Our Founders

Francis Hugh Power “An Paorach” 1879 – 1955

Francis Hugh Power was born on 27th of January 1879 in Plymouth, England. He was the eldest of 9 children. His father, William Power, a ships captain and later a customs officer, was from Cork, it is believed his mother, Julia Marian Walker was Scottish.

Throughout his schooling he excelled at languages. He followed in his fathers footsteps and went to sea, on a long voyage he read an Irish grammar book which sparked his deep interest in Irish culture and the language in particular.In 1907 he got a job with the London Schools Board and it was there he learned Irish and how to play the bagpipes. While in England he joined a branch of Conradh Na Gaeilge and became a very active member. He decided to return to Ireland and enrolled at De La Salle training college in Waterford to study teaching. He qualified and became a ‘muinteoir taistil’ in Tipperary he transferred to Achill and shortly after this he took up a teaching position on Achillbeg.

Among his many interests, which he shared with his pupils, were swimming, karate, backgammon, chess and music. He was a keen and expert sailor and taught many young people how to sail in his boat.

As well as educating local people to a very high standard, he became involved in the foundation of Scoil Acla to promote and teach the Irish language and all things cultural. He was a teacher of Irish, piping, singing and dancing at the school.

In 1922 he left Achill and shortly after this he married Máire Tighe from Aughamore Co.Mayo. They had two daughters. It is believed he taught briefly in Mulranny and Lecarrow before becoming the head teacher of Cuilmore National School in Newport.

In 1944 he moved to Galway and took up a post teaching Irish in the Jesuit’s College. He finally retired in 1954, aged 75. He died shortly afterwards and is buried in Rahoon Cemetary, Galway.

Anita McMahon

Anita McMahon was a journalist born in Cork. She worked in Fleet Street in London. She came to Achill in 1911 to learn Irish at the Scoil Acla Summer School where she befriended Mrs Weddall, Tomás Ó Raghallaigh and the other founding members.

During her time on Achill, through her journalistic ability, she became very active in highlighting the poverty of the local people so much so she convinced the Archbishop of the need for the Presentation Nuns to begin their Missionary in lower Achill. She was a regular contributor to “The Mayo News” and her campaign bore fruit in 1919 when the presentation nuns came to Keel and they initially stayed in Mrs Weddall’s house. This, in turn, led to the building of the Convent in Keel in 1932 under the stewardship of Fr. Keaveney. When the Presentation Order left Keel in 1988 the convent was leased at a nominal rate to the community which led to the establishment of St.Colman’s, to provide day care to the aging population of the locality.

Anita along with all of the other founders became deeply involved in the national movement. She was a member of Cumann na mBan and she was very active in promoting all things to do with Irish culture. Along with the other Scoil Acla founding members they erected a monument to Fr. Manus Sweeney, who was a 1798 patriot, in Dookinella in 1944.

She presented a fiddle as a wedding present to Thomas Fadian, Crumpaun, Keel. To this day it still remains a treasured possession of the Fadian family.

She is fondly remembered in the Achill community as ‘Auntie McMahon’.

Charlie Barrett – 1887 – 1979

Charlie Barrett was born in Keel, Achill Island in 1887. He was one of seven children born to Michael Barrett and Bridget Lavelle. His grandfather Charlie Barrett had been evicted from his home in Dugort and he moved to Keel before the famine in 1845.

Charlie was a teacher in Dooagh school and became involved in establishing Scoil Acla in 1910. His father Michael had been a teacher before him. Charlieleft Achill and in 1919, he married Bridget McLoughlin who hailed from near Boyle in Co. Roscommon. They settled in Liverpool where Charlie was employed as a bookkeeper on the Liverpool docks. He was part of an IRA cell which operated in Liverpool. During this time the cotton warehouses in Liverpool were burned down. Charlie was arrested and interred.

