Historian, author and raconteur

Shane MacThomáis: July 27th, 1967 - March 20th, 2014


Shane MacThomáis, who has died aged 46, was a leading Dublin historian, author and raconteur. Born into a working-class family, he was the son of broadcaster, author and republican Eamonn MacThomáis and wife Rosaleen.

A popular character and well-known face around his beloved city, MacThomáis grew up in Wadelai, Glasnevin, and was schooled in Ballymun at Our Lady of Victories and Trinity Comprehensive.

An avid reader of everything from 2000AD comics to Ulysses , he left school at 15 and became an apprentice painter and decorator, before leaving for a bohemian life in London, where he lived in squats.

There he met his French wife to be, Isabelle Le Marie, with whom he later had a daughter, Morgane, in 1991.

MacThomáis enjoyed his time in London and was fascinated by the cosmopolitan city. Between painting jobs he would often read well into the early hours, soaking up much of the culture and history that he would later deliver with panache in his hometown.

He returned to Dublin in May 1989 and began to develop a career in history, working occasionally with his father on historical tours and eventually taking up positions with the Allen Library, the Guinness Visitor Centre and the James Joyce Centre, where he befriended Senator David Norris.

French Foreign Legion
MacThomáis was a romantic soul and, following a split from his wife in the mid-1990s, decided to leave Ireland and join the French Foreign Legion as a remedy for his broken heart.

He returned to Dublin after 18 months and began painting and decorating again, but continued to work on his history career. In 2001 he became a key member of the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour and helped his good friend Lorcan Collins develop it into a hugely popular tourist experience.

Despite his casual, friendly demeanour, MacThomáis sometimes suffered from a destructive inner sadness. He reached out for help and, while coming to terms with his condition, lent a strong shoulder of support to hundreds of others also struggling with life.

Sinn Féin
When Sinn Féin signed up to the peace process, he felt politically comfortable enough to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the party.

Working behind the scenes, MacThomáis quickly rose through the ranks and was instrumental in organising the party’s Céad Bliain (100th birthday) celebrations in Dublin’s Mansion House.

Party leader Gerry Adams, who got to known him personally, described him as an “exemplary member”.

He left Sinn Féin in 2010 and took up his full-time position at Glasnevin Cemetery Museum. He had worked casually at the cemetery since 1996, and Glasnevin Trust chief executive George McCullough described him as the popular institution’s star attraction.

He was often courted by the media for his expertise and regularly penned a popular column for the Northside People newspaper. He also published two books: Dead Interesting and Glasnevin – Ireland’s Necropolis .

A snappy dresser, MacThomáis loved Dublin and going into “town” to simply wander around or hang out in his favourite coffee shop, Busy Feet.

In later years he spent Friday nights supporting Bohemians football club or chatting over a few beers at the Morrison Hotel.

He is survived by his daughter Morgane, mother Rosaleen, sisters Órla and Melíosa, and brother Damien.