In Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1883 (tuairisc an choiste) dúradh: ‘The late Mr Joseph O’Longan, as he was probably the last, so he was among the most distinguished of Irish scribes.’ ‘Fear nach raibh a shárú in Éirinn mar scríobhaí le peann’, a thug Dubhghlas de hÍde air in Mise agus an Connradh, 1937 ach áiríonn sé é i measc na scoláirí nach labhraíodh Gaeilge os ard agus ar ghluaiseacht acadúil amháin a theastaigh uathu. Mac le Mícheál Óg Ó Longáin agus a bhean Máire Uí Chrualaoich (Ní Leidhin) ba ea é. Tá cuntas air in Irish Monthly, Meán Fómhair, 1896 ag James Coleman (‘Contributions to Irish Biography No. 32: The O’Longans: Three generations of Irish Scribes’), in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1877-83, agus ag Breandán Ó Conchúir in Scríobhaithe Chorcaí 1700-1850, 1982.

Múinteoir náisiúnta ba ea é ar dtús ach dhéanadh sé obair do John Windele, agus don bhailitheoir Sir Thomas Phillips (1801-67), a bhfuil cuntas air in Dictionary of national biography. Bhí sé féin agus a dheartháireacha gátarach i rith an drochshaoil mar is léir ar litir chuig Windele in 1849: ‘Paul has received from his scholars whatever trifle was due; my brother, Peter, is teaching a sort of private tuition at a farmer’s house near home, his means are long exhausted; and as for my own earnings in troth it was too little for myself, yet out of that small sum I used to spare a little. Now if I had one 5/- that would buy 1/2 cwt of India meal, it would enable me to finish those MSS for which I would be certain to receive about £10, a sum which would enable myself and my family to weather out the bad year until we would have enough of our own corn.’ Thoirbhir sé don Athair Renehan in 1848 bailiúchán de dhánta dar teideal Duanaire na nEascop (‘suim mhór de dhuantaibh a ceapadh d’Easbaig na hÉireann ó theacht eiriceacht ann go nuige 1818’): ‘Do scríobhadh an leabhar seo don Athair geal suairc gan cháim / De shíol na bhfearachon meanamnach Ó Renecháin / Tá ag riarú ar shagairt is macra cliar gach lá / I gcoláiste an apstail do bheannaigh ár n-iath mhín bhláth’. In 1854 thug cigire cuairt ar an scoil sa Teampall Geal mar a raibh Seosamh agus a bhean ag múineadh agus scríobh: ‘Teacher appears deficient in energy. He is pretty constantly employed in translating Irish manuscripts, which may interfere with his proper vocation of schoolmaster’ (i gcló ag Ó Conchúir). Bhí sé sa scoil sin go fóill in 1861 nuair a d’iarr sé ar Windele cabhrú leis chun post bailitheora dolaí a fháil i gcathair Chorcaí i dtreo go bhféadfadh sé ceird an scríobhaí a chleachtadh agus ‘to get rid of the drudgery of teaching and the vexatious inspection of inspectors’. Is léir go gcabhraíodh Windele leis a oiread is a b’fhéidir.

Bhí obair á fáil aige le tamall san Acadamh, ar chuid di an t-inneács céadlínte agus an t-innéacs ginearálta do chláir na lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge i gcomhar le Owen Connellan agus Pól, agus ceapadh ina scríobhaí ann é in 1865 tar éis bhás Eoghain Uí Chomhraí agus lean sé leis an obair sin go deireadh a shaoil. Deir Ó Conchúir nárbh óna athair a d’fhoghlaim sé an cheird ach gurbh é is fearr de na mic a thug an ealaín leis.

