Portrait bust, Séamus Murphy RHA (1907-75), ‘Tadhg Ó Donnchadha’

9 Mar 2020

Bronze: "Tadhg Ó Donnchadha (Torna)", 1950, bust, 51 H, 51 W cm, signed by Séamus Murphy.

Ref: UCCHS.1951-001 © University College Cork

Sculptor: Séamus Murphy RHA (1907-1975), Irish.

Inscriptions on front base: (left) “torna” and (right) "S. Murphy 50 ARHA".

See Peter Murray, Séamus Murphy Catalogue No 363 (p251): "1950, bronze, life-size, signed and dated; inscription: TORNA".

Date: 1950

Provenance: Acquired by University College Cork in 1951 (see Cork University Record 23 (Christmas 1951), p.5: "The funds for the erection of this memorial were subscribed by his former colleagues and students and by many of those who worked with him in the Gaelic Movement over the past fifty years."


Prof. Tadhg Ó Donnchadha (4/10/1874-21/10/1949)
Known as 'Torna', Professor of Irish, UCC, 1916-44

Irish writer, poet, editor, translator and prominent member of Conradh na Gaeilge and the Gaelic Athletic Association. He attended North Monastery school in Cork, and in 1892 went to St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin. He worked for a time as a teacher in Dublin, including a time in Eccles St. He was also very involved in events surrounding the Irish-language revival and gave classes in the city through 1893 and 1894. He was a founding member of the militantly separatist Keating branch of the Gaelic League in Dublin and also edited the journal Banba for a time. In 1902 he became editor of Irisleabhar na Gaeilge, a position he held until 1909, and, when the Gaelic League decided to cease its publication, Ó Donnchada was left unemployed.

He then travelled to the University of Heidelberg in Germany to study Old Irish under Ludwig Mulhausen. He was already knowledgeable of the various Celtic languages, as well as German and French. On his return to Ireland he was appointed professor of Irish at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin. In 1916, he was appointed professor of Irish at UCC, a position he held until 1944. He married Nóra Ní Fhoghluda on 02/10/1919 at the Lough Church, Cork (she died from breast cancer on 13/12/1925, aged 45). Nóra was sister to Risteard Ó Foghludha (Fiachra Eilgeach).

In 1947 Féilscríbhinn Torna, a Festschrift edited by Séamus Pender (1906–90), was published; it includes a catalogue of the fifty books and 500 pieces of poetry that he wrote or translated. This includes Leoithne andeas (1905), his first book of poetry. His first published poem was ‘Iarghnó ar bhás Sheagháin Pléimionn’ in Irisleabhar na Gaeilge (March 1896). A year later he won a poetry prize at the first Oireachtas competition. He also wrote numerous scholarly books on Irish writers. His brothers were Canon Denis O'Donoghue (1886–1962), PP of Bandon, Co. Cork, who edited Filíocht Mháire Bhuidhe Ní Laoighaire (1931), and Éamon Ó Donnchadha, who lectured in the Department of Irish, UCC.

Tadhg Ó Donnchadha died on 21 October 1949. He is buried in St Finbarr’s cemetery, Cork.



Séamus Murphy was born on 15 July 1907 at Greenhill, Burnfort, near Mallow, Co. Cork, but moved with his family to Cork city when he was very young. He received his early education in Cork. He then became an apprentice stone-carver at John A. O’Connell’s Art Marble Works, Watercourse Road, Blackpool, where he specialised in architectural and foliage carving. He was also attending the Crawford School of Art in Cork city centre at this time. In 1931 he was awarded the Gibson Bequest Scholarship and exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy exhibition. In 1932-33, he studied in Paris at the Académie Colarossi and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He returned home in 1934 and opened his studio at the Watercourse Road. Murphy was elected associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1944 and a decade later became a full member. In 1964 he was appointed RHA Professor of Sculpture and became a member of the Arts Council of Ireland in 1973. The National University of Ireland conferred him with an honorary LLD in 1969.

His exhibitions included: Salon de Printemps, Société des Artistes, 1933; a group exhibition at UCC in 1935; World Fair, New York, 1939; solo exhibition in Cork Public Library, 1956; joint exhibition with artist William Harrington, 1967; Adare, Co. Limerick, 1973; exhibited at ROSC ’75, Cork; as well as at the Royal Hibernian Academy. A retrospective exhibition was held in 1982 at the Crawford Municipal Gallery of Art, Cork, and at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, TCD. His memoir Stone Mad, first published in 1950, remains in print, and in 2013 was chosen as Cork’s Favourite Book.

Séamus Murphy married Maighread Higgins (daughter of sculptor Joseph Higgins (1885-1925) and Katherine Turnbull), with whom he had two daughters and one son. He died in Cork on 2 October 1975 and is buried in Rathcooney cemetery, north of Cork city.

The RTÉ website has several online films that feature Séamus Murphy:

Sculpting in Cork’ (1965)

Stone Mad’ (1969)

Working with stone’ (1973)

See also: ‘A home for sculpture in Cork’ (1967)



‘Famous Irish scholar dead. Prof. O’Donoghue of U.C.C.’, Cork Examiner, 22/10/1949, p.7

Cork University Record 23 (Christmas 1951), p.5

Minch, Rebecca, ‘Murphy, Séamus’, Dictionary of Irish Biography

Murray, Peter (ed.), Séamus Murphy 1907-1975 Sculptor (Kinsale: Produced for the Crawford Gallery of Art by Gandon Editions, 2007)

Rouse, Paul, ‘Ó Donnchadha, Tadhg (‘Torna’)’, Dictionary of Irish Biography


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