Hugh Quigley, author, priest, and legendary figure in American history,
was born to Hugh Quigley and Mary Lynch in Affick, Tulla,
County Clare in December 1819. His family were staunchly Catholic and
patriotic. In his early years Hugh studied under the guidance of Master
Walsh, a hedge-school teacher with the nickname Sean Cam. He also received
a classical education, which would have included subjects such as Philosophy,
Latin and Greek. One of his tutors was a schoolmaster from Killaloe
named Madden. Nonetheless, there was little opportunity for advancement
in the Tulla of the 1830s. The land was poor and social conditions were
miserable. Hugh moved to Dublin where he found employment with the Ordnance
Survey. While still working there, he passed the examination for entrance
to Maynooth College. However, because of his refusal to take the obligatory
oath of allegiance to the British Government, he forfeited his place.
At this point, there are differing versions of his life. One is that
he went to Rome where he studied for the priesthood and graduated with
first class honours and received the Gold medal from Sapienza University.
Another version is that he studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Youghal,
County Cork and on graduation was ordained in Glasgow. In Scotland and
in England he gained a reputation as a lecturer of note. In 1846, however,
having caused offence by advocating repeal of the Act of Union in a
sermon in Glasgow, he was forced to move to a quieter area of Scotland.
He returned home to Ireland in 1847 for a short period and was a supporter
of plans for the 1848 Rising. Disappointed by the lack of organisation
amongst the nationalist groups, his involvement with them soon ceased.
These were Famine years in Ireland and Hugh witnessed its ravages while
working as curate in Tulla and Killaloe.
He expressed the opinion that stealing was not a sin when it was necessary
to feed starving children. His outspoken views on injustice and his
dedication to helping the poor brought him to the attention of the authorities
and eventually it seems he may have been forced to leave. He went to
Rome where he received a doctorate in theology in late 1847. Hugh Quigley
emigrated to America in 1849, having been invited to the New York diocese
by Bishop Hughes. He worked with Irish immigrants and also initiated
the construction of Catholic churches in America. An important part
of his life was his work with the Chippewa Indians near Lake Superior
and afterwards with the miners of California. He won a lawsuit concerning
the use of the Bible in public schools. This theme of the role of religion
in public schools later emerged in his fiction writings. His publications
include The Cross and the Shamrock (1853 in Boston), The
Prophet of the Ruined Abbey, written a year later in 1854 (published
1863 in Dublin), Profit and Loss (1873 in New York) and The
Irish Race in California and on the Pacific Coast (1878 in San
Hugh Quigley died in Troy, New York on 30th April 1883. He is buried
at St. Mary’s cemetery in Troy.