After the treaty Charlie and his wife returned to Ireland and they became involved in the civil war on the republican side in the Mayo area. Charlie was again interred and on his release was unable to get a teaching post due to his republican background. However because of their republican and anti British views the Christian Brothers gave him a teaching post in one of their Dublin schools.

Having been twice on hunger strike while interred, which affected his health, Charlie had to give up teaching in the 1930’s. His wife however taught for several years later.

Charlie Barrett died in Dublin in 1979.

Biography provided by Tony Gallagher Keel for Scoil Acla 2010

Charlie Barrett – 1887 – 1979

Claude Albert Chavasse was born in Oxford on the 2nd April 1885. His father was Albert Sydney Chavasse a Professor of Classics and a Fellow of University College Oxford. Claude seemed to have been interested in Irish culture from an early age. He appears to have been a perennial student having entered Oxford in 1903 but didn’t collect his degree until 1909. He was still on the university register in 1916. His sister Margureite Chavasse came to Achill to set up a Lace School in Keel. Claude decided to visit Achill and he became involved in Scoil Acla.

In 1917 he met and married Moirin Fox, a writer who later wrote the biography of Terence McSwiney, Mayor of Cork. They had one daughter called Aebhgreine.

In 1925 Chavasse was the secretary of the Knocknacarra branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in Galway, he had became a well known figure around the city because of his way of dress. He wore a saffron kilt and cloak. He was an avid Irish speaker and refused to speak English. At one time while in Cork, he was fined £5 by a Macroom court for speaking Irish to a police constable. Rather than paying the fine he instead spent two nights in jail. He was elected as the Galway representative for Sinn Fein at the Ard Feis in 1949 under the name Cluad de Ceabhasa.

He is buried in Kilcummin Cemetary, Oughterard, Galway.

Colm Ó Lochlainn | 1892-1972

William Gerard O’Loughlin was born in Dublin on the 11th of October 1892. His father John O’Loughlin was a travelling sales representative for a printing company. His mother was a Delia (Bridget) Carr from Limerick City whose family were wealthy and in the printing business. Colm was one of six children born but only four survived. Colm’s education lead him to the Holy Spirit Fathers in St. Mary’s College and later he became a teacher in Scoil Éanna. While teaching there he qualified with a BA from UCD. He became an assistant in the Irish Department in UCD and he would lecture on Gaelic Studies often.

Though he had a keen interest in the Ireland of that time he did not give his full enthusiasm to ‘the cause’. He remained focused on Gaelic Studies, he taught and lectured but steadfastly refused to stand for the Dáil despite being asked to do so by various political parties.

He was a very good Uilleann piper. He would visit Seamus Ennis Snr once a week and in return for tution he would teach Seamus Irish.

He had a deep interest in Sean Nós singing and his publishing company, Three Candles Printing Press, published many collections of Irish Ballads. He was involved in the arts and was associated with Scoil Acla.

He was married to Ailish McInerney from Bray Co. Wicklow, they had four in family, two sons and two daughters. Colm died on the 26th of May 1972.

Darrell Figgis | 1882-1925

Darrell Figgis was born in Rathmines, Dublin, but spent the first 10 years of his childhood in Calcutta in India where his father worked as an agent in the tea business.

As a young man he worked in London at the tea brokerage owned by his uncle and it was at this time that he began to develop his interest in literature and literary criticism. He moved to Achill Island to write and learn Irish at the Scoil Acla Summer School and to gain an appreciation of Irish culture.

Figgis was a poet and in 1910 he joined the Dent publishing company. However, after his detention following the Easter Rising, he and the publishing house ‘parted company’. Subsequently he established his own publishing firm.

Figgis joined the Irish Volunteers in Dublin in 1913 and organised the original Battalion of Volunteers in Achill. While in London, he became involved with a group gun runners who financed and supplied German rifles to the Volunteers.

