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Edward MacLysaght (Irish: Éamonn Mac Giolla Iasachta; 6 November 1887 – 4 March 1986) was one of the foremost genealogists of twentieth century Ireland. His numerous books on Irish surnames built upon the work of Rev. Patrick Woulfe's Irish Names and Surnames (1923) and made him well known to all those researching their family past.
MacLysaght was born in Flax Bourton near Bristol, England to a Cork father and a Lincolnshire mother. He attended school at Nash House, Bristol, and later attended Rugby School. He then entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford where he studied law but spent only two terms there having injured himself during a rugby match. That injury was to change his life for in recovering from it the young Edward went to Lahinch in Clare, Ireland where he stayed in a caravan recuperating for the following six months. There he met several MacLysaghts and developed a strong affinity with his paternal line and a love for Irish history. Equally important during this trip for his future direction was that he gained a good command of Irish talking with the locals.
Involvement in Ireland
By 1910 this affinity took shape when his father purchased a 600-acre (2.4 km2) farm in Raheen for Edward to engage in pioneer farming. Within two years Edward had introduced an electric light producing generator to the farm, forty years before rural electrification. Among the other initiatives which he introduced were the development of a limekiln, nursery and school where young men of means could learn the basics of farming. While he was rebuilding his familial connection to Ireland, Edward was deepening his involvement in the Irish cultural revival which was at its height in 1913, the year he married Mabel Pattison. By 1915 MacLysaght's command of Irish had improved dramatically and in that year he founded the Nua-Ghaeltacht in Raheen, Co. Clare.
He was an independent delegate to the 1917-18 Irish Convention in which he opposed John Redmond's compromise on Home Rule. By 1918 his involvement in all aspects of the Irish independence movement had deepened greatly. Although not known if he was actually a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), he was very active in the Irish War of Independence as a supporter, financially and otherwise, of the East Clare Brigade of the IRA and its legendary leaders, Michael and Conn Brennan.
His Raheen office served as a meeting place for the Volunteers and guns, documents and ammunition were stored there. However, the war led to a sharp decline in the fortunes of his farm. The execution of close friends such as Conor Clune of Quin in November 1920 and the subsequent devastating raids on his farm resulted in his playing a far more active role in Sinn Féin as a loyal supporter of the new TD for Clare, Éamon de Valera. For this he was imprisoned following his return from Britain as part of a Sinn Féin delegation which was publicising Black and Tan atrocities.
Post War of Independence
MacLysaght was elected to the Senate of the Irish Free State in 1922 and was appointed Inspector for the Irish Manuscripts Commission in 1938. MacLysaght was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 1942 and in the same year was awarded a D.Litt. He was appointed Chief Herald of Ireland in 1943 and served in this post until 1954. MacLysaght served as Keeper of Manuscripts at the National Library of Ireland from 1948 to 1954 and was Chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission from 1956 to 1973.
- Ó Ceallaigh, Seán (2003). Liam Prút ed., ed. Éamonn Mac Giolla Iasachta, 1887-1986: beathaisnéis. Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim. pp. 475p.
- Princess Grace Irish Library at the Wayback Machine (archived September 11, 2004), database of Irish writers; comprehensive listing of life and works. Retrieved 2010-08-05. Archived 2004.