In their loveable personality traits, and in their poetry, Kerry’s Eoghan Rua O’Suilleabhain and Scotland’s Robbie Burns resembled each other. Edward Walsh compared the two in his and John Daly’s Riliques of Irish Jacobite Poetry (1844).
Fr Patrick Dinneen published a more extensive record of Eoghan Rua’s poetry than what appears in Riliques. Dinneen, born 1860, hailed from near Rathmore, the same district as Eoghan Rua. It was Dinneen also who placed the full extent of Aogán Ó Rathaille’s verse before the general public. Aogán was born at Meentoges, making him a neighbour of Eoghan Rua and Dinneen. Aogán’s poetry was recited by Dinneen’s Gaelic-speaking mother, not as something learned in any formal education but as part of the inherited tradition of those parts.
Aogán lived from c. 1670 to 1726. Eoghan Rua’s short life (again a comparison with Burns) began in 1748; he died in 1784.
An advertisement has survived from Eoghan Rua in which he offers skills additional to teaching:
“Bills, bonds and informations, summons, warrants and supersedes, judgment tickets, good leases, receipts in full and releases, short accounts … And sweet love letters for the ladies.”
The following extract comes from a poem pleading his case to a parish priest to to be permitted to open a school. The poem is reproduced in Reliques. An extract is first given from the editor, Walsh’s, introduction. (Eoghan Rua also taught school at Faha, near Killarney.) The Irish original Irish was given with Walsh’s English translation.
“It was at Annagh (near Charleville), probably, that Owen Roe wrote the following beautiful lines addressed to the parish priest, requesting his Reverence to announce from the altar the poet’s intention of opening school in the neighbouring townland.”
Pure learned priest! akin to Neill and Art, Whose power protective cheer’d the poet’s heart,
The first in danger’s van – (so bards have sung them)/ Pray tell thy flock a teacher’s come among them.