News and Views

Letters from Lady Gregory and Tolkien among riches of new UCC collection

26 Oct 2022
Robin Flower with Tomás Ó Criomhthain on the Great Blasket. (Seanchas ón Oileán Tiar).

Two letters from Lady Augusta Gregory and one from J.R.R. Tolkien are among the numerous items of great interest in an archive of material belonging to Robin Flower (1881-1946) that has been donated to University College Cork (UCC) by Flower’s grandson, Prof. John Mitchell.

The collection contains extensive correspondence and a significant collection of papers, research notes, and drafts of lectures and articles, many of which have never been published. Also included are many translations by Flower of poems from medieval Irish, translations still held in high esteem. 

Poet, scholar and Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Library, Yorkshireman Robin Flower developed a love of Irish language and literature, and was particularly drawn to the Great Blasket, where, from 1910, he spent his summer holidays, learned to speak Irish, and formed a close relationship with the islanders, who called him ‘Bláithín’. He published an account of life on the Blasket (The western Island) and translated his teacher’s, Tomás Ó Criomhthain’s, classic An tOileánach to English (The Islandman). Collections of Flower’s scholarship, and of material taken down by him from Tomás, were published posthumously in two books: The Irish Tradition and Seanchas ón Oileán Tiar

‘This is a treasure-trove of material relating to Flower’s scholarship, lecture-tours in America, and his research and writings on Irish literature,’ says Prof. Pádraig Ó Macháin (Professor of Modern Irish, UCC), who facilitated the donation. ‘It reflects Flower’s vast circle of friends and collaborators in Ireland, England and the USA. It sits very well with UCC’s long association in research and teaching with the literature of the Blaskets. It also helps to fill in the picture of Robin Flower the scholar, and the extremely busy life he led, particularly in the years before and during World War II.’ 

To mark this donation, a sequence of short public talks and readings will take place at UCC tomorrow Thursday 27 October, in the College of Arts seminar room, O’Rahilly Building, at 2.30 p.m.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF