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Quigley, Hugh
(1819 - 1883)

Hugh Quigley, author, priest, and legendary figure in American history, was born to Hugh Quigley and Mary Lynch in Affick, Tulla, County Clare in December 1819. His family were staunchly Catholic and patriotic. In his early years Hugh studied under the guidance of Master Walsh, a hedge-school teacher with the nickname Sean Cam. He also received a classical education, which would have included subjects such as Philosophy, Latin and Greek. One of his tutors was a schoolmaster from Killaloe named Madden. Nonetheless, there was little opportunity for advancement in the Tulla of the 1830s. The land was poor and social conditions were miserable. Hugh moved to Dublin where he found employment with the Ordnance Survey. While still working there, he passed the examination for entrance to Maynooth College. However, because of his refusal to take the obligatory oath of allegiance to the British Government, he forfeited his place. At this point, there are differing versions of his life. One is that he went to Rome where he studied for the priesthood and graduated with first class honours and received the Gold medal from Sapienza University. Another version is that he studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Youghal, County Cork and on graduation was ordained in Glasgow. In Scotland and in England he gained a reputation as a lecturer of note. In 1846, however, having caused offence by advocating repeal of the Act of Union in a sermon in Glasgow, he was forced to move to a quieter area of Scotland. He returned home to Ireland in 1847 for a short period and was a supporter of plans for the 1848 Rising. Disappointed by the lack of organisation amongst the nationalist groups, his involvement with them soon ceased. These were Famine years in Ireland and Hugh witnessed its ravages while working as curate in Tulla and Killaloe. He expressed the opinion that stealing was not a sin when it was necessary to feed starving children. His outspoken views on injustice and his dedication to helping the poor brought him to the attention of the authorities and eventually it seems he may have been forced to leave. He went to Rome where he received a doctorate in theology in late 1847. Hugh Quigley emigrated to America in 1849, having been invited to the New York diocese by Bishop Hughes. He worked with Irish immigrants and also initiated the construction of Catholic churches in America. An important part of his life was his work with the Chippewa Indians near Lake Superior and afterwards with the miners of California. He won a lawsuit concerning the use of the Bible in public schools. This theme of the role of religion in public schools later emerged in his fiction writings. His publications include The Cross and the Shamrock (1853 in Boston), The Prophet of the Ruined Abbey, written a year later in 1854 (published 1863 in Dublin), Profit and Loss (1873 in New York) and The Irish Race in California and on the Pacific Coast (1878 in San Francisco).

Hugh Quigley died in Troy, New York on 30th April 1883. He is buried at St. Mary’s cemetery in Troy.

Clare County Library would like to thank Johana R. Schwartz, California, for information provided in compiling this article.

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Hugh Quigley