Mícheál Ó Lócháin

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Mícheál Ó Lócháin (1836 – 1899) was one of the foremost activists on behalf of the Irish language in the United States. He founded the first periodical in which Irish had a major place.

He was born in Milltown, County Galway and it is likely that his mother knew no English. Ó Lócháin himself was fluent in both Irish and English and attended a local school until 1854.[1]

He emigrated to America and may have acquired his first job there as a teacher in 1870.[2] In 1872 he wrote letters to The Irish World, an Irish-American journal, suggesting “the necessity of preserving the Irish language in order to preserve Irish nationality” and recommending that classes and societies be founded to accomplish this. In that same year he himself established a “Philo-Celtic” Irish language class for adults at the Catholic school in Brooklyn where he taught.[3] From this came the Philo-Celtic Society of Boston, followed by those of Brooklyn and New York.[4]

In 1881 Ó Lócháin founded An Gaodhal, the Philo-Celtic Society’s bilingual journal. It lasted until 1904 and was revived intermittently thereafter, until a successor, entirely in Irish and called An Gael, was founded in 2009.[5] Ó Lócháin wrote a good deal for An Gaodhal, his style being described as lively and pugnacious.[6]

Between 1878 and 1899 Philo-Celtic societies were established throughout America, though Ó Lócháin was increasingly dissatisfied with the way in which they gave priority to social activities at the expense of Irish.[7]

In 1891 the prominent Irish language scholar Douglas Hyde visited the United States. He visited a Philo-Celtic class in the Bowery and found it full of fluent Irish speakers.[8] What he saw there may have influenced him when he helped found the Gaelic League in Ireland in 1893.[9]

Ó Lócháin died in 1899 and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn.


  1. ^ Uí Fhlannagáin, pp. 11-13
  2. ^ Uí Fhlannagáin, p. 14
  3. ^ Ó Buachalla, p. 38
  4. ^ Ui Fhlannagáin, p. 65
  5. ^ History of the Philo-Celtic Society http://www.philo-celtic.com/history.html
  6. ^ Ó Dochartaigh, p. 69
  7. ^ History of the Philo-Celtic Society http://www.philo-celtic.com/history.html
  8. ^ Ó Dochartaigh, p. 77
  9. ^ Ó Dochartaigh, p. 66


Ó Buachalla, Breandán, ’An Gaodhal i Meiriceá’ in Go Meiriceá Siar, Stíofán Ó hAnnracháin (ed.). An Clóchomhar Teo. 1979

Ó Dochartaigh, Liam, ‘Nótaí ar ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge i Meiriceá, 1872 – 1891’ in Go Meiriceá Siar, Stíofán Ó hAnnracháin (ed.). An Clóchomhar Teo. 1979

Uí Fhlannagáin, Fionnuala. Mícheál Ó Lócháin agus “An Gaodhal”. An Clóchomhar Teo. 1990