A Westmeath St. Patrick Scholar

On St Patrick’s Day , Historian Ruth ILLingworth looks at one of Ireland’s leading Celtic Scholars who was an authority on St. Patrick.and old Middle Irish.

Professor Kathleen Mulchrone from Westmeath was one of the most distinguished Celtic and Irish language scholars of the 20th century. She was an authority on the life of St Patrick and the early writings about our national Saint, as well as being a scholar of Old and Middle Irish.She published numerous books and scholarly essays on Early Christian Ireland and ancient Irish manuscripts such as The Book of Lecan and The Tripartite Life of St Patrick.

Kathleen was born in Kilbeggan on November 22nd 1895,the daughter of an RIC sergeant. The family moved to Fore where Kathleen attended the local National School. She went to Loreto Convent in Mullingar for her secondary schooling where she got an Honours Leaving Cert in 1913 and was awarded a scholarship to UCD She graduated with a BA in 1916 and got an MA in 1918 .

After the First World War she was awarded a Travelling Scholarship which enabled her to go to Germany to study for a Doctorate at Bonn University. Her doctoral supervisor was a noted Swiss born Celtic scholar called Rudolf Thurneyson,who regarded Kathleen as one of his best students. Her Doctoral thesis was a study of writings about the life of St Patrick.

She would later publish this thesis as a book entitled “Bethu Phatraic:The Tripartite Life of St Patrick.” in 1939. This book was praised by the noted Irish Celtic scholar,Osburn Bergin as,”The best of its kind that has appeared for many a year.”

On her return to Ireland from Bonn,Kathleen was employed by Westmeath County Council teaching Irish to students in the Vocational School in Mullingar. The school was then located in the County Buildings in what is now Aras An Mhuilinn.. She worked there from 1925 to 1927,then moved to Dublin where she taught in Rathmines Vocational College from 1928 to 1938.She was a Lecturer in Irish at U.C.D ‪1931-1938‬.

From 1928 to 1938 she worked for the Irish Manuscripts Commission at the Royal Irish Academy. Her work involved compiling a catalogue of the many manuscripts in Irish in the possession of the RIA. She published a large number of studies of these manuscripts in academic journals and books.

Between 1926 and 1970,she authored or co-authored 14 of the 27 fascicles of the catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the RIA. Her essays in academic journals included “Studies in Early Irish Law” (1936) and “The Book of Lecan” (1938).

In 1938,Kathleen was appointed to a Professorship of Old and Middle Irish and Celtic Philology at NUI Galway.. She often delivered her lectures in Modern Irish..She retired in 1965 and came back to Mullingar where she lived in Patrick Street…

Professor Kathleen Mulchrone died on June 13th 1973,aged 77. She is buried in Ballyglass .


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.