Born: 02 May 1930, Clontarf, Dublin
Entered: 07 September 1948, St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1962, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1965, Coláiste Iognáid, Galway
Died: 10 January 2021, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin
Part of the Coláiste Iognáid community at the time of death
Son of Éamonn Ó Dubhsláine and Eibhlín Nic Mhaicín. Studied at UCD
Ordained at Milltown Park
Born: 2nd May 1930, Dublin City
Raised: Clontarf, Dublin
Early Education at Scoil Cholmcille, Marlborough Street, Dublin; Belvedere College SJ
7th September 1948 Entered Society at St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois
8th September 1950 First Vows at St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois
1950-1953 Rathfarnham - Studying Arts at UCD
1953-1956 Tullabeg - Studying Philosophy
1956-1959 Crescent College SJ - Regency : Teacher
1959-1963 Milltown Park - Studying Theology
31st July 1962 Ordained at Milltown Park Chapel, Dublin
1963-1964 Rathfarnham - Tertianship
1964-2021 Coláiste Iognáid, Galway - Teacher; Studying H Dip in Education at UCG; Gamesmaster
2nd February 1965 Final Vows at Coláiste Iognáid SJ, Galway
1974 Vice Principal at Garmscoil Éinne, Cill Ronáin, Arainn, Co na Gaillimhe (Aran Vocational School)
1988 Lives at Trí Coinnle, Cill Mhuirbhígh, Inis Mór, Árainn, Co na Gaillimhe
1995 Seirbhís Eaglasta agus Gaeltachta, Oileáin Árann
1997 Church Service and Work in Connemara Gaeltacht; Director
1999 Berkeley, CA, USA - Sabbatical at JSTB (till Dec 2000)
2001 Áras Ronán; Inis Mór, Árainn, Co Na Gaillimhe : Gaeltacht Apostolate; Writer; Co-operating with FÁS; Editor of “An Timire”; Intercom
2010 Gaeltacht Apostolate, Inis Mór, Arainn; Writer
2016 Gaeltacht Apostolate; Writer at Cherryfield Lodge
2017 Prays for the Church and Society at Cherryfield Lodge
Connla Ó Dúlaine 2 May 1930 – 10 January 2021
In reading this sketch of the life of a remarkable man, the reader may like to keep in mind a question: If he hadn’t joined the Jesuits, what might he have done?!
An Mac Leinn
Connla was born on 2 May 1930 in Dublin and raised in Clontarf. His early education was at Scoil Cholmcille, Marlborough Street, Dublin, then Belvedere College SJ from 1941-48. On the 7th September 1948 he entered the Society at St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois and took first vows two years later.
From 1950-1953 he lived in Rathfarnham Castle, studying Arts at UCD. From 1953-1956 he studied Philosophy in Tullabeg. His regency, 1956-1959, was spent at Crescent College, Limerick, after which he went to Milltown Park for four years of Theology. On 31st July 1962 he was ordained in Milltown Park Chapel, Dublin and from 1963-1964 was at Rathfarnham, making Tertianship.
From 1964 till his death he was attached to the Jesuit Community at Coláiste Iognáid, Galway. He was firstly a teacher and Games-master, and received his H Dip in Education at UCG in 1966. He taught Religion, French and Irish. He could speak German and Spanish and make his way through Greek and Latin. On 2nd February 1965 he made his final Vows at Coláiste Iognáid SJ, Galway.
I first made Connla’s acquaintance when I was a regent in Colaiste Iognaid 1962-65, and a friendship was established which survived, not without stresses, till his death at the age of 91.
A vivid memory: for reasons known only to his Superior and to God, he was Games Master: I was his Assistant, and when the School Sports were looming he assigned me the task of seeing to the practical details of the day, while he would prepare an artistic brochure, listing events and entrants. On the day I had an early lunch and was busy on the field with a small army of volunteers, but with a few minutes to go before the first event, there was no sign of Connla. I went off to search him out and found him in his room, absorbed in the works of Pearse and searching for a suitable quotation to adorn the Sports Brochure. We started late!
