Piaras Ó Gréagáin
Craobh Phiarais Uí Ghréagáin is named in honour of Pádraig Piaras Ó Gréagáin. When Piaras, as he was generally known, was born in Dublin in July 1916 his father was a prisoner of war having fought in Boland’s Mill under Éamon de Valera, and Piaras was named after the recently executed Pádraig Mac Piarais.
Piaras lived and worked all his life in Monkstown Farm, near Dún Laoghaire. To those of the locality who didn’t know him personally, Piaras was for many years known locally as the “Irishman”.
He is remembered as a traditional musician and Irish language activist. He was totally committed to preserving and passing on our Gaelic heritage to the next generation. Again, as Deasún Breathnach recalled: ”Gaeilge mhaith a bhí ag Piaras, ar dheis Dé go raibh sé, agus mhúin sé an teanga do chuid mhaith daoine sa gceanntar (tá Gaeilge fós ag chuid des na daoine sin, iad ag saothrú na seanaoise faoi láthair: beannaíonn siad dom i nGaeilge ó am go chéile).”
Piaras taught traditional music, dancing and games, through the medium of Irish, to the children of the area. Over the years he introduced hundreds of children to traditional Irish music, usually on the tin whistle. Quite a number of today’s well-known musicians began playing with Piaras as their teacher, either in their own homes or in the Nissan hut in which he founded a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in 1955.
These children participated in competitions such as Feis Átha Cliath and, later, Fleadhanna Ceoil under the banner of Cumann na nÓg. Piaras was active in Comhaltas from the beginning and he played a central part in Craobh Uí Chearbhaláin where he continued to teach music.
Piaras died in 1984 and a short time afterwards the members of Craobh Uí Chearbhaláin renamed their branch Craobh Phiarais Uí Ghréagáin in his honour.
In September 1997 Craobh Phiarais Uí Ghréagáin moved from Monkstown Community Center to An Chultúrlann, where they meet each Tuesday and Thursday evening. In that year there were 23 junior and 13 senior registered members. The move took place under the guidance of Marius Ó hÉarcáin the then Cathaoirleach of the Craobh. In the following years Marius helped forge a strong link with the parents at Scoil Lorcáin and this resulted in a dramatic increase in the numbers of children attending classes. Today the branch has a total membership close to 400, with in excess of 160 children attending classes on the tin whistle, fiddle, flute, bodhrán, concertina, accordion, guitar, singing and uilleann pipes.
Piaras’ extended family follow actively in his footsteps. His niece Mairéad Ní Ghréagáin is Musical Director and his sister in law, Sorcha Uí Ghréagáin, is President of the Branch.