The Limerick man at the centre of Sikhism

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Micharl (Max) Macauliffe.

A COUNTY Limerickman renowned for his translation of Sikh scripture and history into English is set to be commemorated in his native West Limerick this year.

The work of Michael Macauliffe has influenced the growth of a religion that has an estimated 27 million followers but his prolific achievements are relatively unknown in his native county.

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Also known as Max Arthur Macauliffe, he was born in Newcastle West in September 1841, the eldest of seven sisters and four brothers.  His parents, John and Julia Macauliffe, moved their family to the national school in Templeglantine when he was eight as his father took up the post as master of the school.

After completing his college education at Queen’s College in Galway, Macauliffe was selected in 1862 for Indian Civil Service with assignment to the State of Punjab in 1864.

He was promoted to deputy commissioner of the district of Ferozpur in 1882 and became a divisional judge two years later.

He then retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1893 to undertake writing on Sikhism.

Max Macauliffe went on to complete the classic translation into English of major parts of the Granth, the holy book of the Sikhs. In 1909 Oxford University Press published the first edition of his celebrated masterpiece, ‘The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors’in six volumes and running to almost 2,500 pages.

It has never since been out of print.

His deep understanding and sympathy for the people of Punjab and their religious traditions made him a popular civil servant with the people of Punjab, but it also brought him into conflict with the English community in India.

He converted to Sikhism in the 1860s and died in his London home on March 15, 1913.

Councillors in Newcastle West Municipal District, last week heard plans to commemorate Macauliffe in his native West Limerick.

Anne Rizzo of the Council’s Social Development Directorate spoke of plans to install a commemorative plaque on the grounds of Templeglantine National School where Macauliffe spent his formative years.

Other plans to honour this County Limerickman include a one-day seminar on his life and works and an exhibition of Sikhism will also be included in the celebrations.

Local representatives were also informed of the launch of a book by Professor Tadhg Foley on the life of Max Arthur Macauliffe.

“I support this project. I would just ask that as much of the commemorations as possible take place here in Newcastle West or in Templeglantine,” said Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin.

“It is a fascinating story. I would also support calls to keep the commemoration in the locality,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Collins.

Sinn Féin councillor Seamus Browne considered the project as an “important” one for the Newcastle West Municipal District.

“The man is from here and people might not be aware of that. It is important the commemorations are kept local,” he told the council executive.