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Cathal McGarvey


Born in Ramelton, Donegal 1866 – died 1927

Brother:: William McGarvey

A biography by Máire Ní Mhurchú: Cathal MacGarbhaigh born on June 3rd 1866 in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal. His father, Samuel, ran a grocery store and bakery house. His mother was Catherine Doherty from the Letterkenny area. He married Catherine Lough from Belfast in the early 1890s and had four sons: Sammy or Samuel who was in St. Enda and won first prize for singing in 1902, Charles who was a young gold medalist at the Feis Music, Colm who was listed in a birth notice in English in The Arts Center on March 9, 1901, and Jack who was living at 27 Whitworth Road, Dublin.

At the end of the century he had a job as manager at a JG Cathal Mooney establishment on Rae Gardnar in Dublin adjacent to North Frederick Street where An Stadt was located.

(Do you read Irish? Can you translate the rest of this biography here?)

Cathal McGarvey and the Rebellion: An Stad

Wikipedia: An Stad was a tobacco shop, guesthouse, restaurant and meeting place in Dublin, Ireland for members of the Irish Nationalist movement and the Gaelic Revival in the early 20th century. It was frequented by notable historical figures, including Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland, Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Féin, author James Joyce, Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) founder Michael Cusack, poet William Butler Yeats, and many others.

Cathal McGarvey

Cathal McGarvey; Photo grab from Irish Destiny film, credit: Jill McGarvey

An Stad (Irish for ‘The Stop’) was founded at 30 North Frederick Street in Dublin in the late 19th century by Cathal McGarvey, author of the traditional Irish song Star of the County Down, as a meeting place for nationalists and Irish language enthusiasts. The activities that took place at An Stad included early morning pro-Independence rallies, late night tobacco smoking, Irish language storytelling and even reviews in Irish of works of art.

The house has existed since the very early 19th century, but it was just before 1900 that it began to have an association with the Gaelic revival and Irish nationalist movements. That was when Donegal native Cathal McGarvey established a tobacconist and pub on the premises. McGarvey was a well known humorist, storyteller and songwriter. His reputation spread quickly, and soon people were coming to An Stad at night to hear him tell stories, to smoke and to promote the Irish language. McGarvey’s literary capabilities, anti-British attitude and magnetic personality soon attracted a mix of a literary and pro-nationalist audience. He established a guesthouse on the premises which helped to attract athletic visitors from the Irish countryside coming to Dublin to watch or play in the adjacent Croke Park sports ground. Among his guests was Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA and the man after whom Croke Park’s Cusack Stand was named.

And Donal Fallon on the Come Here To Me site says that An Stad was  “described in the press in 1903 as “the centre of Dublin Gaeldom”:

Oliver St. John Gogarty, who lived conveniently close to An Stad, recalled of him and his establishment:

“There was a great atmosphere of nationality gathered about the Stad. It was a good place to slip out to at night, for one who lived about fifteen doors away, and to talk about the revival of Gaelic. Even if few people talked to me there was always Cathal, who was too civil and too much of a business man not to talk to anyone while waiting for a revival of the nation.”

Police intelligence files from the early twentieth century reveal that McGarvey’s was closely monitored by intelligence. When Major John MacBride returned to Ireland from Paris, having fought in the Second Boer War with the ‘Irish Brigade’, it was noted by police intelligence that he frequented McGarvey’s, in the company of known ‘Secret Society’ men, a reference to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. MacBride was a well-known figure in Irish society for his exploits in South Africa, and had lectured in America to enthusiastic audiences on his fight against the British there, telling the media in New York that “‘Winston Churchill may say what he likes about the war in South Africa being over, but I tell you the war is not over. The Boers will fight just as long as there is a man, woman or child alive.” Following his U.S speaking tour, he had married Maud Gonne in Paris, but the marriage was a brief and unhappy one, leading him back to Dublin. Among the men spotted with MacBride at An Stad were Arthur Griffith (founder of the Sinn Féin party) and veteran Fenian John O’Leary.

At the time of Cathal McGarvey’s passing, it was noted in the press that the visitor books would surely become a hugely important historic resource. More…

Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 Statement of witness Harry C. Phibbs, 1953, Member of The celtic Literary society, 1901:

The observations and contacts of the writer are necessarily confined to the period before the formation of the Irish Volunteer. generally, they took place between 1900, when I first became conscious of the irish Movement, and 1907, when I left Ireland to travel around the world.

Cathal McGarvey’s Tobacco Shop “An Stad”

This tobacco shop was located across the street from Findlater’s Church. McGarvey operated it more as a past time than as a means of livelihood. In the daytime, he worked for Findlater, the wine merchant.

