Bhí sé ar dhuine de na scoláirí Gaeilge ba mhó le rá san 18ú haois. Is leis sin an chéad aiste faoin nGaeilge a d’fhoilsigh Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann ina gcuid imeachtaí, i 1787 (‘Account of an ancient inscription in Ogham character’). Tá cuntas air ag Máire Í Sheanacháin in Galvia 3, 1956. Bhí cónaí ar a athair Mathúin i gcomharsanacht na Tulaí, Co. an Chláir. Scríobhaí ba ea é agus tá lámhscríbhinn dá chuid i Leabharlann na Breataine—Egerton 140. Rinne sé cóip d’fhoclóir Nua-Ghaeilge/Sean-Ghaeilge an Athar Proinsias Ualis (1706) do Theophilus. Tadhg a baisteadh air ach shíl sé, más fíor, nach ndéanfadh an t-ainm sin an gnó i gColáiste na Tríonóide. Chuaigh sé ar scoil chuig Seán Ó Nuanáin a ndeirtí faoi gurbh é an múinteoir ab fhearr i gCúige Mumhan lena linn é. Deir Theophilus féin san ionsaí a rinne sé ar Mhacpherson: ‘The assertor of this is eight and forty years old [in 1808]: and at the age of twelve he could read and enjoy the beauties of all the poems attributed to Oisín; all the tales of the Finnian heroes; Clann Touran; Clann Lir; and Clann Uisnigh; and could, with puerile indignation, ridicule the wily attempts of the Scots of Alba to make the reputed poems of Oisin their own’ (Transactions of Gaelic Society). ‘Thug múinteoir scoile eile teagasc do Theophilus i gceard scríobhaí lámhscríbhinní. B’shin Peadar Ó Conaill, a bhíodh ina óige ag múineadh scoile sa Charn, i ngar do Chill Rois, fear a bhféadfaí a rá faoi go raibh sé ar an scríobhaí ab fhearr agus ar an scoláire Gaeilge ab fhearr sa tír lena linn’ (Liam de Paor sa réamhrá a chuir sé le Tomás Ó Míocháin: filíocht, 1988 le Diarmaid Ó Muirithe). John Hely Hutchinson a bhí ina phropast i gColáiste na Tríonóide, fear a thugadh cothrom do Chaitlicigh, chabhraigh seisean le Tadhg scoláireacht a fháil i 1787, cé nach raibh sé dleathach ceann a thabhairt do Chaitliceach. Níor shéan Tadhg a chreideamh riamh agus d’fhógair go poiblí é i 1790. Ó 1789 amach thugadh sé ‘ollamh le Gaeilge’ air féin ach is dóigh nach raibh i gceist ach scoláirí a bheith á múineadh go príobháideach aige sa choláiste. I 1786 bhí sé ag clárú lámhscríbhinní Edward Lhuyd (c.1660-1709) i leabharlann an choláiste.

Chuidigh sé le Joseph Cooper Walker chun cibé beagán Gaeilge a bhí aige a fhoghlaim. Ghabh Charlotte Brooke buíochas leis in Reliques of Irish Poetry. Bhí sé ina bhall den choiste a bhunaigh Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann i 1785, agus an chéad alt dár foilsíodh i roinn na seandálaíochta de Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy ba é a scríobh é; bhain sé le cloch oghaim Shliabh Challáin i gContae an Chláir. Tá stair chasta na leice seo scríofa ag Siobhán de hÓir in North Munster Antiqarian Society Journal, 1983 (‘The Mount Callan Ogham Stone and Its Context’). Creideadh gur faoin gcloch seo a bhí Conán Maol na Féinne curtha. Is é an comhthéacs go hathchomair gur bhrionn­adóireacht an t-ogham seo agus gurbh fhéidir gur faoi thionchar na hiomarbhá a lean foilsiú bhrionnadóireacht Mhacpherson i 1761 a rinneadh é. Ar Sheán Lúid agus ar Thadhg is mó a bhí drochamhras, cé go n-ainmnítear Micheál Coimín, file, freisin. I 1916 labhair uachtarán Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann ina aitheasc bliantúil faoin gcaoi ar léigh Tadhg an t-ogham: ‘It was found by John Lloyd or Theophilus O’Flanagan about 1778 and the latter, though confessedly ignorant of old Irish epigraphy, settled the whole question to the satisfaction of himself and his hearers. He read it forward and backward, right side up and wrong side up, he challenged the value of two letters and tortured it until it said anything he wanted, He thus got five readings out of a single line’ (Royal Irish Academy Journal, 1916). Ina litir ó Chontae an Chláir scríobh Seán Ó Donnabháin: ‘Old Mr Casey of Dublin, the herbalist and Irish Serapion, frequently told me that it is a well known fact that this inscription was forged by John Lloyd, a schoolmaster in the County of Clare, who composed several political Irish songs, and published an account of the same [forged] monument; that O’Flanigan was well aware of this generally credited report but suppressed it in his paper published in the Transactions of the RIA, and that, when Mr Casey stated before the then Chief antiquaries of Dublin that it was always believed in Munster that the Ogum on the Callen Mountain was forged by John Lloyd, O’Flanagan was so hurt that he exclaimed: “May the Devil jump into that fellow’s heart!”.’ Scríobh Séamus Mac Cruitín an dán ‘Chum Uilliam Uí Ghráda noch a dúirt gur léigh sé féin an líne oghaim atá ar lic Chonáin i gCallann’.

