Nic Mhaicín, Maighréad (1899–1983), translator, was born 12 March 1899 in Dunglow, Co. Donegal, third eldest child of the nine children of John Macken , a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), and his wife, Margaret McNamee, commonly known as Daisy Macken. While still a young child her family moved to Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, where she received her earliest education. Her family moved again, this time to Belfast where she attended the Dominican sisters on the Falls Road. She won a scholarship to Queen's University of Belfast (QUB) where she completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Celtic languages and French. She then won a travelling scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris where she spent a year studying for a Master of Arts (MA) degree, specialising in phonetics. Living in Paris first sparked her interest in Russian. By the early 1920s she had returned to Ireland and was living on Grafton Street, Dublin.
Nic Mhaicín worked for a time as a teacher, first in Wolverhampton and afterwards with the Sacred Heart sisters in Leeson Street, Dublin, but she did not enjoy teaching, in particular having to discipline a class, and as a result opted to give private lessons. At this time she also began working as a translator. She was a member of a republican club and regularly met women who shared her politics such as Róisín Ní Dhochartaigh, Kid Bulfin and Caitlín Nic Lochlainn, in an apartment at 21 Dawson Street.
She travelled to Russia for the first time in 1932, working there as a translator. While on her second visit in 1935 she married Patrick Breslin (qv), whose father was originally from Glenties, Co. Donegal. Breslin had been born in London and moved to Russia in 1928. By the time Nic Mhaicín met him he was a citizen of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), working in the translating bureau as well as for the Moscow News. Nic Mhaicín was his second wife. By 1938 she was expecting their first child and wanted the baby to be born in Ireland. She travelled to Belfast where their daughter Anna Maighréad was born on 8 June. The Soviet authorities would not allow her to return to the USSR nor give her husband a visa to leave and as a result she never saw him again. He died in the USSR during the second world war and in 1993 evidence came to light that his death was a result of his anti-Stalinist activities. Ní Mhaicín returned to Dublin and made a living correcting examination papers and giving private lessons in Russian.
By 1943 she had begun working part-time as Trinity College Dublin's (TCD) first teacher of Russian. Despite her excellent Russian and wide knowledge of Russian literature, she never became head of the department because she had never obtained any formal qualification in the language. She translated a number of works into Irish from Russian, French and English for An Gúm. They included Anton Chekhov's An Silín-Ghort (1935) and Gearrscéalta Tchekov cuid a hAon (1939); Scéalta ón Rúisis (1955) which she translated together with Gearóid Ó Nualláin (qv), as well as stories by Turgenev, Tolstoi and Pushkin. From English she translated Arthur Mason's Ridirí beaga na hoíche (1940); Patricia Lynch's (qv) Asal fhear na móna (1944); Norman McKinnel's drama Coinnleoirí an easbuig (1944); and Patricia Lynch's Eibhlín agus Séamus, and Rí na dtinncleoir (1945). From French she translated one of the short stories in the collection Fíon Francach (1956); Rene Bazin's An Chaoin-Fhrainc; Emil Erckmann and P. A. Chatrian's An tIúdach Pólach (1936). In addition, she edited the collection Ós na ceithre hairdibh: cnuasach gearrscéal (1938). She was a member of the council of the Irish Soviet Friendship Society as a well as of Cumann na Scríbhneoirí.
Séamus Ó Grianna (qv) had a high regard for her ability as an Irish speaker, considering her and Seán Mac Maoláin the two best students of Irish he had ever met. She became friends with Ó Grianna and both were active in the campaign against the standardisation of the language, believing the Donegal dialect had not been afforded equal treatment.
Nic Mhaicín died in her apartment on Grafton Street on 1 January 1983. Cumann na bhFoilsitheoirí presented 200 Irish language books to the University of Moscow in 1985 in her memory.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).