Gregory Ashe: Family Patriarch

The children born to Gregory Ashe and Ellen Hanafin were, in order of seniority, Siobhan, Sean, Seamus, Padraig (who died aged one), Maire, Nora, Thomas, a second Padraig, Gregory and Michael.

Gregory Ashe was a man of unusual talent and character. It must have been a man of marked qualities who impressed his son Thomas and all his family so profoundly. His truth, faith and idealism became their standard. Scholarly and versatile, fond of music and literature, bilingual with easy proficiency of naturally acquired speech, his fluent Irish had a strong literary flavour. His daughter Nora describes him with affection:

It was our father who influenced not only Tomas, but every one of us. He was constantly teaching us, impressing on us the value of learning and was himself a man who had read and absorbed widely and had a fine appreciation of literature. Learning from him came easily and naturally. When working together out in the fields he would recite history and legend to us. He impressed us on a strong historical sense. He was constantly talking of Irish history, referring to it, relating it to us in many different aspects, social, national, political and local, and he imparted to us his own deep convictions of what was right and wrong in the story of Ireland, of what it was necessary yet to do to strive for. Yes, our father was the real influence on Tomas and on all of us.

Gregory Ashe worked hard on his land, late and early, and devoted himself to bringing up his family. He cultivated, too, the gifts of his finely endowed mind. His memory was a treasure house in which he accumulated immense reserves of Irish story, poetry and legend. He loved Irish poetry and could recite all Laoi Oisin ar Thir na nOg and many other long poems, both Irish and English, by heart. Poetry and song were inseparable from life, hard though life sometimes was on the land, the workmen sang in the fields, or drawing home the turf, or coming from the fair. Thomas's younger brother, Gregory, remembers how profound their father's influence was:

My father impressed Tomas immensely. He transmitted him a great store of seanchas, legends and songs. My father was a very good singer. Some nights he would begin to sing at seven o'clock and the company of neighbours, seated around, would sing each in his turn, and so the night passed until ten o'clock. Tomas himself had a very fine voice.

Gregory Ashe was also recognised as a notable figure in the wider community.The poet and writer Máire Mac an tSaoi observes of him in her recent autobiography The same age as the state:

As a child, my conception of these mighty figures was as being near contemporaneous with each other and with ourselves. They included Gregory Ashe (Griaghair Ághas), whose son, Tom Ashe, had died on hunger strike in 1917. Gregory was a strong farmer in the area north of Dingle, to whom every year young men from Dunquin and district went as serving boys, and who typified for us, power, mystery and distance

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