Nora Nowlan (b.1940)
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Nora Nowlan (b.1940)


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Nora Nowlan and her brother, Shane Gray, are the surviving grandchildren of Arthur Griffith and his wife Maud. Nora’s mother Ita was their daughter. Nora’s father was a medical doctor and the family lived in England until Nora was aged about 8 years old, when they moved to Libya. Neither Ita nor her mother Maud spoke about Arthur Griffith, because they were embittered by the perceived lack of recognition afforded him. Arthur Griffith died when his daughter Ita was eight years of age. He also had a son, Nevin, who qualified as a barrister but spent most of his working life in the Land Registry. Neither Nora nor her brother were interested in their grandfather in earlier days, and they have none of his personal memorabilia because this was in Nevin’s keeping during his lifetime. However, Nora is proud of her grandfather and she is aware that some connection with the Connolly family existed, but is not sure of its exact nature. She recalls visitors to her grandmother’s house and remarks that during her schooldays she found the connection to her grandfather embarrassing because she knew very little about him. Tony Jordan’s book Arthur Griffith with James Joyce and W. B. Yeats: Liberating Ireland (Pub. Westport Books) has helped her to learn more. She is aware that she would not have got much information from her mother Ita as she had been traumatised by her childhood experiences and did not talk about her father. Nora’s grandmother, Maud Sheehan, had come from a large family from Terenure, and Nora remembers Maud’s sister, her grandaunt Annie. She describes her grandmother as naturally reserved and a frugal person by nature, who did not appreciate any intrusion relating to her husband. She also remembers Maud’s funeral which was attended mainly by her old friends. Nora discusses the support given to Arthur Griffith and his wife by his friends, explaining that they bought the couple a family home in Clontarf because Arthur was earning no money. He married late in life and was frequently on the run. Ita had a vague memory of this house, and she would tell a story to Nora about her father being caught on the grounds of the house by the Black and Tans, and of her mother Maud’s challenge to them. Nora recalls her grandmother as a small, grey-haired woman, and she describes the meeting of Arthur and Maud, both of whom had an interest in music. After her husband’s death, Maud became somewhat reclusive though she had a close circle of friends, her granddaughter says. Nora remarks that her grandmother as a widow had frequent rows with the Government. An appropriate headstone was promised for Arthur’s grave which never materialised. Though she refused to attend any joint commemorations (for Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins) herself, she did send her two children, Ita and Nevin, to the Glasnevin event. Nora’s impression is that her grandfather held back during the Treaty negotiations and did not receive due recognition as a result. Nora has been politically active as a member of the Labour Party for four decades. She was a founder member of the Irish Family Planning Association and her particular interest is in social policy. In a further interview, Nora talks about Anthony Jordan’s book on Arthur Griffith. She explains that the author was keen to bring Arthur’s work to life, and that she was interested to discover that her grandfather was a journalist and editor (as was her own husband). Anthony Jordan’s research has brought to light Griffith’s connection with James Joyce and the fact that Griffith, in some guise, was mentioned in every chapter of Ulysses. Nora discusses a Mansion House conference and a subsequent meal for the members, the bill for which was itemised for each person, making for a most interesting document.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

34.10 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Arthur Griffith (Interviewee’s grandfather)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore