George Gavan Duffy

AuthorColum Gavan Duffy
George Gavan Duffy was the eldest son of the third
marriage of Charles Gavan Duffy. Charles married Louise
Hall, who was a niece of his second deceased wife, Susan
Hughes, in 1880, after he had finally returned to Europe from
George was born in his maternal grandfather's house,
Rose Cottage, Rockferry, Cheshire, one hundred years ago, on
the 21st October 1882, just a week after Éamon de Valera.
Subsequently, Louise Hall had three more children - Louise,
who later opened Scoil Bhríghde, her Irish speaking school, in
Dublin; Bryan who, as a Jesuit of the English province,
ministered for many years in South Africa; and Tom, who
joined the French Society of Foreign Missions and founded
the first large training school for catechises in Southern India.
George’s mother died in 1888, when George was six
years old. In 1888, my grandfather, Charles, was seventy-two
years of age. He entrusted the education of these young
children to his three unmarried daughters of the second
marriage, Susan, Harriet and Geraldine, who had come from
Australia to Nice in France to care for him. Charles felt that
the damp Irish climate would not suit him, though he visited
Ireland every summer.
It was during the next few years that Charles was to
produce his historical works, Young Ireland,Four Years of
Irish History,The League of North and South and My Life in
Two Hemispheres. His home in Nice was a meeting place for
1Judicial Studies Institute Journal [2:2
* Reprinted from the Dublin Historical Record Volume XXXVI Issue 3
(June 1983) by kind permission of the publishers, the Old Dublin Society
and with the kind permission of Ms. Máire Gavan Duffy. A short
biographical note on Mr. Colum Gavan Duffy follows this article.
the Irish literati of the time - John Dillon, Douglas Hyde and
many others. At the same time, Charles was a Victorian father
who did not associate readily with his young children.
George was first sent to the Petit Seminaire in Nice
and became fluent in French. At the age of thirteen, he went to
the Jesuit College of Stonyhurst in Lancashire in 1895, and
for the next seven years was normally first in his class and
carried off several prizes, having attended the post-secondary
School of Philosophy. His brothers Bryan and Tom
subsequently joined him in Stonyhurst. The correspondence
with his half sisters shows them to have been imbued with
Victorian ideas of propriety. My grandfather, Charles, died in
Nice in March 1903.
In 1902, George became articled to a solicitor's firm
and, having passed all the law examinations magna cum
laude, was admitted a solicitor in England in 1907. One of his
tutors was Edward Jenks, whose Digest of English Civil Law
was a legal masterpiece. At this time, he met Margaret
Sullivan, daughter of A.M. Sullivan, who had succeeded
Charles as editor of The Nation when he went to Australia in
1855, and they were subsequently married, in Irish, in
Commercial Road Church, East London, on 20th December
1908. My mother, Margaret, had been secretary of the Irish
Literary Society founded by Charles in London in 1896.
As my grandfather, Charles, had not manifested much
interest in the Irish language, it is surprising that George took
a great (if not passionate) interest in it all his life and acquired
a good knowledge of it. In 1910 he spent his holiday on the
island of Inish Maan in Aran, and eventually leased an old
Coast Guard Station on the shores of Lough Swilly, at
Glenvar, in Co. Donegal. This was where my sister and I
learnt Irish as infants. He had been a member of the Irish Club
in 1906, and frequently travelled over Ireland and Britain to
attend Sinn Féin Executive meetings. From 1910, he tended to
become more radical and was not content with the resolutions
of the Executive.
2002] George Gavan Duffy 2

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