Douglas Hyde – Gaelic League Founder and Irish President

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Douglas Hyde was born January 17th 1860 at Longford House in Castlerea, County Roscommon. Hyde’s father, Arthur Hyde, was a Church of Ireland rector.

He was a scholar of the Irish language from an early age. It was during his childhood while living in Roscommon that he began to take an interest in the language, greatly influenced by local native speakers. In later years (1893) he co-founded the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaedhilge), a cultural organisation formed predominately to promote and revive the use of the Irish language, then in rapid decline.

The Gaelic League quickly grew in popularity across Ireland and attracted dedicated members like Patrick Pearse, Éamon de Velera, Michael Collins and many more of the figures who would later play leading roles in the struggle for Irish Independence. It should not be under estimated importance of the Gaelic League in this regard as many of the leaders of the 1916 Rising first made contact through it’s network.

Hyde believed Irish culture and language should transcend politics and was uncomfortable with the growing nationalist following the Gaelic League was attracting. Eventually he resigned as president of the League in 1915.

douglas-hydeHyde was inaugurated as the first President of Ireland in June 1938. Dispite a massive stroke that left him partically paralised and wheelchair bound, he remained in office untile June 25th 1945.

Hyde died July 12th 1949 at the age of 89. He was affoarded a full state funeral. Because he was a member of the Church Of Ireland, his Roman Chatholic friends and collegues where prohibited from attending his funeral mass by the Chatholic Church. All but one (Dr. Noel Browne) waited outside the doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and joined the cortege after the mass. Hyde was burried with his people in grounds of Portahand Church in County Rosscommon.

There are many memorials dedicated to Douglas Hyde including two schools Coláiste de hÍde, Tamhlacht and Gaelscoil de hÍde , Roscommon. Also Hyde Museum, Frenchpark, Roscommon, The Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College Dublin city centre and Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon (GAA grounds).

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