Clandillon, Seamus (‘Clan’) (1878–1944), musician, civil servant, and first director of radio broadcasting at 2RN, was born 6 June 1878 near Gort, Co. Galway, son of William A. Clandillon, national school teacher (who worked for a time at the Agricultural Station, Clonakilty, Co. Cork) of Lough Cultra, Gort, Co. Galway. He was educated at St Flannan's College, Ennis, and UCD (1897–9); his real love for the Irish language and culture was sparked at university when a friend established a branch of the Gaelic League, and he conducted elementary Irish language classes at UCD (1900–01) with Patrick Pearse (qv). Having a love of music since childhood, he collected many songs from his local area and developed an interest in choral singing while at UCD. His friends at university included Frank Skeffington (qv), Francis Cruise O'Brien (qv), and George Clancy (qv), and he was among those students who signed a letter of protest published in the Freeman's Journal (10 May 1899) against ‘The Countess Cathleen’, by W. B. Yeats (qv), for its depiction of the Irish as ‘a loathsome brood of apostates’. In the annals of the college's Literary and Historical Society he is remembered for calling James Joyce (qv) raving mad while pounding him on the back and extolling the virtues of Joyce's paper ‘Drama and life’ (20 January 1900). A student of the College of Art, he won distinction as an illuminator and sketcher. He graduated BA (1911) after being awarded a scholarship to study in Paris, where he became fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish in addition to Irish.
Having taught at Clonmel technical school, Co. Tipperary (1903–5), he moved to Clonakilty agricultural college, Co. Cork (1905–12). In 1912 he joined the national health insurance office as a divisional inspector, and after the treaty was transferred to the Department of Defence, where he was in charge of the dependants’ claim section.
Clandillon had a career as pianist and vocalist that ran in tandem with his career in the civil service. His passion was traditional Irish music, and in 1904 he published a songbook with his wife, An londubh: dá amhrán déag. He was much in demand as a singer and pianist throughout Britain and Ireland, and took part in many cultural events. In 1911 he won the gold medal for singing at the Oireachtas (the annual festival run by Conradh na Gaeilge to celebrate the arts). His passion for, and experience of, traditional music and Irish culture helped to secure him the position of first director of broadcasting (1925–34) with 2RN (later Radio Éireann), the national broadcasting station. Clandillon received practical training with the BBC in London and succeeded in persuading Douglas Hyde (qv) to give the opening address to mark the beginning of the new station, which began broadcasting on 1 January 1926. For the next eight years he ran the station under severe budgetary and staffing restrictions, and was the subject of much unfair criticism from opposition TDs and journalists. Disheartened by his conditions of employment, he requested a transfer in September 1926 but was prevailed on to remain in office.
Giving prominence to the Irish language, literature, and music, the programme schedule undoubtedly had a certain monotony. However, much of this was due to the lack of funding. At the same time, innovations were introduced such as the first live commentary on a field game to be broadcast in Europe, which 2RN accomplished at the 1926 All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Galway.
In 1927 Clandillon and his wife published the collection ‘Londubh an chairn’: songs of Irish Gaels. Soon they became embroiled in controversy when Donal O'Sullivan (qv) referred to Londubh an chairn as ‘a grave injury . . . to Ireland's reputation in the field of folk music’ in the Irish Statesman (19 November 1927). He went on to describe it as slovenly and inaccurate in the treatment of words and music, valueless from the point of view of scholarship, and unduly interspersed with laudatory references to the editors. The Clandillons brought a libel action against O'Sullivan, George Russell (qv), and the Irish Statesman Publishing Co. At the time the case was the longest libel action in the history of the Irish courts (29 October–14 November 1928), and the talk of the town. The jury could not agree, and with costs shared it was rumoured that Clandillon lost his savings.
Clandillon's most remarkable achievement was undoubtedly broadcast coverage of the eucharistic congress (1932), which was in part relayed by the BBC. This was the first time that the pope's voice was heard in Ireland. The nadir was Clandillon's refusal to allow John Logie Baird to give a radio talk about television (1927), on the grounds that the invention was unworkable. Although not the model administrator, he served longer in the post than any of his immediate successors. In February 1934 the Fianna Fáil government decided that Clandillon should be replaced, but it was not till May 1935 that his successor, T. J. Kiernan (qv), took over. In the interim Clandillon carried on as director till November 1934, when his health broke down. At the end of January 1935 he reverted to the Department of Local Government and Public Health. He later moved to Galway, remaining in the civil service till 1943. Remembered as a jovial, brash, rollicking, round-faced man who was fond of a drink, Clandillon was robbed of much of his good humour by the libel case. He died in a Dublin nursing home (21 April 1944), leaving an estate valued at £3,368.
His wife, Máighréad Ní Annagáin (1875–1952), folk music collector and performer, was born 2 May 1875 in Láithreach, An Déise, Co. Waterford, the daughter of Michael Hannigan, a carpenter, and his wife Mary (née Murray). A native Irish-speaker, she came from a long tradition of musicians on both sides. She attended the Mercy Convent School in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, and subsequently spent a period of time living and studying in France. On her return to Ireland she studied music in Cork. She trained as a classical soprano but devoted her energy to traditional Irish songs instead, many of them learned from her father. She won a singing competition at the Dungarvan Feis in 1900, and in 1901 a gold medal in the Oireachtas competition with the song ‘Éamonn an Chnoic’. From this time onwards she devoted herself to singing professionally on a full-time basis. She performed throughout Ireland and also in Scotland and England, and was regularly an adjudicator at feiseanna.
From 1901 she was in close contact with the poet Riobard Bheldon (qv), who regularly sent her a copy of any new poem or song he thought would suit her. He composed a song on the occasion of her winning the Oireachtas competition, ‘Do Mháiréad Ní Annagáin’. He also composed ‘Do Mháiréad arís’ and ‘Máiréad agus an Londubh’. She performed on the opening night of the launch of the new radio station 2RN, but an influential critic of the time, Harold White, noted that all the performances had been satisfactory apart from Ní Annagáin's, which he attributed to nervousness (Irish Independent, 2 Jan. 1926). Her poor performance may have been due to a strained throat, however.
She and Clandillon had three sons and two daughters; the family lived at San Salvador, Newtown Park Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. She died 27 January 1952 in the Mater Misericordiae nursing home, Eccles St., Dublin, and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.