‘Little St. John’s Day. Fair Day in Thomastown. Feast Day of St. Peter and St. Paul, apostles … Cherries and red and black currants for sale at Crois. A sultry day. Hurling on Fair Green. I was knocked down by a young brat, but it was nothing to be ashamed of, as I brought him down as well. Cow-dung oft knocked a good man. Everything is growing now as fast as ferns.’
Keeping a personal diary was not a practise among writers of Irish before O’Sullivan’s time and contemporary Irish scholars saw no future for the language and consequently wrote in English. Hence Humphrey O’Sullivan (Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin) showed remarkable originality and courage in undertaking a diary in the Irish language. He lived a full life as a successful businessman, a fearless worker in the cause of freedom and social justice, a lover of nature, an antiquarian, collector of manuscripts and enjoyer of good food and drink.
By jotting down notes on daily activities he has left us a lively and frank account of life in a small town during a particularly turbulent and important period in Irish history, which included the struggle for Catholic Emancipation, the Tithe War, the foundation of the National Schools, the secret societies, famine, plague, evictions and faction fighting.
O’Sullivan has left us with a remarkable contribution to the social history of Ireland as seen from the inside by a man of wide interests and deep understanding.