In Lawrence, Massachusetts, Stáit AontaitheMheiriceá, a rugadh é 4 Aibreán 1871. Elizabeth Ann Norris and Davis Franklin Robinson a thuismitheoirí (Celtic Who’s Who, 1921). Fuair sé a chéim bhunaidh in Harvard in 1891 agus faoi 1894 bhí dochtúireacht faighte aige. Chaith sé an bhliain 1895-6 in Ollscoil Frieburg. Bhí sé ag múineadh in Harvard ó 1894, é ina ollamh cúnta le Béarla 1896-1902 agus ina Ollamh ó 1906 go 1936. Chaith sé na blianta 1902 go 1906 ina léachtóir le Ceiltis in Ollscoil Chaitliceach Mheiriceá i Washington.

Is in 1896 a thosaigh sé ar Shean-Ghaeilge agus ar Mheán-Ghaeilge a theagasc in Harvard. Bhí litir aige in An Claidheamh Soluis 22 Aibreán 1899 (ar cóip í de litir a bhí in Irish World): ‘May I suggest a way in which the various Irish societies could perform a direct and valuable service to scholarship? A publication fund might be established which would enable the Rev. Professor Henebry [De Hindeberg] of Washington to bring out some well-edited texts of the modern Irish period. A good chrestomathy of modern Irish, with grammatical introduction, glossary and the like, is very desirable. A competent edition of Keating’s History, or of the Munster poetry of the last two centuries, would serve the interests of Celtic scholarship in the universities, and at the same time promote the revival of spoken Irish. I hope the Irish Language Fund will soon be so large that part of it can be spared for such a purpose’. Dúirt sé sa litir freisin nárbh fhéidir staidéar ar an seanteanga a dhealú amach ón Nua-Ghaeilge. Chuir eagarthóir an Claidheamh nóta leis an litir á rá go raibh laethanta saoire samhraidh 1898 caite ag Robinson i gConamara ag foghlaim Gaeilge. Caithfidh nach raibh sé sásta leis an gcaoi ar éirigh leis mar tuairiscíodh in Fáinne an Lae 30 Meán Fómhair 1899: ‘Of course I have no practical speaking knowledge of Irish but I have been working for some time at the earlier periods of language and literature’. An tseachtain roimhe sin bhí scéal sa pháipéar go raibh Brian Ó Luanaigh lena bhallraíocht i gCumann Buanchoimeádta na Gaeilge a mholadh. Faoi 1908 bhí sé ina bhall de choiste an chumainn.

Tuairiscíodh in An Claidheamh Soluis 18 Bealtaine 1901 go raibh sraith léachtaí i dtaobh na Gaeilge á tabhairt aige in Ollscoil Chaitliceach Washington. Ní foláir nó is ag líonadh na bearna a bhí fágtha ag de Hindeberg a bhí sé. Bhuail an Craoibhín leis i rith a thurais trí Mheiriceá agus ba é a chuir in aithne é ag an bpríomhócáid i mBostún 3 Nollaig 1905.

An moladh is airde is féidir a thabhairt dó gurbh é athair an léinn Cheiltigh sna Stáit Aontaithe é. Is mar seo a chuir Eric P. Hamp síos air in Lochlann 4, 1969: ‘Professor Robinson’s importance to Celtic Studies is to be found in facts not necessarily known to all Celticists. While his publication in purely Celtic areas was restricted, it was his authoritative works in Medieval English Studies that led many to seek his guidance ultimately into Celtic sources. Through his whole life he took part in the normal academic duties of the English department, yet in his own time, out of devotion to the subject, he taught Celtic at every opportunity. In this fashion he trained an impressive number of scholars to utilise Celtic materials and learning while never himself holding a formal appointment devoted to Celtic philology. He not only introduced Celtic Studies to Harvard in this way but he was instrumental in organising the Celtic Section of the Modern Languages Association, to this day the only learned body in the United States expressly devoted to Celtic Studies. Throughout his life he personally supervised the building up of the excellent Celtic holdings in the Harvard College Library. After his retirement from active University service he never ceased to encourage Celtic Studies with undiminished vigour and enthusiasm. He took an active interest in seeing that Celtic instruction flourished and increased at Harvard and after his death bequeathed an endowment for a chair in Celtic Studies in memory of his beloved wife. Celtic Studies in the United States owes an enormous debt to Professor Robinson.’

Bhí sé ina chomhairleoir acadúil ag Seán Ó Faoláin i rith a théarmasan in Harvard i 1933 agus tá tagairt ag Maurice Harmon in Seán Ó Faoláin: a life, 1994 do chuairt a thug sé ar Éirinn i 1954. Is cosúil gur lean a spéis i litríocht na Nua-Ghaeilge. Bhí aiste aige, ‘Celtic books at Harvard: the history of a departmental collection’, i gcló in Harvard Library Bulletin 1, 1947 agus foilsíodh é in An Leabharlann 14, 1956. Bhain Máirtín Ó Cadhain feidhm as abairt ann ina léacht Dáibhíseach ‘Conradh na Gaeilge agus an Litríocht’ (i gcló in The Gaelic League idea, 1972 in eagar ag Seán Ó Tuama. Tharraing Robinson comórtas idir an iarracht a rinne scríbhneoirí Eilíseacha Shasana ar na clasaicigh a thabhairt isteach sa Bhéarla agus a raibh ar siúl ag an nGúm: ‘Moreover a very large proportion of the works chosen for translation have been English, and though a Gaelic speaker might well find it convenient to read Lucian or Cervantes in Irish, it is hard to believe he would prefer a Gaelic version to the original of Treasure Island or Three men in a boat : to say nothing of the dog’.

Phós sé Margaret Brooks i 1901. I measc na gcéimeanna oinigh a bronnadh air bhí D.Litt. ó Ollscoil na hÉireann i 1937 agus Litt. D. ó Choláiste na Tríonóide i 1955. Bhí sé ar choiste comhairleach Chumann na Scríbheann Gaeilge agus ina bhall de Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann. Foilsíodh páipéir ina onóir in The Journal of Celtic Studies Iml 2 [c.1958]. D’éag sé 21 Iúil 1966.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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