Cuid de repertoire an Éireannaigh ar feadh céad bliain ba ea amhráin a chum sé: ‘The Ould Plaid Shawl’, ‘Galway Bay’, ‘The Donovans’, ‘Little Mary Cassidy’.... Bhí sé ina uachtarán ar Chonradh na Gaeilge i Londain ó 1896 go 1908 agus ba phearsa ríthábhachtach é i saol na nÉireannach thall.

I gCinn Mhara, Co. na Gaillimhe, a rugadh é 27 Méan Fómhair 1854. B’as Boirinn, baile beag sa Chlár siar an bóthar ó Chinn Mhara, dá athair Tomás, agus b’as Ráth Torpa in aice le Gort, Co. na Gaillimhe, dá mháthair, Celia Marlborough. Bhí óstán, oifig an phoist, siopa, stáblaí agus stáisiún cóistí acu i gCinn Mhara. Seacht nduine déag a rugadh dóibh ach níor mhair ach ochtar.

Bhí an Ghaeilge go raidhsiúil mórthimpeall air, ní foláir, ach níor chainteoir dúchais é. Bhí sé ag cruinniú den Chonradh in Áth Leathan, Co. an Chláir, 27 Lúnasa 1899 agus tuairiscíodh: ‘He said he never spoke Irish in his youth, and was never taught it in the National Schools’ (An Claidheamh Soluis 9 Méan Fómhair 1899, lch 407). Go raibh sé beagnach 19 mbliana d’aois bhí sé ag teagasc sa scoil náisiúnta a bhfuair sé féin a chuid oideachais inti. Nuair nach raibh ach cúig déag aige scríobh sé dráma The Last of the O’Learys a deirtear a léiríodh i gCinn Mhara. Bhí dán i gcló aige den chéad uair, in The Nation, an bhliain chéanna sin.

In 1873 fuair sé post státseirbhíse i Londain, sa Bhord Tráchtála. Sa chathair sin a chaith sé an chuid eile dá shaol, breis bheag is trí scór bliain. ‘Having to go to London to eke out an existence he saw that the only distinction between an Irishman and an Englishman was a knowledge of the tongue of our sires’ (idem). Phós sé Agnes Duff ó Luimneach agus bhí ceathrar mac acu. Thug sé a thuismitheoirí anall chun cónaithe leo ar ball. Chuirtí an teach a bhí acu i Sráid Crozier, Lambeth, i gcomórtas leis an Stad i mBaile Átha Cliath – ‘ ... the most noted and delighful Irish haunt in London’ (Irish Peasant 10 Feabhra 1906).

Is i gclubanna Caitliceacha a bhíodh a n-obair náisiúnta ar siúl ag an bhFathach agus a chairde ar dtús. Bhí siad ina mbaill freisin den Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain. Ach in 1881 chuir siad an Southwark Junior Literary Club ar bun. Iarracht a bhí ann chun oideachas Éireannach a chur ar a gcuid páistí agus eolas a thabhairt dóibh ar an nGaeilge. Dhá bhliain ina dhiaidh sin bhunaigh siad an Southwark Irish Literary Club. Bhíodh rang Gaeilge ar siúl ag Tomás Ó Flannghaile faoina scáth. Bhí Proinsias ina uachtarán agus is ón gcumann sin a d’fhás an Irish Literary Society (a bunaíodh 28 Nollaig 1891) agus ar ball Craobh Londan den Chonradh, agus in 1898 Cumann na Scríbheann Gaeilge.

Ba í Craobh Uí Chomhraí a bunaíodh 9 Deireadh Fómhair 1896 an chéad chraobh fhoirmiúil den Chonradh i Londain agus toghadh Proinsias Ó Fathaigh ina uachtarán uirthi. Fear an-aitheanta é um an dtaca seo. In 1894 a foilsíodh The Irish Literary Revival: its history, pioneers and possibilities agus cuireann Liam P. Ó Riain síos ann ar a acmhainn ghrinn agus a léaspartaíocht: ‘But it did not need an acute critic to notice that the sallies were sometimes mere devices to hide the pathos of his nature. His acquirements and gifts were as diverse as his character. He had mastered in a short time several modern languages and authors, had coursed through the Irish language and literature, written the raciest Irish songs of our time, turned off squibs and sketches welcome to the laughter-loving, had worked heart and soul for the [Southwark] Club, planned many projects beyond it and delivered thoughtful lectures in every quarter of London’. D’fhoilsigh Club Southwark péire leabhar a chuir sé le chéile: The child’s Irish songbook; Irish history in rhyme. Deirtear gurbh é a chuir eagar ar The Irish national reciter dóibh. Sa Chlub sin a thionóltaí na siamsaí úd ‘Original nights’ agus ba lena n-aghaidh a chum sé cuid dá dhánta. Foilsíodh a chnuasach Irish songs and poems faoin ainm cleite ‘Dreoilin’ in 1887. B’in é iomlán a dhéantúis dar le P. S. Ó hÉigeartaigh, a chuir eagar ar The Ould Plaid Shawl and other songs, 1949. Chomh luath le Nollaig 1892 bhí aistriúchán a rinne Dubhghlas de hÍde ar amhrán dá chuid i gcló in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge faoin teideal ‘Maol-chnuic Chláir, ar lorg dáin do sgríobh Proinsias Ó Fathaigh’.

Maoithneas an deoraí a dhéanann a chuid amhrán taitneamhach. ‘He never cared for wealth and he never cared for fame.... He wrote his songs, and never thought about them or troubled about them, presented them to the world, especially the Irish world, and never cared who sang them or where they were sung. So long as they were sung, anybody might sing them with the author’s full permission. And they were sung, forty years ago, all over the place’, a dúirt Ó hÉigeartaigh. Agus ag tagairt dá chumas uachtaránachta chuir sé i gcomórtas leis an gCraoibhin é. ‘It cannot have been an easy task to hold together ... W.P.Ryan, Fionán Mac Coluim, Seán Ó Catháin, Dr J.P. Henry [Seán Mac Énri], Art Ó Caoimh, Conán Maol [Pádraig Ó Séaghdha and Art Ó Briain. But he had just that touch of personal distinction and skill in handling people which made them recognise his direction’.

Maidir lena eolas ar an nGaeilge dúirt The Irish Peasant 10 Feabhra 1906: ‘His Irish knowledge is wide and deep though as a writer and speaker of Irish he suffers from a curious distrust of his powers’.

D’éag sé in Clapham, Londain, 1 Aibreán 1935 agus cuireadh é i reilig Putney Vale. Bhí eagarfhocal in The Connacht Tribune ina thaobh: ‘... as long as there is an Irishman left on this earth the name of Mr Francis A. Fahy will be remembered. His sincerity, his patriotism, were beyond question. They grew and flowered in a foreign land and made exile lighter for many a lonely heart. No alien influence could wilt or wither the practical patriotism of that loving and lovable poet’.

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Diarmuid Breathnach

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