The Big Drum
Seosamh Mac Grianna
Translation and essay A.J. Hughes
Ben Madigan Press 2009
The Big Drum is one of the finest Irish novels of the twentieth century. It is also the only novel in the Gaelic traditions to d geal extensively with a marching culture. Although banned in 1935, due to fears of libel, the Irish version eventually appeared in 1969 as An Druma Mór. The novel won immediate literary acclaim and was awarded the Butler Prize. Here, for the first time an English translation is made available.
Set, in the main, between the years 1912 and 1917, the novel deals with events surrounding two rival bands, The Ancient Order of Hibernians and a splinter group The Sons of St. Patrick. The Big Drum is based in the town land of Ros Cuain (i.e. Rannafast) in the Rosses area of the Donegal Gaeltacht and it makes for gripping and entertaining reading.
Seosamh Mac Grianna (1900 – 90) was a Gaelic author from Rannafast, in the Irish speaking, or Gaeltacht area of NW Donegal. One of the most gifted writers of his generation, his writing career came to an abrupt and premature end in 1935. A ‘long silence ensued’ between 1935 and 1959, where he fell into poverty and ill health in Dublin, and the last 30 years of his life were spent in hospital in Letterkenny. He penned 9 books, translated 12 others, and wrote many articles and essays but the novel The Big Drum (along with his quasi-autobiography Mo Bhealach Féin ‘My Own Way’ 1940) are among his best known and most accomplished works.
The Translator: Fubright Scholar Dr. A. J. Hughes, is course director of Irish Language in the University of Ulster at Belfast. In addition to his academic work in Celtic linguistics, he has a wealth of experience in translating, and internationalising, Irish literature into English French and Breton.