Bhí sé ar dhuine de mhórscoláirí Gaeilge an fichiú haois agus luann Brian Ó Nualláin é in aon anáil le Osborn Bergin agus R.I. Best sa bhailéad scigiúil moltach úd ‘My song is concernin’ / Three sons of great learnin’/ Binchy and Bergin and Best’. Staraí, scoláire dlí, agus taidhleoir ba ea é freisin. Tá cuntais air in: Études Celtiques XXVII, 1990 (P.-Y. Lambert); Studia Celtica XXIV-XXV, 1989-90 (Morfydd E. Owen); Éigse XXIV, 1990 (P.A. Breatnach); Scéala Scoil an Léinn Cheiltigh, Samhain 1989 (Fergus Kelly). Is léir ar liosta a shaothair ag Rolf Baumgarten in Peritia 5, 1986 go raibh eolas scolártha aige ar réimse leathan den stair, den teanga agus den pholaitíocht; ba é a sholáthair, mar shampla, an t-alt ar Naomh Pádraig in Encyclopaedia Britannica (1970). Tá buneolas air le fáil sa bhliainiris Who’s who, agus in Who’s who, what’s what and where in Ireland, 1973.

Dhealródh sé gurb aon dream amháin iad na Bínsigh in Éirinn, go bhfuil siad go léir gaolmhar. Bhí aturnaithe den sloinne thuas faoin 19ú haois ach ní go dtí tús an 20ú haois a bhain aon Bhínseach cáil náisiúnta amach i gcúrsaí dlí. Bhí siopa agus teach tábhairne ag athair Daniel, William Patrick Binchy, ag 80, an tSráid Mhór, an Ráth, Co. Chorcaí, i 1901 nuair a bhí an daonáireamh á dhéanamh. 43 bliain d’aois a bhí William agus 34 a bhí ag a bhean Annie Brown. I gContae Chorcaí a rugadh an bheirt acu. Sa teach freisin bhí máthair William, Mary, baintreach (63), Daniel Anthony a bhí bliain d’aois agus a dheirfiúr Mary (sé mhí). Bhí cúigear searbhóntaí sa teach, chomh maith le buime. Ní raibh Gaeilge ag aon duine sa teach. Bhí triúr deartháireacha aige ar dhuine díobh athair Maeve agus William Binchy; bhí deirfiúr amháin eile aige. In Who’s Who 1935 thug an Bínseach 3 Meitheamh 1899 mar dháta breithe ach 1900 a thugtar sa bhliainiris chéanna ina dhiaidh sin. In Scéala Scoil an Léinn Cheiltigh, Márta 1992, san alt ‘Matters of Record’, deir Máirtín Ó Murchú gur ar 3 Meitheamh 1899 a rugadh é, de réir an taifid in oifig Chláraitheoir na mBreitheanna. Mar sin féin is é 1900 a scríobh sé sa c.v. (grianghraf i gcló ag Ó Murchú) a chuir sé chuig Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath i 1949. Níl a fhios anois cén fáth a n-insíodh sé an bhréag neamhurchóideach sin, bréag atá buanaithe sa teideal atá ar an bhféilscríbhinn atá in eagar ag Dafydd Jenkins agus Morfydd E. Owen:The Welsh Law of Women. Studies presented to Professor Daniel A. Binchy on his 80th birthday 3 June 1980, 1980.

Bhí sé ar scoil ar dtús i gClochar La Sainte Union des Sacres Coeurs, Beannchar, ó 1907 go 1911 de réir an c.v. úd, agus ina dhiaidh sin i gColáiste Choill Chluana Gabhann. Tugann sé le tuiscint in Studia Hibernica 15, 1975 (‘Irish History and Law: 1’) nach raibh meas ar an nGaeilge mar ábhar léinn ansiúd agus deir: ‘In 1925 I was almost completely innocent of Irish…’. Ach fuair sé marc caoga hocht faoin gcéad sa Ghaeilge sa mháithreánach agus deir Ó Murchú: ‘His mark in Irish was not spectacularly good, and to that extent corroborates his own statements, but it does all the same represent a considerable exposure to Irish long before the period which is usually associated with his learning the language.’ Sa Choláiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath, bhain sé BA le honóracha den chéad scoth sa dlí agus sa pholaitíocht agus rinne céim mháistir i nuastair na hÉireann. Bhí B.L aige freisin agus glaodh chun an bharra é i 1921. Lean sé den staidéar in Munich, Beirlín, Páras (École des chartes), an Háig … agus thug Ollscoil Munich D.Phil dó i 1924. Bhí céim mháistir aige ó Oxford. I 1924 ceapadh é ina Ollamh le dlí-eolaíocht agus leis an dlí Rómhánach sa Choláiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath, ach d’fhonn go leanfadh sé den staidéar san École des chartes ní dheachaigh sé i mbun an phoist go dtí 1926 agus bhí ann go 1945, cé go raibh sé ag obair, mar a fheicfear, sa Ghearmáin agus sa Bhreatain ar feadh tréimhsí i rith an ama sin.

