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 Thomas MacDonagh

Thomas MacDonagh

Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, Ireland
Death 3 May 1916 (aged 38)
Kilmainham, County Dublin, Ireland
Burial Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Memorial ID 4266 · View Source
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Irish Patriot, Author. He is most remembered for his participation in the Easter Rising of 1916 in which Irish Revolutionaries clashed with British forces at Jacob's Biscuit Factory. He was arrested, and in a court martial found guilty then sentenced to death in front of a British firing squad; he was among the first three to be executed. Of the fifteen that were executed, all seven signers of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic were put to death. He studied for the Catholic priesthood but after his father Joseph's death, he became a teacher like his parents. His mother, Mary Louise Parker, had converted to Catholicism with her marriage to MacDonagh. He had a special interest in humanities, particularly English, Latin and the classics. He obtained a position as a teacher of English and French at St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny. During this time he published his first collection of poetry, “Through the Ivory Gate.” It was here that he developed a lifelong love for the Irish language and experienced what he termed “a baptism in nationalism” after becoming involved with the Gaelic League. Immersing in the Gaelic language through the league’s social and cultural activities, he attended summer language classes becoming a fluent speaker and writer. He then transferred to a more progressive college St Colman’s College, where he was described as “Gaelic to the spine” for wanting Ireland to become a bilingual nation. He co-wrote a musical cantata “The Exodus” based on the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, which was submitted to Feis Ceol at the Royal University, Dublin. It was first performed on May 19, 1904, becoming an award-winning piece that was later published in London. He became a staff member at St. Enda’s, the school he helped to found with Patrick Pearse. As a gifted poet, writer and dramatist, he was a founding member in 1909 of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland and also was active in establishing the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1911 which promoted Irish nationalism and the cultural revival. He joined the Irish Volunteers in November 1913, becoming a member of the provisional committee and taking part in the Howth gun-running, receiving 1,500 German-made rifles. MacDonagh believed Irish freedom would be achieved by what he called “zealous martyrs”, hopefully through peace but, if necessary, by war. After the outbreak of World War I, the Irish were split over the issue of joining the British Army. He sided with Eoin MacNeill, against John Redmond, who supported joining with the British Army. His play the “Pagans” was staged in the Hardwicke Street Theater in 1915. He continued his work on “Literature in Ireland”, his classic work of literary criticism, which forms a study of the relationship between language and history. Although a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood from April 1915, he was not co-opted to the Military Council until early April 1916, and so had little part in planning the Rising. He is believed, however, to have contributed to the content of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and was one of the seven signers. At first the Easter Rising of 1916 was to involve thousands across Ireland, but mainly those living in Dublin participated. As one of the four Dublin battalion commandants, MacDonagh was in charge at Jacob’s Biscuit factory in Bishop Street. John MacBride joined the group at the last minute to become second-in-command. Facing the firing squad at Kilmainham Jail on the first day, MacDonagh was executed with his colleagues Patrick Pierce and Thomas Clarke. Over this Easter weekend thousands were arrested, some sent to jail in England without a trial, yet seventy-five were condemned to the firing squad but later the sentences were reprieved. He left a wife and children.

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 3 Jan 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4266
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas MacDonagh (1 Feb 1878–3 May 1916), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4266, citing Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland ; Maintained by Find A Grave .