Centenary Biography of Canon Sheehan Launched

Before a large and distinguished gathering which included Bishop O’Donoghue of Lancaster, Canon Casey of Mallow, Canon O’Mahony of Cloyne, Fr. Tobias Bluitt of Doneraile and Cllr. Tommy Sheahan of Buttevant, a new centenary biography of Canon Sheehan of Doneraile was launched at Springfort Hall on 4th November by Sinead Coleman.

Presenting the book, she said that this was the first biography of Canon Sheehan for a long time and follows in the wake of Fr. Herman Heuser’s classic work of 1917, Fr. Arthur Cussen’s biography published in Bruges in 1923, M. P. Linehan’s book published in 1952 to mark the centenary of Canon Sheehan’s birth and Michael Barry’s By Pen and Pulpit (1990).

Mrs. Coleman drew specific attention to the chapter dealing with the translations of Canon Sheehan’s works into some nine European languages. She noted that much of the research in this chapter was original and had not previously been published. She noted the fascinating diversity of political and cultural milieus into which Canon Sheehan’s novels made their way and the influence they had on contemporary readers, especially in Germany and the United States.

A further interesting feature of the book was the selection of images drawn from various photographic archives as well as from paintings by well know artists such as Millet, Paul Henry, James Humbert Craig and John Millais. These illustrated many of the points raised in the text of the book and highlighted the wider inter-national cultural context of Canon Sheehan’s novels.

Introducing the proceedings, Norah O’Keeffe spoke of the wonderful efforts done during this centenary year by the Doneraile Commemorative Committee to ensure that Canon Sheehan’s memory was properly marked and that initiatives were undertaken to broaden interest in his writings.

Fr. Tobias Bluitt, parish priest of Doneraile, thanked the Comm-emoration Committee for all their cooperation throughout the year and welcomed the book as another step in making the writings of Canon Sheehan more widely known. He praised the beautiful presentation of the book and the immense depth of scholarship which it displays while, at the same time, being easily accessible to all readers.

Mons. O’Brien, author of the biography, explained that the book had been written to mark this centenary year and also to take advantage of a reawakening of interest in Canon Sheehan’s writings over the past fifteen years – which is in marked contrast to the ‘60s and ‘70s when they were consigned to near oblivion. While the biography represents the latest available scholarship, Mons. O’Brien pointed out that with the gradual emergence of much material relating to Canon Sheehan it was a provisional effort pending the production of a more comprehensive work.