Although he did not participate in the 1916 Easter Rising, Figgis was arrested and interned by the British authorities between 1916 and 1917 in Reading Gaol. After his release, Figgis returned to Ireland. At the 1917 Sinn Féin Ardfheis he was elected Honorary Secretary of Sinn Féin. In May 1918, Figgis was arrested for his alleged part in the spurious German Plot and deported to England. In 1918, he became editor of the newspaper The Republic.

In 1922 Figgis was a member of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle National Executive. He was expelled from the party at this time for attending a meeting of the Farmers Union and encouraging them to support the Anglo Irish Treaty. Following this, an assault on Darrell Figgis took place at his home in the presence of his wife Millie.

In 1924, Figgis’ wife Millie took her own life, a year later the death occurred of his new love, Rita North. Figgis himself committed suicide in London just a week after giving evidence at the inquest into Rita’s death. He is buried in the West Hampstead Cemetery, London.

Domhnall Ua Ríoghbhardáin | 1888-1935

Domhnall Ua Ríoghbhardáin was born in Ballaghbehy, Co. Limerick on 16 August 1888. His parents were Denis Riordan and Mary Brosnahan. Domhnall graduated from De la Salle teacher training college in Waterford. His first teaching post was in Nenagh, Co.Tipperary and he later took up the post of National Teacher in Maree, Oranmore, Co. Galway.

During his early years in Oranmore he met his future wife, Katie Burke. Katie, a native of Galway City, was appointed National Teacher in Tawain in 1906, which is a few miles from Maree village. They married on 22 May 1915 and reared seven children. Colm was ordained a Jesuit in 1949 and spent over forty years as a missionary in Zambia. Breandán, the youngest member of the family, now living in Co. Wicklow, was Director of the National Museum of Ireland and retired from this post in 1988. Gearóid was a Sergeant in the Garda Síochána. Seán, Teresa and Caitlín remained single throughout their lives while Domhnall junior died tragically in 1947. Gearóid and Breandán both married and had families of seven and four.

Domhnall Ua Ríoghbhardáin N.T. was an Irish language enthusiast, musician, singer, dancer and editor. He played the uilleann pipes. He was a member of the Gaelic League. He had an avid interest in nature and photography – he developed his own photographs. He played hurling while studying in De La Salle College, Co. Waterford.

While Domhnall was in Maree he gave Irish language classes to teachers and pupils during the Summer holidays. Both Domhnall and his wife Katie were involved with the Irish Summer school in Tawain which opened in 1909. Domhnall was one of the founding members of Scoil Acla. In the 1920’s Domhnall was involved with Colaiste Mac Phiarais in Galway and was assistant editor for Fuaim na Mara.

In 1928 Domhnall was a member of the committee which set up of the Irish Language theatre in Galway called Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe. This drama company celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2003. Domhnall translated ‘The Rising of the Moon’ by Lady Gregory and ‘Riders to the Sea’ by J.M Synge. Domhnall Ua Ríoghbhardáin remained teaching in Maree until his untimely death after a long illness in 1935. He is buried in the New Cemetery in Bohermore, Galway City.

Prepared by the Ó Ríordáin family for Scoil Acla in July 2010

Eva O’Flaherty | 1874-1963

Eva O’Flaherty grew up amid the Georgian splendour of Lisdonagh House, on the shores of Lough Hacket in Caherlistane, Co Galway but her home became the remote Achill Island. She was a very influential and well educated lady with deep passion for all things Irish and cultural.

Unlike the other founder members of Scoil Acla, Miss O’Flaherty remained on the island. The Scoil Acla Hall built by Mrs Weddall was given to Eva and she established the St. Colmans Knitting Industry in Dooagh. From its inception in around 1912, St Colman’s quickly developed an extensive clientele from all over Ireland, providing much-needed employment for the women of Achill. These women knitted high-fashion garments, such as smart suits and twin-sets, which were sold to Brown Thomas and Arnotts, Sloweys and Switzer, as well as being exported all over the world.

