Mac Cluain, Seoirse (1894–1949), Irish-language scholar, was born 16 February 1894 in Capparoe, Scariff, Co. Clare, son of farmer John Clune and his wife, Ellen Rohan. He received his earliest education in Scariff national school and afterwards in the Sacred Heart College in Limerick city. From 1908 he attended St Flannan's College, Ennis, Co. Clare and subsequently began studies for the priesthood in Maynooth College in 1911. He excelled as a student and achieved first place in 1914 examinations for his Bachelor of Arts degree and Licentiate in Philosophy in addition to obtaining joint first place in the Pearse Malone scholarship for university students. He was ordained in 1917. After graduating he was a teacher in St Flannan's College and two years later, in 1919, he was appointed professor of Irish there.
He had spent a week learning Irish in Coláiste Eoghan Uí Chomhraí, Carrigaholt, Co. Clare. From there he went to the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht in Kerry. During 1919 and again in 1920 he spent time on the Great Blasket island where he met Tomás Ó Criomhthain (qv). In his account of Mac Cluain in An tOileánach (1929), Ó Criomhthain noted that the scholar had spent three weeks with him, saying mass every day. Mac Cluain subsequently returned for one month, with both men making corrections to the manuscript of Mac Cluain's first publication, Réiltíní óir, which appeared in 1922. This was a collection of phrases and sayings he had collected in the Kerry gaeltacht, with explanations in Irish. According to Ó Criomhthain, during that month both men spent a total of eight hours per day working on the text, four hours in the morning and four in the afternoon. Ó Criomhthain was therefore particularly offended when Mac Cluain did not acknowledge his assistance in Réiltíní óir and was all the more upset that it was a member of the clergy who had done so. ‘Fiachra Eilgeach’ published a favourable review of the work in An Scuab (April 1923). During his second visit to the island Mac Cluain made the acquaintance of Peig Sayers (qv). She spoke glowingly of him in her autobiography, Peig, recording that he gave her great solace when grieving for her first son, Tomás, who died six weeks before Mac Cluain's arrival on the island. Mac Cluain spent almost every day with her during his holiday, providing comfort and advice.
Mac Cluain's second work, Bínn is blasta, appeared in 1922. The following year he published a number of short stories in An Scuab: ‘An Cionntach I' (January 1923); ‘An Cionntach II’ (February 1923); ‘An diamond buidhe’ (April 1923); ‘Seosán Mac Seaca, duine uasal’ (August 1923); ‘An Guthán bréagach’ (November 1923) and ‘Fé sholus an lasáin sin’ (December 1923). Róisín fiain na mara, a collection of articles in which he employed ‘gearr litriú’ (simplified spelling) appeared in 1924. He came under criticism for its use at the time. Two years later, 1926, Litridheacht appeared. He published several booklets for the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland including: ‘The church indispensable’; ‘Freemasonry’; ‘An hour with Christ our king’; ‘Loyalty to Christ our king’ and ‘The little ark’ (1948).
By 1930 he was vice-president of St Flannan's but his health had begun to fail and he spent a year in Switzerland. On his return to Ireland in 1931 he was appointed curate in Newmarket-on-Fergus. University College Galway (UCG) awarded him a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in 1937. Two years later, in 1939, he published Christian social reorganisation, dealing with social issues and problems in Ireland, including wages, trade unions and women workers. The same year he was transferred to Kilrush parish, Co. Clare. He published his most significant work, Canúint an Chláir (1939), with the assistance of native speakers Seán Mac Mathúna and Pádraig Ó Catháin. In this work, by means of examples, he argued that a distinct Co. Clare dialect of Irish existed, with words specific only to that dialect; for example ‘Tá an plúr geall le bheith fiadhachta ídithe’ (‘The flour is almost used up’). He was appointed parish priest of Broadford, Co. Clare, in 1942. During his time there he carried out a number of improvements including renovating the church and parochial house, building a parish hall and procuring a site for the new national school.
Mac Cluain died in November 1949 and was buried in the grounds of Broadford parish church.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).