Saturday, 25 October 2014

A short biography of Eamon de Valera

Eamon de Valera

A short biography of Eamon de Valera (excerpts from Wikipedia)

Eamon De Valera was born in New York City in 1882 to an Irish mother; his parents, Catherine Coll (subsequently Mrs Wheelwright), an immigrant from Bruree, County Limerick, and Juan Vivion de Valera were reportedly married on 18 September 1881 at St. Patrick's Church in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, archivists have not located any such marriage certificate or any birth, baptismal or death certificate information for anyone called Juan Vivion de Valera (nor for 'de Valeros', an alternative spelling).

On de Valera's original birth certificate (right), his name is given as George de Valero and his father is listed as Vivion de Valero. The first name was changed in 1910 to Edward and the surname corrected to de Valera.

There were occasions when de Valera seriously contemplated the religious life like his half-brother, Fr Thomas Wheelwright, but ultimately he did not pursue this vocation. As late as 1906, when he was 24 years old, he approached the President of Clonliffe Seminary in Dublin for advice on his vocation. De Valera was throughout his life portrayed as a deeply religious man, who in death asked to be buried in a religious habit. His biographer, Tim Pat Coogan, speculated that questions surrounding de Valera's legitimacy may have been a deciding factor in his not  entering religious life, since being illegitimate would have been a bar to receiving orders only as a secular or diocesan cleric, not as a  member of a   religious order.


De Valera’s mother, Catherine,
nee Coll c.1885
 
Juan Vivion died in 1885 leaving Catherine Coll and her child in poor circumstances. Éamon was taken to Ireland by his Uncle Ned at the age of two. Even when his mother married a new husband in the mid-1880s, he was not brought back to live with her, but was reared instead by his grandmother Elizabeth Coll, her son Patrick and her daughter Hannie, in County Limerick. He was educated locally at Bruree National School, County   Limerick and C.B.S. Charleville County Cork. Aged sixteen, he won a scholarship. He was refused entry to two colleges in Limerick but was accepted at Blackrock College, Dublin at the instigation of his local curate. He played rugby there, and later during his tenure at Rockwell College, he joined the school's rugby team where he played fullback on the first team, which reached the final of the Munster Senior Cup. De Valera went on to play for the Munster rugby team around 1905 in the fullback position and   remained a lifelong devotee of rugby, attending numerous international matches up to and towards the end of his life despite near blindness. He told the British Ambassador in 1967, "For my part I have always preferred rugby."


Always a diligent student, at the end of his first year in Blackrock College he was Student of the Year. He also won further scholarships and exhibitions and in 1903 was appointed teacher of mathematics at Rockwell College, County Tipperary. It was here that de Valera was first given the nickname "Dev" by a teaching colleague, Tom O'Donnell. In 1904, he graduated in mathematics from the Royal University of Ireland. He then studied for a year at
De Valera, shortest standing, and Brother Prendeville,
head teacher, Rathuire (Charleville) School
Trinity College Dublin but, owing to the necessity of earning a living, did not proceed further and returned to teaching, this time at Belvedere College. In 1906, he secured a post as
teacher of mathematics at Carysfort Teachers' Training College for women in Blackrock, County Dublin. His applications for professorships in colleges of the National University of Ireland were unsuccessful, but he obtained a part-time appointment at Maynooth and also taught mathematics at various Dublin schools, including Castleknock College (1910–1911; under the name Edward de Valera) and Belvedere   College.

As a young Gaeilgeoir (Irish speaker), de Valera became an activist for the language. In 1908 he joined the Árdchraobh of Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League), where he met Sinéad Flanagan, a teacher by profession and four years his senior. They were married on 8 January 1910 at St Paul's Church, Arran Quay, Dublin.
Patrick Pearse


Early political activity

While he was already involved in the Gaelic Revival, de Valera's involvement in the political revolution began on 25 November 1913 when he joined the Irish Volunteers formed to oppose the Ulster Volunteers and ensure the enactment of the Irish Parliamentary Party's Third Home Rule Act won by its leader John Redmond.

After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, de Valera rose through the ranks and it was not long before he was elected captain of the Donnybrook company. Preparations were pushed ahead for an armed revolt, and he was made commandant of the Third Battalion and adjutant of the Dublin Brigade. He took part in the Howth gun-running. He was sworn by Thomas MacDonagh into the oath-bound Irish Republican Brotherhood, which secretly controlled the central executive of the Volunteers. He opposed secret societies but this was the only way he could be guaranteed full information on plans for the Rising.

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