Achill at that time seemed to attract all the well known ‘movers and shakers’ who were entertained by Miss O’Flaherty. Many of her numerous friends and acquaintances included WB Yeats, Paul Henry, George Moore, Marie Howet, Graham Greene, Heinrich Boll, Constance Markievicz, Douglas Hyde, Padraig and William Pearse, Cardinal Dalton, Paul Henry, George Russell and Dr Kathleen Lynn visited her on Achill and stayed in touch through those years.

She is still fondly remembered in the locality as a tough but fair lady to work for. She kept very much to herself but was obviously well known among her peers. Her life before she came to Achills shores consisted of being educated in both Mount Anvil and Alexandra Colleges in Dublin, and afterwards pursued a career in millinery, in both London and Paris, before settling in Achill.

Eva died in 1963 and is buried in the O’Flaherty family crypt in the graveyard of Donaghpatrick, Caherlistrane Co.Galway

Emily Weddall | 1867-1952

Emily Annabella Maynard Burke was born in Edenderry Co. Offaly. She was the third daughter of Minister William John Burke, Church of Ireland, and Emily McArthur from Ardglas Co Down. She attended school in Dublin and qualified as a nurse and worked in Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital. She moved to Russia where a wealthy family employed her to help under privileged children. This family would holiday in France and bring Emily with them. It was there she became fluent in French.

She married a ships captain Edward Weddall 20 years her senior. When he retired they moved to Achill and bought an old school house. She cared for her husband until his death. She employed sculptor William Pearse (brother of Padraig Pearse) to make a celtic cross for her husbands grave. The Church of Ireland community objected to the erection of the cross in the cemetery, however after threatening to exhume the remains her wish was granted.

Her love of the Irish language was sparked in Achill. She became the president of the Gráinne Mhaol Branch of Conradh Na Gaeilge in Achill and she founded Scoil Acla. She bought land and built a Hall in Dooagh for Scoil Acla for the teaching of Irish, Ceilí’s, dance and drama classes and studies of Irish culture. In 1914 Mrs Weddall and Darrell Figgis were present at the funeral of Diarmuid O’Donovan Rossa when Padraig Pearse gave his famous oration. They laid the first wreath on the grave ‘Ó Acaill’ a clear indication of the Schools importance at that time.

She moved to Leitir Mór in Connemara to help treat the people who had contracted TB. Due to financial hardship in the 1920’s she had to sell her house in Achill and move to Dublin and return to here nursing career. All this time she was a strong campaigner for the rights of the native Irish people. She died on the 24th of November 1952 and is buried in the republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetary.

Tomás Ó Raghallaigh | 1883-1966

Tomás Ó Raghallaigh was born in Moycullen Co. Galway on the 12th of May in 1883. His father was Seán Ó’Raghallaigh and his mother was Máire Ní Loideáin from Spiddal. They raised a large family through the medium of Irish. Educated in the primary school in Moycullen, Ó Raghallaigh progressed to St. Joseph’s in Galway and later to St. Patrick’s teacher training college in Dublin. After he qualified he spent a time teaching in Dublin but he moved from there to Carlow and then to Achill.

In Achill, he taught in the national schools of Achill Sound, Saula, Dooagh and Dookinella. It was during this time in Achill he helped establish Scoil Acla, the summer school which he was responsible naming. While teaching in Achill he met his future wife Máire Sineád Ní Challanáin, also a teacher and they raised five children together. In 1911, he became a “muinteoir taistil” (travelling teacher) across Mayo. He later worked in his native Co. Galway teaching in St Joseph’s while his wife taught in The Claddagh. Ó Raghaillaigh attended UCG and qualified with a BA. MA and Ph.D. He was a professor in Tourmakeady, Pearse College, Rosmuc and Colaiste Chonnacht in Spiddal. He also lectured in UCG as well as being an external examiner in Irish for Queens University Belfast and UCC. He died on the 26th of January 1966 and is buried in Galway.

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