He was pictured in a well-known photograph in 1903 of nine of the best-known organizers for Conradh na Gaeilge, published in Na timirí i ré, tosaigh an Chonartha 1893-1927 (1990), by Donncha Ó Súilleabháin.

It was reported in An Claidheamh Soluis, 2 September 1911, that he was 43 years old, that he had Irish from the cradle and that he gave great help to Douglas Hyde in collecting Raftery’s songs. Thomas Meehan was born in Shankill on 12 November 1866, and Patrick Meehan, a labourer, and Margaret Collins were his parents. By the time his sister Julia was born on 16 May 1869, Patrick’s occupation was given as ‘landowner’. By the time of the 1901 census, he was a farmer with a large house. He was a widower, 67 years old, and he spoke Irish.

Thomas’s descendants believe that he was educated in a hedge school. They also say that the Land Commission or their agent chose him as a clever boy worthy of their help. Consequently he was sent to Dublin to learn the pawnbrokers trade. In Irisleabhair na Gaeilge, October 1883, Thomas Meehan, 19 and 20 Winetavern Street, is listed amongst those who paid the fee for the magazine. According to Thom’s Directory, James White, Banker, Goldsmith, Pawnbroker, occupied that address. Thomas would later be manager of three pawn shops.

He was present at the meeting of the Conradh held on 27 September 1893 (Fáinne an Lae, 1926) and he was a member of the Council of the Conradh in 1894 (Ar son na Gaeilge, 1993 by Proinsias Mac Aongusa). He was present in Galway when the Conradh was founded there on 25 January 1894 (Irisleabhair na Gaeilge, February 1984). He was chairman when the hundreth anniversary of the birth of Eugene O’Curry was celebrated (ibid., January 1897). He was present when Craobh Mhic hÉil was founded for Connaughtmen (An Claidheamh Soluis, 23 March 1901). About 1898 he married Maggie McDermott from Ballinrobe. Her family was well off in life. She died on October 8, 1957 at her home in Shankill, Corrandulla, and she is buried in the cemetery in Annaghdown. Her death notice stated that she was the niece of Dean T.F. Macken, Parish Priest of Claremorris.

He had a story printed (The Prison Ghost) in An Claidheamh Soluis on 23 and 30 May 1903. Philip O’Leary draws our attention to it in The Prose Literature of the Gaelic Revival 1881-1921: ideology and innovation, 1994, and and alleges that Irish writers were negligent of historical events: ‘For instance, Dublin’s long and eventful history – indeed the history of any important Irish town – is central in no Gaelic historical work with the exception of Tomás Ó Míodhcháin’s slight and chronologically imprecise 1903 story…’. An Claidheamh Soluis announced on 7 May 1903 that Thomas was appointed Orgainizer for Connaught. Donncha Ó Súilleabháin said in Na timirí i ré, tosaigh an Chonartha 1893-1927, 1990, that he started working on 24 May under the direction of Pádraic Ó Máille in Galway, Roscommon, Sligo and Mayo. In October of that year he was teaching and examining in the Convent of Mercy in Elphin (An Claidheamh Soluis, 10 October 1903). East Galway and West Roscommon were under his care in 1904 (ibid, 13 February 1904). A few months later he was in the area of Charlestown and he was helping to organize Castlebar Feis. He moved from there to Castlebar and introduced the bilingual program in 14 schools in the Ballinrobe area, Partry, Cong, Clonbur and Tourmakeady.

It was reported on 13 May 1905 that his headquarters were in Galway City. His name was with a letter requesting travel expenses for competitors at the Oireachtas (ibid., 9 December 1905). It was reported on 10 February 1906 that he interviewed Canon Macken in Tuam and on 31 March 1906 that he founded a branch in Carraroe. He had to put together an area committee in Ballinrobe and give lectures to them in the schools of the area (ibid., 11 September 1906). He reported on the area committee of Uí Máine a few months later and he was based in Athenry (ibid., 8 December 1906). In Sinn Féin, 1 June 1907 the following piece was published: Tomás Ó Míodhcháin is at present working in the Ballinasloe district, Co. Galway. He visited the following schools last week: Ballinasloe, Eyrecourt, Lawrencetown, Ahascragh, Cappatagle, Athenry, Clonfert, Coldwood and Eglish. In all of these, with the exception of the Ahascragh and Eglish schools and the boys’ school in Ballinasloe, he found no Irish being taught. The timire is endeavouring to remedy this state of affairs and has started a class for school teachers in Ballinasloe. He has also a teachers’ class in Loughrea on Saturday’. According to An Claidheamh Soluis, 4 July 1908, he was in based in Creggs and he had spoken with Father Mac Branáin at a public meeting in Caltra. From there he went to Gort.

When Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh left his post as manager of An Claidheamh Soluis and Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, a decision was taken not to fill the post for six months, and Thomas was appointed temporary manager. His appointment was adopted at the Ard-Fheis but Dr. Dónall Ó Loingsigh opposed it. Thomas did not understand what he meant and replied that the magazine was greatly improved since he started (ibid., 14 August 1909).

At a meeting of the Executive Committee in October, at which Thomas was present, a decision was made to advertise the vacancy. He was not in the post after January 1910. In An Claidheamh Soluis, 2 September 1911, it was reported that he had died in California about a week earlier. His descendants believe that he was employed as an assessor in California, as he had experience in the gold business, he wrote letters home to his wife, and he was murdered when the assessment office was broken into.

The Committee adopted a resolution of sympathy, referring to ‘our old friend Thomas Meehan who took a man’s share in the commencement of this work and subsequently spent time as an organizer.’ (ibid., 23 September 1911).

When the census of 1911 was taken, his wife was living in his father’s house in Shankill. The following were present: Patrick (75), farmer, who spoke only Irish; his son’s wife, Margaret (33), who was married for 13 years; and five children born to her and Thomas: Mary Margaret (8), Brendan (8), Thomas (6), Julia (4), Myles (1). Their mother’s people looked to him to educate them.

The songs he gave to An Craoibhín: ‘Cill Aodáin’, ‘Seanchas na Sceiche’ and ‘Cholera morbus’ (Abhráin atá leagtha ar an Reachtúire, 1903). On ‘Cill Aodáin’, Hyde wrote: I got this poem first from my friend Thomas Meehan from a copy written down about 20 years ago from the mouth of a poor old person named Micheáilín Ó Cléirigh who was travelling around the country begging. In a note on ‘Eanach Dhúin’ in Raiftearaí: amhráin agus dánta (1987), Ciarán Ó Coigligh wrote: ‘A girl of the Meehan family of Shankill told the story of the drowning on a recording of the Irish Folklore Commission’. In the register of collectors in Clár Amhrán Bhaile na hInse (1976) by Ríonach Ní Fhlaitheartaigh, it is written that Brendan Meehan, Shankill, Corrandulla, collected one score.

Translated from the original article on ainm.ie.

Thomas Meehan, Shankill (1866-1911)

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