Ó Danachair, Caoimhín (Danaher, Kevin) (1913–2002), university lecturer and folklorist, was born 30 January 1913 in Athea (Áth an tSléibhe), Co. Limerick, the second eldest of four sons of William Danaher, a primary school principal, and his wife Margaret (née Ryan) of Martinstown, Co. Limerick, also a primary school teacher. Educated at Athea national school, Mungret College, Limerick, and at UCD, he graduated BA in 1936, and received a Higher Diploma in Education the following year. As an Alexander von Humboldt Scholar (1937–9), he studied comparative folklore and ethnology at the Universities of Berlin and Leipzig. He was awarded a first class honours MA (NUI) in archaeology in 1945, and a D.Litt. (NUI) in 1974.
He joined the Irish Folklore Commission in January 1940, and then in May the Irish Defence Forces, with whom he remained for the duration of World War II, becoming an instructor in the artillery school in Kildare and rising to the rank of captain. Rejoining the Irish Folklore Commission in 1946, he was sent to Scandinavia to receive training in major folklore and folklife institutions, including the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) and Institutet för Folklivsforskning (The Institute for Folklife Research), Stockholm, Landsmålarkivet (The Dialect Archive), Uppsala, the University of Lund, Norsk Folkeminnesamling (Norwegian Folklore Archive), Oslo, and Dansk Folkemindesamling (Danish Folklore Archive) in København. He met some of the leading folklore and folklife Scandinavian scholars of the day, including C. W. von Sydow (Lund), Sigurd Erixon, Andreas Lindblom and Albert Eskeröd (Stockholm), Dag Strömbäck and Åke Campbell (Uppsala), Albert Sandklef (Varberg), Knut Liestøl and Reidar Th. Christiansen (Oslo) and Hans Ellekilde (København).
His principal responsibility in the Irish Folklore Commission was the development of the ethnological dimension of the commission's work, but until the late 1940s, when outdoor disc-cutting equipment became available, he also made disc recordings of traditional storytellers, singers and musician, in the commission's office at 82 St Stephen's Green, Dublin, including the only recording ever made of the music of the outstanding piper Johnny Doran (qv) (available in The bunch of keys, 1988).
In 1948 Ó Danachair recorded the last native Manx speakers on the Isle of Man, on behalf of the Irish Folklore Commission, redeeming a promise made by Éamon de Valera (qv) when, as taoiseach, he visited the island in 1947. When the transcriptions, translations, and the digitally re-mastered recordings of this unique collection were published as Skeealyn Vannin/Stories of Man, by Eiraght Ashoonagh Vhannin/Manx National Heritage in 2004, a plaque presented by Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh/The Manx Gaelic Society, was unveiled in the then department of Irish folklore at UCD, in the presence of the speaker of the house of keys, members of Tynwald, the Manx Gaelic Society, and the family of Caoimhín Ó Danachair, to commemorate Ó Danachair's 1948 achievement.
Ó Danachair was visiting professor in Irish Studies at Uppsala University in 1952–3. He served on the National Monuments Advisory Council, and was folklife consultant to the Shannon Free Airport Development Company when Bunratty Folk Park, Co. Clare, was set up in 1964. He was a member of the RSAI, an assistant editor (1971–85) of Béaloideas, the journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society, and co-patron of the society (1988–2002).
Internationally, he was a member of the European Ethnological Atlas Working Group, the International Commission for Ethnological Food Research, the International Society for Folk Narrative Research, the Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore, and the Society for Folklife Studies of Britain and Ireland, of which he was vice-president (1979–80) and president (1981–3). He was keenly interested in military history, editing for eleven years the Irish Sword (1960–1971), and serving as president of the Military History Society (1978–87). With the historian J. G. Simms (qv), he edited The Danish force in Ireland, 1690–1691 (1962) for the Irish Manuscripts Commission.
Ó Danachair was a gifted teacher. In 1971, when the Irish Folklore Commission became the Department of Irish Folklore at UCD, Ó Danachair was appointed a statutory lecturer in Irish Folklore. The extent and range of his scholarly publications are evident from Patricia Lysaght's bibliography of his published work in the Festschrift published in his honour in 1982 (see Gailey and Ó hÓgáin), and in Ó Danachair's own publication: A bibliography of Irish ethnology and folk tradition (1978).
In 1951 he married Anna Mary Ryan, a secondary school teacher, of Galbally, Co. Limerick; they had two sons, Dónall (b. 1953), and John Louis (b. 1956). His wife was the eldest of three sons and four daughters of Timothy Ryan, creamery manager, Garryspellane, and of Deborah Ryan (née Scanlan), Galbally, principal teacher of Lowtown Girls’ national school, Co. Limerick.
Caoimhín Ó Danachair died 14 March 2002 in Dublin and is buried in St Fintan's cemetery, Sutton, Dublin.