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Michael Davitt.

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Mícheál Mac Dáibhéid

(March 25, 1846-May 30, 1906)

Michael Davitt was one of the founding fathers of the Land League, he became a member of Parliament, was an active campaigner for social reform. He was one of the more important and influential figures of the late nineteenth century, he was closely associated with the Home rule issue. An extremely articulate writer, his reflective style due in no small way to the hardships he and his family endured in the early years of his life, he left behind a valuable historical resource relating to the major political questions of his time.

Michael Davitt was born the second of five children in Straide County Mayo on March 25th 1846. He was born at the height of the great famine, when he was four and a half years old (Another source stated six) the Davitt's Martin and Catherine and their children were evicted from their home in Straide.

Martin traveled to England looking for work, ending up in Lancashire, Catherine and the children were offered accommodation in the workhouse, she refused when she learned she would be separated from her older children, the family were given accommodation the the local parish priest Fr. John McHugh.

Mrs Davitt and her children eventually joined Martin in the industrial town of Haslingden in Lancashire, in 1856 when he was ten years old he began work in a cotton mill, unfortunately two years later he lost his arm in an industrial accident. After which he attended a Wesleyan school for two years, he then took employment in a printing firm, despite his incapacity he was able to set type. It was around this time he began night classes in Irish history at the Mechanic's Institute, his thoughts soon turned to politics and in 1865 he joined the Fenian movement in England.
Note (There are different versions of the above two paragraphs.)

He quickly rose through the ranks to become organising secretary for both England and Scotland, he was arrested in 1870 for arms smuggling and sentenced to fifteen years hard labour, after seven years he was released

After his release he traveled to America where he engaged in fund raising activities, as a result of his connections in America most of his family moved there and settled in Philadelphia, his father is buried at Scranton, Pennsylvania.

In America Davitt met Mary Yore, from Oaklands, California they were married in 1886, the next year they moved to Ireland, taking up residence in a Land League cottage given to them as a wedding present from the people of Ireland, the cottage was at Ballybrack, Dalkey, County Dublin. Michael and Mary had five children, three sons and two daughters, one of whom Kathleen, died of tuberculosis in 1895 at the age of seven.

Rerferring to landlords in Ireland at a Land League meeting in Loughgall County Armagh in 1881 Davitt stated, ‘are all of one religion their god is mammon and rack rents, and evictions their only morality, while the toilers in the fields, whether Orangemen, Catholics, Presbyterians or Methodists, are the victims’ (For God and Ulster, p. 21).

By the time of his death Davitt had traveled widely visiting The Holy Land, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, South Africa, Russia and most of Europe as well as almost every part of Ireland and Britain.

Michael died in Dublin at the age of sixty of acute septic poisoning while a patient in the Elphis hospital. his body was taken to the Carmelite Friary, Clarendon Street, Dublin where over 20,000 people filed past his coffin the next day. His remains were conveyed by train to Foxford, County Mayo. A huge crowd attended his funeral in the grounds of Straide Abbey, in the shadow of the church in which he was baptised.

Today the church is restored and serves as a museum dedicated to him, it contains many artifacts relating to his public and family life

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