When Liam O’Duibhir was laid to rest last weekend there must have been grey-haired men in various places throughout the country who, having scanned the death-columns of the media, were reminded of schooldays when they were under the tutelage of a man who inspired a couple of generations of young fellows with a respect for the language and history of their forefathers.
For nearly forty years he taught Irish at Rockwell College and, if ever it could be truthfully said of a man, his work was a labour of love. Teaching Irish to teenagers in a world that tends to look forward rather than back can be an onerous task, but Liam began each school year with an enthusiasm that never waned. Each September was a new beginning for him and he began his last year at the chalk-face in 1995 with the same zest that was part of his personality on the day he first stood before a class in the 1950s.
The enthusiasm which never waned was the product of his love not only of learning for its own sake but of a deep and abiding admiration that bordered on reverence for the genius of the Irish language and the beauty of its literature and song. That love and enthusiasm was not confined to the classroom - he carried it with him in his life in the great world outside.
His entire life was marked by a pursuit of knowledge in all its forms – most of all where it concerned the Gaelic past. He kept in touch with scholars of like interests in many parts of the country and his home was a treasure-chest of books and recordings which he continued to add to up to the end. A query to him on any literary or historical matter was invariably answered within the day, often though it involved much research on his part. Research, however demanding, was a pleasure to him rather than a chore.
The experiences of his early life in Emly were remembered with deep affection and, though long domiciled in Clonmel, he turned his time and attention, in partnership with his brother, Michael, to producing a history of GAA and athletics activities in his native parish. His volume became a template for many other GAA clubs.
Outside of his life as a teacher he was unsparing in his support of every organisation with any claim to a regard for Gaelic culture. He was a supporter over many years of Clonmel’s Cumann Gaedhealach, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri, St.Mary’s and Commercials GAA clubs, Clonmel’s Historical Society, the Tipperary Historical Journal, the Kickham Weekend and many others. He was a moving spirit in the Pearse Centenary Committee, the 1798 Committee and the Coiste Spiorad 1916. And he was a regular helper at church-gate collections for a number of worthwhile bodies.
Everything that added to the quality of life in Clonmel had his support and, though essentially a countryman, he brought all the virtues and wisdom of country life to his adopted urban home. He never lost his interest in people, be they urban or rural, and the guard of honour of his Shamrock Hill neighbours which greeted the arrival of his mortal remains at Ss. Peter and Paul’s church was eloquent tribute to the high esteem in which he was held by those among whom he had lived for over half a century.
In iothlainn Dé go raibh sé. S.J.L
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