Michael McHugh

Published in Personal History

On the 30th Nov 1920 during the War of Independence a tram was travelling down North Frederick Street Dublin when it was suddenly stopped by the Black & Tans . They boarded the tram and arrested a 47 year old man. They brought him to the North Dublin Union where he was imprisoned in harsh and poor conditions

As a result he contracted pluresy and pneumonia . He was released after 10 days but the damage was done . His health was broken . He never fully recovered and died of T.B in 1924 aged 50.

That man was my grandfather Michael McHugh . He had been on his way to the Rotunda Hospital to see his newly born son . I knew very little about my grandfather . My own dad Sean was only 5 when Michael collapsed outside his home in Manor Street , as a result of the illness contracted in prison . I only knew that he worked for a newspaper in Dublin , was in the intelligence branch of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and had been in prison at some time.

Now thanks to some remarkable work our history from this period has been recorded on line in the form of Census records , Bureau of Military History Statements and Pension Files which allow Michaels life and others like him to be revealed .

The story of his amazing short life was all there .I could now glimpse into the dark and secret world of espionage he inhabited during this interesting time in Irelands history and the part he played in achieving Independence .

He was born in Caherlistrane Co. Galway in 1873 and started work for the Tuam Herald as a teenager. He move d from there to the Freemans Journal in Dublin as a compositor and printer around 1900 .

He was a fluent Irish speaker and part time Irish teacher . It is not surprising that he became involved in the National Movement of the time .

We discovered evidence that connects him with both the McHale Branch of the Gaelic League in Dublin and the Dublin Typographical Provident Society , as a founder of the former and treasurer of DTPS. His involvement with both put him in the path of some of the leading Republicans In Dublin between 1900 and 1921 .

He married Lizzie o Dowd in 1912 and family folklore has it that he was given a sideboard by De Velera as a wedding present .

He wrote the Irish page for The Freemans Journal under the name Ceolan . He also wrote other articles for various periodicals of the day .

He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 as a member of “C” Company 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade and saw action during the Rising in North King St /Church St. area .

He was arrested but his commanding officer Thomas Gay is quoted in the records as saying “ His nimble wittedness resulted in him being released after a short term of imprisonment “.

After the Rising he continued in the newspaper industry while also working for the I.R.B as part of their intelligence network . We know from the Witness Statement 316 of Peter Folan that he was part of Michael Collins “inner circle” and that he ran Folan as a spy in Dublin Castle.

One of his missions was to retrieve guns from Dublin Castle that had been taken by the British in a raid on one of Collins hideouts . With the help of Folan this was achieved. The full story of this adventure was featured by the The Genealogy Roadshow and was broadcast in May 2014 by R.T.E.

Time was running out for Michael however and he was constantly on the run ,leading finally to his unfortunate arrest in Nov 1920 . He was involved politically too . He stood for election as a Sinn Fein candidate in 1920 in Arran Quay Ward although failing to be elected.

He voted for the Treaty as a private citizen and it was a heavy burden to see his country torn apart by the Civil War while dealing with his debilitating illness .

He believed wholeheartedly in Ireland ,education & the irish language . Thomas Gay was closely connected with Michael in the Intelligence Branch and says of him “ He firmly believed as many did who worked in the Gaelic League and kindred organisations , that an educated Ireland would be a free Ireland “

His eldest daughter of 4 children was Maureen O Carroll (nee McHugh). She went on to gain fame as the 1st female Labour T.D. in the 50’s .She worked tirelessly for womens issues of the day and was heavily involved in the formation of the Ban Gardai.

So thanks again to the availability of these records for without them we would not have been able to shine a light on the forgotten men and woman who were involved in this period . Men like my grandfather Michael McHugh. Ball 205775


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