Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill

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Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill
Born 1691
Churchtown, County Cork, Ireland
Died 1754
Charleville, County Cork, Ireland
Occupation Poet
Literary movement The Maigue Poets
Notable work Mo Ghile Mear

Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill (1691–1754) was an Irish language poet in the first half of the 18th century.

Early life[edit]

Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill was born in 1691 in Churchtown, County Cork but lived out his life in Kiltoohig (Cill Tuathaigh), Charleville, County Cork. Little is known about his youth or his family. He did, however, receive a comprehensive education, despite the Penal Laws. Either in the home or in a hedge school, he learned Latin, Ancient Greek and English as well as Irish, his native tongue. [1]


Mac Domhnaill was one of the Maigue Poets, a circle of 18th century Gaelic poets in County Limerick. Under his chairmanship, they met in the ancient ringfort Lios Ollium, in Bruree. His own house in Charleville was also sometimes a meeting place. Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill soon won the admiration of the other Munster poets, who gave him the title Príomh-Éigeas na Mumhan or Chief Poet of Munster.[2]

In Croom, County Limerick, he frequented the public house of Seán Ó Tuama, a good friend and another Maigue poet. He could not, however, make a living out of his poetry, as previous poets had done, but had to work as a farm labourer and teacher from time to time.[citation needed]


In 1754, Mac Domhnaill died and was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery, Charleville. His grave is situated in the center of the graveyard, on the site of the medieval parish church.[3]


Mo Ghile Mear is Mac Domhnaill's most famous poem.[citation needed] It is a lament or caoineadh that was written after the defeat of the Bonnie Prince Charles at the Battle of Culloden, Scotland, in 1746. The Irish poets had pinned their hopes on this revolutionary prince and his flight was a crushing blow to the long-suffering Gaels of both Éire and Scotland. Their exasperation and despair is vividly portrayed in this poem. Like all other Gaelic poems of the time, Mo Ghile Mear would have been sung rather than recited; indeed, the melody is well-known today. This is the chorus:

'Sé mo laoch, mo ghile mear,
'Sé mo Shaesar, gile mear;
Ní bhfuaireas féin aon tsuan ar séan
Ó chuaigh i gcéin mo ghile mear.

Mo Ghile Mear by Seán "Clárach" Mac Dónaill

In 1723, on the death of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Mac Domhnaill wrote a poem reproaching him for his indifference towards Ireland.[4] His other works include: De Bharr na gCnoc and Gráinne Mhaol.[citation needed]

Poetic style[edit]

While not a true bardic poet like Dáibhí Ó Bruadair, Mac Domhnaill did keep to a complex rhyming scheme. His language can be ornate but it is certainly not the Classical Irish of the bards. By the 18th century this literary language had been abandoned in favour of the modern dialect – disused after the strict bardic schools closed down and a literary standard became impossible to maintain across the country.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moore 1893.
  2. ^ Críostóir Ó Floinn, The Maigue Poets, I. THE COURT OF POETRY, p. 15
  3. ^ Cunningham 2004.
  4. ^ Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill infosite,; accessed 1 December 2015.


External links[edit]