Sligo Heritage and History Club
This fundraiser is for P. A. McHugh, a very influential character who was mayor of Sligo a number of times and after his death had a statue erected in O'Connell Street. However he was buried in an unmarked grave with his wife Mary, but years later, after the death of their son Alfred who was buried with them; Alfred's wife erected a small gravestone in his memory however P. A. and Mary were not mentioned. With permission of P. A. McHughs family, we wish to place a gravestone to mark such a significant man, here's some more about him:
Patrick Aloysius McHugh (known as P.A.) was born in 1854 at Annagh, Glenfarne, Co Leitrim. After his education, he went to Paris for a year and, on returning to Sligo, became a teacher at Summerhill College. In 1880, he married Mary Harte from Castle Street. Sadly, his wife Mary died in 1894, and P. A. later married her sister, Katie.
P. A. McHugh subscribed to the principles of the Land League, set up by Michael Davitt in 1879, “the land for the people,” and he joined the Sligo Borough Branch of the Irish National League in 1885. The same year he became the owner/editor of the Sligo Champion until he died in 1909. In his newspaper, he was true to his Nationalist ideals and never missed an opportunity to further those aims.
P. A. McHugh was Secretary of the first Gaelic Athletic Association Branch in Sligo town, which was established in August 1885.
(S C 1885-08-18)
In 1892 he became the Member of Parliament for the constituency of North Leitrim. His representation of his constituents’ grievances caused the Coercion Act’s repeated invocations to silence him and his newspaper. Mr McHugh served six sentences under the Coercion Act in four separate terms of imprisonment. He served time in Sligo, Derry and Tullamore gaols. On each release, he emerged undaunted and was hailed a hero by his loyal followers.
Mr McHugh was elected Mayor of Sligo in 1888, again in 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898 and 1900. He was an M.P. at Westminster from 1892 to 1906, representing North Leitrim and sat for North Sligo from 1906 until he died in 1909.
In 1898, P. A. McHugh was involved in the commemorations of 1798 and the establishment of the Bartholomew Teeling monument at Collooney and the Lady Erin Statue at the Market Cross in Sligo Town.
In April 1901, P. A. McHugh was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail, Dublin, and was granted the freedom of Dublin City on his release in October.
(Source: Dublin City Archives, Dublin Corporation Roll, 1901)
In the 1906 General Election, P. A. McHugh was returned for both constituencies of North Leitrim and North Sligo. However, he eventually chose the Sligo seat.
On May 31st 1909, Mr P. A. McHugh died in hospital in Dublin. His long work hours and time spent in gaols undermined his health, and the Sligo Champion described his death as “A NATION’S LOSS.”
Ireland had lost a “fearless and unflinching advocate in the vindication of their just rights.” Mr McHugh was always prepared to make any personal sacrifice to defend the Irish people. He was an “able, eloquent and strenuous worker in the nationalist cause” and “there was no more amiable, tolerant, and kindly Irish gentleman than Pat McHugh, as he was known to his friends.” He was “one of the most high-minded and pure-souled of Irish patriots, the most devoted and affectionate of friends, and the noblest and most upright of men.”
On October 29th 1916, the memorial statue in honour of Mr P.A. McHugh was unveiled in Sligo by Mr John Redmond. Mr Redmond said that no greater compliment was ever paid to him than to be asked to take part in the ceremony to do honour to the memory of Patrick Aloysius McHugh.
“He was a patriot and a scholar, a fearless comrade and a faithful friend.”
Mr Redmond went on to say that if he were asked what Mr McHugh’s chief attributes were, he would say: courage, sound common sense, and absolute unselfishness.
“Ireland is the poorer for the death of McHugh. I wish we had more of his stamp. If we had, there would be less of false sentiment and more of practical patriotism in Ireland.”
“I trust that this monument will teach future generations the lessons of Pat McHugh’s life – lessons of patience, wisdom, and common sense; lessons of utter unselfishness, lessons of courage and practical patriotism. These are the lessons this statue should teach.”
Courtesy of Local Studies and Reference Library, Stephen Street, Sligo.
(The statue was originally at the bottom of O’Connell Street but was moved to the Town Hall circa 1970).
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