’. Idir Cloch na Rón agus Baile Uí Chonaola atá Caladh agus bhí Domhnall lonnaithe ann ó bhliain éigin roimh 1883 go ham a bháis. Níl a shloinne coitianta sa taobh áirithe sin de Chonamara. Seanfhear san áit a raibh cáil an eolais air, dúirt sé le húdair an chuntais seo (Aibreán 1994) gur shíl sé go mba strainséir é; ní raibh de sheanchas aige ina thaobh ach gur chuala sé riamh aon duine a bhí ar scoil ag Dan Faherty go mba scoláire maith é.

Tá a ainm (‘Daniel Louis Faherty’) i measc shíntiúsóirí Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge in 1883 agus i measc an scór múinteoir i nGaillimh a bhí cáilithe in 1893 chun Gaeilge a theagasc (liosta i gcló in Micheál Ó Locháin agus ‘An Gaodhal’, 1990 le Fionnuala Uí Fhlannagáin).

Bhí ábhar i gcló aige den chéad uair in An Gaodhal, páipéar i Nua-Eabhrac, in 1890. Thíolaic sé Siamsa an Gheimhridh do Euseby Cleaver toisc gurbh eisean a mhisnigh é agus gurbh air a thit costas an leabhair. Ghabh sé buíochas le Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh ‘a cheartaigh agus a chuir in eagar an leabhar, chomh fhad is bhí sé ag dul thríd an gcló, agus a thug comhairle agus cúnamh dhom ó thús go deireadh’. Deir sé sa réamhrá go raibh ábhar á bhailiú aige le 29 bliana. In Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, Meitheamh 1892, sular foilsíodh an leabhar, tagraíodh ar an gcuma seo dó: ‘The collector is Mr Daniel O’Flaherty [sic] of Calla, one of the best modern Irish scholars of the present day’. B’fhéidir gurbh é Pádraig Ó Briain, foilsitheoir an leabhair, faoi deara an réamhphoiblíocht sin. In uimhir na Nollag den iris dúradh: ‘This little book gives a faithful picture of what the really popular modern Irish literature is. It contains, in the fine terse Gaelic of the Western Coast, many of the old songs, rhymes and riddles, puzzles and sayings amongst the Irish-speaking population’. In An Gaodhal, Nollaig 1893, mhol Micheál Ó Lócháin an leabhar agus thuar dó: ‘But what will give the book its greatest value in the eyes of Irish scholars is that the stories are told in the living Irish tongue as it is spoken in the field and by the fireside today in Connaught’. Nuair a chuir Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, Bealtaine 1893, fáilte roimh an Irish Echo a bheith athbheoite i mBoston dúradh go raibh aistí ann ag Windisch agus an Fothartach. Thuairiscigh An Claidheamh Soluis 16 Meitheamh 1900 gur bhronn Domhnall cóipeanna de Siamsa an Gheimhridh ar leabharlann Árann. D’aistrigh P.J. McCall go Béarla é agus tá an lámhscríbhinn sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta.

Sa chéad imleabhar de Zeitschrift für celtische philologie in 1897 bhí scéal dar teideal ‘Cú Bán an tSléibhe’ aige maille le haistriúchán. I gcomhpháirt le Micheál Ó Tiománaí chuir sé le chéile i 1910 Sgeulta gearra an Iarthair ..., Folk reports collected in Connaught amongst Irish-speaking people. I 1912 d’fhoilsigh Pádraig Ó Briain a Fuigheall sgéal ón tseanaimsir.

Phós sé Mary Walsh, a chomh-mhúinteoir i gCaladh, ar 23 Aibreán 1888. Bhí sise 25 bliana d’aois agus bhí seisean 50, más fíor, ag an am. I nDaonáireamh 1911 tugadh d’eolas go mba Ghaillimhigh iad beirt, gur 76 aois Dhomhnaill agus 50 aois na mná, gur rugadh cúigear clann dóibh ach nár mhair ach triúr. I 1901 tugadh a n-ainmneachasan: Elizabeth (10), Ellen (9), agus Daniel Louis (4). Bhí Gaeilge ag gach duine sa teaghlach. D’éag an Fothartach i gCaladh ar 3 Aibreán 1919 agus é in aois 85, de réir an teastais báis.

Nuair a bhí Robert Atkinson ag tabhairt fianaise os comhair an Choimisiúin Um Oideachas Meánach in 1899 d’fhiafraigh an Propast Salmon de an raibh aon leabhair á scríobh i nGaeilge. Luaigh Atkinson triúr údar: Dubhghlas de hÍde, Domhnall Ó Fotharta agus Tomás Ó Néill Ruiséal.

Is léir ón tagairt dá sheacht sinsir gurbh é an Fothartach an t-iarmhúinteoir i gcomharsanacht Chloch na Rón ar chuir Stephen Gwynn síos air in A Holiday in Connemara, 1909. ‘Beyond an old mission school, which I found converted to the cognate purpose of housing a Bible reader, I reached my goal, the cottage of a retired National schoolmaster, whose name—not a common one—has fine old pagan associations; for, as he told me, the head of his clan fought as a chief captain under Art, son of Conn the Hundred—Fighter, at the battle of Knocklong—some seventeen hundred years ago. I found him ensconced in his study among a scholar’s paraphernalia. Rare and costly Irish books were on his shelves—not a few the gift of their authors, for this old student has been in lifelong correspondence with famous names; yet most of them were his purchases, made out of the economies of the worst paid vocation in Ireland. My friend was fortunate as things go; he had been in a populous district, his school had averaged from ninety five to a hundred pupils, and after forty years of service he had retired with a pension of as much as forty-seven pounds a year; not so much less, after all, than an ordinary policeman would receive, but still not a lavish margin for buying books which cost him from half a sovereign upwards’. Chaith siad tamall ag seanchas faoin ngorta agus d’fhág Gwynn an pictiúr seo againn: ‘One more thing I noted as I took my leave of this old man, who is—and long may he be so—a centre of real scholarship among the Gaels of Connemara. He is a centre of culture in another sort, for dahlias and montbretias flowered in profusion about his door; and from this focus one could see them radiating outward, here a patch and there a patch outside other cottages, adding a new and most welcome feature to the Ireland of peasant ownership, which need not fear a rise in the rent’.

‘Ó Fatharta’ gnáthlitriú na sloinne ach dhealródh an scéal gur ag iarraidh a mhuintir a nascadh leis an seantreabhchas úd ‘Fotharta’, a luaitear go minic sna ginealaigh, i scéalaíocht na ríthe agus san Fhiannaíocht, a bhí Domhnall Ó Fotharta.

Labhair údair an chuntais seo lena ghariníon, Dolores O’Faherty, iníon lena mhac Daniel Louis. Dúirt sí leo gur i reilig Bharr an tSrutha in aice an Chlocháin atá a uaigh, gurbh in é a theampall dúchais. Deir Dolores gurbh as Maigh Cuilinn dá bhean agus gurb ann atá sise curtha. Dúirt gariníon eile, an tSiúr Marie de Lourdes, go ndeireadh a máthair (iníon le Domhnall) léi gur bhean dar sloinne Robinson ó Co. an Dúin ba ea máthair Dhomhnaill, agus go raibh baint ag a muintir le tógáil an ché sa Chloigeann. Shíl sí freisin gurbh é an sagart paróiste a thug ar Dhomhnall agus a chomh-mhúinteoir pósadh, rud a bhí coitianta go leor san am (féach T.J. O’Connell, 100 years of the INTO, 1968).

Diarmuid Breathnach

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