I often had to correct visitors who believe that Thomas Francis Meagher’s
body is interred in Faithlegg. Yet the family tomb is there, as are three other family plots, that I know of, around the world. But Thomas alas is in none of them. He’s the man with four graves you see, but no body.
Thomas was born at what is now the Granville Hotel in Waterford 3rd Aug 1823. He went on to get a first class education and to study at the bar, but the plight of his fellow countrymen and the control of Ireland from London led to his political activities that would see him design and fly the first Irish tricolour and culminate in 1848 with the Young Irelanders rebellion.
|TF Meagher image via
Tried and convicted of high treason, he was transported to Tasmania where he married a lady named Catherine Bennett. In 1852 he escaped (but had to leave the pregnant Catherine behind) and via whaling ship eventually arrived in New York to a hero’s welcome. Catherine and Thomas’ first son Henry died during his escape and the infant was buried in Australia
. This is the first grave.
Catherine was eventually reunited with her husband in New York, but she returned to Waterford where a second son, Thomas, was born. She was a popular advocate for her husband’s political activities and was in much demand for rallies and other speaking events. Poor health followed however, and Catherine died in Waterford in 1854 and was buried in the family tomb at Faithlegg. This is the second grave, and the one most commonly associated with him in Ireland.
|Meagher tomb in Faithlegg
At the outbreak of the American Civil War
Thomas joined the union side and in 1862 he founded the Irish Brigade
which fought with distinction. He would later go on to become governor of Montana and would be an unpopular man because of his strong convictions and public stance on issues such as slavery.
On 1st July 1867 while travelling on the Missouri river by paddle boat, Meagher disappeared over the side of the ship. The cause of his fall is a matter of intense speculation even to this day.
|No grave, but remembered nonetheless
His second son Thomas Junior was raised by the family in Waterford and emigrated to America age 18 in 1872 to find his fortune. He died in 1909 in Manila, Philippines and there he is buried.
A third family plot.
So all told TF Meagher is a man who despite having four family graves around the world is found in none of them. But then again his reputation lives on in a much more meaningful way
and is celebrated in Waterford each year to remember the raising of the first Irish tri-colour in Ireland at 33 the Mall, Waterford.
Thanks to my cousin, James (Jim) Doherty who supplied me with some essential information that made this blog possible. Jim is a founder member of the 1848 Tricolour Celebration, a festival that has gone from strength to strength. This years programme starts today more details on the 1848 Tricolour Celebration website