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Douglas Hyde.

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Douglas Hyde.
 

1860 1949

Douglas Hyde was born in Castlerea in County Roscommonon 17 January 1860 he was the youngest son of the local Church of Ireland rector of Tibohine, Arthur Hyde. From 1867 he lived at Rathra House, a few miles from Ballaghaderreen in the valley of the River Lung. The young Douglas no doubt led an idealistic lifestyle in rural Roscommon, during this time he met and made friends with locals such as Seamus Hart, Mrs. Connolly and John Lavin who taught him Irish and no doubt instilled in him a love of Irish culture.

It was expected that Douglas would follow his father into the ministry, but Douglas was more inclined towards academic subjects, he attended Trinity College where he became fluent in French, Latin, German, Greek and Hebrew. As a child and young man he had been fascinated by the the Irish spoken by the older people in his locality, a language which had been and still was looked down upon and actively discouraged, Hyde developed a passion for the language, this passion led to the formation of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge), which was an attempt to save the language from extinction.

Many of the emerging political figures of the time such as Michael Collins, Patrick Pearse, Eamon de Valera and Earnest Blythe, were influenced and impassioned by the Gaelic League. As time progressed the League was infiltrated by members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Hyde became unhappy with the radical policies advocated by some of the new members and resigned as president in 1915. He was replaced by Patrick Pearse

Hyde had no connections with Sinn Féin and the movement for independence, however he was appointed to Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Irish parliament. In late 1925 the house moved from an appointment system to one of election. Hyde contested the election, but was a victim of a smear campaign organized by the far right Catholic Truth Society, basing their campaign incorrectly, on their perception of Hyde's support for divorce, and also on his Protestantism, Hyde was not elected and retired to academic life as Professor of Irish at University College Dublin.

By April 1938 Hyde was retired, but once again entered the political arena again when the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera n appointed Hyde to Seanad Éireann. He was destined to hold the post for an even shorter time than previously, it was decided to appoint Ireland's first President and Hyde was chosen as the most suitable candidate.

Hyde proved to be a popular choice both at home and abroad in USA President Franklin D. Roosevelt called President Hyde "A fine and scholarly old gentleman" Hyde was an avid stamp collector and is said to have corresponded with King George VI about the subject. In June 1938 Hyde was inaugurated as the first President of Ireland and moved into the Vice regal Lodge. Hyde recited the Presidential Declaration of Office in his native Roscommon Irish dialect. It remains one of the few recordings of a dialect that has long disappeared.

In April 1940 he suffered a massive stroke, but to everyone's surprise recovered although confined to a wheelchair. Rumours abounded about Hyde's mental state, some saying he was senile,

Douglas Hyde died at 12 pm on 12th July 1949 and as a former President of Ireland he was accorded a state funeral. One protocol problem that was to arise was Hyde's Protestant religion. He was to be buries in St Patrick's Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin. Religious rules prohibited Roman Catholics from attending serviced in Protestant churches. Only one member of the Irish parliament Dr. Noel Browne attended the service the others remained outside while the funeral service took place

They then joined the cortège when his coffin left the cathedral. Éamon de Valera, by now Leader of the Opposition, was represented by a senior Fianna Fáil figure who was a member of the Church of Ireland, Erskine Childers, a future President of Ireland himself, there is a memorial plaque to Hyde in cathedral.

Hyde's remains were taken to his native Roscommon and buried in his father's old church. Today that church is a museum dedicated to Douglas Hyde and shows memorabilia about him, each year a summer school takes place in the museum.

Hyde was involved with WB Yeates, Lady Gregory in the Irish Literary Revival and was instrumental in setting up the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

 
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