Cloughjordan remembers ‘thoughtful’ Thomas MacDonagh

Tipperary community unveils life-size statue of Rising leader and poet executed in 1916

One hundred years after his execution by firing squad, the people of Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary have unveiled a statue to their native son and signatory of the Proclamation Thomas MacDonagh. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

One hundred years after his execution by firing squad, the people of Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary have unveiled a statue to their native son and signatory of the Proclamation Thomas MacDonagh.

The memorial committee could not decide whether MacDonagh should be depicted in civilian or military garb so a vote was taken on it and a compromise was made.

The bronze statue in the Main Street depicts MacDonagh in civilian attire reading the Proclamation – though not reading it out – his Irish Volunteer cap on the ground beside him.

The unveiling of the statue followed a weekend of activities in Cloughjordan including the annual summer school.

It will be a permanent reminder of the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising along with a memorial garden in the town which is currently under construction.

MacDonagh’s parents, Joseph and Mary Louise, were schoolteachers in Cloughjordan and Thomas, who was born in 1878, spoke fondly of his upbringing in the town.

The €20,000 statue was created by Australian-born, but now Mayo-based sculptor Mark Rode who had never heard of MacDonagh before he was approached.

“He was a teacher, a poet and seemed to be quite a creative, thoughtful man and I tried to find a thread to relate to that man,” he said. “I wanted to bring out the humanity in the guy, not something too stiff or too military.”

MacDonagh’s foot is thrust forward symbolising a future he would do much to create, but never see.

The statue is life-size. The record shows that MacDonagh was a short man at 5ft 6ins tall.

Poems

At the base of the statue are two poems. May Day by MacDonagh speaks of his love of place and for the “quickened solitude when the winds from Slieve Bloom set the branches there a-quiver”. The other, better known, is Francis Ledwidge’s Lament for Thomas MacDonagh. “He shall not hear the bittern cry/ In the wild sky, where he is lain/ Nor voices of the sweeter birds/ Above the wailing of the rain.”

It was a proud day for the three generations of MacDonagh’s descendants who were present. MacDonagh’s granddaughter Muriel McAuley did the unveiling following a parade through the main street of Cloughjordan which was interrupted by a few squally showers.

She spoke of the “friendship and connection” between the MacDonagh family and Cloughjordan which has endured through the generations.

“None of us were born here, but all of us understand the large influence it had on him.”

She pronounced herself delighted at the statue and said it captured the essence of her grandfather, his vision and also his likeness.

Also present was her son Paul McAuley, her daughter Michelle Drysdale, MacDonagh’s great-granddaughter and her two children, Grace (5) and Matthew (3). Matthew clambered on to the statue after it was unveiled.

“It has been inspiring for us as a family to see everyone taking the commemorations to heart. I’m so proud and I’m inspired by him,” Ms Drysdale said.

“He had such belief in this cause for future generations. He was prepared to put his life on the line for it. We all have our duty to take pride in everything that is amazing about being Irish. This year has really reinstated that for me and a great grá for my country.”

MacDonagh was one of first three leaders of the Rising, along with Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, to be executed. He died on May 3rd, 1916.