of the flame still burns bright
intellectual, gaelgoir and historian are some of the terms
used to describe Dr Mainchin Seoighe (Mannix Joyce) but
the most common is - a gentleman.
Dr Seoighe is from Tankardstown, Kilmallock, where his family
have lived for six generations. He hasn't moved far as he
currently resides in a bungalow next door to the house he
was born in.
He is an author and columnist of some repute and as he worked
full time for the Limerick County Council, all his journalistic
output would have been completed in his spare time.
He had written 10 books in Irish and English and was a columnist
for the Limerick Leader from 1944 until recently. His column,
Odds and Ends, was one of the longest running of its type
in the country. His own particular interests are history,
the Irish language, folklore, politics and travel, and his
columns and books reflect these subjects.
Due to the volume and quality of his work, Dr Seoighe was
awarded an Honourary Doctorate by the National University
of Ireland in Galway in 1990.
"Of course I was very pleased and delighted. I knew
of the professor in Galway and he told me he would be nominating
me for a doctorate. Then when I heard I was chosen, I was
honoured", said Dr Seoighe.
Despite receiving one of the most prestigious accolades
given out by an Irish university, Dr Seoighe had to start
somewhere and that somewhere was Bruree primary school.
"I had a teacher called Donncha Horgan who was very
keen on Irish, he was a native of the parish and he had
taken part in the War of Independence. He was also a great
promoter of local history," said Dr Seoighe, who them
spent a year in Kilfinane Vocational School before continuing
his education in Charleville CBS. At the age of 17, Dr.
Seoighe won a scholarship to Carrigaholt in Clare, it broadened
his horizons and gave him his first taste of travel.
"Up to that time I had only been in two counties -
Limerick and Charleville in Cork. It was a beautiful day
and it was the first time I saw the sea," said Dr Seoighe.
Dr Seoighe in later years travelled to over 30 countries
so that bus trip to Clare was the beginning of it all.
After completing school, Dr Seoighe began his one and only
job in Limerick County Council. "I started on February
17, 1941, and I retired on August 18, 1985. It was a lovely
place to work, there was a cross section of people from
all backgrounds and all walks of life. When I started there
was still some people working there who were there at the
Council's beginning in 1889," he remembered fondly.
In all this time working with the County Council, Dr Seoighe
always travelled to work by bus. "I used to cycle into
Bruree and then get the bus from there into Limerick. Petrol
was very scarce during the Second World War so sometimes
I had to cycle to work." I balked at the idea of cycling
well over 20 miles to work" but Dr Seoighe smiled and
said "Shur that was nothing." "I could often
look out my office window into O'Connell street and I wouldn't
see a single car, petrol was that scarce," said Dr
Dr Seoighe began his career with the County Council in the
rates department. "I used to send out notice to people
who hadn't paid their rates and sometimes I collected them
as well so I wasn't the most popular fellow in the world,"
Dr Seoighe was then promoted to information officer, a job
he remained in for the rest of his 44 year career.
"Generally I would begin my day by buying and reading
all the newspapers to see if there was anything relevant
to the County Council. I might have to write letters to
newspapers and answer queries about the County Council from
the public," he said.
Dr Seoighe and the County Council were obviously ahead of
their time as his duties sound very similar to those of
a modern press officer. A part of the job that Dr Seoighe
particularly enjoyed was preparing the annual report.
"As well as all the usual facts and figures, I would
try and be a bit creative and invite people to submit articles
on topics of interest," said Dr Seoighe.
You would imagine that writing books and columns in your
spare time would be enough for anybody but not so for Dr
At various stages in his life he was Chairman of the Kilmallock
Historical Society, a member of the Placenames Commission,
Honourary curator of the De Valera museum, Secretary of
the Joyce Brothers School in Kilfinane, part of the Bruree/Rockhill
Development association and he often thought Irish at night
classes in Bruree and surrounding areas.
If that wasn't enough Dr Seoighe was renowned for going
out of his way to help students with school and college
As a young journalist myself I was interested to hear how
Dr Seoighe began his career.
