Muriel MacDonagh: Tragic Death of a 1916 Widow

Lecture by Gerard Shannon
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – 11th June 2013)

Skerries has seen many tragic deaths over the years. The one that was remembered by the Skerries Historical Society for their June talk was the death of Muriel MacDonagh, widow of Thomas MacDonagh, who was executed by the British Army for his part in the 1916 Rising.  Thomas was one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Gerard Shannon gave an excellent talk on the tragic death of Muriel MacDonagh, who died while swimming off the south beach in 1917 just a year after the death of her husband, Thomas MacDonagh.

Muriel and Thomas were married on January 31, 1912. They had two children; a son, on November 12, 1912, christened Donagh MacDonagh – and a daughter, Barbara, three years later on March 24, 1915.

Gerard gave us in great detail Thomas’ part in the 1916 Rising and his court martial, which took place on 2 May 1916 when Thomas was sentenced to death by firing squad.

In July the National Aid Association had rented houses in Skerries for the widows of the 1916 leaders. One of the houses was called Miramar, which was owned by Richard Butler of Popes Hall.

The group staying in Skerries included Muriel and her sister Grace (widow of Joseph Plunkett), Lily Connolly (James Connolly’s widow) and their daughter, Ina, Agnes Malin (Michael Malin’s widow) and their son Joseph.

On July 9 while swimming on the south beach, Muriel disappeared under the water. Her body was later recovered and the coroner determined that she died of heart failure due to shock or exhaustion, during her swim. Muriel’s coffin was taken by train from Skerries to Amien Street, where it was met by a large contingent of volunteers. Because Thomas was buried with the rest of the leaders of 1916 in Arbour Hill, Muriel’s funeral on July 12, 1917, took place from the Pro Cathedral to Glasnevin Cemetery where she was buried in what became known as the Republican Plot.

Muriel McAuley and Lucille Redmond, granddaughters of Muriel MacDonagh, were at the talk and gave extra detail about the lives of the surviving children after the double tragedy of the loss of both parents in little more than a year.

Report by George Hand

Page updated – 28 / 3 / 2014

Muriel Gifford drowned off Skerries in 1917.

There is an interesting piece by Shane Mawe posted on the 29th September 2015 which you can read at the following link