Alison Martin pays tribute to Maud Griffith, the wife of Sinn Féin founder, Arthur
Over the years, much has been written about Arthur Griffith. Relatively little, however, has been written about his wife Maud. Unbeknown to many, Maud had been a soprano in her youth and first bonded with Arthur Griffith over their love for music.
She later declared herself in favour of the Treaty and following her husband’s death, worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy.
Maud Sheehan, originally known as Mary, was born in Dublin in 1874. Her father, Peter Sheehan was an exporter of ropes and twines. Consequently, the family were fairly wealthy.
Peter and his wife, Mary, originally lived with their young children in Cook Street near Christ Church. The Sheehans were a musical family and from an early age music was Maud’s passion. As a teenager, she enjoyed singing soprano in the Barton McGuckin Dublin Opera Society. Maud first met her future husband, Arthur Griffith, at the age of fifteen, whist she was performing with her sister at a meeting of the Celtic Literary Society, where Griffith was secretary. Whilst Griffith would go on to become the founder of Sinn Féin and later President of the Dáil, he was at that time a twenty-year old copyreader and crusading journalist.
By her own admission, Maud was not particularly interested in politics when they first met. However, the two bonded over their mutual appreciation for music.
Although the couple began courting in 1894, Maud saw little of Griffith over the next few years. It is believed that Griffith suffered acute ill health during 1895 and 1896. He then departed for South Africa, where he worked as a journalist for nearly two years. Maud meanwhile remained at home with her family. As a woman from a middle-class, leisured family, there was no real need for her to find an occupation. Griffith returned to Dublin in 1899 and in 1904 the couple decided to get engaged.