This browser does not support viewing this file type. Please download the asset to view.
Typed letter from Thomas MacDonagh to James Whelan from 1907. The letter discusses various topics including Rockwell College in Tipperary, where they were both teachers, Sinn Fein as well as MacDonagh own literary efforts.
James Whelan owned a publishing company in Dublin and was also a tobacconist. Though he had no direct involvement in the 1916 Rising, he was arrested and interned because of material he had published for Patrick Pearse.
Thomas MacDonagh (1878–1916) was a teacher, poet, writer, and republican revolutionary, born 1 February 1878 in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary.
During his school years, he became immersed in the Gaelic League's social and cultural activities, becoming a fluent Irish speaker and writer. After moving to Dublin in 1908, he became assistant headmaster and instructor of language and literature in St Enda's college, Ranelagh, the school opened by Patrick Pearse.
MacDonagh's progress was from cultural nationalist to physical-force political separatist, initiated by his witnessing the police baton charge down Sackville St. on ‘Bloody Sunday’ during the 1913 Dublin lockout. He enrolled in the Irish Volunteers within a week of their formation, and was appointed to the armed body's governing provisional committee. The outbreak of the first world war radicalised his outlook. He was among the twenty members of the provisional committee who repudiated the Woodenbridge declaration by parliamentary party leader John Redmond pledging Volunteer support for the British war effort.
Despite being sworn by March 1915 into the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), he was not privy to the detailed planning for the rising until the last few weeks before Easter 1916.
On Easter Monday morning, MacDonagh issued the order deploying the Dublin Brigade, and as a member of the provisional government signed the declaration of the republic. MacDonagh commanded a force of 150 volunteers that occupied Jacob's biscuit factory, Bishop St.
On Sunday 30 April, MacDonagh, the senior Volunteer officer remaining in the field, initially declined to accept the surrender order issued the previous day, on the grounds that Patrick Pearse, being in enemy custody, had issued the directive under duress. After parleying with the British commander, Gen. Lowe, he was conveyed to the South Dublin Union. There, after conferring with 4th Bn commandant Éamonn Ceannt, he agreed to surrender. MacDonagh countersigned Pearse's order, which, dispatched to the other garrisons still in the field, effectively ended the rising. Convicted and sentenced to death, he was shot by firing squad in Kilmainham gaol on 3 May 1916, with Pearse and Thomas Clarke the first three of the insurrection leaders to face execution.
(Biographical details: Lawrence William White. MacDonagh, Thomas. Dictionary of Irish Biography)
Letter donated by James Whelan's granddaughter.