The Douglas Hyde Foundation is to be launched by singer Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hot House Flowers at a special event at the American Irish Historical Society Headquarters on 5th Avenue on Friday, October 12 at 6:30 pm.
Dedicated to promoting the cultural vision of Ireland’s first President, the Douglas Hyde Foundation will place a special emphasis on projects that will strengthen the Irish language and deepen the links between the Irish diaspora and Ireland, themes which were central to Hyde’s life.
Cuan Ó Seireadáin, Project Director of the Douglas Hyde Foundation, and one of the organizers of the event, is looking forward to hearing Liam Ó Maonlaí singing live:
“We are very grateful to Chris Cahill, Sophie Colgan, and the team at the American Irish Historical Society for co-organising 'Aoibhinn,' A Celebration of Irish Language and Culture, and for facilitating the launch of the Douglas Hyde Foundation.
"Liam Ó Maonlaí and his music embody the Ireland that Hyde envisioned, drawing on the deep well of our ancient language and culture, and producing an art which is true, relevant and totally authentic. When I first spoke with Liam last summer about the idea of promoting Hyde’s legacy and building a foundation that would help continue his work, Liam was very enthusiastic and needed no persuasion to come to New York to kick things off!”
Born in 1860, the young Douglas Hyde grew up in Roscommon, which was still recovering from the ravages of the Great Famine. His family hoped he would follow in the footsteps of his father and become a clergyman, but Hyde was fascinated by the culture that surrounded him and learned the Irish language from older members of the community. Hyde’s interest in the Irish language, and his conviction that its survival was key to the future of Irish culture set the pattern for his own life and changed the course of Irish history.
After spending the 1890-91 academic year teaching at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Hyde visited New York for the first time in June 1891. While in New York he visited an Irish language class in the Bowery, and inspired by the efforts the Irish in New York were making to pass the Irish language on to the next generation, began to plan how the Irish language might be saved in Ireland itself.
In July 1893 Hyde was elected the first President of The Gaelic League, Conradh na Gaeilge, which was determined to ensure that the Irish language would continue to be spoken in Ireland. The Gaelic League transformed cultural attitudes in Ireland, winning new respect for the Irish language, encouraging its teaching in schools, promoting the teaching of Irish history, music and dance, and even promoting the economic development of Ireland. The 125th Anniversary of the foundation of the Gaelic League, and its impact on Ireland, is being celebrated this year as Bliain na Gaeilge.
Douglas Hyde’s leadership of the League was highly successful. He was charismatic public speaker and writer, and championed the cause of the Irish language and Irish culture wherever he went. One of his most remarkable achievements was his triumphant tour of the United States in 1905-06, during which he spoke in over 50 cities, dined with President Theodore Roosevelt twice, returned funds which he had raised in San Francisco to help rebuild the city after the devastating earthquake there, and was celebrated as the unofficial leader of the Irish.
Hyde was appointed the first Professor of modern Irish at the newly established National University of Ireland in 1909, and after the new Irish constitution was ratified in 1937, Hyde was the popular choice to be Ireland’s first president.
At his inauguration, Taoiseach Eamon De Valera addressed Hyde, recognizing the deep significance of the establishment of the Irish presidency:
"Mr. President, on behalf of the Irish nation, on behalf of the living, those who dwell at home as well as our kin beyond on the sea, on behalf also of the dead generations who longed to see this day but have not seen it, I salute you. You are now our President, our head, freely chosen under our own laws, inheriting the authority and entitled to the respect which the Gaels ever gave to those whom they recognised to be their rightful chiefs, but which for centuries they denied to those whom a foreign law would enforce upon them. In you we greet the successor of our rightful princes, and in your accession to office, we hail the closing of the breach that has existed since the undoing of our nation at Kinsale."
The Douglas Hyde Foundation plans to support projects which will enrich Irish identity across the globe, educate about Irish culture and the Irish Language, secure and promote Irish Language archives, promote Douglas Hyde’s cultural legacy, and help develop Irish Cultural Centers.
“Aoibhinn,” A Celebration of Irish Language and Culture with Liam Ó Maonlaí, will take place at the headquarters of the American Irish Historical Society on 991 Fifth Avenue, New York on October 12 at 6: 30 pm. More information about the event is available here: http://bit.ly/aoibhinn and tickets are available here: http://bit.ly/Aoibhinntickets
All proceeds raised at Aoibhinn, will go towards supporting the work of the Douglas Hyde Foundation.