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Scríbhneoir na Seachtaine/Writer of the Week

Learn more about the life and work of writer, Mairéad Ní Ghráda.
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Mairéad Ní Ghráda (1896 – 1971)

Mairéad Ní Ghráda was an Irish-language poet, playwright and broadcaster from Contae an Chláir/County Clare.

Ní Ghráda’s father was a cainteoir dúchais/native speaker of the Irish language and she would become a great advocate for the athbheochan/revival of the language. After winning a County Council scholarship while in secondary school, Ní Ghráda went on to earn an honours degree in Gaeilge/Irish, Fraincis/French, and Béarla/English in UCD. She later went on to also achieve an M.A. in Irish.

After graduating, Mairéad Ní Ghráda went on to teach in a private school for a time, and later became secretary to Ernest Blythe TD, who sat in the first Dáil. Ní Ghráda was a member of both Conradh na Gaeilge and Cumann na mBan. Her membership of Cumann na mBan saw her imprisoned for a brief period in 1921 due to her selling of republican flags in a public place.

After the foundation of Ireland’s first radio station in 1926, Mairéad Ní Ghráda had the job of compiling children’s programmes. She later became a láithreoir/announcer for the radio station. You can hear Mairéad Ní Ghráda talking about her role here. While working at the station Ní Ghráda began writing radio and stage plays. Her most notable work, An Triail [The Trial] (1964), challenged the outlook of sochaí na hÉireann/Irish society at the time. The play’s plot sees a young girl falling pregnant out of wedlock to a local school teacher. The girl is ostracised from her community, later moving to Dublin with her baby, the play ending with her suicide. The drama takes the form of a trial, hence its teideal/title, in which the characters give faisnéis/evidence in court. We hear Máire Ní Chathasaigh’s story via second hand information given by the various carachtair/characters. Caitlín Maude played Máire Ní Chathasaigh in the first production of the play in 1964. You can listen to Máire Ní Ghráinne talk about An Triail here.

Ní Ghráda’s work raised taboo issues which were not spoken openly of in Ireland at the time. Her work highlights the fimíneacht/hypocrisy of the time, and follows in the footsteps of other Irish women writers of the era, such as, Edna O’Brien. You can read more about An Triail, and how it compares with the modern day era, if you wish, by clicking here and here.

You can read the first scene from the play An Triail here in the PDF attached at the bottom of this step.

Ní Ghráda also produced other drámaí/plays, such as, An Uacht [The Will] (1935), and Breithiúnas [Judgement] (1968). She also translated a number of saothair/works into Irish under An Gúm. She translated Peter Pan (1911) as Tír na nDeo [The Land of Forever] (1938), and fairytales, such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and ‘Rapunzel’.

References

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Irish 202: Irish Language and Culture for Adults

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