Featuring local woman Máire Kavanagh of Cregboy.
June 1950, and the weather was beautiful.
The little girl hadn’t seen her father since the day she made her First Communion.
She was looking forward to seeing him on this particular day.
He was a Garda and was based in Oughterard Station with the family living in An Cheathrú Rua. But it was in Salthill for the weekend – there was a strike in Galway and extra guards were needed.
She looked out – she saw a uniformed guard coming towards the door. It was her father – for sure!
But it wasn’t.
The guard at the door apologized but had bad news – Garda Maurice O’Sullivan had died in the sea west of Salthill.
He was 46 years old.
“People still say to me, to this day, that I couldn’t remember that time,” says his daughter, Máire Kavanagh. “But, I have very clear memories of that day and especially of the time I spent with my father before.”
When Mary was born, Muiris had retired from the guards and became a full-time painter.
“Imagine that,” she told me. “He had only been married a few weeks and told his wife he was leaving the gardaí.”
He brought his wife to Kerry and among the places they visited, they spent a week on the Great Blasket.
His first book Twenty Years Aging , based on his childhood on the island, was so successful that he thought his writing career would be full-time.
English and Irish versions were published the same day (An Gúm refused to publish it) and it was immediately popular. Of course, the introduction by the novelist EM Forster was of great help to him in writing the Introduction.
In fact, to this day, the book is in print. It has been published in many different languages throughout the world.
The prospect of success in his craft as a writer seemed daunting.
But this was not the case. Mary remembers that she spent a lot of time with him at home in An Cheathrú Rua.
“He used to be in his room writing. I remember him there smoking his pipe, ”she says. But after thirteen years of hard work and not much of it, Muiris decided to go back in the guards.
That was a very unusual thing. He was supported by Earnán de Blaghd with his application to the gardaí.
Muiris gave him special recognition in his famous book when he dedicated the book to him years before.
In any event, his application was accepted and he was allowed back. He spent six months in the gardaí, on duty in Oughterard that summer in 1950 at the age of 46. Mary was six years old.
“He had so much to do with me that he wouldn’t let me go to school,” she said. “It was my first year at school and for some reason I had made First Communion.”
She remembers it was a big day.
Her mother decided to take her on a spin to Blackwood Abbey. She got a car for the event. On their way back to Galway, they met at Oughterard Garda station to see her Dad in her First Communion attire.
“I remember I danced a reel to him in the Garda station there.”
She, her mother and Muiris then went to Galway where they went to the cinema. She never saw her father again.
“I spent all my time with him,” says Mary. “My mother’s end – ‘look at that fool, he never puts that child down’.”
She remembers that they had a great life in An Cheathrú Rua. Their mother used to keep ‘Irish speakers’ but, unlike today’s young students, they were mostly Irish adults, students and academics.
“We used to have music in the house every night,” she says.
Her mother, Kate, was obviously a well-known singer.
“She used to play John McCormack records.”
However, after years of writing to no avail, Muiris threw his pen away. Mary remembers that he pulled down his mild case. In February of that year, 1950, he joined the guards for the second time.
“He disappeared suddenly.”
And although he returned from time to time, it was clear that the work had taken him from the family. That was normal in the guards at the time.
And when he was sent to Oughterard, that meant being far from home.
Mary never returned to where Muiris died. Out of City Hill somewhere, she thinks.
He was a strong swimmer, but she thinks he went too far and decided to swim upstream on his way back. He had given in to the effort. He had a heart attack with only six inches of water.
Seventy years this month (June 25) the famous writer Muiris Ó Súilleabháin died in Galway. https://tuairisc.ie/ta-cuimhni-an-soileir-agamsa-faoin-la-sin-ta-70-bbiain-ann-o-bhasaigh-udar-fiche-bliain-ag-fas/?fbclid=IwAR2g3qvvMohWazsuE8SrUlGSD9RViWtmgLr470UdPRPayANY_4cXwTx5F7w