Nuair a ceapadh timirí Gaeilge faoin mBord Náisiúnta Oideachais den chéad uair in 1907 ba í Máire an t-aon bhean amháin ina measc. I Sráid na Cathrach, Co. an Chláir, a rugadh í ar 2 Feabhra 1884. Ba é John Sullivan, siopadóir, a hathair agus ba í Winifred Marrinan a máthair. I nDaonáireamh 1901 tá curtha síos go raibh 53 bliana d’aois ag John agus an aois chéanna ag a bhean. Bhí Gaeilge agus Béarla acu beirt, más fíor. Béarla amháin a bhí ag a n-iníon Alice (9) agus ag a mac John (7). In 1911 níor luadh an Ghaeilge i gcás an athar. ‘Éadaitheoir ginireálta’ sa Phríomhshráid ba ea é faoin am seo. Bhí Gaeilge agus Béarla ag Winifred (59). Dúradh go raibh siad pósta le 40 bliain agus go raibh an seachtar a rugadh dóibh ina mbeatha. Sa teach an oíche sin bhí Máire (27), BA, ‘Irish Organiser, National Board’, Florence (24) ar Béarla amháin a bhí aici, agus John (17) ar Béarla amháin a bhí aige sin freisin.

Bhí Máire ar scoil i nGaillimh agus i mBaile Átha Cliath. Le linn Dhaonáireamh 1901 bhí sí ag fanacht i dteach a huncail Micheál, ‘Belclare’, Temple Gardens, Ráth Maonais. Seo é an t-eolas a tugadh: Michael (50) a rugadh i gContae an Chláir, cigire bunscoile nach raibh aon Ghaeilge aige; a bhean Alice (38), a rugadh i gContae Thír Eoghain agus a bhí gan Ghaeilge; Mary Sullivan (17), neacht Mhichíl, Gaeilge aici; Florence Sullivan (14), neacht, a bhí gan Ghaeilge.

Ceapadh Máire ina timire faoin mBord Oideachais in 1907. ‘Dhein Máire Ní Shúilleabháin, an timire seo leis an mBord Oideachais, mórthairbhe don teanga sna scoileanna inar chuir sí na leanaí faoi scrúdú sa treo seo. Thug sí comhairle conus ab fhearr na leanaí do cur ag labhairt na teangan. Níor labhair sí féin ach Gaeilge leis na leanaí. . .’ (An Claidheamh Soluis 7 Samhain 1908). Bhí sí ag obair don Bhord ar feadh ceithre bliana gur theip ar a sláinte. D’éag sí ar 14 Iúil 1914 in Brisbane (An Claidheamh Soluis 25 Iúil 1914). Dúradh in Clare Journal 20 Iúil 1914 go raibh sí ina cigire Gaeilge i mbunscoileanna Bhrisbane agus thagair dá huncail: ‘Like him she was an enthusiastic supporter of the Irish Language and Gaelic Revival and in the early years of the movement gave herself wholeheartedly to its encouragement. She was an ardent advocate of the inclusion of Irish as an ordinary subject in the National Education Board programme in Ireland and when inspectors were required, possessed . . . of the necessary qualifications to examine in Irish, she was one of the first to secure an appointment. . . . Since assuming the duties of her office in Brisbane some years ago she has worked incessantly for the promotion of the study of Gaelic among the children of Irish people attending in Brisbane schools’. Dúradh sa tuairisc sin freisin gurbh í an chrua-obair faoi deara a bás.

Fear inspéise a huncail, an Micheál Ó Súilleabháin (c.1843-1914) sin. ‘Fear éirimiúil ba ea Micheál, fear ba ea é nár thug cúl a láimhe le comhairle na hEaglaise is nár thug a aghaidh ar Choláiste na Tríonóide; fear ba ea é, dá mbeadh cothrom oideachais is oiliúna ag Caitlicigh na hÉireann, a bheadh ina bhreitheamh nó ina fhear mór stáit’ (The Leader 20 Meitheamh 1914). ‘In the death of Micheál Ó Súilleabháin Ireland has lost a patriotic and spirited citizen who by the force of his pluck and perseverance made many hoary companies throw open their appointments for public competition. He compelled them also to recognise the existence—for its existence even was unknown to many—and the value of the Irish language. The best diplomacy he knew was the exposure of the bigoted and the anti-Irish directors and it was a diplomacy that succeeded’ (An Claidheamh Soluis 20 Meitheamh 1914). ‘His articles on various subjects in the Leader if collected would fill a well-sized volume. His name was prominent and frequently before the public in connection with the fight for the introduction of competitive examinations as the method for recruiting clerks for the railways and into this work he put his whole heart and not without considerable effect. He was more than a match for anyone on the other side, chairmen or directors as they might be. . . . He couldn’t devote himself to public affairs until he had retired. . . . The part he played in the fight for the division of the wards in Rathmines will be in the recollection of most of our readers’ (Leader 20 Meitheamh 1914).

Agus é ina ardchigire is minic a ainm i liosta na ndaoine a thugadh síntiúis fhiala do Chiste na Teanga. Nuair a d’éirigh sé as obair i dtús an chéid a thosaigh sé ar an obair phoiblí seo na scrúduithe iomaíocha. Tá litir dar teideal ‘Irish in railway examinations’ aige in An Claidheamh Soluis 28 Lúnasa 1909. San iris sin 5 Feabhra 1910 tá tuairisc ar shocruithe faoin nGaeilge mar ábhar roghnachais i scrúduithe na n-iarnród agus ní róshásta a bhí sé leo. Cé nár fhoghlaim sé an teanga is léir go raibh ardspéis aige san athbheochan. Ainmníodh é mar iarrthóir sna toghcháin do Choiste GnóChonradh na Gaeilge (An Claidheamh Soluis 30 Iúil 1904). Chuir sé litir i dtaobh na Gaeilge in Ollscoil na hÉireann, mar aon le síntiús, chuig an iris sin 12 Meitheamh 1909. Tá léiriú ar a spiorad le feiceáil in aiste i bpáipéar an Chonartha ar 16 Meán Fómhair 1911: ‘. . .and those who, unfortunately, are too old to learn it can assist by their sympathy and support. It takes horse, foot and artillery to form a good army and even those not in the fighting line can do much to assist in re-establishing the old native tongue’.

Phós sé Alice Meenan san Ómaigh, Co. Thír Eoghain, 16 Márta 1883. Cigire scoile a chuir sé síos mar ghairm bheatha, dúirt gurbh fheirmeoir a athair John Sullivan, agus gur bhaintreach fir é féin. Ní raibh aon chlann aige féin agus Alice.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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