Tomás Ó Gallchobhair (c1867–1953) 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).

It seems likely that the speaker was the Thomas Gallagher registered born at Glengesh on 16/11/1867 to Patrick Gallagher and Anne Magill. It is said that the speaker's mother died giving birth to him; but confusingly further births at Glengesh were registered to a Patrick Gallagher and an Anne Magill — Mary (1871), James (1872) and Anne (1873). At all events, his father married Sarah Gallagher of Glengesh at Ardara on 08/02/1875, whence the speaker was sometimes known as Tommy 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. These are likely to be half-siblings of the speaker, and there may have been others.

Tomás went to America to join two uncles (one of whom was called Dan) 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. On 24/02/1906 at Ardara, Tomás (aged 37), now returned, 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.

Tomás may have been in America at the time of the 1901 census, but 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.

We might expect to find Tomás' parents in the two censuses of Baile 'n Chaisil, but things are far from clear. There are two possibilites, which cannot both be true. One identifies Tomás' father with Patrick Gallagher, a 61-year-old widower in 1901, living with son James (28), James' wife Ketty (28) and daughter Mary (1); and another unmarried son of Patrick, also named James (30). It appears that this family then went to Springburn, Glasgow, and lived there for some years before returning to Killasteever, Glengesh, where they are found — except for Patrick — in 1911. The more likely possibility is that Tomás' step-mother is the Sally Gallagher (60 and a widow) in 1901, living with her sons Pat (20) and Dan (19). Pat had Irish only, while the others were bilingual. This same family were near neighbours of Tomás in 1911, when Sally was 74 and a widow, with her son Patt (30). In a reversal of the earlier situation, Patt was bilingual while his mother had Irish only.

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

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).

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.

Speaker's recordings Ulster Doegen index

Speculative family tree:

             Daniel Gallagher   Thomas Gallagher
                     |                  |
                     |     2:1875       |        1
             Sarah Gallagher---Patrick Gallagher---Anne McGill                             Edward McGill-----Mary Boyle
              –1919          | c1835–            |                                         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         Eileen      Kathleen     Rose         Shiela       Teresa
         1907–      1908–1926     1910–1958     1912–?2009  1914–       1915–1966        –1918       –1991       c1917-2011   nun,NY       USA
         USA                      Moy, Ardara   at home     Cloghboy    at home                     at home      Ardara        ?2009        –2009
                                  m 1947                    m Gallagher unmarried                   unmarried    m McGill     (Sister      m Campbell
                                  Breslin                                                                                      Mary

Ciarán Ó Duibhín
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