Tomás Ó Gallchobhair (1867–1953) 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".
Tomás Ó Gallchobhair was registered born at Glengesh on 16/11/1867 to Patrick Gallagher and Anne Magill. Further siblings to this couple were Mary (1871), James (1872) and Anne (1873). Anne died and Patrick married Sarah Gallagher of Glengesh at Ardara on 08/02/1875, whence the speaker was sometimes known as Tammy 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.
Tomás' daughter Rose said that Tomás went to America to join two uncles 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. He was probably in America at the time of the 1901 census, but his widowed step-mother Sally is found in that census, living with her sons Pat (20) and Dan (19). Pat had Irish only, while the others were bilingual. Tomás' younger brother James had married and was living nearby in 1901, apparently with his in-laws (allowing for a suspected small error in completing the census form).
The following entry in the American census of 1900 seems likely to refer to Tomás:
Fort Laramie, Wyoming — steel gang, living in tents: Thomas Gallagher, boarder, born Ireland 12/1867, age 32, single; immigrated 1890; labourer
Tomás returned home to manage the farm when James moved with his family to Springburn in Scotland. On 24/02/1906 at Ardara, Tomás (aged 37) 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.
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. Near neighbours in 1911 were step-mother Sally and her son Patt; in a reversal of the earlier situation, Patt was bilingual while his mother had Irish only. Sally died in 1919. By 1911 also, James and family had returned from Scotland and were living in Killasteever.
The family of Tomás and Rose is thought to have consisted of 3 boys and 8 girls:
Patrick (1907–), USA
Anne (1910–01/06/1958), m. Breslin, lived Moy, Ardara
John (1912–??20/01/2009), at home
Mary (1914–), m. Gallagher, lived Cloghboy, Ardara
Bridget Winifred (1915–11/03/1966), unmarried, at home
Rose (1917–04/2011, aged 94), m. McGill, lived Front St, Ardara
Teresa (1918–13/01/2009), m. Campbell, USA
Kathleen (1919–1991), unmarried, at home
Sheila (living 2009?), nun, New York
Tomás Ó Gallchobhair died on 19/07/1953 and was buried in Ardara.
Uaigh Thomáis Uí Ghallchobhair
(Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors).
A headstone elsewhere in the cemetery was erected by "J Gallagher, Birmingham, Alabama" to commemorate his father, mother, brothers and sisters. One of those brothers was Tomás' father, Patrick Gallagher (died 1882 aged 50), with his wife Ann (died 1876 aged 26). The parents were Thomas Gallagher (died 1863 aged 64) and Winifred/Unity (died 1883 aged 76). Others named were Mary Gallagher, aged 21 (probably wife of John) and John Gallagher, aged 3; James, Charles and Thomas Jr., all three of whom died in Pennsylvania; and Mary Gallagher, aged 20 and Anthony Gallagher, aged 6.
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, including an interview with Tomás' daughter Rose around 2009. Thanks also to Bernadette McPherson (bernadette1967 at ancestry.com), a great-grand-daughter of Tomás' brother, James.
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