Bhí sé ar dhuine den bheagán de na hÉireannaigh Óga a chuir spéis ar leith sa Ghaeilge. Scríobh Seán Pléimeann ina thaobh (Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, Uimhir 29 Iml. III, 1888): ‘It would be worth living a life of hardship for the sake of knowing Richard D’Alton and Father Patrick Meany [B5 lch 289] and William Williams.’

Baisteadh Richard Dalton áirithe, arbh iad Richard Dalton agus Mary Walsh a thuismitheoirí, i mbaile Thiobraid Árann ar 13 Meitheamh 1814 agus is dóigh gurbh é an fear s’againne é. 61 bliana d’aois, de réir an teastais báis, a bhí D’Alton nuair a d’éag sé i Sráid James, Tiobraid Árann, ar 15 Iúil 1875. Tugtar 1814 mar bhliain a bhreithe i gcuntas gairid ar a shaol in Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 1942-3.

Le Domhnall Ó Conaill a bhí sé ag tacú ar dtús. Tá cuntas ar an mbaint a bhí aige le cúrsaí 1848 ag William Nolan in Tipperary Historical Journal 1998 (‘The Irish Confederation in Tipperary in 1848’). Báicéir (‘merchant’ atá sa teastas báis) i mbaile Thiobraid Árann ba ea é in 1848 agus san eolas a chuir giúistís cónaitheach go Baile Átha Cliath cuireadh síos air mar ‘a leader and an out-and-out republican’. Bhí a ainm sa phostaer a ghairm cruinniú sa bhaile ar 9 Aibreán 1848 ‘for the purpose of adopting an address to the men of Paris!!! Congratulating them on their independent assertion of the People’s Sovereignty’. Bhí sé ina choimisinéir baile ag an am. Bhí gárthaíl ar siúl ag an lucht éisteachta ag an gcruinniú ach tuairiscíodh in The Nation 22 Aibreán 1848 faoin Daltúnach: ‘He condemned the cheers, they were too fond of them. No cheer should be uttered until the victory was won. If Irishmen restrained themselves from the accustomed cheer which they give when acting from patriotism and took a lesson from the Faugh a Balaghs, all would be well.’ Faoi Mheitheamh na bliana sin bhí sé ina uachtarán ar an Confederate Club áitiúil. Chaith sé tamall i bpríosún. Phós sé Honora Dillon ag pointe éigin sna 1850idí.

Tá aiste ag Séamus Ó Casaide, ‘An Fíor-Éirionach, a scarce Tipperary Journal’, in Journal of the Waterford and South East of Ireland Archaeological Society, Iúil-Meán Fómhair 1910. Sin í an iris a d’fhoilsigh an Daltúnach in 1862. Ba dhóigh leis an gCasaideach gur seacht n-uimhir a foilsíodh agus gur ar 17 Bealtaine 1862 a foilsíodh an ceann deiridh. Seo a bhfuil scríofa ar leathanach teidil na chéad uimhreach: ‘An Fíor-Éirionach. First Number, March 17th 1862. The First Move To The Restoration Of The Irish Language. To be printed in weekly numbers, containing Catholic prayers and selections from the poetry and history of our country. Permissu Superiorum. Price One Penny each Number. R. D’alton, Printer And Publisher, Tipperary’.

Sa chéad uimhir sin scríobh sé: ‘The three past years, during leisure moments, have been devoted by me to know the Irish language, with which I was previously utterly unacquainted. The labour was severe and often abandoned, almost with despair, because I could not find correct books to study from. The rules for pronunciation were a jumble of contradictions, owing to the misspellings of words, the confounding of radical and adventitious letters, and the want and misplacing of marks. All these errors caused a false reading, which made a babel of the language, brought the laugh of the Irish-speaking listener on the reader, and thus forced him to resign all further attempts towards attaining his Mother tongue.’

Bhí sé ag súil go mbeadh brabach aige ón fhoilseachán seo ionas gurbh fhéidir sparán a thionscnamh d’fhonn poist a chur ar fáil do bhochtáin óga ar bhaill iad de chumainn Ghaeilge a chuirfí ar bun. Casadh ar an bPléimeannach é: ‘About ten years after Mr D’Alton had set up the printing-press, I met him at Lisdoonvarna, and we had many an hour’s chat . . . Mr D’Alton, though apparently a strong man, died shortly after I met him at Lisdoonvarna. Had he been spared, he would have materially assisted in the preservation of the Irish language: but it was not to be.’ Ar iasacht ó Phádraig Ó Briain a bhí cóip den Fíor-Éirionach ag an gCasaideach i 1910. Ó Sheán Pléimeann a fuair Pádraig í agus dhíol ar ball í leis an gCaisideach. Sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta atá sí anois agus, cé is moite de chóip san Acadamh Ríoga, meastar nach bhfuil aon chóip eile ar marthain. Deir Joep Leerssen in Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, its Development and Literary Expression Prior to the Nineteenth Century, 1986: ‘The dissociation of language from politics was made a matter of course by Richard D’Alton, who in his magazine An Fíor-Éirionach wrote, “My object being the restoration of the Irish language, therefore I wish to avoid all those political topics on which Irishmen differ so much”.’

Tá cuntas ar an Richard D’Alton Memorial Fund in Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 1942-3. D’fhág a iníon, Alice Kennedy, £500 chun an ciste a chur ar bun ar mhaithe le scoláireacht na Gaeilge agus thug a mhac Walter (1862-27 Aibreán 1943) lámhscríbhinní agus leabhair a athar don Acadamh. Bhí an Walter seo ina fhear fásta nuair a thug sé faoin teanga a fhoghlaim agus bhí sé ina leasuachtarán ar chraobh de Chonradh na Gaeilge i mbaile Thiobraid Árann. Bhí mac amháin eile ar a laghad ag an Daltúnach. Abairt a bhí le léamh in Ériu ó 1966 amach is ea: ‘The costs of Ériu partially defrayed out of the Richard Dalton Memorial Fund.’

Diarmuid Breathnach

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