Diary of an Irish Countryman 1827-1835
by Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin

Translated by Tomás de Bhaldraithe

Amhlaoibh O’Suilleabhain’s (Humphrey O’Sullivan) diary covers the period 1827 – 1835. Amhlaoibh was born in 1783 and died in 1838. Translations of his work refer to his birth in 1780 but the Census Returns of 1821 confirm that he was born in 1783. Amhlaoibh was the son of Denis O’Sullivan, a Killarney school-teacher who migrated first to Waterford City and then to Callan. After his father’s death in 1808, Amhlaoibh taught at Callan where he had an attendance of 130 pupils. His Kilkenny-born wife brought him a draper’s shop in Callan as her dowry in 1812. He spent the rest of his life as an active burgess and councillor. His fame rests, and justifiably so, on his diary which is a fascinating social commentary on the period covered. It is a document unique of its kind in Irish literature. The author was undoubtedly a man of great talent, ability and culture. He never forgot the poverty and hardship experienced in his childhood. He used his influence generously and unfailingly to help the poor and this is reflected in his diary.
The work covers a vast range of subjects, such as botany, agriculture, birdlore, the hardship of those who tilled the soil, and fairs, markets and prices. Amhlaoibh does not neglect the larger world outside of Callan and writes intriguingly of O’Connell’s election for Clare, the Monster Meetings, shipwrecks, the building of Dunleary Harbour and the two Liffey Walls, the Thames Tunnel and other foreign topics. In summary, The Diary of Humphrey O’Sullivan is both a fascinating piece of social history and the self-portrait of a most sensitive man.

James Fogarty,
Kilkenny County Library

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