Is i bPáras a casadh air Sir Paul Vinogradoff, Rúiseach, ollamh cáiliúil le dlí-eolaíocht in Oxford, agus d’áitigh seisean air a aigne a dhíriú ar sheandlíthe na hÉireann. Ach an gcaithfeadh sé an tSean- agus an Mheán-Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim chun aon staidéar ar fónamh a dhéanamh orthu? Is é comhairle a chuir Eoin Mac Néill air: ‘But you must realize that the main problem is a philological one, and it will remain so for many years to come. So unless you can first learn enough Old and Middle Irish to make you able to correct me, and even to correct Thurneysen, your medieval and legal qualifications won’t be much use’ (an t-alt in Studia Hibernica). Bhí Bergin fuarchúiseach go leor ach mhol dó Gaeilge iarthar na Mumhan a fhoghlaim ar dtús sula luífeadh sé isteach ar an teanga ársa, gan trácht ar eolas maith a chur ar an mBreatnais; dúirt sé go dtógfadh sé deich mbliana den dianstaidéar sula bhféadfadh sé eagar a chur ar thráchtas dlí agus aistriúchán a sholáthar. ‘Privately I dismissed this estimate as a gross exaggeration, at least twice too long, but it was right almost to the day’ (idem). Chaith sé gach samhradh de 1926-31 i nDún Chaoin, d’fhreastalaíodh ar léachtaí an Aimhirgínigh san ollscoil, fuair ceachtanna Sanscraite ina theachsan, agus chuir eolas ar an Nua-Bhreatnais agus an Meán-Bhreatnais. Cuid shuaithinseach eile dá phrintíseacht ba ea na seimineáir sheachtainiúla a thugadh Rudolf Thurneysen i mBaile Átha Cliath i rith sé mhí de 1929. Is inspéise gurbh iad Bergin agus Binchy a chuir leagan Béarla de ghraiméar Thurneysen ar fáil i 1946 (A grammar of Old Irish) agus dá Old Irish reader i 1949 (ina bhfuil forlíonadh leis A grammar of Old Irish). Chuir sé eagar ar Scéla Cano Meic Gartnáin, 1963.

I 1929 freisin a ceapadh Binchy ina mhinistir thar ceann na hÉireann sa Ghearmáin (poblacht Weimar) agus d’fhág sin deis aige chun freastal ar chúrsaí sa teangeolaíocht chomparáideach i mBeirlín. ‘But throughout the period also, my chief mentor was Thurneysen, who remained in constant touch with me, and with whom I was able to spend the summer term in 1932 in Bonn after the change of government at home had given me a heaven-sent opportunity to abandon a career for which I was singularly unsuited and return to academic life’. D’oiriúnaigh a inniúlacht sa Ghearmáinis é don bpost taidhleora agus deir Owen: ‘His international academic career had equipped him well for such a post. Whilst in Germany he witnessed the rise of National Socialism. In Studies for 1933, an article on Adolf Hitler offered an analysis of the German situation and of the character of Hitler, whom Dr Binchy had heard speaking in public more than once during his time in Germany and whom he recognized at this early date as a dangerous megalomaniac…’.

Bhí tosaithe aige cheana féin ar shaothar mór a shaoil, an ‘Corpus Iuris Hibernici’; foilsíodh ‘Bretha crólige’ in Ériu 12, 1934 agus Críth Gablach, 1941. Chuir sé féin agus Myles Dillon eagar ar Studies in early Irish law, 1936 agus tá cúpla aiste aige ann ar stádas na mban. Cóipeáil na sean-lámhscríbhinní dlí go cruinn a bhí i gceist, saothar ar thug sé ‘this long-term drudgery’ air. Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath a d’fhoilsigh na sé himleabhair i 1978 faoin teideal Corpus Iuris Hibernici (ad fidem codicum manuscriptorum recognovit D.A.B.). Sa réamhrá gabhann sé buíochas le scoláirí agus go háirithe le Mac Néill, Thurneysen, Bergin, agus Charles Plummer agus deir sé ansin: ‘Among the friends and colleagues of my own generation, Michael O’Brien [Michael O'Brien B2], with his well-nigh incredible linguistic memory…, and Myles Dillon did everything in his power to facilitate my work, though he remained to the very end somewhat skeptical of its value, holding that I would be far more usefully employed in editing or re-editing, with translation and notes, some of the chief law-tracts than in compiling this austere source-book in the vernacular which very few students would ever open and no-one except the compiler would ever read right through!’. Agus dóbair dó féin teacht ar athsmaoineamh mar cuireann sé an fonóta seo leis an méid sin: ‘He may well have been right, for I have an uneasy feeling that this Corpus appears on the scene at least half a century too late: had it been available while Thurneysen and Mac Neill were at the height of their powers, it would have had a more lasting effect on the study of Irish law.’ Ach nochtann scoláire mór eile na seandlíthe an tuairim mheáite seo: ‘Scholars now have at their disposal practically all the legal material in Irish in six convenient volumes, with cross-references. Such a massive work inevitably contains misreadings and minor omissions, and in the more difficult passages, his word-division and expansions are sometimes purely guesswork. But in general the work is a triumph, and has led to an upsurge of interest in early Irish law, especially among younger scholars’ (Fergus Kelly). Bhí i gceist go dtabharfadh sé amach imleabhar eile ina ndéanfadh sé cur síos ar chomharthaí sóirt agus ar stair na seandlíthe ach sin rud nár tharla.

