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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Conleth Ellis

Writer (Poetry)

Conleth Ellis was born in Carlow in 1937. He was Chairman of Poetry Ireland for three years, and co-edited Poetry Ireland Review 13.

His poetry collections are This Ripening Time (1966); Under the Stone (Dublin, Gill and MacMillan 1971); Fómhar na nGéanna (1975); Aimsir Fháistineach (Baile Átha Cliath, Coiscéim, 1981); Nead Lán Sneachta (Coiscéim, 1982); After Doomsday (Dublin, Raven Arts Press, 1982); Táin (Coiscéim, 1983); Seabhac ag Guairdeall (Coiscéim,1985); Age of Exploration (Dublin, Dedalus, 1985); Darkness Blossoming (Dedalus, 1989), Selected Poems (Rebus, 2005).

His two novels are Aoibhinn An Galar (Coiscéim, 1987), An Canáraí Pinc (Baile Átha Cliath, An Gúm, 1990).

Conleth Ellis was the winner of three Oireachtas Prizes for Irish poetry, and won the Northern Bank/ Irish Times Irish-Australian Poetry competition in 1988. He was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship for his writing in English. He lived and taught for many years in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, and died there on 10th May 1988.

Source: Irish Writers On-Line:

Conleth Ellis

Ireland lost a most distinguished poet, Carlow a true son and Carlow County Heritage Society a great friend and supporter with the death of Con on May 10th 1988. His work, particularly in the Irish language won for him many awards including four major Oireachtas prizes. Con was born in Montgomery Street in 1937, he attended the C.B.S. He was awarded an M.A. from U.C.G. for a thesis on the imagery of Gerard Manley Hopkins and an M. Ed. also from U.C.G. for his research into the function of language in the process of learning. He was head of English at St. Louise's Comprehensive School, Belfast from 1960 to 1965, and was head of Drama in St. Malachy's, Belfast from 1965 to 1968. He moved to Athlone in 1968 where he taught English and History in the Marist College up to the time of his death. Throughout the years he maintained contact with his home town, many of his books were launched in Carlow and he was also a regular contributor to poetry evenings in the town.

He was a member of our committee since the foundation of C.C.H.S. Always ready with a word of praise for our efforts and advice to guide us. He took a keen interest inmy discovery of a book of poems by Carlow born John O'Donnell. This book had come into my ownership when I purchased a tea chest full of books for half-a-crown at Paddy Bergin's, Dublin St. (now O'Loughlins) auction in the 1960's. It lay forgotten until 1985 when I handed it over to Con. He wrote a fine article about the book which was published in The Nationalist. He also won the Ireland/Australia Poetry Prize in 1988 for his poem concerning this book. The poem was entitled "From A Sepia Print", Con dedicated the poem to Corporal John P. O'Donnell and his twin brother Thomas H. O'Donnell of South Australia and Carlow. Shortly before Con died he sent us this poem for publication in our journal. We have decided to hold this over for our next issue when we hope to have further information on the O'Donnells.

M. Purcell.

Con was a very close friend of our Cathaoirlach Padraig O Snodaigh who after Con's death penned the following tribute which appeared in "Anois" and which we reproduce here.

Con Ellis R.I.P.

Cad is feidir a ra ag ocaid mar seo: ta se easca an t-aer a lionadh le heagaoineadh ach doiligh briathra a aimsiu le hufas na brise a chur i lathair go hairithe nuair is geag Horn le thart ar dha scor bliain ata scoite. Ni geag amhain ach crann taca domsa agus a oiread eile ata ardaithe uainn.

Eigse Eireann a chronoidh e — an eagraiocht, an iris agus an t-aos pinn fein, go hairithe iadsan a chuir aithne air no ba dhuine cuthail e; iadsan ar shaothraigh se ina dteannta no ni raibh aon da leath deanta den saothar sin; iadsan ar chuidigh se leo agus ba lionmhar a lion ar fud na hEireann agus is leanmhar an la seo doibhsean da uireasa.

Ta se easca deora ar bpeine a scaoileadhach dodheanta an t'olus a lionadh na a mhiniu. Ar d'aithne do, ba chuid mharthanach diot e, slat tornhais, tearma tagartha. anamchara tairiseach muinineach. Gan e ta againn uamhan mantach an uaignis. Ni deas mar dhan an tsaoil romhainn e, ni deas.

Ceardai curamach criochnuil a bhi ann mar fhile; saothrai domhainsmaointeach a bhain macallai ceolmhara as sniior an duine; file a fhasfaidh ina chlu le himeacht ama; file a bhi tagthas in inmhe a thiolacha ealaionach go smusach a roinn rian alainn a bheithe go fial linn. Duinne ar chuid dinne e nior leor sin, agus muid in ead leosan anois agus amach anseo ar feidir leo a n-eigse a mhoramh gan an te fein a chaoineadh.

Ach cad e sin uile le hais bhron a chlainne. Duine ciuin priobhaideach ba ea e, a chlann larnach do, da smaointe, da ghniomhartha, mar athair, mar cheile. Mas dona linn ar gcas go cuiti Dia leo — ni thiocfadh le haon fhoras daonna e a chuiteamh leo.

P. O Snodaigh.

Conleth Ellis, Darkness Blossoming. The Dedalus Press, 1989.

From book to book in Irish and English over the years we have watched Conleth Ellis' development as a poet. In this final collection, completed before his untimely death in 1988, his handling of language enchants us. Here is the polished and highly crafted work of a master, showing Ellis at his lyrical best.

These poems were written during and after a visit to Africa and in them the poet explores his reaction to the experience:

"My world becomes a coin that spins
along the rim of a standing wheel.
And safety ends where love begins
And heart must trust what pulses feel"

I found the poems, without exception, memorable, never at all prosaic, and the rhythms and cadances varied.

Africa croomed and sang to Conleth Ellis wheedling from him lines like these.

"my heart restless till it focuses
on the thorntree nest a golden bird nearby
plaits like weft in the warp of times to come."

Symbols of fireflies, lizards and exotic birds, of mango trees and dragon spit, belonging to the stuff of fables, are juxtaposed with those of the dry well, the empty womb and the ever present ancestors. Lines such as

"Those who have died are never gone"

take on a dreadful poignancy when we apply them to the poet himself

"They are roaming the forest, sweeping the house.
Those who are dead are not dead"

How true in the case of Conleth Ellis whose poetic energy breathes from every page of this book. We can but hope that among his papers more poems like these will be found.

Deirdre Brennan.

Previously published in Carlow Past & Present Vol. 1. No. 3. 1990 p. 111 & 112

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© 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM

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