Conleth Ellis was born
in Carlow in 1937. He was Chairman of Poetry
Ireland for three years, and co-edited Poetry
Ireland Review 13.
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:
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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.
in Carlow Past & Present Vol. 1. No. 3. 1990 p. 111 & 112
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