Kilmainham Gaol text Collection title

Thomas MacDonagh

Biography

Teacher, poet, and signatory of the 1916 Proclamation, Thomas MacDonagh was born in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, in 1878. He studied English, French, and Irish at UCD, graduating with a BA in 1910 and an MA the year later, before taking up work in the college as an assistant lecturer in English. He married Muriel Gifford in January 1912, and wrote a number of poems and plays during these years, as well as co-founding the Irish Review, a monthly literary journal. This period also saw a development of his interest in Irish nationalism. Already a member of the Gaelic League, as well as a friend and former employee of Patrick Pearse, MacDonagh joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and rose steadily through the ranks. He sat on the provisional committee that split the organisation in September 1914, and in March 1915 was appointed as commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. He was the last person to become a member of the IRB’s Military Council, joining when plans for the Rising were already at an advanced stage. On Easter Monday, 24th April, he led 150 Volunteers into Jacob’s Biscuit factory on Bishop St. The battalion saw little action during the week and MacDonagh initially refused to accept Pearse’s surrender order. He relented upon meeting Eamonn Ceannt and agreed to countersign Pearse’s order. Court martialled and sentenced to death, he spent his last hours in Kilmainham Gaol, where he was visited by Capuchin friars and his sister, a nun, who gave him her rosary beads. He was executed by firing squad on 3rd May, 1916.

 

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