Desmond O'Grady (R.I.P.)


(1935 - 2014)






Published: Thursday 28th August 2014

Desmond's Funeral Service was held on Saturday, September 6th 2014, at St. John the Baptist Church, Kinsale at 12 noon. Funeral afterwards to St. Catherine's Cemetery, Rincurran, Kinsale, followed by food and drink at The Spaniard Inn.


The full announcement as published:

O'Grady (Kinsale) on August 25th 2014, at Bishopstown Residential Care. Desmond O'Grady, Rincurran Cottage. Sadlly missed by his loving family, relatives and friends.


Desmond's son Leonardo said 'On this day August 25th 2014 on the eve of his birthday Desmond O'Grady died, born a Limerick man, Jesuit educated, defiant infinitely restless he pushed and tore at parochial Ireland while embracing the extraordinary spirit of its lyrical history.

Dubbed' the great outsider 'due to the recognition he received overseas, Desmond produced 19 collections of poems and translations, and rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest names in the Irish and European arts scene, including Samuel Beckett, Pablo Picasso, Federico Fellini, Ezra Pound, and Jean Paul Sartre.

He was also awarded a decorate by Harvard University in Boston and later was a  professor there, President Higgins said Desmond was ' deeply committed as a poet which he said 'had rightly received international attention'

Desmond's daughter Deirdre said he had lived 'a Bohemian lifestyle and has friends 'through charm and intellect' .Desmond has three children and six grandchildren, he returned to Ireland and had been living in Kinsale until his health began to fail.

Desmond's Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, September 6th 2014, at St. John the Baptist Church, Kinsale at 12 noon. Funeral afterwards to St. Catherine's Cemetery, Rincurran, Kinsale, followed by food and drink at The Spaniard Inn. Enquiries to Gabriel and O'Donovan's Funeral Home Tel 023 8841587.

(Date Published: Thursday 28th August 2014)



Desmond James Bernard O'Grady was born in Limerick on August 27, 1935.

He died on 25 August 2014, two days short of his 79th birthday.

Desmond O'Grady left Ireland during the 1950's to teach and write in Paris, Rome and America. While a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, he took his M.A. and Ph. D. in Celtic Languages, Literature and Comparative Studies. He taught at the American University in Cairo and The University of Alexandria, Egypt.

While teaching in Rome, he was a founder member of the European Community of Writers, European editor of The Transatlantic Review, and organised the Spoleto International Poetry Festival

He also played the Irish poet part in Federico Fellini's 1960 film, La Dolce Vita (Italian: “The Sweet Life”). His name appears in the IMDB film's full cast and crew listing as 'Steiner's Guest'.

He was the 2004 recipient of the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship.

For many years now his home had been in Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Desmond O'Grady reading in Limerick City Library

(photo:BJ Slattery)







These small men, belted and buttoned up astern,

 Bend to their sailing business deliberately as priests'


The cliff line of the island lies like a bent finger

Low along the far end of the muffled evening

/... (Selected lines: 1-2, 5-6 of 10) (!&)






 A pleasure, my poem, for you to be

seeing my lady's curled hair;

would I were you and you were me,

then I myself would travel there.

/... (First stanza of six) 







As babies we discover you when we're

given paper and pencil to play with.

Tight fist scribbles emotion. Eyes behold

expression on paper. Our own. Applause

/... (First stanza of three)



What they said:-


Desmond O'Grady is one of the senior figures in Irish Literary life, exemplary in the way he has committed himself over the decades to the vocation of poetry and has lifed selflessly for the art.

- Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) Poet,

1995 Nobel Prize for Literature)


Desmond O'Grady has never used a typewriter. Neither has he used a computer. He has written his poetry, prose and essays during his life - all by hand." .../... "I am proud to be Desmond's friend and hope this book introduces him to many more new friends 

 Barney Sheehan, poet.

   Editor of Desmond O'Grady's My Limerick Town


I dedicate this book to my school friend Barney Sheehan for editing 'My Limerick Town'. Educationalist Nora McNamara (1914-2007). She arranged publication of my first collection of poems 'Chords and Orchestrations' in Limerick in 1956. Limerick Artist, Jack Donovan, the painter I have known longest in the Arts and also our friend Richard Harris, the actor.

- Desmond O'Grady, Kinsale 2009 (My Limerick Town)

With his portrait on the cover, painted by Limerick artist Jack Donovan, whom he had 'known longest in the Arts', Desmond O'Grady signed copies of his My Limerick Town at its launch on August 28, 2009. Signing my hardback copy with the words, '... for artist Brian Slattery...' he had remembered our shared acquaintance, and memories, of the former Principal of Limerick School of Art, to whom he dedicated, among others, his book. But foremost in the short list of dedications was his school friend, Bernard 'Barney' Sheehan who edited, and published, the O'Grady book and who has done more than most to keep the memory, and work, of poet Dr. Desmond O'Grady foremost in the public mind.

- Brian J. Slattery


Desmond O'Grady - The White House Bar cultural connection

“In the 1950’s I told Kitty Bredin I was looking for a public house where people met to talk about their cultural interests and Limerick’s cultural interest, in particular. Kitty introduced me to Eamonn Gleeson who owned The White House. My suggestion was that we should invite any Limerick person who was writing poems to read to us over our drinks and that we also should invite any poet in Ireland or visitors from abroad to read their country’s poetry to us. That would bring their world to ours.(*)


Kitty Bredin, as part of the Poetry Circle group, met weekly in a member's house to read and discuss traditional and established poets. In 1954, O'Grady was referred to Bredin, whom he met and they discussed writing and reading poetry. From this meeting he was introduced to the Poetry Circle group. Encouraged by these reading opportunities, the group became keen to reach a wider audience and began looking for a 'congenial' venue. O'Grady suggested the White House bar on O'Connell Street, the 'umbilical centre of the city'. Bredin introduced O'Grady to Eamon Gleeson, the White House owner at the time, who was also its only barman. Gleeson, who had an interest in arts and history, was amenable to the idea. And so, outside of the Poetry Circle, it was in the White House pub, beginning in the winter of 1954, and into the spring of 1955, that O'Grady first read his poems to 'a curious' public. Many of these poems would later comprise the twenty-one (21) contained in his first book of poems Chords and Orchestrations.


See also:-

Brian Blaney  John Liddy  Christy O'Donnell Bernard 'Barney' Sheehan