He had the capacity to become absorbed in the particular, sometimes at the expense of the general. This generated a certain level of frustration in the practically-minded. ‘Where’s Connla?’ was a recurring question. Driving with him was not an experience for the faint of heart: I recall coming back from a match with him: he was giving tongue on some matter of great importance, with his foot on the accelerator to match his passion. In the distance I could see the lights of a level crossing and begged him to slow down but he didn’t hear me: we came to a shuddering halt a few yards short of the barrier, and once the train had passed he was off again on a rhetorical flight. Another incident is recounted: driving on Inis Mor late at night with a companion, he suddenly turned off the headlights and proceeded in the dark. He explained that there was a car just coming down the hill from Dun Eochaill, and since Connla’s dip lights didn’t work he had turned off his headlights so as not to blind the other driver. Divine providence took over and all ended well.
A past pupil of his in the 1960s tells below of Connla bringing a group of students to see a film directed by Fellini, a man unafraid to use unusual techniques to bring audiences out of the closed circuits of their minds. Just before the film began, Connla stood up to explain to the audience what Fellini was trying to do, while his students melted away in embarrassment! Another story tells how he bought a piano in Prospect Hill in Galway, loaded it onto a horse and cart and drove slowly through the town, accompanied by a few students. As it came through the city Connla sat at the piano and played, to the delight of onlookers.
In 1974 when Colaiste Iognaid ceased to be as an A-school, where all teaching had been through Irish, he asked to retire, and obtained the post of Vice Principal at Gairmscoil Éinne, Cill Ronáin, Arainn, Co na Gaillimhe (Aran Vocational School). From 1988 he lived at Trí Coinnle, Cill Mhuirbhígh, Inis Mór. From 1995 he undertook Seirbhís Eaglasta (Church Services) on the island and in the Gaeltacht: this work was deeply appreciated by the Archdiocese of Tuam. He was appointed Director of FAS (Foilseacháin Ábhair Spioradálta), Director of Oiliúint Bhaile (Home Schooling) and editor of An Timire, to which he was a regular contributor from 1954 onwards, with more than 60 articles to his name in all. His command of his native tongue was excellent, and his writing bright and imaginative.
Connla brought a world vision to all his work and lived an energetic life, very much associated with Galway, the Connemara Gaeltacht, the Aran Islands and the apostolate of the Irish language. He had wide-ranging interests, loved books and good conversation. He was blessed to the end with a fine memory, and his eyes would sparkle as he regaled listeners with stories from the past – mainly positive memories, it must be noted. He was larger than life, and he liked fun and laughter.
He cared deeply about other people, especially about those who were not well off. Shortly after he got the new house in Kilmurvey, a member of his community went from Galway to help him paint some rooms and put putty on the window frames. Connla couldn’t decide on colours, so his helper was idle and asked him one evening if he had a television. He said he had had one, but there was a lady nearby who was lonely and unwell, so he had given her his TV. When a drama group from Cois-Fharraige came to the island to stage a play, Connla put them all up in his house, about 20 of them: they slept on the floor or wherever they could find a space. Feile na nGael!
From 1999 till December 2000 he enjoyed a Sabbatical at JSTB, Berkeley, CA, USA, after which he returned to live in Áras Ronán, Inis Mór, Árainn. Having retired from teaching, he continued his Gaeltacht Apostolate, was a writer for Intercom, collaborated with FÁS and continued as Editor of An Timire. They were happy years. He became one of the island’s most colourful characters and his love of all things Irish found full expression. His hospitality was legendary, but the unwary visitor could be shocked by the state of the interior, especially the kitchen and the mysteries lurking within the fridge.
Fear Fise is Cultuir
His room in Cherryfield was an archaeologist’s dream: a profusion of books, papers, snacks, letters, bric-a-brac. He couldn’t refuse a new book. Two months before he died, I asked him would he like to have a copy of O Mianain’s Focloir Bearla-Gaeilge which had just been published. I got an enthusiastic Yes, and brought it to the door of a Cherryfield where Covid restrictions were in place. It arrived safely in his room, but he hadn’t the energy to take it out of its packaging and now I have it myself--a precious memento of Connla’s high mental acumen and deep love of the Irish language.
