Remembering Ronnie O'Gorman

We at the University of Galway Library are heartbroken to learn of the passing of a long-time friend of the Library and tireless champion of art and culture in the West of Ireland, Ronnie O’Gorman. Ronnie’s family link to the University’s library dates back to the 19th century, when his grandfather, Philip O’Gorman, was hired as Clerk in the Library in November 1887 on the recommendation of Acting Librarian, Professor D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson. 

He held this position until 1898, after which he went on to rent a shop on High Street before buying the building on the Shop Street end of Church Lane, now Easons, where he opened a book shop which grew into a thriving printing works, the Galway Printing Company, running the length of the lane.


Ronnie was well known to all in Galway as founder of The Galway Advertiser and, as readers of his weekly column will know, he had a keen scholarly interest and contagious enthusiasm for the history of Galway city as well for Irish Art and Irish literature and he was a passionate scholar and promoter of the life and work of Lady Gregory. The library collections which his grandfather would have worked closely with in those early decades of the University’s existence now form part of our Special Collections. 

The University Library will be further enhanced by the carefully curated book collection of three generations of the O’Gorman family, which Ronnie generously bequeathed to the University of Galway earlier this year, along with two beautiful paintings of Galway by Walter Osborne - Galway Fowl Market and Galway Fish Market. 

This legacy will ensure the continuity of Ronnie’s lifelong commitment to preserving and promoting Ireland’s literary culture, it is a gift to the city and will inspire and educate students and staff of the University and our researchers for generations to come.  

Ronnie was always a welcome sight in our reading room, his combination of passion, knowledge, warmth and generosity of spirit was utterly unique and a joy to encounter. He quietly supported and championed the work of countless people, as evidenced from the many tributes to him over these past few days. Ronnie was founding Board Member, friend and benefactor of Yeats Thoor Ballylee, he cared deeply about art and beauty, and he took action to pursue ideas and promote activity that preserved aspects of Irish culture for all to enjoy.

For many years Ronnie served as Director of the annual Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering at Coole Park. Set in the backdrop of the beautiful gardens and forests of Coole, where the leading figures of the Irish Revival visited over a century before, from Shaw to Yeats, the Autumn Gathering celebrated the life and writings of Lady Augusta Gregory. The event brought together locals, scholars, writers, artists, as well as descendants of Lady Gregory, all in the spirit of Ronnie’s inimitable warmth, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and good humour. A number of events were held between Coole Park and the Library as part of the Gathering over the years, including tours of Archives and Special Collections at the Library and talks and archive screenings held at Coole.  

We will miss Ronnie and we are thinking of his children Sadhbh, Sîan, Annajoy, Ben and Sally and his extended family in this difficult time. We in the Library, and those of us working with Heritage Collections in particular, take comfort in the knowledge that Ronnie’s prolific writing on the city’s history and his efforts to collect, preserve and promote the country’s artistic and literary output, will go on to inform and inspire our own work long into the future.

 Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.