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Irish scholar and writer, b. 29 Dec., 1829, at Castlebar, Co. Mayo ; d. there, 22 Nov., 1887; son of Ulick Bourke and Cecilia Sheridan, a cousin of John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam. He was educated first at an academy in Castlebar by Matthew Archdeacon, the author of "Connaught in '98"; next at Errew Monastery near Castlebar, where he studied Irish under the eminent Irish scholar and historian, James Hardiman. He entered St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, in May, 1846, and Maynooth in 1849. He was ordained on 25 March, 1858, at Tuam by Archbishop MacHale. While a student at Maynooth he wrote the "College Irish Grammar" for his fellow students in that college and the students of the then recently founded Catholic University of Ireland. On leaving Maynooth he was appointed Professor of Irish, logic, and humanities at St. Jarlath's College, which subjects he continued to teach there from 1859 to 1877. He was President of St. Jarlath's from 1865 to 1877; was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1866; and was made a canon of the Cathedral of Tuam in 1872. During his stay at St. Jarlath's he acted for some time as private secretary to Archbishop MacHale . He was a member of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, but seceded from it with its original founders, and in March, 1880, established the Gaelic Union, which afterwards developed into the Gaelic League. In 1878 he was named Parish Priest of Kilcolman (Claremorris). He was one of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Knock, Co. Mayo, 1879. Canon Bourke died at Castlebar, and was buried at Bearnacarrol, 25 Nov., 1887.

His writings are as follows:

"The College Irish Grammar" (Dublin, first edition, 1856; fifth edition, 1868); "Easy Lessons or Self-instruction in Irish ", which appeared first in "The Nation", and was reprinted in book form (Dublin, 1860), and which went through seven or eight editions during the lifetime of the author; "The Bull Ineffabilis Deus" (The Definition of the Immaculate Conception ) in four languages, Latin, Irish, French, and English, printed in parallel columns (Dublin, 1868), containing a dissertation on the art of illuminating in the past and present; "The Aryan Origin of the Gaelic Race and Language, containing Essays on the Round Towers, Brehon Laws, etc." (London, 1875; 2nd edition, 1876). In this work he defends the pagan origin of the Round Towers of Ireland ; "Seventeen Sermons in Irish Gaelic by the Most Rev. James O'Gallagher, Bishop of Raphoe (1725-1737) and of Kildare (1737-1752), with an English translation and an Irish-English vocabulary" (edited, Dublin, 1877). This work contains a life of the bishop and an interesting account of the arrest and killing of the Rev. O'Hegarty, P. P. of Killygarran, 1734. "The Life and Labours of St. Augustin, Bishop of Hippo Regius, with an account of the Canons Regular and of the Augustinian Friars in Ireland" (Dublin, 1879); "The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary" (Dublin, 1880); "The Dignity, Sanctity and Intercessory Power of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God" (Dublin, 1881); "The Life and Times of the Most Rev. Dr. MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam" (Dublin, 1882); "Beatha Sheaghain Mhic Heil, Airdeaspoig Thuama" (Life of John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam ), edited for the Gaelic Union in the "Gaelic Journal", I, II (1882-1886). This Irish Life of Dr. MacHale is a different work from the English Life of the Archbishop. Nine chapters of it were written before the English Life was begun, but it was never completed. Only twenty-four chapters had appeared at the time of the author's death, and they were never published in book form; "A Plea for the Evicted Tenants of Mayo" (Dublin, 1883), addressed to William Ewart Gladstone; "Prechristian Ireland, a treatise on Early Irish History, Ethnology, the origin of the Round Towers, etc., with the Portrait of the Author" (Dublin, 1887); "A Complete Irish Dictionary", on which he was engaged for years, but it was not completed when his last illness came. The beginning of it was published in "The Nation." In 1868 Canon Bourke established the "Keltic Journal" at Manchester, under the editorship of James Ronan; only nine numbers of this periodical appeared. He brought out an edition of the catechism in Irish, and in collaboration with Father John Nolan and David Comyn wrote three elementary Irish grammatical works, published under the auspices of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language. He acted as editor of "The Last Monarch of Tara" (Dublin), and it was under his supervision that all the Irish works of Archbishop MacHale were published or republished. He also wrote a "Life of St. Jarlath ", which appeared in the "Tuam News".

Canon Bourke's works popularized the results of the philological researches of Continental scholars, such as Pictet, Bopp, Zeuss, and Ebel, and did much to keep alive the interest of Irish studies in Ireland. His "Easy Lessons" and "College Irish Grammar" are in some respects still the most complete handbooks of Modern Irish. Though several of his theories are now antiquated, his English works, written in an easy flowing style, still form a popular introduction to Irish philology and archaeology.


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