Dr Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland
Born in Castlerea, raised in Frenchpark
Roscommon was at the centre of one of the most famous and historic Irish events, as Dr Douglas Hyde was elected the first ever Irish President in 1938, was from the county. The statesman and scholar was born in Castlerea in 1860 while his mother was visiting Longford House.
Hyde spent his early years in Sligo where his father was a clergyman. In 1867 Arthur Hyde took up a new job in county Roscommon and moved his family to Frenchpark. It was here that Douglas first developed his love of the Irish language.
Despite pressure to follow the family tradition and join the Church, Hyde chose academia, entering Trinity College Dublin, where he became fluent in a number of languages and met like minded Irish language enthusiasts. Soon after, Hyde co-founded the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaelige) in 1893 to promote the Irish language at home and abroad. Many of the Irish leaders of the fight for Independence were members of the Gaelic League. Hyde had not intended for the League to become politicised and resigned from his role as President in 1915 after the Irish Republican Brotherhood infiltrated the movement.
Despite distancing himself from the Independence movement, Hyde was appointed a Senator in the parliament of the new free state. This position was short lived however and Hyde returned to academia in 1925. In 1938 a retired Hyde was handpicked by Eamon De Valera to become a Senator for the second time. This was again a short tenure, however this was because he was selected as the unopposed President of Ireland.
Hyde was the choice of both government and the opposition party because of the credibility and prestige he would bring to the role, because of his work with Conradh na Gaeilge and also to show that the new Ireland was not a 'confessional state' and therefore did not neccesarily favour Catholic Irish. Hyde was universally respected and was dedicated his country.
Dr Hyde is remembered today through a number of Irish schools throughout Ireland, a museum, an art gallery and the Roscommon county GAA pitch, which are all named after him.