"I always enjoyed writing essays in school and I had
bits and pieces published. I was a big fan of Roddy the
Rover, aka Aodhan de Blacan, who was a daily columnist for
the The Irish Press. I don't think his work was ever equalled,
he was a great linguist and had a wealth of knowledge on
all topics. He used to often run competitions and I entered
one and won. He gave me great encouragement and we began
writing to each other. I even went up to his home in Blackrock
in Dundalk to visit for a week. MJ McManus, the literary
editor of The Irish Press was also a big influence."
Dr Seoighe's 57-year relationship with the Limerick Leader
began after a chance meeting with former editor Con Cregan.
"I remember Con Cregan as being a nice man, he asked
me to submit an article to the paper, but I was shy about
putting my name to it. I was in a play at the time and there
was a character in it called Mangaire Sugach (The Merry
Peddler), so I used it as a pen name," said Dr Seoighe.
To his surprise the article was published so he submitted
another and that was published. Dr Seoighe revealed his
true identity and the rest as they say is history. It is
estimated that he wrote over 3,000 columns for the Limerick
Leader and some were so popular that they were repeated.
Which newspapers does he read? "Well the Irish Press
until it folded and because my wife is from Kanturk we get
the Irish Examiner and sometimes the Irish Independent.
I also read Foinse and the Irish Catholic on a Sunday."
He admires John Waters from the Irish Times, Dan Buckley
from the Irish Examiner and Gene Kerrigan from the Sunday
Dr Seoighe mentioned his wife Prionseas, who is a former
primary school teacher, and who he met while attending evening
classes in Irish in Bruree. The couple have been married
for many a year and recently after a brief illness Dr Seoighe
went to recuperate in Beech Lodge Nursing Home just down
the road from him in Bruree.
After a minor car accident Mrs Seoighe joined her husband
to recover in the same nursing home. Thankfully the couple
are restored to full health and are back living in their
pretty home in Tankardstown.
Dr Seoighe's mother and Eamon De Valera were contemporaries
and when he was in Bruree he would often call to her home
to see her. Through this Dr Seoighe and Eamon De Valera
Eamon De Valera's youngest son, Terry, recently published
a book entitled, A Memoir. In the book Mr. De Valera publicly
refutes allegations that his father Eamon, the man who had
such influence on the birth and formation of this country,
Terry De Valera goes on to prove the falseness of the allegations.
I had never heard of these rumours and I'm also from Bruree,
but who better to ask than Dr Seoighe, a personal friend
of Eamon De Valera.
"Of course it's completely false and I believe once
in the Dail he actually produced his baptismal certificate.
I never heard any rumours in Bruree or in the locality of
that nature. He had a strange name, the fact that his father
died young and he was brought back to Bruree at a young
age probably fuelled the rumour" said Dr Seoighe.
Was the perception of the Dev being an austere men was fair?
"At close quarters he was very relaxed and he was very
good to tell a story. He wasn't as severe as people think."
Dr Seoighe told me a story that Eamon De Valera had told
him: a son born to a family was christened Denis but he
died when quite young. Another son was born about a year
later also called Denis. His grandmother, perhaps slightly
confused had some vague thought of re-reincarnation in her
mind, as she sang a song. The following is the song and
the former President gave a wonderful imitation:
"Dinisheen, Dinisheen, Dinisheen, Din,
We reared you before, and we'll rear you ag'in."
It certainly shows a lighter side to Eamon De Valera.
I began the interview with Dr Seoighe by telling him about
a man called John Twomey from Ballysheedy who had just turned
101. Dr Seoighe who is four score and five years of age
smiled and said: "Shur I'm only a gasun so." We
all know the picture that Frank McCourt painted of Limerick
in the middle of the 20th century but Dr Seoighe takes a
"I think it was a bit slanted, Cristoir O'Flynn wrote
a book entitled Beautiful Limerick which takes on aspects
of Angela's Ashes," said Dr Seoighe.
The works of Dr Seoighe are Mariodh Sean South, 1964, Cois
Maighe na gCaor, 1965, A Local History of Bruree, Dromin/Athlaca,
The Story of Kilmallock, A Portrait of Limerick, The Joyce
Brothers of Glenosheen, County Limerick-It's People and
Places, The Irish Quotation Book, Staker Wallis and Bruree
Courtesy Limerick Leader