O Tuama steps in Limerick’s Literary Trail

On Mungret Street.

HAVING lived the final six years of his life at Mungret Street, August 9 saw the legacy of Maigue poet Sean O Tuama (d.1775) celebrated with a heritage plaque installed on his former hostelry.

“This venue will now become a stop on our literary walking tour of the city,” reports Limerick Writers’ Centre’s Dominic Taylor. He is building annually on this heritage project, name by name. “It will become part of an itinerary for visitors to Limerick who wish to walk in the footsteps of the writers who found inspiration here.”

 Limerick Writers’ Centre has been erecting such plaques over the past few years to honour poets and writers from, or with a strong association to, Limerick sites.

“The intention is to develop a Limerick Literary Trail for visitors and locals. So far we have unveiled six plaques — Frank McCourt, Kate O’Brien, Charles Dickens, Richard Harris, Robert Graves, Desmond O’Grady and now, number seven to this Maigue poet.”

There is more to Mungret Street (off Limerick Milk Market) than this new tourist-friendly badge.

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“It is recorded by local tradition that O Tuama moved to Mungret Street in Limerick City in 1769 where he opened a tavern. Historians say it was at 67 Mungret Street, the entrance to what is now Sean Heuston Place. It is said locally that this is also where John Scanlan first laid eyes on Ellen Hanley, the ill fated ‘Colleen Bawn’.

“Above the tavern swung the sign inviting all to partake of his hospitality. The only condition laid down was that they should prove themselves competent poets or verse makers. Sean O Tuama died in 1775 and is buried in Croom.”

Here below from O Tuama’s ‘The Shoals Returning’; translated by Thomas Kinsella. We witness fishermen transfixed by the lament of sean nós, as fish are to an underwater hull and food-rich rocks, hungry, glinting, the feral hunt for more in a bone-thin world.