File 523 - Fr Peader MacSeumais SJ

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IE IJA J/523


Fr Peader MacSeumais SJ


  • 18 April 1925 - 7 August 1996 (Creation)

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40 items

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(15 December 1908-07 August 1996)

Biographical history

Born: 15 December 1908, Waterford City, County Waterford
Entered: 01 September 1925, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1940, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1943, Belvedere College SJ, Dublin
Died: 07 August 1996, Cherryfield Lodge, Milltown, Dublin

Part of the Belvedere College SJ community, Dublin at the time of death.
Older of Tony - RIP 1989
Changed name from Peter Jacob by 1929.
Early education at CBS Synge Street

◆ Interfuse
◆ Interfuse No 92 : August 1996 * ◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1996

Fr Peadar MacSéumais (1908-1996)

15th Dec. 1908: Born in Waterford City
Early education: Crescent College, Limerick and Synge Street, Dublin
1st Sept. 1925: Entered the Society at Tullabeg
2nd Sept. 1927: First Vows at Tullabeg
1927 - 1931: Rathfarnham - Arts at UCD (Classics)
1931 - 1934: Tullabeg - Studying Philosophy
1934 - 37: Belvedere - Regency, Teaching languages studying for the H.Dip in Education
1937 - 1941: Milltown Park - studying Theology
21st July 1940: Ordained Priest, Milltown Park
1941 - 1942: Tertianship at Rathfarnham
1942 - 1996: Belvedere - Teaching languages; Director of St. Vincent de Paul Conference (past-pupils), Writer.

Peadar “retired” from teaching only three years ago. He continued his involvement in the School through the St. Vincent de Paul Conference. During the last six months his health, which had been quite good despite being blind in one eye, deteriorated. He died peacefully at Cherryfield Lodge on 7th August 1996.

The Last Greek Class
Shafts of late May sunshine beamed on to the dusty timber floor of Rhetoric 1 towards the end of the afternoon. They were the Academy Dog Days when the final curtain of the Leaving Certificate is about to fall. Thucydides Book VII was the text, spread open on each boy's desk, and presiding over all, from a remote position on the elevated rostrum, was a slim dark figure. His austere asceticism contrasted strangely with the rag tag assortment of pupils, whose feet were enmeshed with cricket gear beneath the desks, and whose minds were sorely strained by the relevant priorities of the suffering Greeks in the Sicilian salt quarries, or whether it would be better to bat if we won the toss. An economic deep throated utterance from the rostrum brought matters back to the all prevailing usual order, and each student construed his allotted passage from the text as his particular ability permitted.

These classes were in fact characterised by their silence; whether it was due to intense concentration or somnolence is a matter of conjecture. What is not in doubt however, as participants readily acknowledged, was the peace that calmed the turbulent spirits who formed the class, and the appreciation of the wisdom, scholarship and erudition of this teacher who espoused humility in its deepest form by sharing a sublime intellect with fortunate but unprepossessing recipients. And yet, this intellect was intellect with not a little wry humour and the eyes occasionally twinkled behind the blue tinted spectacles.

Judgements on grammatical points were pronounced ex cathedra with no room for equivocation. Come to think of it, opinions on many topics from politics to ballistics were frequently proferred with a conviction that would put many of our politicians to shame. A passage from the text was particularly drawn to our attention as it might come up in the exam. It was teased, analysed, and construed with an exactitude which gave adjectives a precise meaning, and phrases a clarity beyond the dreams of their original author.

Towards the end of class we all sat back for the anticipated valedictory words. There was an awkward clearing of the throat. Yes, "Here it comes", came to every mind, what will he say? Then the words came - pointing up the propriety of bearing in mind the important significance of the Genitive Absolute in the last clause, The bell seemed to ring with a savage stridence. The lean dark figure grasped both covers of the book slamming them shut, rose erectly, descended gracefully from the rostrum, and glided out, as if on his wings streaming behind.

All that remained was a puff of chalk dust, created by the closing book, sinking ineluctably but ever so slowly to the floor. And Yes! the passage, so carefully construed, did come up in the exam.



Fr. Peadar Mac Séumais spent all his working life in Belvedere teaching Greek and Latin. After 71 years a Jesuit, and 57 years a priest, he died aged 88 in August 1996. It is rare and humbling to encounter a great intellect, and when that intellect is accompanied by an innate modesty and deprecating humour, it is difficult for the ordinary mortal to comprehend the full extent of this vast wisdom. To say that Fr. Mac Séumais was enigmatic and mildly mysterious to the average schoolboy verges on an understatement. When he first crossed our path, in about 1946, he looked to us already old. Over the next 50 years he did not seem to change one iota. The wry smile, the tinted spectacles, the way he glided as though he was on castors, silent, austere, almost glacial, it was only when he gripped your elbow, at its most tender spot, that you knew he was there.

He was a serious, disciplined thinker and man. He expected the same in his pupils, though it was not always forthcoming. His frosty demeanour and the strange Greek language he taught lost some of them along the way. However their rejection was always tinged with respect. He brought the same discipline of thought to his life and work, It shone through his dedication and commitment as a teacher and a priest.