Chinn an tAcadamh gurbh é a chóipeálfadh na seandlíthe ach ní raibh toradh ar bith ar an gcinneadh agus síltear gurbh é an tromólachán ba chúis leis. Ba é an chéad rúnaí ag an Gaelic Society in 1808 é agus an scoláire ab fhearr acu. Chuir sé eagar ar an aon imleabhar amháin a d’fhoilsigh siad, The Transactions of the Gaelic Society, 1808. Is ann a foilsíodh an chuid de Cambrensis Eversus le John Lynch a d’aistrigh sé, an t-ionsaí a rinne sé ar Mhacpherson, dánta le Tadgh mac Daire Mac Bruaideadha agus Colm Cille, ‘Londubh Dhoire an Chairn’, ‘Laoi Thailc mhic Treoin’, agus Oidhe Clainne Uisnigh. Aontaíodh gur dó a thabharfaí cibé brabach a dhéanfaí ach is amhlaidh a cailleadh airgead air.

Deir Warburton (History of the City of Dublin Warburton, Whitelaw & Walsh, 1818) gurbh é a chara Matthew Young, comhalta de Choláiste na Tríonóide lena linn, fear a bheadh ina easpag i ndeoise Chluain Fearta ar ball, a tharraing aird an Tiarna Charlemont agus lucht Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann ar Thadhg. Deir na húdair sin freisin: ‘But an unfortunate propensity for intemperate and irregular habits revolted those friends his talents had acquired and having lost their patronage he was compelled to withdraw from Dublin. Through the friendship of Sir Laurence Parsons he established an academy at Birr and finally obtained a place in the post office; but inveterate habits still involved him in difficulties and he was compelled to take refuge from his creditors in Kerry where he superintended a Roman Catholic seminary; from thence he removed to Limerick in 1812 and was placed at the head of an Irish Institute established there by subscription. Here he continued to deliver weekly lectures till his death which happened on the 4th of January 1814, in the 53rd year of his age. He had married the sister of Colonel Harvey Morris, who was co-heiress to an estate for the recovery of which he commenced a law suit which terminated in his favour a few months before his death.’ Chuir sé nóta chuig Peadar Ó Conaill 21 Bealtaine 1812 á rá leis go mb’fhéidir go gceannódh an ‘Gaelic Society’ i Luimneach a chuid leabhar uaidh (Eilís Ní Dheá in Dál gCais, 1991). Is dóigh gurbh é an cumann a bhí i gceist an Society for the Revival of Ancient Irish Literature, a raibh an Dr Ó Ríordáin, cara Pheadair, ina uachtarán air.

Deir Joep Leerssen in Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael, 1986: ‘The best example here is Theophilus O’Flanagan, who, though firmly rooted in late eighteenth-century patriotic attitudes, at the same time initiated the institutionalised form of antiquarian/cultural endeavour that stretched through the entire nineteenth century to culminate in Douglas Hyde’sGaelic League.’ In A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897, 1988 molann Robert Welch an t-aon aistriúchán fileata a rinne sé, ‘Mór atá ar thegasc flatha’, dán le Tadhg Mac Bruaideadha in Transactions of the Gaelic Society.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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