Below you will find a basic timeline of Thomas life. Unless someone in the family comes up with the time to write more this will have to do. There are, of course, numerous online resources about his life. I will include some links to other information at the top here. As always if you have corrections please pass them along.
- The Wikipedia page is here
- A PDF from the National Library of Ireland. The document includes a biography and other information, including collections of papers.
- The History of Cloughjordan has a page on Thomas
1878 – Thomas MacDonagh is born to Joseph MacDonagh and Mary Parker.
1892 – At 14 Thomas attends Rockwell College in Tipparary.
June 1901 – Thomas leaves Rockwell and starts studying Irish. He also starts teaching at St. Kieran’s Kilkenny
1902 – Thomas’ book of poetry “Through the Ivory Gate” is published.
Spring 1903 – “April and May” is published.
1905 – Thomas goes to teach and further his studies at St. Colman’s College in Fermoy.
– Thomas moves to Dublin and joins Pearse in founding St. Enda’s school.When the Dawn is Come
was produced at the Abbey Theater.
1909 – Thomas and Patrick Pearse found the Association of Secondary School Teachers.
Summer of 1910 – Thomas traveled to Paris to study and enjoyed the discussions of art, history and politics at the cafés.
1910 – Upon return from Paris Thomas takes his exams for his BA and continues on with his MA
1911 – Thomas wrote his thesis “Thomas Campion and the Art of Poetry”. He graduates from University College Dublin with his Masters of Arts.
March 1911 – Thomas along with Hueston, Colum, and Stephens release the first issue of the “Irish Review” a magazine of literature, reviews, and politics for the intellectual movement in Ireland.
January 1912 – Thomas marries Muriel Gifford. Thomas is also appointed as a professor at University College.
1912 – A busy year for Thomas, teaching, directing university students in plays, writing, and working with Plunkett in plans to start a Irish theater. Metempsychosis, was performed by the Theater of Ireland.
– Muriel gives birth to their first son, Donagh
July 1913 – Hueston wanted out of the Irish Review. Plunkett accepted the financial burden of the Review when Colum and Stephens were let go. Plunkett assumes the editorship and works with Thomas on the Review.
November 1913 – Thomas becomes a founder member of the Irish Volunteers. He was also part of a provisional committee of 30 set up shortly after the Irish Volunteers held a rally at the Rotunda in Dublin.
Feb. 1914 – Thomas traveled through Derry and Killkenny giving political speeches.
May 1914 – Edwin Martyn, a wealthy land owner of Connacht, agreed to put up money and partner with Thomas and Plunkett to start the Irish Theater. Thomas’ brother Jack would return from New York to manage, act and teach at the theater. The theater over the years would perform “Metempsychosis” and “Pagans”
Early July 1914 – Thomas was elected Commandant of the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. He would hold this position till his execution in 1916.
July 26, 1914 – Roger Casement’s arms shipment came into Harbor at Howth. Word of the arrival of arms had gotten out. En route back the Irish Volunteers came upon a detachment of Dublin Police and two companies of British soldiers in Clontarf. Hobson, Darrel Figgis and MacDonagh all spoke to Mr. Harrel, Assistant Commissioner of the Dublin Police. Mr. Harrel decided against taking any action to prevent any violence and returned to Dublin.
August 12, 1914 – England enters into World War I. The state of war in England created a split in the Irish Volunteers between the followers of John Redmond and followers of the original founders. The Redmond contingent believed if the Volunteers aided England in the war against Germany, that after the war a grateful English government would grant home rule. Meanwhile many of the original founding members of the Volunteers felt that it was the time to act as England was occupied with the war against Germany.
October 1914 – The first Irish Volunteers Convention was held. The members and officers who had joined early were reelected to the committee. The Redmond supporters were expelled and the Irish Volunteers manifesto of 1912 was re-endorsed. With Redmond’s supporters gone and Irish men being drafted the Volunteers saw their membership numbers drop.
Remainder of 1914 – The Irish Volunteers appointed seven members as the Head Quarters staff. Thomas was made director of training which occupied much of his time until the uprising.In England the government was conscripting men. Soon many Irish men started returning from England and needed employment. Thomas helped start an employment office, which Nell Gifford Donnelly would run. The employment office would also act as a recruitment center for the Volunteers. Of those who came through the employment office would be Michael Collins.
March 24, 1915
– Thomas’s wife Muriel gives birth to Barbara
. Thomas writes a poem for her.
Summer 1915 – Thomas was a member of the Committee that organized the Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa funeral. Rossa was one of the early members of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) and managed the paper “The Irish People”. Rossa was arrested in 1865 and spent 6 years in a penal servitude at which time he was exiled. Rossa lived out the remainder of his life in the US and his body was returned to Ireland for burial. The popularity of Rossa attracted many to the ceremonies and funeral. Rossa’s funeral also helped renew popular support for home rule and also helped recruiting efforts.
