Ársaitheoir a raibh dúil aige in ailtireacht, i gceol, i seanchas na hÉireann, agus i véarsaí a chumadh nó a aistriú ba ea an sagart seo. Is i ngeall ar a phearsantacht shoilbhir, a fhéile agus an dá chloigtheach a thóg sé is mó a d’fhan sé i gcuimhne daoine. Tá cuntas air: ag James Buckley in Irish Monthly, Meitheamh 1898 (‘Contributions to Irish Biography No. 35’); in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1903 ag James Coleman; in Irisleabhar Mhá Nuad, 1913 ag T de R; ag John Mulcahy in Old Blarney, Imleabhar 1,1968; ag Breandán Ó Conchúir, mar aon le liosta a lámhscríbhinní san Acadamh Ríoga agus sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta, in Scríobhaithe Chorcaí 1700-1850, 1982; ag J.P. McCarthy in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1991. D’fhág a chara John Windele eolas ar a bheatha againn in ‘Caher Conri’, 1860, dán fada Uí Argáin ar chuir sé eagar air.

I mBaile na Rátha i gceantar na Blarnan, Co. Chorcaí, a rugadh é. Bhí sé ar scoil sa Ráth. ‘It was his boast that when at school in Charleville he was more famed for hurling and athletics than for scholarship; and few could excel him at any time in slinging a méaróg so high or so far’ (Buckley). Oirníodh é in aois a thríocha bliain dó agus chaith sé tamall i bparóiste Mhidhe Ros. Tuairimíonn Ó Conchúir go raibh sé ann fós in 1813 nuair a chum Seán Ó Coileáin‘Machnamh an duine dhoilíosaigh’; deirtear gurbh é a thug bunsmaoineamh an dáin don fhile. Ó 1817 amach bhí sé ina shagart paróiste sa Bhlarnain-Teampall Geal.

Scríobhadh sé i bpáipéir áitiúla faoin ainm ‘Viator’ i dtaobh nithe a raibh spéis aige iontu; níor cnuasaíodh aon chuid díobh i leabhar. In 1834 foilsíodh dán a scríobh sé ar eachtra a tharla i nGort Rua le linn chogadh na ndeachúna nuair a maraíodh dáréag: Gortroe: or Lamentation of the widows for their sons . . . In imitation of the Ancient Irish Caoine or Dirge. Deir James Buckley: ‘Of the old Ossianic lays and bardic poetry he was an ardent admirer; and he patronised to the last the now extinct Seancides [sic] and Scealuidhes (or storytellers), one of whom, named Sullivan, he maintained permanently as one of his household. An enthusiastic admirer, too, of our national music, his house was the resort of every wandering piper—one or more of whom always attended his festive gatherings. One of his favourite projects was a Pipers’ Congress, after the style of the bardic meetings held at Bruree and Raheen in the early part of the eighteenth century. This was meant to be the prelude to a collection of the whole body of Irish music, which William Forde, of Cork, had begun under William Elliot Hudson of Dublin, a project that, through the death of all three, was never realised.’ In 1831 scríobh sé cuntas an-bheo agus an-mhion ar chluiche iomána sa Bhlarnain i 1770 idir Baile na Cáige agus Baile na Rátha a bhí fanta i gcuimhne na sean. Bhain Liam P. Ó Caithnia earraíocht as in Scéal na hIomána ó thosach ama go 1884, 1980. Véarsaí a chum sé is mó atá ina chnuasach de lámhscríbhinní, ina measc aistriúcháin a rinne sé in 1843 agus 1845 ar chuid d’amhráin Thomas Moore. Luann Ó Caithnia ‘A Collection of Topical Songs, made in Irish, c.1800, by Rev. Matt Horgan’ (G.703) a bheith sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta.

Bhí an dúspéis aige sa tseandálaíocht agus sna cloigthithe go háirithe, é ina bhall den Anchorites Club agus den South Munster Antiquarian Society, cumann arbh í an fhánaíocht de chois chuig fothracha an rud ab ansa lena bhaill. Rinne sé obair cheannródaíoch ar an oghamchraobh ach chuaigh na túir chruinne nó na sean-chloigthithe sa cheann ar fad aige. Níor réitigh sé féin agus a chairde sa South Munster le conclúidí George Petrie ina dtaobh agus deir McCarthy gurbh in é faoi deara ‘the greatest antiquarian debacle of the South Munster Antiquarian Society’. Ná níor leor leis a bheith ag argóint fúthu. Is amhlaidh a thug deireadh na bPéindlíthe go raibh cead anois cloigtheach a bheith ina chuid de shéipéal Caitliceach. Chuir an tAthair Matt dhá thúr á dtógáil, ceann ag an Teampall Geal in 1822, agus ceann eile nár críochnaíodh riamh in Waterloo in 1817. Ba é ailtire na deoise é.

Níor shagart saibhir é. Tugann Samuel Carter Hall, taistealaí, cuntas ina Retrospect of a long life ar a fhéile a chaith sé leis féin agus a bhean: ‘The good priest never had a shilling to spend; so his custom was, when strangers were expected, to levy contributions on his neighbours. On this occasion the call was entirely successful. Seven boiled legs of mutton were placed on the supper-table with a vast accumulation of etceteras; and the whiskey punch was ladled out of a milk churn. A barn had been fitted up with tables to contain a hundred guests; the seats were full . . .’. Bhí an péintéir Daniel Maclise (1806–70) i láthair ag féasta a d’eagraigh sé dá pharóisteánaigh Oíche Shamhna 1832 agus rinne pictiúr den ócáid.

D’éag sé ina theach i gCloichín Míolchon ar 1 Márta 1849. Ní raibh ach trí scilling fágtha aige. Bhí mian aige gur in uaimh ag bun ceann dá chloigthithe a chuirfí é ach d’fhéach a mhuintir chuige gur le hais na haltóra i Waterloo a shuaimhneodh sé.

Diarmuid Breathnach

Máire Ní Mhurchú