Member of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republicand commandant of the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Volunteer in 1916
Thomas MacDonagh is best known as one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and signatory of the Proclamation of the Provisional Government, one of the most significant events in Irish history. The people of Cloughjordan are honoured to count him as a native son. They read with pride the many references he has made, through his poetry, to the places and events of his childhood, happily spent in Cloughjordan.
Thomas made many references to the local places of his youth in his poems;
‘I wish I were today on the hill behind the wood-
My eyes on the brown bog there and the Shannon river-
Behind the wood at home,’
Lyrical Poems was published in 1913, described by Thomas as containing “all that I wish to preserve of my previous work”. Reminiscences of Cloughjordan inspired two poems in particular; The Man Upright and The Night Hunt.
In 1913 the Irish Volunteers were formed and Thomas MacDonagh was appointed a member of the Central Committee. He was given command of the Second Dublin Battalion. He co-organised the Volunteers’ march to Howth, in July 1914, to receive the guns landed by Erskine Childers aboard the yacht, ’Asgard ‘.
In the Easter Rising, which began on Monday the 24th of April, 1916, Thomas MacDonagh, with the rank of commandant, was in command of Jacob’s Biscuit Factory in Bishops Street. His unit, which included his brother Jack, was not subject to any full scale attack. When Pearse and Connolly surrendered on April 26th, MacDonagh was then in supreme command of the insurgents still in action. He surrendered, however, on the following day, Sunday April 27th.
Thomas was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, where, under court martial he was sentenced to death. He was executed with Clarke and Pearse on May 3rd 1916, in the yard of Kilmainham Gaol. He was one of the sixteen leaders of the Rising who were executed. His son Donagh was three and-a-half years old and his daughter, Barbara, only a year. His last letters to Muriel are now in the museum of Kilmainham Gaol.
The intimate MacDonagh connection with Cloughjordan has been strongly fostered over the years and Thomas’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and descendants of his siblings still maintain contact with the village and its people. Thomas’s parents are buried in the old graveyard at Grawn, on the outskirts of Cloughjordan. A commemorative headstone was erected to the memory of Joseph and Mary MacDonagh in 1993 by the local ICA Guild.
The GAA Park in Cloughjordan also commemorates its famous native son by being named in his honour, and the parish GAA Club bears the name Kilruane MacDonaghs. The MacDonagh family have erected a plaque on the wall of the old school building where his parents were teachers and where he and his siblings had their early schooling.
The MacDonagh Heritage and Cultural Centre houses a MacDonagh museum and a genealogical centre with facilities for visitors and meeting areas for special events.