February 1916 – The Irish Volunteers starts to increase the frequency of training and maneuvers. They also start making more of public demonstration of their preparations.
March 1916 – Pearse orders parades of Volunteers to march with full gear on St. Patrick’s day. On March 31 the Irish Volunteers held a rally demonstrating against the jailing and deportation of Volunteers.
April 1, 1916 – Pearse announced orders for Easter Maneuvers to last the entire Easter Weekend.
April 20, 1916 – MacNeill and Hobson hear that the plans for Easter Maneuvers are actually for a uprising and go to Pearse for confirmation. Pearse confirms that an uprising is planed for Easter Sunday. MacNeill disagreed, he thought it was not the right time to strike and such a action at the moment would only result in many deaths and set back the movement.
April 21, 1916 – Thomas and MacDiarmada went to MacNeill and told him of the arms expected to arrive from Germany. They managed to persuade MacNeill not to take action against the orders for the rising.
April 22, 1916 Saturday – Late in the day MacNeill was told of the capture of the shipment of arms he decided that the uprising would not succeed and sent countermanding orders to all brigades and had the Sunday Independent publish the orders.
April 23, 1916 Sunday – Thomas was awoken and told of the news of MacNiell’s orders and the Military Council was to meet and discuss what to do next. In the end the council decided to abide by MacNeill’s order and that the rising would occur on the next day at noon. Messengers were sent to all officers with the new orders. Thomas was sent to report to MacNeill the decision of the Military Council. Thomas later that day would write a statement in regards to his actions and his responsibility for the coming Rising.
April 24, 1916 Monday To April 29, 1916 Sunday
– At 10:00 clock the volunteers would start congregating with their brigades. Pearse, Connolly and Plunkett commanded the volunteers who seized the General Post Office.MacDonagh met his men in St. Stephen’s Green and announced that the Proclamation would be read from the GPO at noon.
MacDonagh had trained a special group of volunteers to destroy Magazine Fort. Just before noon this special group of volunteers over powered the guards and took what ammunition they could. Then their orders were to set fuses to detonate the remaining ammunition announcing the beginning of action.
Shortly after the noticeable destruction of Magazine Fort Pearse proceeded to the steps of the GPO and read the Proclamation to all there. The Proclamation would be posted throughout Ireland. Seven men had signed their names to the Proclamation including Thomas.
For the first few days of Uprising there was light fighting throughout Dublin. General Lowe had sent for reinforcements from the countryside. Until they arrived he would concentrate on the GPO. The British would also start to test the Volunteers’ strength and their positions.
By the 27th the British had made progress in battling the Uprising. The condition of the GPO was poor. The building was on fire and forced the Volunteers to evacuate their position. There were casualties and Connolly had been seriously wounded. Most there managed to escape despite the heavy fire and setup new headquarters.
With overwhelming British force being brought to bear and the Volunteers started taking a many more causalities, the battle was not going well. On the 29th Pearse sent Elizabeth O’Farrell under a white flag to find General Lowe and to seek terms for surrender. Pearse was only offered unconditional surrender. In the interest of preventing further bloodshed he accepted the conditions of surrender and issued orders to his men to lay down their arms. Connolly signed the surrender orders was arrested.
Thomas upon learning of this refused the order to surrender. In the chain of command Thomas was now in charge of the remaining Volunteers. After speaking with General Howe and seeing Pearse and Connolly in custody Thomas believed accepting the surrender was the only option. Thomas handed over his sword and would order his men to abide by thesurrender orders and signed the orders. He was then taken into custody.
The British started Court Martial trials for the leaders of the uprising immediately. They would be charged with “rebellion with the intent of assisting the enemy” and not allowed any witnesses or legal council.
May 3, 1916 – At 1:30 A.M.
– Thomas’ sister in law, Grace, married Joseph Plunkett in the prison chapel. The only witnesses were the British soldiers guarding Plunkett.At 3:30 Thomas was brought to the courtyard in Kilmainham Gaol and executed by firing squad.
In the following days sixteen men would be sentenced to death and executed by the British. All of those who signed the Proclamation would be executed. One of the leaders who would not be executed was Eamon DeValera The British did not want to disrupt their attempts in bringing the US into World War I by executing the American born DeValera and would instead jail him.
Later in 1916 Thomas’s Poetical Works and Literature in Ireland were published posthumously. In the summer of 1917 on holiday Muriel went swimming and drown, washing up on the beach the next morning. Leaving Barbara and Donagh to be passed from one family member to another for the remainder of their childhood.