Micheál Ó Raghallaigh aka Michael Reilly is considered the most important scribe and collector of 18th and 19th century Clare poetry. His manuscript Renehan 69 is known as ‘The Poem Book of Clare’ and is widely acclaimed as the best of Co. Clare's Poetry Anthologies. He was also a dilligent collector of stories, genealogy and history of Co Clare that had been handed down by oral tradition in his collections. But for O'Reilly, information about important poets such as Aindrias Mac Cruitín, Aodh Buí Mac Cruitín, Micheál Ó Coimín, and Seán Ó hUaithnín may have been lost to time. Indeed, it was from an interview with O'Reilly that the first account of Brian Merriman was recorded in 1836; information O'Reilly had gleaned from a relative of Merriman's.
Little is known about O'Reilly's life beyond that he was an Ennistymon carpenter who, from 1810 to 1853, took it upon himself to collect and document Co. Clare's rich heritage of Irish language poetry and stories, which had to that point survived only by oral transmission. Of his work, he wrote:
‘A léitheoir ionúin, ná tabhair aithis ná milleán orm trí olcas an scríbhinn atá sa leabhar seo. Óir is fear ceirde mé, agus is in aimsir dhíomhaoin a rinne mé an cnuasach seo. Dá bhrí sin, ní féidir leis a bheith chomh slachtmhar le scríbhinn a dhéanfadh fíorchléireach. Ach thairis sin, an tan a chonacthas dom nach raibh aon duine de lucht mo chomhaimsire ag cnuasach a bheag de shaothar ár bhfilí, mheas mé gan iad uile a ligean ar fán. Ach is beag an tairbhe iad a chosaint, óir is náireach lenár n-aos óg teanga a sinsear a fhoghluim.’
TRANSLATION "Dear reader, please do not blame or reproach the bad handwriting in this book. I am but a tradesman, who put this collection together in his spare time. It is for that reason, the work does not reflect the neatness of a true clerk. More importatnly, it is because I noticed that none of my contemporaries were collecting any of our poets work, that I decided not to let them astray. Although, there may be little use in proetcting them as our young people are ashamed to learn the tongue of our forefathers."
His surname indicates he came of Northern stock and it has even been said that he was “a native of the North of Ireland” who settled in Clare. However, considering his identification with Clare literature and the terms in which his contemporaries speak of him, it is scarcely credible that he was anything other than a Clareman, or at least a Munster native.
O'Reilly died from accidental poisoning in the early 1850s. 13 of his manuscripts have serivived and are held at the Royal Academy of Ireland and Maynooth.
|Date of Birth||1790 (circa)|
|Date of Death||1853 (circa)||VIEW SOURCE|