Michael O hAirtneide 1941-1999
Thursday April 14th - Saturday April 16th
Oh my darlings, oh my dears,
I have lived for fifty years;
and my hair is a river of tears -
oh my darlings, oh my dears.
- 'For All the Children',
A Book of Strays, The Gallery Press 2002
Michael Hartnett was born on 18 September 1941 in the regional hospital at Croom, County Limerick. By the time of this death at the age of fifty-eight in 1999 he had created a significant body of work, including a dozen books from The Gallery Press alone, some published posthumously. He was a scholarly man of wide reading whose literary achievement involved shape-shifting between English and Irish – two very different languages in historical collision – in addition to a rich harvest of translation, mainly from Irish, but also from Spanish, Chinese, German and Latin.
Michael was one of the six children (two dying young) of Denis and Bridie Hartnett. The faimly lived in Newcastle West but the circumstantial detail of nativity in Croom mattered to Michael as an earnest of literary Munster authenticity. Croom had been home to an eighteenth century ‘Court’ of Gaelic verse and poets such as Sean O Tuama and Aindrias Mac Craith. Significant also was his fostering at the age of three by his grandmother Bridget Halpin, in the townland of Camas near Newcastle West. This was an intimate encounter with a living presence from an older world.