Martin, (Thomas) Augustine (‘Gus’) (1935–95), literary scholar, critic, and educationist, was born 14 November 1935 at Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, the youngest of three girls and four boys in the family of Patrick and Cissy Martin. He was educated at the national school, Ballinamore, and the Cistercian college, Roscrea, before attending UCD (from 1952), where he graduated BA (1955), MA (1959), and Ph.D. (1972). His doctoral thesis was on the Irish short story. He took the higher diploma in education at UCD in 1956 and taught English and Irish at Roscrea for nine years. In 1960 he married Claire Kennedy, with whom he had two sons and two daughters. During the 1960s Martin contributed a series of ground-breaking articles to the Jesuit journal Studies on contemporary Irish writers such as Austin Clarke (qv) and Mary Lavin (qv), and an influential article, ‘Inherited dissent’, urging Irish writers to break with past grievances and engage with the reality of modern Ireland. In 1965 he co-founded the Association of Teachers of English and did much to influence curriculum reform through the publication of various school anthologies of poetry and prose and through regular RTE television and radio broadcasts, notably the Telefís Scoile series.
In 1965 Martin made the transition from secondary school teacher to university lecturer when he joined the department of English at UCD. He immersed himself in the teaching of what he termed ‘classical English’ and of Anglo-Irish literature, and became deeply involved in the political life of the college. He was a member of the UCD governing body from 1969, and represented the NUI constituency in Seanad Éireann (1973–81). In 1979 he was appointed professor of Anglo-Irish literature and drama. His particular interest in the writings of W. B. Yeats (qv) and James Joyce (qv) manifested itself not only in his teaching of undergraduates and of students from Ireland and around the world in the MA in Anglo-Irish literature and drama, which he directed, but also in his involvement in the ‘summer school’ programme. He lectured regularly at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo, acting as director (1979–81); in 1988 he founded the annual James Joyce Summer School and directed it for eight years, making sure that students saw at first hand how deeply Joyce drew on his native city for the material and atmosphere of his writings. A member of the board of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin (1983–92), he served a three-year period as chairman (1985–8). He lectured and travelled worldwide during his years as professor, and was a notable presence in the Irish media, reviewing regularly on radio and television and in the press, seeing the activities of the critic as a natural extension of his role as educator.
As well as editing a number of critical anthologies and an edition of Yeats's poetry (1990), he published a critical study (1977) of the neglected James Stephens (qv) (d. 1950) and a biographical study of Yeats (1980) in the Irish Lives series published by Gill and Macmillan. The TLS reviewer, Vivian Mercier (qv), praised the Stephens study as ‘this sympathetic yet judicious assessment of an artist who has long eluded or defied the critics’ (TLS, 23 Dec. 1977). The Yeats biography deftly interrelates the subject's life and work, keeping poetry at the centre of his multifarious activities. Martin continued to publish on Yeats, Joyce, and Stephens from the Revival period; on the middle generation of Austin Clarke, Mary Lavin, and Patrick Kavanagh (qv), whose archive he secured for Ireland and UCD and whose biography he was writing at the time of his death; and on contemporary writers such as Edna O'Brien, whose work he unfailingly championed.
Gus Martin died 16 October 1995 at St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, just short of his sixtieth birthday; his funeral service was held at University Church, St Stephen's Green, and he was buried at Shanganagh cemetery. Rarely has the life of an academic touched the lives of so many in the wider community.