Tom Galvin

Tom Galvin was a leading figure in Clare journalism and Ennis society at the turn of the 20th century. He was born in 1872 in Caherbanna. He entered St. Flannan's College when he was 14 and his brilliant intellect quickly came to the fore, winning him several college prizes. He first intended to join the church but instead took up the study of law under the tutelage of Thomas Lynch, said to be one of the most distinguished solicitors in Ireland at the time. While still in his teens, he contested the position of clerk of the Ennis Union. Despite his youth, he only lost by a single vote to E.M. Bennett. Fate intervened to change his career again when he was offered, and accepted, the editorship of the Clare Man newspaper in 1898.

Galvin quickly established the direction of the newspaper as being unashamedly on the side of land reform and supporting tenant farmers' rights. Although without any formal training in journalism, he developed a reputation for writing with style and graceful force. As one of his obituaries put it, his advocacy had resulted in the feeling that "for the first time in years, perhaps, the tenant farmers saw the sable cloud turn forth its silvery lining". His scathing editorials against the power of the landlords resulted in much bitter feeling from a county establishment that were pre-eminent in Conservative politics. In 1902 the Kilnamona branch of the United Irish League are recorded as passing a resolution supporting the candidature of Tom Galvin for the position of Returning Officer. A call was also made to County Councillor Michael Leyden of Inagh to also support him. A sign of his popularity in his native county was that he was unanimously appointed to the position of Returning Officer for the election of 1902.

Calamity struck the Clare Man when it was forced to close after Mr. McInerney successfully brought a libel action against it in March 1903. The seven year old newspaper had to close down as there was no money to meet the costs of the trial, resulting in all of the equipment having to be sold. Undaunted, like a phoenix from the flames, the Clare Champion was established the following week by Galvin with himself as proprietor and editor. If you look at the masthead of the 'Champion today, you will see the mythological phoenix rising up from the flames to symbolise the rebirth of Clare's Nationalist newspaper. Incredibly, the new newspaper was published for the first time just two days after the demise of the Clare Man. Nationalist Ireland was not slow in showing its approval with William Redmond M.P. writing a congratulatory note, while congratulatory messages also came from branches of the United Irish League in Clare. Galvin outlined the newspaper's ethos in its first editorial:

"The 'Champion'' will stand as the inveterate foe of landlordism, shoneenism, grabbers and Castle hacks. The wants of the people will be firmly espoused in our columns until their grievances are redressed. We shall agitate for an Irish Ireland and an Irish Parliament to govern and make laws for the Irish people. Should the present Land Bill not meet the requirements of the tenant farmers, we shall loyally support their cause until justice is done them and until the last vestige of landlordism disappears from the country". [1].

Galvin felt vindicated when, after many years of agitation, the Wyndham Land Act was finally passed which marked the beginning of the end of landlord hegemony in Ireland.

He had been in poor health for some time, but up to a few weeks before his death, he seemed in reasonably good health; but, once his illness grew worse, he rapidly succumbed. Surrounded by his family, he passed away at the family home on the 7th of December 1903 at the age of just 31. His funeral attracted an enormous crowd and he was laid to rest in the family plot of Templemaley. Obituaries were written for him in the local press as well as in the Irish Independent, Freeman's Journal, Cork Examiner and Limerick Chronicle.

  1. A brief history of The Clare Champion Available at