Tomas O' Flannaghaile: Thomas Flannery

Academic / Author / Translator

Tomas O' Flannghaile
Ballinrobe Church of Ireland
Author's Personal Photo
Bridge on Bower Walk, Ballinrobe.
Therese Beckett Crowe Collection
St. Bede’s College, Whalley Range, Manchester
Mersey Square, Stockport.
Stockport Town Hall
Hammersmith Bridge

A Noted Gaelic Scholar plus a pioneer of the Irish Language Revival Tomas O’ Flannaghaile or Thomas Flannery was an established editor, translator and contributor to many literary magazines and newspapers.


Tomas O’ Flannaghaile was born at Knocknakillew, Ballinrobe Co. Mayo during 1846. His parents were Irish speakers Sarah (Cloherty) and Patrick.  He was the second son of their large family. Two of Thomas’s uncles were Parish Priests within the Tuam Diocese; Fr. James Flannery in Milltown Co. Galway. He died age forty-nine years during 1875 plus Fr. William Flannery in Crossboyne, Co. Mayo who died in 1887 age seventy-five years. The family emigrated to the North of England during 1852. They settled in Manchester when Thomas was only six years of age. O’ Flannaghaile attended St. Winifred’s Primary School, Stockport Manchester where his teachers Peadar O’ h Oisin and Mr. Corrigan assisted him with his pursuit of the Irish language and written word. He continued his education at St. Bede’s College, Whalley Range,  Manchester.  [i]


O’ Flannaghaile commenced his teaching career during 1865 at a Catholic College in Hammersmith, London where he taught Latin and English. He was employed there for eight years prior to moving back north to teach at his old Alma Mater St. Bede’s.  [ii]


As an acclaimed author O’ Flannaghaile published a volume of local essays with “For the Tongue of the Gael” during 1897 that received a review from King’s County “Independent” of “Every page glistens with information.”  He published a selection of Irish Poetry for schools and colleges entitled “Duanaine na Macaoim.” (Dublin 1910)  He edited numerous literary magazines including Laoi Oisin.  He contributed numerous articles to The United Irishman, An Cloidheamh Soluis, The Celtic Society, St. Patrick’s, The Father Mathew Record, An Caodhal, Irishleabhar na Gaedhilge, The Irish Rosary plus Denvir’s Irish Monthly Library. O’ Flannaghaile was an accomplished translator; his work included “Eachtra giolla an Amurain and other Poems” (Dublin 1897) also numerous traditional songs in both Irish and English for Denvir’s song book series. He also published Poetry for schools and colleges entitled “Dianaire na Macaoim.”  His “Adventures of a Laclan Fellow” (originally written in Irish by Red Donagh Mac Namera) earned him plaudits from Dr. Douglas Hyde, President of the Gaelic League also subsequently the first President of Ireland with “I congratulate you on your edition of Donnahadh Ruadh. Your translation is twenty times better than that of Standish H. O’ Grady.”  In later years he penned an outstanding biography of “Dr. John O’ Donovan 1809-1861” that highlighted the latter’s contribution to Irish Topography.  [iii]

In a letter to the Irish Academy on the Irish Language O’ Flannaghaile penned “As to the ancient and medieval tracts occasionally published in Ireland and England, they are obviously meant for the student and the antiquary; it is unreasonable to expect the general public to go after them or read them. Let the publishers give us something of modern times, with some kind of interest in it – let them give us cheap grammars, cheap dictionaries, history, legends, stories, poems, sketches, books of religion and devotion etc.” [iv]

Tomas O’ Flannaghaile married an American they had two daughters and four sons. O’ Flannghaile died in London where he had spent the previous forty years on November 4th 1916.  [v]


An extract from ‘Travels through Time’ published in the Mayo News on 24th February 1993 (assessed 12th Sept 2019) stated that ‘As can be seen T.J. Flannery is mentioned among  illustrious novelists at Mayo’s Carnegie Library at the Courthouse in Castlebar, who invited applications for the establishment of Branch Libraries in various districts during 1928.  The Library announced that recent acquisitions included; the notable T. J.  Flannery the Gaelic Scholar & Editor.

In the Connaught Telegraph 21st April 2002 ( page 22) Tomas O’ Flannaghaile’s story is told – as Gaeilge in an article entitled  ‘Beo Go Deo’.

[i] – Thomas Flannery

[ii] – Thomas Flannery


[iv] Irish Press, September 9th 1948 pg 4.


Comments about this page

  • St Bede’s College is located in Alexandra Park, Manchester between Moss Side and Chorlton. It was established around 1872 by the Diocese of Salford

    By PHILIP LEES (25/04/2018)

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