Níl anseo ach cuntas gairid agus béim ann ar an mbaint a bhí aige leis an nGaeilge. Foilsíodh dhá bheathaisnéis: William J. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, 1928 lena rúnaí Patrick J. Walsh agus William J. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, 1841-1921: No Uncertain Voice, 2000 le Thomas J. Morrissey. Foilsíodh leabhrán le Myles V. Ronan, The Most Rev. W. J. Walsh, D.D., Archbishop of Dublin..., 1927.

Ag Cé Essex, Baile Átha Cliath, ar 30 Eanáir 1841 a rugadh an t-aon leanbh seo ag Ralph Walsh, seodóir agus uaireadóirí, agus Mary Pierce. Deirtear gurbh as Ciarraí dá athair agus gur Ghaillimheach a mháthair. Duine mór le rá i saol na gCaitliceach i mBaile Átha Cliath agus cara le Domhnall Ó Conaill ba ea Ralph. Nuair nach raibh ach bliain agus naoi mí ag William chláraigh Ralph é mar bhall den Repeal Association. Bhí an buachaill óg ar scoil ag Mr FitzPatrick éigin i Sráid Pheadair agus ansin i gcliarscoil chónaitheach Naomh Lorcán Ó Tuathail i Sráid Fhearchair. Bhí tionchar air ag an Athair C. P. Meehan (1812-1891), file agus staraí, agus threoraigh seisean i dtreo na staire é. Scríobh sé píosaí in The Nation agus é go fóill ina mhac léinn agus bhí sé ina bhall de Young Ireland Club an aosa óig. D’fhreastail sé ar an Ollscoil Chaitliceach agus bhain céim scoláire amach in 1858. Chuaigh sé go Coláiste Phádraig, Maigh Nuad, an bhliain chéanna. Oirníodh é in 1866 agus in 1867 ceapadh ann é ina ollamh le Diagacht Mhorálta agus Dogmach. Chaith sé tamall mar leabharlannaí an choláiste agus bhí sé ar dhuine de rúnaithe Shionad Mhaigh Nuad. Bhí sé ina leas-uachtarán ar an gColáiste faoi 1878 agus toghadh ina uachtarán é in 1880. Ceapadh é ina Ardeaspag ar Bhaile Átha Cliath mar chomharba ar an gCairdinéil Mac Cába (1816-1885). Ba é rogha na n-easpag agus na sagart é. Ba é Patrick Francis Moran (1830-1911) nó duine ar bith eile, b’fhéidir, rogha rialtas na Breataine agus ba chumhachtach é guth an rialtais sin i gcúirt na Vatacáine.

Dúradh in 1886 faoi go raibh sé ar an gcúigear ba mhó cumhacht agus ceannas in Éirinn. Náisiúnaí aitheanta ba ea é ar mhinic a chloistí é ag trácht ar chúrsaí an lae. Fiú agus é anonn go maith in aois chuir sé a charáiste chuig sochraid Thomáis Ághas agus ba é a léigh aifreann éagnairce Thraolach Mhic Shuibhne. Nuair a bhí Éamonn de Valera ar a choimeád tugadh tearmann dó i dteach geata phálás an ardeaspaig i nDroim Conrach. D’éag sé ar 9 Aibreán 1921. Tá sé curtha i nGlas Naíon.

Deir Myles Ronan: ‘When a student in Maynooth, by sheer ingenuity and application he mastered Irish and wrote an essay in the language for which he got a prize. His copy of Dunleavy’s Catechism, from which he principally learned Irish, is crammed with his own marginal notes, showing his efforts at mastering the Irish language. His love for Irish remained all through his life, and he followed with keen anxiety the work of the Gaelic League.’ Ba é a d’iarr in 1897 ar Eoin Mac Néill Gaeilge a theagasc i gColáiste Phádraig, Droim Conrach, rud a d’fhág gurbh é an Niallach an chéad ollamh le Gaeilge ann. Shínigh sé achainí Chonradh na Gaeilge in 1898 chun go ndéanfaí an tOireachtas a mhaoiniú; thug sé airgead le haghaidh duaiseanna. Deir Patrick J. Walsh agus a shaothar ar son na Gaeilge á shuimiú aige: ‘He supported the Gaelic League from the time of its foundation, and gave it financial and moral aid at a time when it was looked at askance by politicians. He helped Father O’Growney in preparing and publishing his Lessons in Irish. Douglas Hyde, Seán Mac Énrí, Pádraic Pearse, and many other workers in the cause of the Irish language revival received from him substantial help and encouragement. Eoin Mac Néill stated publicly in 1905 that anything which he had been able to do in promoting the study of Irish was in great measure due to the public and private solicitude of the Archbishop. Dr Walsh joined with MacNeill, Hyde, Pearse, and others in founding the Leinster Irish Training College to teach the Irish language to all-comers and to train the teachers in the best method of teaching the language. He attended the formal opening of the college in 1906 and delivered an interesting address; and to the end of his life he took an active interest in its work.’ Thug sé cúnamh airgid le haghaidh fhoclóir Uí Dhuinnín. Scríobh sé ceann de phaimfléid an Chonartha, Bilingual Education; tá sé bunaithe ar léacht a thug sé do mhic léinn an Choláiste Oiliúna, Sráid Bhagóid, Baile Átha Cliath, 7 Nollaig 1900.

Bhí sé ina Sheanadóir de chuid Ollscoil na hÉireann ó thosach. Deir Micheál Ó hIceadha in ‘The Irish University Question’: ‘In one of the clerical senators I have the utmost confidence. In such a crisis as that which is now upon us, the Archbishop of Dublin has never been found anywhere except on Ireland’s side at the time of the reorganisation of the National and Intermediate systems of education. His Grace, and I know full well whereof I speak, rendered Irish-Ireland invaluable and never-to-be forgotten service.’

Bhí sé ina phátrún ag an bhFeis Cheoil. Bhí spéis aige ar feadh a shaoil sa cheol. Théadh sé go Bayreuth go minic chun The Ring le Wagner a chlos. Tháinig feabhas ar an gceol eaglasta, agus ar cheol i gcoitinne i mBaile Átha Cliath, lena linn. An mhórspéis sin aige a mhisnigh Edward Martyn chun Cór Palestrina a bhunú. Tá liosta dá phríomhscríbhinní i gcló ag Morrissey agus ina measc tá Grammar of Gregorian Music, 1886. Deir seisean gurbh é an leabhar dá chuid ba mhó éileamh Bimetallism and Monometallism: What they are and How they bear on the Irish Land Question, 1894 (an dara heagrán).

Nóta pearsanta ag Diarmuid Breathnach! Walsh an litriú traidisiúnta ach welsh an fuaimniú traidisiúnta in Éirinn, rud is léir ar rann a scríobh James Joyce i 1912 : ‘Tis Irish brains that save from doom / The leaky barge of the Bishop of Rome / For everyone knows the Pope can’t belch / Without the consent of Billy Walsh.’ D’fhiafraigh a bheathaisnéisí, an tAthair Patrick Walsh, den ardeaspag lá, más fíor, cathain a d’iompaigh na Welshes ina Walshes. Ba é freagra a tugadh air: ‘When one family in Rathmines apostasized’. In ainneoin an tseicteachais, b’fhéidir beagán den fhírinne a fháisceadh as an bhfreagra sin – Caitliceach Bhaile Átha Cliath san am sin ag iarraidh a bheith chomh measúil leis an bProtastúnach!

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Diarmuid Breathnach

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