As a Gaelgeoir he suffered the lifelong frustration of finding that many of those around him did not share his passion and enthusiasm for Irish. In his earlier years this could lead to edgy exchanges, but later his endurance grew into mellowness, and I always found him willing to shift into English as my need required.
He spoke his mind, was strong and forthright in his interchanges, but—to my memory-- in ways that were tinged with humour. He didn’t store up resentment. At Mass one morning in Cherryfield when the celebrant’s volume was low, he called out from the back of the Chapel, ‘Can’t hear you!’ ‘There’s something wrong with the mic’ said the celebrant. ‘Something wrong with you!’ retorted Connla, to general merriment. Thoreau’s remark comes to mind: ‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away’. There were surely people who were bruised by his robust style, but he didn’t intend to hurt, and was sometimes puzzled at reactions to his exuberant initiatives.
Connla lived a very full and varied life. Full of energy, he had a world vision, and was never limited by local circumstances. He was a man of inspiration and spontaneity, unafraid to lead or to do whatever he thought of at each moment.
Bhi an-shuim ag Connla sa litriocht, sa cheol, i dteangacha eagsula, i scannain – go hairithe on Fhrainc agus on Iodail: bhi suim aige i ngach rud! Thug se daltai ar fud na tire ina ghluaistean bheag, agus thug se iad go Paras sa bhFrainc. Bhi se i gconai ag iarraidh fis nua a chur os comhair daoine, agus ni raibh teorann ar bith lena smaointe fein. Mhair se blianta fada leis fein, in a aonair, ach choinnigh se i gconai a shuim iontach i gcursai an tsaoil. Sagart ab ea e, agus fuinneamh agus saol Iosa a bhi i gconai i gceist aige.
Poet Mary Oliver has the line: ‘I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.’ Connla didn’t just ‘visit’ the world; he inhabited it fully and helped to co-create it. With Mary Oliver he would have added: ‘When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement… taking the world into my arms.’ A large part of his vision was the belief that the fullness and joy of life could be lived and expressed through the medium of the Irish language and Irish culture. When he moved to Inis Mor, where he spent more than 40 years, he still tried to bring a world-wide vision to his students, and succeeded very well.
Connla was open to all cultures: he loved opera from the Met, film, art. A past pupil tells that when teaching Irish in Second Year he brought in a tape recorder and the class listened and analysed the poetry of Ezra Pound reading his own poems in English. Connla loved culture in all its forms and felt very strongly that all culture and modern life could be appreciated and explored through the medium of Irish and Gaelic culture. He lived for the future and was not embedded in the past.
Féach cuid a scríobh Bernie Ó Conaill, iar-phríomhoide i gColáiste Iognáid is iar-scoláire de chuid Chonnla:
Fear mór a bhi i gConnla Ó Duláine SJ riamh, fear mór ar gach uile bhealach, mórchríoch le glór álainn, tuiscint leathan aige ar chultúr is ar ealáion an domhain, agus ar shaíocht, ar stair is ar chultúr na hÉireann ar fad. Cairde aige i ngach cuid den tír.
Ba Gael láidir dúthrachtach é le léargas caitliceach ar an saol, a d’fhág oscailte é don domhain agus cultúr nua a bhí ag oscailt sa tír ag an am. Mhúin Connla go dúthrachtach ó thaobh cúrsaí agus curacalam sa rang ach bhí tionchar neamhgnách speisialta aige taobh amuigh den seomra ranga.
Bhí léargas agus fís ag Connla faoi chúrsaí cultúrtha. Roinn sé an suim a bhí aige sa cheol, sna scannáin agus cúrsaí polaitíochta go fiail lena chuid ranganna. Ba mhaith a chuaigh Bob Dylan i bhfeidhm ar mo rang féin nuair a chuir Connla faoi dhraíocht muid le ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’. Ní féidir liom an t-amhrán céanna a chlos inniu gan cuimhneamh ar Chonnla ag tabhairt an draíocht isteach agus leadrán an lá scoile a bhaint dínn.