I 1937 thosaigh sé ag cur le chéile an leabhar is mó a thuill cáil idirnáisiúnta dó, Church and State in Fascist Italy, 1941 (athchló 1970). An Royal Institute of International Affairs a d’iarr air dul ina bhun. ‘Beautifully written, this work was the result not only of research in written sources but also the result of interviews held with people up and down Italy’ (Owen). Is don institiúid chéanna a chaith sé blianta an chogaidh ag obair. Deir Owen: ‘He spent much of the war years working for the allied cause in England. His analysis of the problems of contemporary society reveal the same acute social and historical sensitivity as that which enabled him to cast so much light on the workings of the society of the Celtic past.’ Cibé a bhí ar siúl aige i rith an chogaidh níor laghdaigh ar a dhíograis timpeall léann na Gaeilge; cuimhnítear nach raibh ach triúr nó ceathrar sa láthair nuair a thug sé léacht Rhys (‘The linguistic and historical value of the Irish law tracts’) i Londain 1943 agus an blitz faoi lánréim.

I 1937 chuir Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann chuig an Roinn Oideachais tuarascáil a bhain le bunú Scoil an Léinn Cheiltigh le bheith mar chuid d’Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath. Glactar leis gurbh é Binchy príomhúdar na tuarascála nó ‘the chief framer of the Scheme’ (Scoil an Léinn Cheiltigh: Tuarascáil leathchéad blian 1940-1990, 1990). Ba é a bhí ina chéad chathaoirleach ar Bhord Ceannais na Scoile i 1940. Nuair a chuir an rialtas a ladar isteach i ngnóthaí an Bhoird nuair a bhí ceapachán áirithe idir chamáin d’fhág Binchy an chathaoir agus d’éirigh as ballraíocht an Bhoird 27 Meitheamh 1941. Ó 1943 go 1946 bhí sé ina Ollamh le Dlí Canónta i gColáiste Phádraig, Maigh Nuad, agus chaitheadh lá sa tseachtain ann (fonóta ag Baumgarten le halt Uí Mhurchú). Gairid ina dhiaidh sin fuair sé post mar Chomhalta Sinsearach Taighde i gColáiste Corpus Christi, Oxford. Ceapadh é ina Ollamh Sinsearach in Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath i 1949 agus d’fhan ann go 1975; deirtear in Tuarascáil leathchéad bliain 1940-1990: ‘Surprisingly, for one who had been so active in developments before 1940, Binchy did not take an overt part in the School’s affairs after his return in 1949. Nor does he appear to have urged the introduction of the kind of regime envisaged in the Irish Studies Committee’s report, which he had drafted. There was no attempt, for example, to recruit Assistants who would work under his supervision on the editing of the extant Irish law texts .... It is not obvious why Binchy should have so completely abandoned the original concept.’

Thug cúig ollscoil D.Litt. oinigh dó. D’éag sé ar 4 Bealtaine 1989. Dheonaigh sé ina uacht go gcuirfí a chorp chun leasa eolaíocht an leighis. Cuireann Fergus Kelly síos ar ghné dá phearsantacht: ‘To attend a seminar under his direction was both an inspiring and an intimidating experience: grammatical errors or inadequate preparation of the text elicited reactions ranging from chilly to quite ferocious. This belligerent streak in his make-up also lent a sharp cutting edge to some of his writings. Indeed, it must be admitted that he often went too far in his denunciations of other scholars and their ideas.’ Ach tagraíonn Kelly agus cairde eile an Bhínsigh dá bharrúlacht a labhraíodh sé, dá fhéile a chaitheadh sé leo ina chlub (United Service), agus dá chumas ar aithris a dhéanamh ar nósúlachtaí daoine eile. Bhí dúil ar leith aige sna capaill agus dhéanadh marcaíocht ar chapall folúil gach maidin i bPáirc an Fhionnuisce (i gCaisleán Cnucha a bhí cónaí air) agus théadh ag fiach leis an Ward Union. Níor phós sé.

Tá tuilleadh eolais faoin mbeatha seo ar fáil ar http://dib.cambridge.org/ »

Diarmuid Breathnach

Máire Ní Mhurchú