Biography of Seán

Sean ‘Ac Dhonncha
1919 – 1996


Seán ‘Ac Dhonncha, Johnny Joe Pheaitsín, was born in Aird Thoir, Carna, Co. Galway 2nd October 1919. The son of a fisherman he had three brothers (Joe, Matt and Páraic) and seven sisters (Bairbre, Bríd, Máiréad, Nóra, Eilís and Mary), Seán being the fourth youngest. Music and singing was always in the family and his father and mother influenced him greatly.


Seosamh Ó hÉanaí was born just 2 weeks after Seán and they were in the same class together at school.


His parents had a great commitment to education and, though they had little money, all the family went to school and college. Seán won a scholarship to Coláiste Caoimhín in Dublin and also to St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra. While there, he studied the songs of Munster and Donegal in Irish and in English. He met the great musician Séamus Ennis when he was working as a collector with the Folklore Commission and they exchanged songs. They remained life-long friends.


Seán Ó Loinnsigh and Seán Milltown 1992

Seán went teaching first in Longford and then moved to Caven. He won a senior county football medal playing with Mullahoran in 1949.  He met a beautiful, vibrant, young teacher from Newbridge in east Galway called Bríd Ní Eidhn. From ‘walking out’ together they fell in love and got married in 1956. Seán was appointed principal in Áth Eascrach in 1959 and they lived there since then. Bríd became máistreás scoile in the early 60’s. Seán retired in 1984. Seán and Bríd did all their teaching and school business through Irish and proved loyal to the Irish language when tested.


  They had five children, Féilim lives in Naas, Páraic lives in Athenry; MacDara lives in Rinn, Co. Waterford; Seán lives in Blarney and Sinéad lives in Dublin.



Seán always continued with the singing and won the gold medal at the Oireachtas in 1953. He was the first to be recorded by Gael Linn on their series of 78rpm recordings in 1957. He made 6 other recordings for them which are now available in the Seoltaí Séide collection. Ceirníní an Chladaigh released “An Aill Bháin – The White Rock” of songs in Irish and English from Connemara in 1971. In 1987 Cló Iar-Chonnachta issued “An Spailpín Fánach” of Seán’s singing. He was awarded “Gradam Shean-Nóis Cois Life” in 1995.



Seán died after an illness on the 14th of December 1996 and is buried in Áth Eascrach. Bríd his good wife is still full of the love of her life, happily living in their home at the edge of the town and delighted that the life, singing and friendships of her life’s partner are being celebrated officially in 2011.