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22 June 2024  

The Hyde Lecture 2018


The Legacy of Douglas Hyde
by President Michael D. Higgins

24 September 2018,
Theatre Q, Newman Building, UCD, Belfield

Hyde Banner

© John B. Yeats (1839-1922). Portrait of Douglas Hyde, 1901, pencil on paper. The Niland Collection.
Presented by James A. Healy, 1966 (John & Catherine Healy Memorial Collection). Reproduced courtesy of The Model Gallery, Sligo

On 24 September 2018, NUI and UCD collaborated on the inaugural Hyde Lecture – Léacht de hÍde which was given by President Michael D. Higgins in University College Dublin entitled, 'The Legacy of Douglas Hyde’. Douglas Hyde was the first President of Ireland, serving from 1938 to 1945, the first president of Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) and the first Professor of Modern Irish in UCD from 1909. In the same year, he was appointed as a member of the first Senate of the National University of Ireland of which he was an active member until 1919.
In his lecture, President Higgins spoke of Douglas Hyde's influence on Irish society, saying that Hyde's "thoughts and actions on our national culture have been so vast and deep as to still profoundly permeate our society to this day." Speaking of Hyde's passion and dedication to the Irish language, President Higgins recounted Diarmuid Ó Cobhthaigh's biography of Hyde "about a fellow student insisting that Hyde must have learned his Latin at a continental academy, so alien was his pronunciation to the ears of his peers: “No,” answered Hyde; “but I have modelled my pronunciation on that of Irish.”
“You do know a lot of languages, Hyde,” a fellow-student remarked to him: “How many do you know? English, German, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and French, I suppose?”,
“Yes,” answered Hyde, “and I can read Italian. But the language I know best is Irish.”
“Irish!”, exclaimed the fellow-student in astonishment; “do you know Irish?”
“Yes,” said Hyde quietly; “I dream in Irish.”

President Higgins went on to speak about Hyde’s ideals for a national Irish culture, "Ba é an achainí a rinne de hÍde..ná go mbeadh cultúr náisiúnta ann – sa litríocht, san amhránaíocht, san éadach fiú – ceann a chreid sé a d’fhéadfadh muintir na hÉireann a thabhairt le chéile, bíodh siad ina n-aontachtóirí nó ina náisiúnaithe. Mar a deir Declan Kiberd, bhí críonnacht leis an gcaoi a ndearna sé an achainí. D’iarr de hÍde, nuair a bhí sé ag aimsiú an chontrárthacht a bhí i gceist, conas a bhféadfadh na gluaiseachtaí móra náisiúnacha, Parnellachas agus Éire Óg, an comhbhá sin a spreagadh, i measc daoine fiú, agus ag an am céanna cultúr Éireannach níos sine á chaitheamh i dtraipisí acu – an teanga thar aon bhráid eile."
He then spoke of Hyde's foundational role in the establishment of the National University of Ireland, saying, "When the University was established, it was immediately subject to controversy- conspóid- as to whether Irish was to be compulsory for matriculation. It split the country, and thus split the United Irish League, the mass movement that sustained the Irish Parliamentary Party. The League was able to summon tens of thousands onto the streets in support and it was Hyde’s oration to the Ardfheis of the United Irish League in 1909 that won the support of the League, which in turn secured a majority for ‘essential Irish’ on the University Senate. In this Decade of Centenaries, it was important to recall the account of the resignation of Douglas Hyde following the Oireachtas of 1915. The Oireachtas passed, by a very large majority, a resolution to amend the constitution of the League to include amongst its objectives the necessity to make Ireland ‘free of foreign domination’. A Coiste Gnótha of the League dominated by members of the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood was elected- which included Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh by the way- leaving Hyde, as he saw it, but little choice but to step down as President in protest at what he felt was an unwarranted politicisation of the League." 

President Higgins continued, speaking of Hyde's role as the first Professor of Modern Irish of UCD, "By the accounts of his students- and so many of them here now- his was a much-loved teacher, closer and more informal than those colleagues wearing the rather stern mien cultivated by so many lecturers of that generation as felt by them as appropriate to their status. Above all, he was capable of eliciting a passion for the language from his students, reflecting perhaps the passion that had been awakened in his teenage years in Frenchpark, Roscommon."

Speaking at the lecture NUI Chancellor Dr Maurice Manning said that NUI was, "deeply honoured and delighted that President Michael D. Higgins has agreed to give the inaugural Douglas Hyde Lecture." He said that both NUI and UCD are pleased to honour the memory of Douglas Hyde by collaborating in the establishment of a new lecture series, the Douglas Hyde Lectures or Léachtanna de hÍde. Dr Manning commented on how it was particularly fitting, "in this year that marks both the 80th anniversary of Hyde’s presidency and Bliain na Gaeilge, which celebrates the revival of the Irish language over the last 125 years, that President Higgins will give this address entitled: ‘The Legacy of Douglas Hyde’."

President Higgins concluded the lecture by speaking of Douglas Hyde's legacy which, he said, "can be found, above all, I believe, in his expansive vision of cultural democracy – for it was from the people he learned the Irish language, collected our folklore and manuscripts. It was to the people he looked for the regeneration of Irish culture, a culture sustained by an ancient inheritance, but also alive to new forms and innovations of imagination, and to all the possibilities and potentials of the future- féidearthachtaí gan teorainn." President Higgins suggested that today we similarly, "seek to equip not only our citizens, but the people of other countries, with the resources -  material and intellectual - to shape their own culture, to become their poets, singers, authors and dreamers, be it in the language of their own and the language of others."

The full text of President Higgins' lecture can be read at 
https://president.ie/en/media-library/speeches/the-legacy-of-douglas-hyde .


Images from the Hyde Lecture 2018

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Further information from:

Dr Attracta Halpin
National University of Ireland
49 Merrion Square
Dublin 2, D02 V583
Ph: 01 4392424
Twitter: @NUIMerrionSq

Professor Regina Uí Chollatáin
Head, UCD School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore
Newman Building, University College Dublin
Dublin 4
Ph: 01 7168140
Twitter: @UCDScoilGLCB








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