Ba fhear speisialta é Connla agus a bhealach féin aige le deighleáil leis an saol. Chuaigh sé ag dráma sa Taibhdhearc oíche amháin agus ní shásódh tada ina dhiadh sin é ach triail a bhaint as an mbialann Síneach nua sa mbaile mór. D’ith sé béile blasta agus bhí go maith go ndeachaigh sé chun íoc as an mbeatha. Chuardaigh sé a phócaí ,wallet, chuile áit beo ach ní raibh scriút aige. Thug bean an tí faoi deara mí-chompord an tsagairt. ‘Are you alright, Father?’ a d’fhiafraigh sí . ‘ I wonder would you mind taking these stamps in payment for that lovely meal?’ a d’fhreagair Connla uirthi.
Ní raibh fhios ag a chuid scoláirí cá dtreoródh sé iad, bíodh sé le Truffaut, Dylan nó le ceol an Riadaigh. Bhí sé Gaelach go smior ach oscailte don saol nua a bhí ag teacht chun cinn sa tír.
Thug sé slua beag againn chuig an scannan Satyricon ag Fellini lá sna laethanta saoire. Bhí an gnáth slua codlatach tagtha isteach sa Town Hall tráthnóna Luan; corrdhuine ag caitheamh agus an pictiúrlann beag leath lán. Gan choinne ar bith sheas an t-Íosánach suas agus thug sé cur síos ar shaothar Fellini. D’fheicfeá cloigne a chuid scoláirí ag imeacht síos sna suíocháin le teann náire.
Ní dhearna Connla dhá leath dhá dhícheall riamh. Bhí sé dílis mar shagart, mar Íosánach, mar chara agus mar mhúinteoir. D’oscail sé súile a chuid scoláirí agus speáin sé an domhan mór dóibh. Chloisfeá an racht mór gáirí aige i bhfad uait.
In 2016 he retired to Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin, to pray for the Society and the Church, but he kept contact with his sisters, the wider family and a host of friends. Very much at peace with himself, he relaxed after supper on Sunday evening, January 10, 2021, and very peacefully went to God, after 58 years of priestly service. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin on 13 January. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, only a tiny number of his wide range of friends could attend his funeral.
The years in Cherryfield were hard for a free spirit such as his. He loved to be unfettered and unrestricted, but he bore his confinement bravely, and his coffee table after Mass in Cherryfield was always well-attended and conversation never dull. To relieve the monotony of his days we at Leeson St used invite him to celebrate feast-days with us. He blossomed in fresh company, told his stories to a new audience, and on the journey home always expressed an immense gratitude for being remembered.
The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, conveyed his deepest sympathy on Connla’s death. He wrote: ‘Many years ago I visited Connla in hospital, and given how seriously ill he was, I never expected that he would be discharged. But happily he was, and went on to provide sterling service to his beloved people of Inis Mor. We regarded him as one of our own and a true and loyal friend.’
He is survived by his four sisters who stayed close to him over the years and brought him much-appreciated comfort in the final stage of his long life.
A frequent visitor to Cherryfield wrote the following tribute:
‘Connla is a person I will never forget. There is so much to say about him even after a short acquaintance. To me he epitomised everything that is wonderful about a long life and particularly a long Jesuit life well lived. He was kind, funny, erudite, hospitable and full of life. He was generous with his time and I and others learned so much just sitting at his feet. I wish I had met him earlier in both of our lives: to have known him at all was a gift beyond price.’
Ta laoch ar lar. Connla is sadly missed in Cherryfield, but he believed deeply in eternal life, and now that he is at table with the God of Surprises I imagine that the conversation is hilarious. Blessed are those who mourn, we are told, for they shall laugh. Connla brought many a smile to those around him in this life, and now his merriment rings out among those who like himself are gathered to enjoy the great festival.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal!
Brian Grogan SJ