The Short Life of Fr. Manus Sweeney
As part of the campaign to fund a memorial to Fr Manus Sweeney journalist Anita McMahon wrote to the press relaying the story of his short, but remarkable life.
In 1942 Eva O’Flaherty, Anita McMahon and Emily along with the local parish priest and school teacher began their campaign to erect a monument dedicated to the Achill born Patriot Priest of the 1798 rebellion, Fr. Manus Sweeney. Fr. Sweeney was executed for his alleged part in the insurrection in 1799.
The well planned campaign began two years before the priest’s 180th birth anniversary in 1942. The project could easily have become impeded with obstacles, as it in the middle of World War Two. Ireland was a neutral country, and was experiencing “the Emergency”, where the flow of goods, services and transportation was slowed down. But the monument was going to be unveiled to mark an date, and that was how it was going to be. The well organised committee got in touch with the media, announcing their intention to the country. Below is one such article.
After the 1912 Scoil Acla session ended in early September Emily Weddall and An Paorach [Francis Hugh Power] made a visit to Connaught Irish College in Tourmakeady, in Co. Mayo. Scoil Acla had just enjoyed a good run and the pair may have been making a return visit to the Irish College.
Another item on their agenda was the payment of school teachers. Fr. Meehan, who visited the college too, made the point that teachers who could teach in both English and Irish should be paid at a higher rate than those who only taught through English. An Paorach was a bi-lingual teacher, who taught on Achill Beg. Part of his wages were paid the department of education, the rest by Emily Weddall, who was independently wealthy and happy to fund anything that encouraged the revival of the Irish language.
!25 years ago today Conradh na Gaelige or the Gaelic League was founded by Douglas Hyde, Fr. Eugene O’Growney and others. It was set up to prevent the dying out of the Irish language completely as it was in danger of happening at the time.
The organization grew at rapid rate and had branches springing up all over the country. Emily Weddall was an early member and was once part of the Cead mile failte committee at a fair in Kingstown, modern day Dun Laoghaire.
In 1911 Emily Weddall commissioned a hall to be built in Dooagh for the use of the local people, particularly for Gaelic League events. At the time she did not know that it would be the centre of what would become one of the shortest but most renowned summer school of its age.
“Latest on the list of these colleges is Scoil Acla founded this year on Achill Island. It owes its origin to Mrs. Weddall, who in the spring built a village hall in Dooagh. The hall was to be used for Gaelic League classes, for ceidhlidhe, for plays, for concerts. But it was the beginning of May, and the summer months with their enforced emigration were to follow. Was the new building to remain closed until October or November brought back to life when the young men and women returned from the harvest fields of Scotland? It seamed a pity. Suddenly an idea come. Wy not have a course of language classes for students who might like to spend a few weeks in Achill? The idea developed and the scheme was formed of organising a summer school for the month of August. It was to have no pretensions, but simplicity itself. It was to give no certificates and the lessons were to suit students who came to learn chiefly for their own pleasure. On Sunday, August 7th, Scoil Acla was formally opened. Some Some seventeen students had found their hither from different places. There was three fro England, two from Dublin, fiver from Leinster, one fro the Aran Island, and there rest from Co. Mayo. Though different in their stages of knowledge, the students united in equal enthusiasm. soon the classes were vigorously at work.”
That was how the first Scoil Acla came to pass.