Rinne sé cóipeanna de Leabhar na hUidhre, An leabhar breac agus An leabhar Laighneach don Acadamh. Sin iad na cinn ar foilsíodh macasamhla díobh. In The Royal Irish Academy, a bicentennial history 1785-1985, 1985, in eagar ag T. Ó Raifeartaigh, deir R.B. McDowell gur éirigh idir John Gilbert agus Robert Atkinson i dtaobh eagarthóireacht An leabhar Laighneach: ‘O’Longan, the Academy’s “scribe” received peremptory and contradictory instructions from the two angry scholars.’ Sa réamhrá molann Robert Atkinson é: ‘Save a few entries of errata that came under my notice in the collation of particular passages, the Table of Corrigenda (although not finally written out by him owing to his illness) is the work of Mr O’Longan to whom I also have to tender my thanks for information always ungrudgingly imparted, on the few points in which I have consulted him. I left this sheet open with a sad sense of foreboding that the transcriber would never see published the work on which he spent so much labour: he at least is beyond the reach of praise or blame. I cannot however omit the duty of recording here my testimony to the patient and faithful manner in which he discharged his office from the time I have had the opportunity of observing him: the work done by him was a labour of love that absorbed his life.’

Ag tagairt do na macasamhla dúradh in imeachtaí an Acadaimh: ‘It is unnecessary to enlarge on the value of these important publications; but testimony may here be fittingly borne to the manner in which Mr O’Longan’s work on them was performed. It may be safely asserted that no one who ever saw him work doubted or could doubt his thorough earnestness in the performance of his task. The difficulty in his case was to prevent his overstepping the bounds of prudence in the work he endeavoured to get through; the committee of Irish Manuscripts has had to intervene in the interests of his health and shorten compulsorily the time which he would have devoted to the interests of the Academy.’ Bhí tosaithe aige ar Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta a chóipeáil. Thuigfeá ó chuntas sin an Acadaimh nach foláir nó bhí sé ag cuimhneamh ar an bpinsean a chaill sé nuair a thréig sé an mhúinteoireacht. Bhí sé ar dhuine d’fhundúirí Chumann Buanchoimeádta na Gaeilge in 1876 agus um Shamhain na bliana sin bhí sé ar dhuine den bheagán ar bheartaigh Dáithí Coimín dul i gcomhairle leo i dtaobh irisleabhar Gaeilge a fhoilsiú. D’éag sé 11 Feabhra 1880 agus cuireadh i nGlas Naíon é.

Bunaíodh ciste chun cuidiú lena bhaintreach. Thacaigh an Irish Builder 1 Márta 1880 leis an achainí: ‘In our own time O’Donovan and O’Curry laboured with a zeal and with an efficiency which, in any other country than this, would have secured its due reward. As these Irish scholars worked, so has the late Joseph O’Longan, with no ambition for personal notoriety and no grabbing desire for money. Many educated folk who walked the City of Dublin month after month and year after year and prided themselves, perhaps, on their knowledge of the “Classics” knew not of the existence of the humble and devoted Irish scribe who was labouring from morning till night within the walls of the Irish Academy or by his own fireside, till the small hours of the morning. In sooth, poor O’Longan laboured for his country and for all time over the MS materials of Irish history and as, in the service of his country and his countrymen, his health was undermined and his death hastened, it is their bounden duty to see that his widow and children will never want.’

Bhí duine dá thriúr iníonacha, Maria, pósta ar Dhiarmuid Seosamh Mac Suibhne, leabharlannaí an Acadaimh, agus ba mhac leosan an tAthair Pádraig Mac Suibhne. Bhí a mhac Paul ag obair ag an am sin sa tseirbhís Chustaim agus Máil i gCorcaigh, dar le Coleman. Deir Ó Conchúir gur fhág sé aon mhac amháin ‘ar a laghad’ ina dhiaidh, Mícheál, agus gur scríobhaí é siúd, ‘an tríú glúin de Longánaigh Charraig na bhFear ag saothrú ar léann na Gaeilge’. Ba gharmhac le Seosamh an ‘Second-Lieutenant Stacpoole O’Longan’, ball den Aerchór Ríoga a maraíodh sa Chogadh Mór 1 Meitheamh 1917; cúpla seachtain roimh a bhás d’fhoilsigh sé Last post and other poems.

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Diarmuid Breathnach

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