He was widely read and fluent in modern languages. His annual trip to Germany to do parish work for several months was a feature of his life to which he always looked forward. He was deeply attached to Irish. He was curious about scientific developments, interested in everything from archaeology to politics and had (strong) views on every subject.

We came to visit him in his last days, blind and in strange surroundings. His mind had begun to wander but he suddenly demanded "Can you define APR?" and cross examined us in considerable depth as to how the formula was calculated and applied.

Though he was a very private person, through the cracks we found much humour and warmth and very considerable kindness - generally practised with stealth, as characterised by his years of work in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Most people knew Fr, Mac Séumais in only one dimension - as a teacher floating down the stairs of the senior house unmoved by hordes of riotous young Belvederians. But there were several dimensions to this highly complex man. There was the man as Jesuit in the Belvedere Community for over fifty years. For him Belvedere was "home". Life revolved around Belvedere and unknown to most people he kept close contact with his family, particularly his brother Willie Jacob, who lives in Willow Park in Glasnevin.

His family was another dimension which most people would not have been aware of because he valued privacy above many things. And the family side of life was a very normal aspect which he enjoyed with great relish! He was particularly good with small children. They would chat quite freely, oblivious to his academic outlook and definite views. His broad grin was warm and tricky at the same time because you knew that he was making you think about some problem he had posed for you.

Mary and Ronan Jacob saw him on Sundays. Sunday lunch was a ritual. He would ring during the morning to let Frances know that he was coming up to lunch and Frances would then have been officially informed. Etiquette and protocol had been observed even though everyone knew he was coming to lunch anyway. After lunch on Sunday was a time for debate. Busmen, Unions, and Scribblers (Journalists) were usually lined up for execution. It was important to him that his opposition did not know much about the subject under discussion because this allowed him make the most outrageous remarks, which I might add, would leave even the most ardent right wingers lost for words. This of course was a trap to draw out any Dublin 4 opinions along with any BBC closet liberal ideas, that you might offer in defence, for demolition on the spot.

As the debate would subside, Mary would ask him about Belvedere or people he had visited. The big grin would once again appear as he took delight in giving absolutely no information - the other areas of his life were neaty sectioned off!

One of his most recent joys was to see his grand nephew, Conor Gannon, getting a place in Belvedere and winning “man of the year” in the last Elements in the Junior House. Family occasions were most important to him. Births, weddings, funerals, - he was always there, not only because he was needed, but because he wanted to be part of what was going on.

This was a man who did not go unnoticed. Some listened, some did not, but thousands of lucky Belvederians carry for ever his influence like an implanted silicon chip. We pay tribute to the benefits he brought us: His sharing of his brilliant scholarship and his benign and lasting influence.

Eulogy For Fr, Peadar Mac Séumais

On behalf of his former students, it's a great honour to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Fr. Peadar Mac Séumais. He was 87 years of age when he died. Having spent most of his priestly life teaching Greek in Belvedere College. We remember Fr. Peadar the man, the scholar, the Jesuit, the priest.

We remember Fr. Peadar the man. As a man, he had a gentle way with people. I can well remember, as a schoolboy, feeling his firm grip on my elbow which immediately alerted me to two things: firstly “Creeper”, as we affectionately called him, must be behind me and, secondly, that I must be guilty of some infraction of school rules, such as stepping out of line going down the stairs in the Senior House! His firm grip, usually accompanied by his wry smile, proved to be a gentle but effective form of correction - more effective, indeed, than the leather (which, in those days, we called the “biffer”). He was, by any definition, a gentleman.

We remember Fr. Peadar, the scholar. As scholar, he was blessed with a great intellect. He is remembered at UCD as one of the brightest students of classical languages which the university has ever known. We, his students, ultimately became the beneficiaries of his great scholarly knowledge.

We remember Fr. Peadar, the teacher. As a teacher, he had to contend with the reality that winning a Leinster Rugby Cup was of far greater importance to us than mastering the middle voice of ancient Greek. Yet he never allowed our lack of enthusiasm to diminish his own great love of Greek literature. I am very pleased that, shortly before his death - even though his eyesight had already failed him - he was delighted when my own class, the class of 1953, presented him with an elegant bookcase for his collection of beloved Greek books, as a small token of our appreciation for a great and dedicated teacher.

We remember Fr. Peadar, the Jesuit. During his 71 years in the Society of Jesus, he was deeply devoted to his Community and, in turn, drew great strength and support from his Jesuit community, especially in his latter years as his health began to fail him.

We remember Fr. Peadar, the priest. On July 31st 1990, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He was a man of deep religious faith who lived that faith in action. He will long be remembered for his service to the poor in Dublin city through his years of dedicated work in the St. Vincent de Paul Society. His Jesuit priestly vocation gave purpose and meaning to all that he accomplished in life

Guiomas anois ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Liam K. Grimley (Class of 1953)

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File containing mainly material relating to Peader MacSeumais admission to the Society of Jesus and subsequent jubilees.

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