John O’Hagan, Young Irelander

Another famous republican agitator and writer also hailed from Newry. He was the Young Irelander John O’Hagan. His father, John Arthur O’Hagan was a prosperous local merchant who had attended the Newry School of Dr Henderson   of the time with John Kells Ingram (later vice-provest of Trinity College Dublin) where the master was Edward Lyons M.A.



John O’Hagan was born in Market Street Newry  on 19 March 1822. He was an able student and well schooled. At the age of twenty-three he was called to the bar and joined the Munster Circuit.

Even before the disastrous Young Ireland rising of 1848 (this was the worst year of the Great Famine and the people were unable to rise up in arms) O’Hagan ably defended in court one of its leaders Gavin Duffy, who had been arrested months earlier as editor of The Nation newspaper, redarded as seditous by the government. 

Thereafter O’Hagan concentrated on his own career and on writing.

When the Education Act was applied to Ireland he was appointed a Commissioner of National Education.

Under Gladstone’s reforms of the late nineteenth century O’Hagan became the first chairman of the Irish Land Commission under the Land Act of 1881. He died on 12 November 1890 and was buried at Glasnevin cemetery in County Dublin.


‘Take it from us, every grain
We will make for you a drain;
Black starvation let us feel
England must not want a meal!


When our rotting roots shall fail,
When the hunger pangs assail;
Ye’ll have of Irish corn your fill,
We’ll have grass and nettles still!’


John O’Hagan [1847] from Songs & Ballads of Young Ireland,1896

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