Morris, Henry (Ó Muirgheasa, Énrí; ‘Fearghas Mac Roígh’) (1874–1945), writer and Irish scholar, was born 14 January 1874 in Lisdoonan, Donaghmoyne, Co. Monaghan, son of Luke Morris, farmer and local scholar, and Mary (‘Moya’) Morris (née Ward). He was educated by his great-uncle Proinsias Connolly (Ó Conghaile), from whom he learned to read and write Irish; he also taught himself from the grammar by Eugene Ó Gramhnaigh (qv). He was greatly influenced at an early age by the newly-formed Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League), and founded its first Co. Monaghan branch in Lisdonnan, Donaghmoyne when he realised that there were only a few old inhabitants of his native south Monaghan who spoke Irish fluently. He contacted the folklorist Joseph Lloyd (qv), who was astonished to hear of Fiannaíocht tales from old storytellers. Lloyd collected many songs and stories from the area and Morris spent the rest of his life doing the same.
He received a teaching qualification (1900) from St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin, and took a job in St Maolmhaodhóg's (St Malachy's), Dundalk. He soon involved himself in local history, archaeology, and folklore, becoming a founder-member of the Louth Historical and Archaeological Society (1903). For a time he served as editor of its journal, to which he also contributed many articles, and remained one of the guardians of the fledgling society. He was also responsible for organising the Dundalk feis (festival of Irish music and dance), one of the best organised of Irish feiseanna in the country.
At this time he also embarked on the first of his many academic publications, including Greann na Gaeilge (7 vols, 1901–7) and Seanfhocail Uladh (1907), the latter work comprising an assortment of 1,800 wise-sayings and proverbs from the collection of Robert MacAdam (qv). Appointed a schools inspector by the National Board of Education, he was given responsibility in 1907 for organising the teaching of Irish in Co. Donegal schools and went to live in Strabane, Co. Derry. This provided him with the opportunity to gather songs, poems, stories, and folklore, which give great insight into the local communities of Derry and Donegal. He also collected the famous Ulster Jacobite song ‘Óró se do bheatha abhaile’, later revamped by Patrick Pearse (qv) and sung by the Volunteers in the GPO in 1916. His other major publications included Donn bó agus scéalta eile (1908), Ceithearnach Uí Dhomhnaill (1912) and Maighdean an tSoluis (1913), the latter two works under the pseudonym ‘Fearghas Mac Roígh’. He also produced an edition of the poems and songs of Art Mac Cumhaigh (qv), Amhráin Airt Mhic Chobhthaigh (1916). At this time he recorded the great religious poem ‘An Dán Breac’ from Tomás Ó Corrogáin.
He served (1921–3) as a departmental inspector in Co. Sligo. When he went to live in Sligo he found a rich field, stocked with ancient archaeological material, on which he wrote and lectured enthusiastically. After serving there, he published Oíche Áirneáil i dtír Chonaill (1924). A keen folklorist, he was a founder member of An Cumann le Béaloideas Éireann (the Folklore of Ireland Society) in 1926. In the mid 1930s he made his greatest contributions to the Irish language of south Ulster with the publication of Amhráin na Mídhe (1933), Dhá chéad de cheoltaibh Uladh (1934), and Dánta Diadha Uladh (1936). Towards the end of his life he had begun to work on an onomasticon of the ‘Táin Bó Culainge’, which he had almost finished when his health failed. However, being written in his own shorthand, it has proved almost impossible to decipher.
In his career he progressed from being a national teacher to being deputy chief inspector (1932) in the primary branch of the Department of Education. From this vantage point he instilled into the minds of teachers and pupils alike the need for understanding and appreciating the antiquities with which they were surrounded. This is probably his greatest service to the Irish people. He had a passionate interest in teaching the Irish language through the medium of everyday speech, conversation, stories, and songs. A generous man, a lively teacher, an unselfish inspector, a storyteller, and folklorist, he was considered by many to have been one of the father-figures of modern Ulster Irish. His great personal charm, kindness, gentleness, and quiet humour endeared him to many. He died in Strabane on 13 August 1945.
He married (1906) a local woman, the harper and schoolteacher Eibhlín Ní Raghallaigh, but she died two years later. He later (1912) married Máire Woods from Galway. A fine photograph of Morris is reproduced in the Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society, xi (1945–8). He left his Irish manuscripts to UCD; his private papers are in the library of the University of Ulster at Coleraine.