Rev. Pól O Brien, 1763-1820

Pól O Brien, son of Charles O' Brien and Margaret Downes, wealthy farmers, was born in County Meath in 1763.  He became the first professor of Irish in Maynooth 1802-1820.

At the age of 18 he applied himself to the study of Irish and got acquainted with its various dialects.  He visited Scotland and the Isles, including the Isle of Man and became acquainted with the Manx language making made some tranlations of this language into Irish and Latin.

He went to the Continent to study for the priesthood, but his college having been broken up by the French Revolution he returned to Ireland and entered Maynooth College in 1801 for the Archdiocese of Armagh.  Having completed a regular course of philosophy, rhetoric and theology, he was ordained a priest by the Primate of All Ireland and henceforth unremittingly applied himself to the laborious duties of his mission.

Pól never left Maynooth after having entered it in 1801.  Two years later he was promoted to the rank of Professor of Irish, a position he held until his death on 13th April 1820.  The salary for this position was £60 per annum.

His literary works include half a dozen English poems which he composed, and translations from Virgil, Homer, Lucian and Horace.  All his serious work was in Irish. His earlier poems reveal him as a rollicking pleasant youth in Meath, fond of sport and pets and ready to find humour in almost everything.  Later on he copied the metres and language of the older writers and the language is stilted and artificial and plentifully sprinkled with obsolete words.  His earlier songs and poems were more popular.  When he died age 57, he was mourned by a small band of poets, writers and scribes who alone at this period took interest in the language of their forefathers, and appreciated the value of his Practical Grammar of the Irish Language published in 1809.