Mac Grianna (Mhic Ghrianna), Róise (1879–1964), traditional Irish-language singer and storyteller, was born 13 March 1879 in Seascann an Róinn, near Dungloe (Clochán Liath), Co. Donegal, one of five children of Tomas Ó Colla, farmer, and his wife, Maighréad, a noted musician and the daughter of Seán Hiúdaí Mac an Bhaird (Ward), of Clocha Corra, Aran Mór, Co. Donegal. Róise's father died when she was four years old. When Róise was six, her mother married Antain Ó Gallchóir, a butcher, and the family moved to his home on Aran Mór. Ó Gallchóir was the last great storyteller on the island. Although the island was Irish-speaking, her schooling at Scoil na Leidhbe Gairbhe was through English. While still at school, she spent one spring doing domestic work for some relatives, for which she was paid fifteen shillings. She spent every summer from the age of nine on Inis na gCaorach where she harvested kelp and did housework. After leaving school, she worked in Lagán, in Gleann Mornáin, Co. Tyrone, and then worked on the banks of Lough Swilly, in all spending three years at such difficult work. She then travelled back and forth to Scotland, where she picked potatoes. When she was twenty-nine, she married Séamas Mac Grianna, an Aran Mór islander whom she had known since childhood. Mac Grianna's father gave the newlyweds half of his land, about three acres, and he built a tiny cottage where Róise lived until her death. While her husband worked in Scotland from May to December each year, Róise kept the small farm, with one cow and a donkey, going by herself. From 1934 Séamas collected the dole and bought a creel and a basket to facilitate some extra income.
In 1940 the Rev. Coslett Quin (qv) visited Róise and transcribed some of her songs and stories. She noted that this recognition gave her some confidence in her abilities as an amhránaí (traditional singer) and seanchaí (storyteller), as her audience typically consisted of just her husband dozing by the fire (Beathasnéis, ii, 61). In 1951 Padraig Ua Cnáimhsí, the prinicipal of the school in Aran Mór, visited and transcribed seventy of her songs. He also notified for the Folklore Commission and Radio Éireann, who sent Seán Ó hEochaidh (qv) and Proinsias Ó Conluain respectively. Recordings made by Ó Conluain in 1953 were broadcast on Radio Éireann in a programme about her life. Séamus Ennis (qv) also visited her during his time with the folklore commission of the BBC during the 1950s. Mac Grianna died 6 April 1964. Her husband predeceased her; they had no children.
Ó Conluain's 1953 recordings were later edited by Cathal Goan and released by RTÉ in compact disc format, with an accompanying booklet, under the title Róise na nAmhrán: songs of a Donegal woman. Ua Cnáimhsí also wrote her life story, Róise Rua, although his manuscript was not published until 1983. However, in that year the book won a prize at the Oireachtas in Dublin.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).