Ó Glaisne, Risteárd (1927–2003), teacher, ecumenist and journalist, was born 2 September 1927 in Bandon, Co. Cork, the third of four children of George William Giles and his wife Sara Jane (née Vickery). He attended Bandon Grammar School and Trinity College Dublin (TCD), graduating Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1949 (Master of Arts (MA) in 1959). At TCD he was much influenced by David Greene (qv) and spent vacations on the Great Blasket Island, where he made enduring friendships. A secondary teacher by profession, he taught in several Dublin schools (Avoca School, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 1949–64; St Andrew's College, Dublin, 1964–8; and St Patrick's Cathedral Grammar School, 1972–89), early on in his career (1968–72) taking a break to study aspects of secondary education in other parts of western Europe, in particular France. He was a committed member of the Methodist Church and a much‑respected lay preacher; the Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin, Donald Caird (who shared his attachment to the Irish language), described him as 'ina dhuine fíorspioradálta' (deeply spiritual). His Christian faith, his ecumenical instincts and his devotion to the Irish language drew him to Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise, a Church of Ireland society that exists to promote the use of the Irish language in public worship. In later years he was to be a methodist representative on the Secondary Education Committee for Protestant Schools, a body that was established in 1965 by those protestant churches that conducted secondary schools in the state to represent them in their relations with government.
His religious convictions imbued him with a keen sense of social responsibility and this, together with a profound love of the Irish language, which he in part attributed to the influence of his headmaster at Bandon, R. P. Wheeler, found expression in his very considerable communications skills which brought him to the attention of a wide public in Ireland.
He was a prolific writer in both English and Irish, contributing to such Irish language journals as Comhar, Inniu, and An tUltach and appearing regularly in the Irish Times. An accomplished broadcaster in both languages he made frequent appearances on Radio Telefís Éireann (including Cursaí Reatha) and Raidio na Gaeltachta. He was awarded 'Gradam an Phiarsaigh' by the leading Irish language organisations in 1988 in recognition of his contribution to Irish. Presenting him with the award the then president of Ireland, Dr Patrick Hillery (qv), referred to Ó Glaisne as 'duine umhal, duine crúóchach, duine geanúil, gealgáireach nac santaíonn glóir na buala bos' (someone modest, energetic, lovable, cheerful, and not seeking applause).
Perhaps Ó Glaisne's most ambitious initiative was the founding of the journal Focus in 1958, which was published until 1966. In the first issue, he set out his hopes that the magazine would provide 'an independent, interdenominational, Christian analysis of Irish and world trends, sociological, cultural, political, economic, ecclesiastical and theological'. This might be regarded as his apologia pro vita sua. He may have hoped that Focus would give to the protestant community in Ireland a platform rather akin to that offered to the wider society by Sean O'Faolain's (qv) The Bell, but with the significant difference that Focus was avowedly religious, intended 'to help men and women to see Christ more readily in everyday situations …' However, while published under largely protestant aegis, Focus was never intended to be exclusive. As Ó Glaisne wrote in the first issue (January 1958): 'It is our business to know that [sic] the whole Christian world (protestant, Roman catholic, orthodox) is doing and be in a position to assess its – positive or negative – importance.'
A list of some of his books will indicate the range of his interests, his social concerns and his urge to contribute to public discourse, not only from an Irish, but frequently from a protestant perspective, and not only in English, with its large readership, but also in the language that was closest to his heart: Bun‑Ghaelige: a concise guide to Irish (1962); Ian Paisley agus Tuaisceart Éireann (1971); Saoirse na mBan (1973); Conor Cruise O'Brien agus an liobrálacas (1974); Dúbhglas de h‑Íde, 1860–1949 (2 vols, 1991; 1993); Gaeilge í gColáiste na Trionóide (1992); Coslett Ó Cuinn (1996).
Risteárd Ó Glaisne died 6 November 2003.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).