Douglas Hyde – the first President of Ireland from 1938 to 1945
Dr. Douglas Hyde was born in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon on 17th January 1860. The family moved to Portahard when his father, Rev. Arthur Hyde, (1819 – 1905) was appointed rector here in 1867. Here, as a privileged Anglo-Irish youth, Douglas enjoyed the country life, fishing, hunting and helping out on the farm. Through these activities he became friends with locals such as Seamus Hart, Mrs. Connolly and John Lavin who taught him Irish and instilled in him a love of Irish culture.
From the age of seventeen he began to write prose, poetry and plays in Irish and English. Fearing the imminent demise of the Irish Language and loss of its wealth of oral folktales and songs 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.
Portahard Church & Interpretative Centre
Portahard Church of Ireland was built in 1740 and restored in 1988 by Roscommon County Council. It’s original function was preserved and an Interpretative Centre telling the life story of Dr. Douglas Hyde (1860-1949) was installed. Dr. Hyde’s contribution to modern Ireland is highlighted in the exhibition by the use of informative charts, maps and photographs. Through audio-visual material you can capture the spirit of his dream and celebrate the achievements of one life dedicated to dream and vision. Also on display is the original letter nominating him as first President of Ireland, signed by members of the two main political parties in Dáil Éireann – Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – along with many other items of historical interest.