Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Michael J. Doyle of Athy and the Philo Celtic Society of New York

During the week I finished reading Eileen Gough’s biography of a forgotten Irish patriot, Diarmuid Lynch.  He was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood [IRB] and reputedly the last person to leave the burning GPO in Dublin as the Easter Rebellion came to a close.  Diarmuid Lynch was a very interesting man who having spent the early years of the new century in New York returned to Dublin, as did his friend Tom Clark in 1907.  Both were members of the IRB and both were involved in the 1916 Rebellion.  Lynch, like Clark, was sentenced to death but because he had been granted American citizenship some years previously, he, like De Valera, had his death sentence commuted to a term of imprisonment.  On his eventual release he returned to New York where he renewed friendship with the elderly Fenian John Devoy.  Both were to disagree profoundly with De Valera during his extended sojourn in America while the War of Independence was ongoing in Ireland.

I was interested to read of Lynch’s links with the Philo Celtic Society of New York during his early years in America.  The society, founded by Galway born Micheal Ó Lóchain in 1872 with its first branch in Brooklyn, sought to encourage the speaking of Irish as an everyday language.  Ó Lóchain was a school teacher in Brooklyn and as first president of the Philo Celtic Society saw the society spread throughout America.  He died in 1899 and Diarmuid Lynch was later appointed president of the society.  When Lynch returned to Ireland in 1907 he was replaced as president of the society by Athy man Michael J. Doyle.  Michael J. was, I believe, the son of Michael and Ann Doyle of Woodstock Street and later of Hillsgrove House.  Michael Senior died in 1921 aged 95 years having served as a member of Athy Town Commissioners and Athy Urban District Council for many years.  Both he and his sons, Martin E. Doyle who was clerk of Athy Union, and Peter Paul Doyle served on the local Urban District Council.  Martin was chairman of Athy UDC from 1915-1918 and was followed in that position by his brother Peter Paul Doyle for two terms from 1919.  The Doyle family connection with Athy Urban District Council is probably unique insofar as Michael Doyle Senior, like his two sons, had served as chairman of the Urban Council in 1904 and as chairman of the Town Commissioners in 1884.

The election of Michael J. Doyle as president of the Philo Celtic Society was an enormous honour for the Athy man.  Unfortunately I have little knowledge of his contribution to the development of the society.  He occupied the position for one year only, being replaced by Richard Dalton who like Diarmuid Lynch was a member of the IRB and a close confidant of the Fenian John Devoy.

Peter Paul Doyle, known locally as P.P. Doyle, served on Athy Urban District Council from 1908 to 1928, while his brother Martin E. Doyle was a Councillor from 1900 when he was co-opted in place of Dr. Jeremiah O’Neill.  He died on 10th October 1927 but did not sit on the Urban Council after 1920.  Interestingly Martin married twice, his first wife Isobel having died aged 33 years in 1911.  His second wife Sarah was elected to Athy Urban District Council following the local election on 26th June 1934.  She was re-elected in 1942 for her final term of 3 years.

There are many gaps in my knowledge of the extended Doyle family whose members  made a major contribution not only to local politics here in Athy but also through Michael J. Doyle to the Irish scene in New York at the start of the 20th century.  The book on Diarmuid Lynch which I mentioned at the start of this Eye is a paperback published by Mercier Press which provides a fine outline of Lynch’s life and his contribution to the Irish Republican cause on both sides of the Atlantic.

I was saddened to hear of the sudden death of Portlaoise based bookseller John McNamee.  John I met whenever I visited his book shop, which was every time I was in Portlaoise on business as the shop was quite near to the local courthouse.  He was deeply involved in the book trade with an interest in books generally and as president of the Booksellers Federation was watching with some anxiety the development of eBooks and their likely impact on book sales and the future of local bookshops.  Local history was another abiding interest of Johns and he was involved in the production of several excellent books on different aspects of his adopted county’s history.

My sympathies are extended to his wife and children on his sad passing.

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