Famous People Associated with the Parish
General Anthony St Leger (1732–1786)
Founder of the St Leger Sweepstakes. Buried in St Ann’s, formerly in the churchyard. Fourth son of Sir John St Leger, brother of Arthur, First Viscount Doneraile, he was founder of classic racing and attained immortality by establishing the St Leger Sweepstakes at Doncaster in 1776.
Laetitia Pilkington (1712–1750)
‘Adventuress’, writer and wit. Laetitia was for a time a great favourite of Dean Swift. Married to an impoverished ne’er–do–well cleric, Matthew Pilkington, her chief claim to fame lies in her memoirs, published in 1748 following her release from the Marshalsea, where she was imprisoned for debt. Her reminiscences of Swift in his latter years, spiced with scandalous anecdotes, ensured a ready readership.
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
Author and playwright. Born on 15 October 1854, he was baptised in this parish in St Mark’s Church (now closed, having been incorporated into St Ann’s parish) as Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills [Wilde]. This record is now in the custody of St Ann’s Church, as St Mark’s parish records passed into our possession when the parishes were united. Educated at Portora Royal School, Trinity College Dublin, and Magdalen College Oxford, Wilde’s literary achievements require no recitation here.
Bram Stoker (1847–1912)
Author of Dracula. Educated at Trinity College Dublin, his main claim to fame was Dracula, published in 1897. He married Florence Balcombe, daughter of Lt. Col. James Balcombe of 16 Harcourt Street, in St Ann’s on 4 December 1878. Bram (short for Abraham) lived at 7 St Stephen’s Green, beside the Hibernian United Services Club, about 250 metres from the church.
Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–1798)
‘Father’ of Irish republican nationalism, co–founder of the United Irishmen, Tone was deeply influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution. In spite of the collapse of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland, Tone, with the rank of Adjutant General in the French Army, accompanied an expedition of 10 ships from Brest on 6 September, knowing that certain defeat awaited him in Ireland. The expedition was intercepted off Lough Swilly by a British naval force, and subsequently defeated. Tone was taken prisoner. Condemned to death, he took his own life in prison.
As a student in Trinity College Dublin, Tone fell in love with a parishioner of St Ann’s, Martha [Matilda] Witherington, who lived with her parents in No. 68 Grafton Street. After a short courtship they decided to elope, following a marriage ceremony in St Ann’s on 21 July 1785. At least two members of the Witherington family are buried in St Ann’s.
Thomas Barnardo (1845–1905)
Philanthropist. Born in Dublin, he attended the Sunday School in St Ann’s as a boy. Having already had experience working in the slums of Dublin, he soon became involved in London’s East End slums. In 1867 he founded the London East End Juvenile Mission to care for destitute children. Two years later, he opened a boys’ home in Stepney, which marked the beginning of a vast organisation known as the Barnardo’s Homes in Britain and Canada. It is estimated that he assisted some 250,000 children in 90 homes. His cardinal principle was ‘No destitute child is ever refused admission’.
Dr. Douglas Hyde (1860–1949)
Former President of Ireland. Douglas Hyde was born in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon on 17 January 1860. The family moved to Portahard when his father, The Revd. Arthur Hyde, was appointed Rector there in 1867. From the age of 17 he began to write prose, poetry and plays in both Irish and English. As a lover of the Irish language, Dr. Hyde began to fear the imminent demise of the language and the loss of its wealth of oral folktales and songs. With this in mind, he began collecting this material which he later published in his popular bilingual anthologies such as: Beside the Fire (1890) and Love Songs Of Connaught (1893). These works were acknowledged by W.B. Yeats as major sources for the Irish Literary Renaissance.
Dr. Hyde later joined with Yeats, Lady A. Gregory, J.M. Synge and others in creating an Irish national theatre. He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1880. An excellent student, he won many prizes for his academic prowess including the gold medal for Modern Literature in 1884. He graduated in 1888 as a Doctor of Laws. He married Lucy Kurtz, from Germany in 1893 and the couple had two daughters, Nuala and Una. Also in 1893, he was one of the seven co–founders of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) and was elected as its first president, a post he held until 1915.
Patrick Pearse, the poet, educationalist and Irish patriot, wrote: ”The Gaelic League will be recognised in history as the most revolutionary influence that ever came into Ireland. The Irish Revolution really began when the seven proto–Gaelic Leaguers met in O’Connell Street…the germ of all future Irish history was in that back room.”
Dr. Hyde held the chair for Modern Irish in University College Dublin from 1909 to 1932. His tireless work in reviving the Irish language and his contribution to the formation of the modern Irish identity was symbolically acknowledged by the Irish nation when he was unanimously selected as the first President of Ireland in 1938. It has long been acknowledged that the graciousness and gentlemanly dignity with which he conducted his Presidency did much to influence and mould the office of President.
Throughout his life Dr. Hyde was a regular parishioner of St Ann’s and was known to be particularly fond of the liturgy and music in the church. He died on 12 July 1949 and was given a state funeral to Portahard Church, which is now used as the Douglas Hyde Interpretative Centre. He is buried beside his beloved wife Lucy, his daughter Nuala, his sister Annette, mother Elizabeth and father Arthur.