Death of Monsignor Brendan P. Devlin (Breandán Ó Doibhlin)

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Posted 20th September


St Patrick’s College Maynooth is saddened to announce the death of Monsignor Brendan P. Devlin: Distinguished French and Irish Scholar. On behalf of the staff and students of St Patrick’s College Maynooth, the President, Rev Prof Michael Mullaney, and the Rector of the National Seminary, Dr Tomás Surlis, extend our condolences to Msgr Devlin’s family, to Bishop Donal McKeown and the priests of the Diocese of Derry, and his circle of devoted and close friends. Last May, friends from the Irish Department at Maynooth University, Cumann na Sagart, St Patrick’s College and members of his family united to celebrate Brendan’s contribution to the Irish language. It was a joyful, timely and poignant celebration. Brendan’s contribution to the French language was recognised by the French government which awarded him the Légion d’honneur in 2001 for his services to cultural relations between France and Ireland, in particular his work for the restoration of the Irish College in Paris, his development of French studies at Maynooth University, and his work as translator of several of the classics of French literature into Irish.

We give thanks to God for his authentic and faithful priestly witness and his rich scholarly legacy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Is cúis mhór bhróin do Choláiste Phádraig, Maigh Nuad a fhógairt go bhfuil an Moinsíneoir Breandán P. Ó Doibhlin, ardscoláire Fraincise agus Gaeilge ar shlí na fírinne. Thar ceann fhoireann agus mhic léinn an Choláiste, déanann an tUachtarán, an tOll. Urr. Michael Mullaney, agus Reachtaire na Cliarscoile Náisiúnta, an Dr Tomás Surlis, comhbhrón ó chroí le muintir Bhreandáin, leis an Easpag Donal McKeown agus sagairt Dheoise Dhoire, agus lena chuid cairde dílse.

I mí na Bealtaine seo caite, tháinig cairde ó Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad, ó Chumann na Sagart agus ó Choláiste Phádraig le chéile le gaolta agus le cairde Bhreandáin chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar na gaiscí ar fad a rinne sé ar son na Gaeilge. Ba cheiliúradh lúcháireach, tráthúil agus tochtmhar é. Thug rialtas na Fraince aitheantas dá shaothar ar son na Fraincise nuair a bronnadh an Légion d’honneur air in 2001 as a chuid oibre ar son caidreamh cultúrtha idir an Fhrainc agus Éire, agus as a chuid oibre, leis, ar athchóiriú Choláiste na nÉireannach i bPáras, an fhorbairt a rinne sé ar léann na Fraincise in Ollscoil Mhá Nuad, agus as an aistriúchán a rinne sé ar roinnt de chlasaicí na Fraincise go Gaeilge.

Gabhaimid buíochas ó chroí le Dia as a fhinnéacht shagartúil dhílis aiceanta agus as a oidhreacht shaibhir scolártha.

Monsignor Brendan P. Devlin was born in Rouskey, County Tyrone in 1931. He was educated in St Columb’s College, Derry, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. He was ordained priest in 1955.

In 1958, he became Professor of Modern Languages at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, a position he held with distinction until his retirement in 1996. He is known for his work in French and Irish.

Monsignor Devlin is the author of three novels in Irish, Néal Maidine agus Tine Oíche (1964), An Branar gan Cur (1979), and Sliocht ar Thír na Scáth (2018). In a series of articles in Irisleabhar Mhá Nuad in the 1960s he adopted the methods of the French nouvelle critique, spearheaded by Roland Barthes, to his analysis of works of writers writing in Irish.

He wrote ground breaking articles in the 1960s on the nouvelle critique and on the Catholic novel in France in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record. He also published a very handsome bilingual text with translations into Irish of a range of French poets from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Poets included, among others, Du Bellay, Ronsard, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud and Apollinaire. Other publications include a translation into Irish of Gargantua by Rabelais and of Pascal’s Pensées. In 2006 and 2007, he published a series of manuals on literature written in Irish, Manuail de Litríocht na Gaeilge, covering the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These volumes provide the historical context to the works of various writers in addition to analyses of selected passages from their works.

In addition to translation of works of French writers into Irish, he also translated the Catechism of the Catholic Church into Irish in 2001, a volume which runs to almost one thousand pages. Working with his colleague, An tAthair Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, Msgr Devlin was involved in translating the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into Irish. An Bíobla Naofa, thirty years in the making, was the first modern edition of the Bible in the Irish language. In his later retirement years, he occupied himself with making key conciliar texts and recent magisterial documents available in Irish: Lumen Gentium; Gaudium et Spes and Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangeli Gaudium; among others. In the last few months, he translated two medieval Irish poems dedicated to Our Lady into English.

Monsignor Devlin was Vice-President of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from 1977 to 1980 and Rector of the Irish College in Paris from 1984 to 2001. He will be remembered for his trojan work in overseeing the restoration and transformation of the Collège des Irlandais, Paris, into the present Centre Culturel Irlandais.


In 2001, he was invested as an Officier of the Légion d'honneur, the highest French award available to a foreign national. On 2nd September 2013, he celebrated the funeral mass of Séamus Heaney, also a past pupil of St Columb’s College, Derry.

His output was monumental. Like Horace, he could have said 'Exegi monumentum aere perennius', 'I have raised a monument more lasting than bronze'. He brought style and finesse to everything he did. Pascal distinguished between the esprit de géométrie and the esprit de finesse. Monsignor Devlin was the esprit de finesse.

Funeral arrangements:

Reposing in the College Chapel, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth on Thursday 21st September from 5pm, concluding with Evening Prayer at 7.30pm. Requiem Mass on Friday at 10am, in the College Chapel, followed by removal to St. Mary's Church, Rouskey, Gortin, Co. Tyrone arriving at approx 4pm for prayers, followed by burial in the adjoining cemetery.