Letters: Seán Ó Riada, his life and work

Letters: Seán Ó Riada, his life and work

Dear Editor, I’m a little puzzled to see in Jürgen Simpson’s review of Tomás Ó Canainn’s 'Seán Ó Riada, his life and work' that there is apparently little in the book about Ó Riada’s drink problem....
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Dear Editor

I’m a little puzzled to see in Jürgen Simpson’s review of Tomás Ó Canainn’s Seán Ó Riada, his life and work that there is apparently little in the book about Ó Riada’s drink problem. I say ‘surprised’ because the subject is certainly aired in Ó Canainn’s earlier 1993 biography in Irish with the same title, Seán Ó Riada, a Shaol is a Shaothar. In it, Ó Canainn mentions the numerous opportunities for drinking that Ó Riada could have found in Cúil Aodha, for example, and speaks of ‘Ó Riada drinking a lot in the final years’. The chapter on the composer’s death also talks about drink and Ó Riada’s efforts to cope with it. Granted, none of this is tackled in a hard-hitting way. It’s fairly gentle, as might be expected, given Ó Canainn’s admiration for his subject. But it’s certainly addressed. Nor does Ó Canainn avoid other negative aspects of Ó Riada – noting that he could be childishly superstitious, that he was something of a fantasist, that he could be lazy and that as an employee (notably in Radió Éireann) his presence could be a mixed blessing.

I suppose that Ó Canainn might have back-pedalled on the drink question in the period between the two books, but if he has, it seems an odd thing to have done. I’m somewhat handicapped here in that I’ve not yet read the new work – but I will now!

Steve McGrail
Dunblane
Scotland
 

Published on 1 July 2004

Steve McGrail was a singer, musician and writer from Scotland. He wrote several articles for The Journal of Music and was a great supporter of the magazine from its very first issue. Steve sadly died on 11 May 2016, aged 69.

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