Tomás Ó Gallchobhair (1867–1953) of Baile 'n Chaisil, Ardara, Lifford, Co Donegal

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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Tomás (or Tommy) Ó Gallchobhair was born at Baile 'n Chaisil ("Ballycassan" was written in the questionnaire), and was aged 65 at the time of recording. His father was a farmer from Baile 'n Chaisil, and his mother was from An Sgeadamán nearby. In response to questions, he stated that he had always lived in Baile 'n Chaisil, apart from 12 years in America, at some point after the age of 20. He attended primary school at Scoil na Breacadh. His occupation is given as farmer. Irish was his mother language, and he could also speak English. He could not read or write. The recording team noted "indistinct voice".

Baile 'n Chaisil is a subdivision of the townland of Glengesh, at its north-east end, adjacent to An Sceadamán. It is also the name of the clachan in that subdivision. It is not to be confused with the nearby townland of "An Caiseal". A map of the subdivisions of Glengesh townland is given on page 402 of Lochlann McGill, In Conall's Footsteps (1992).

Tomás Ó Gallchobhair was registered born at Glengesh on 16/11/1867 to Patrick Gallagher and Anne Magill. Further siblings to this couple were Mary (1871), James (1872) and Anne (1873). Anne died and Patrick married Sarah Gallagher of Glengesh at Ardara on 08/02/1875, whence the speaker was sometimes known as Tammy Sally. Births are civilly recorded to Patrick Gallagher and Sarah Gallagher, Glengesh: of Bridget on 06/02/1877; of Patrick on 04/12/1878, and of Daniel on 21/08/1880; and the baptism of Daniel is recorded in Ardara parish records on 01/03/1880.

Tomás' daughter Rose said that Tomás went to America to join two uncles in Butte, Montana. It is said that Tomás could speak nothing but Irish at this time, and that he and his uncles spoke Irish with two other men whom they met. He stayed in America for about 15 years. He was probably in America at the time of the 1901 census, but his widowed step-mother Sally is found in that census, living with her sons Pat (20) and Dan (19). Pat had Irish only, while the others were bilingual. Tomás' younger brother James had married and was living nearby in 1901, apparently with his in-laws (allowing for a suspected small error in completing the census form).

Tomás returned home to manage the farm when James moved with his family to Springburn in Scotland. On 24/02/1906 at Ardara, Tomás (aged 37) married Rose McGill (aged 25) of Baile 'n Chaisil, who lived "just a field away". Rose's father was Edward, almost certainly the seanchaidhe Éamonn Óg 'ac a' Ghoill of Baile 'n Chaisil.

In 1911, we find Thomas (42), wife Rose (30), children Patrick (4), Edward (2) and Anne (8 months). The couple had been married for 6 years, and all 3 children were living. The parents were both bilingual, and no language data was supplied for the children. Near neighbours in 1911 were step-mother Sally and her son Patt; in a reversal of the earlier situation, Patt was bilingual while his mother had Irish only. Sally died in 1919. By 1911 also, James and family had returned from Scotland and were living in Killasteever.

The family of Tomás and Rose is thought to have consisted of 3 boys and 8 girls:
      Patrick (1907–), USA
      Edward (1908–19/06/1926)
      Anne (1910–01/06/1958), m. Breslin, lived Moy, Ardara
      John (1912–??20/01/2009), at home
      Mary (1914–), m. Gallagher, lived Cloghboy, Ardara
      Bridget Winifred (1915–11/03/1966), unmarried, at home
      Rose (–04/2011, aged 94), m. McGill, lived Front St, Ardara
      Teresa (–13/01/2009), m. Campbell, USA
      Eileen (1918–25/05/1918)
      Kathleen (–1991), unmarried, at home
      Sheila (living 2009?), nun, New York

Tomás Ó Gallchobhair died on 19/07/1953 and was buried in Ardara.
The gravestone inscriptions reads:
      In loving memory
      Thomas Gallagher
      Died 19th July 1953.
      His wife Rose
      Died 2nd Sept 1972.
      His family
      Edward died 19th June 1926.
      Annie died 1st June 1958.
      Bridget died 11th March 1966.
      Eileen died May 1918.
      Kathleen died 9th Sept 1991.
      John died 20/01/2009
      Teresa Campbell died 13/01/2009

The same plot also contains a horizontal stone:
      Here lie the
      remains of
      Owen Gallagher
      who died Mar 19th??
      1871 aged 65?? years
      Also his wife
      Rose who died
      August 16th?? 1857
      aged 46?? years.

Uaigh Thomáis Uí Ghallchobhair
(Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors).

A headstone elsewhere in the cemetery was erected by "J Gallagher, Birmingham, Alabama" to commemorate his father, mother, brothers and sisters. One of those brothers was Tomás' father, Patrick Gallagher (died 1882 aged 50), with his wife Ann (died 1876 aged 26). The parents were Thomas Gallagher (died 1863 aged 64) and Winifred/Unity (died 1883 aged 76). Others named were Mary Gallagher, aged 21 and John Gallagher, aged 3 (possibly children of Patrick and Ann); and James, Charles and Thomas Jr., all three of whom died in Pennsylvania.

Tomás Ó Gallchobhair was visited by several folklore collectors, including Seán Ó hEochaidh (CBÉ Ls 310, 1937) and Pádraig Mac a' Ghoill OS, Árd a' Rátha (CBÉ, 1938), both of whom gave the speaker's age as 70.

Recent references to Tomás Ó Gallchobhair include:
      Séamus Ó Duilearga, "Nera and the dead man", Féil-Sgríbhinn Eóin Mhic Néill (eag) Eóin Ó Riain, 1940, pp 522–34 @ 526.
      Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices, 2010, pp 74–5, 114–7.

Many thanks are due to Dr Eithne Ní Ghallchobhair for researching family details, including an interview with Tomás' daughter Rose around 2009. Thanks also to Bernadette McPherson (bernadette1967 at, a great-grand-daughter of Tomás' brother, James.

Speaker's recordings Ulster Doegen index

Speculative family tree:

             Daniel Gallagher    Thomas Gallagher-----Winifred
                     |           c1799–1863        |  c1806–1882
                     |                             |
                     |          m2:1875            |              m1
             Sarah Gallagher---------------Patrick Gallagher---------------Anne McGill         Edward McGill-----Mary Boyle
             c1837–1919            |       c1835–1882               |      c1846–1873          c1834–1907     |
                                   |                                |                                         |
          -----------------------------          ------------------------------                    -------------------
          |            |              |          |      |      |      |       |                    |      |          |
       Bridget      Patrick        Daniel        |    John   Mary   James   Anne                   |    John       Ellen
       1877–        1878–          1880–         |    1869–  1871–  1872–   1873–                  |    1877–1948  1879–
       m 1911                      Butte?        |                                                 |
       John Cullen                            THOMAS GALLAGHER---------------------------------Rose McGill
                                              1867–1953                    | m 1906             1880–1972
            |         |             |             |           |             |           |           |           |            |            |
         Patrick    Edward        Anne          John        Mary         Bridget      Rose        Teresa      Eileen      Kathleen     Shiela
         1907–      1908–1926     1910–1958     1912–?2009  1914–?2003   1915–1966    c1917–2011  ?1918–2009  1918–1918    –1991       nun,NY
         USA                      Moy, Ardara   at home     Cloghboy     at home      Ardara      USA                     at home       ?2009
                                  m 1947                    m Gallagher  unmarried    m McGill    m Campbell              unmarried    (Sister
                                  Breslin                                                                                              Mary

Ciarán Ó Duibhín
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