By way of passing, it should be mentioned that many of the meeting places of that day were tobacco shops. McGarvey’s place was truly a stopping place for anyone interested in the Irish Revival Movement to drop in, meet some other people, know what was going on. It was conveniently located to Rutland Square where many of the societies and branches of the Gaelic league had meeting places.

The poet, Tadgh O’Donoghue, was almost a nightly visitor. Others who had been habitues were: Soellig, Dick Foley — who I believe was the Dublin agent for the Remington Typewriter Co. and who had a typewriter made with Irish characters; Seamus Clandillon, the singer and author of Irish folk music; a man named Hayes, who wrote a play called “Sean Na Scub”; the Honorable William Gibson, who is now Lord Ashburn (He was a leading advocate of wearing the Irish national costume and wore the kilts all the time); James Joyce; Doctor Oliver St. John Gogarty; Sean T. O’Kelly; Padraic Pearse, who at that time was editor of the Gaelic league paper, “an Claidheam”; and Art O’Keefe, who with another man wrote a handbook on the irish step and figure dancing. This was actually written in the back room of an Stad.

McGarvey himself was something of a poet and frequently recited poetry at Irish meetings. One of the people who would occasionally wander in was “old man Cusack,” a bearded old stalwart who called himself ‘Citizen Cusack.’ He always carried a heavy blackthorn stick. It was said that he was the founder of the Gaelic athletic Association. He is mentioned in the personnel of The Confederate Club, about which I will write later.     ….

As I have written the secretary, a valuable means of getting names and dates would be the two visitor’s books which were kept in McGarvey’s Tobacco shop. It was a habit, not only to have visitors write their names in Gaelic or some other language (not english) in these books, but the habitues continually made comment on current events in the Ireland of that time.

These books were illustrated with random sketches and cartoons by George Fagan, an artist who is now dead; the writer, and others.

Catahl’s son, Sam, appears in a photo of the Saint Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band: Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Spring, 1998) contains: Barney Murphy and the Abbey Theatre 1916 Plaque pp. 81-83

Sam McGarvey, son of Cathal McGarvey, sitting on drum, member of Saint Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band which was associated with the 1916 Uprising and also with the foundation of Abbey theater.


Cathal McGarvey and the Rivival: Gaelic language and arts

In 1924 a celebratory concert in homage to Cathal was held at the Queens Theatre, Dublin. Everything in the show that night was written by Cathal himself, songs, plays, and comedy.


Star of County Down – lyrics written by Cathal McGarvey, music – an old Scottish tune (Rendition by Orthodox Celts), The Devil and Bailiff McGlynn, and Kate Muldoon


The Peeler And The Goat, The Mending Of The Door, and On The Bend Of The Road.


He wrote many comedy sketches for the stage.


He was one of the first producers of plays in Irish, especially plays at Oireachtas na Gaeilge. He was the first manager of the cinema, The Phoenix, on Ellis Quay when it opened on December 3, 1913 and in 1914 the “well-known comedian” Cathal McGarvey took over management of the Masterpiece Theatre, on Talbot Street where he exhibited his film of a Chaplin impersonation competition that had taken place at his picture house. He also produced ‘Irish Weeks at the theater where he “appeared personally at each performance during the week in his original humorous monologues, and these met with a great reception, there being no better humorous reciter in Dublin than Mr. McGarvey.”


He left his job with the Mooney family around 1905 and went entirely for entertainment of all types. For a while he traveled taking the Irish revival to any place in Britain where there was Irish community.

St. Patrick’s Day Concert Kildare 1907
Leinster Leader March 23rd 1907 – In Kildare.

The lovers of the old tongue had reason for congratulation at Kildare and Newbridge on St. Patrick’s night, when the Carmelite Hall in the former and the Town Hall in the latter were for the time being changed into Gaelic concert ones. From the talent displayed in both places it is scarcely remarkable that from a financial point of view a very great success was obtained, and in each instance a very enjoyable evening was spent. Both in Kildare and Newbridge the night was treated as an Irish one, and the halls were thronged. In Newbridge there is a net profit after the concert of ₤16.

“The Deal Little Shamrock” in a chorus by the girls of the Convent School opened the Kildare Gaelic concert, the different voices blending beautifully. The Kildare branch of the League then danced an eight-hand reel, in very good style, after which Mrs. Hennessy sang with much feeling and in her usual fine voice “Kathleen Mavourneen.” It is scarcely necessary to say that Mr. Cathal McGarvey did full justice to the recitation, “Sentenced to Death.” Miss Cissie Conway danced an Irish jig very nicely and in good time. Accompanied by Miss Bridie Hennessy on the violin, Master Thomas in a very pleasing voice sang “Aileen Aroon.” Mr. O’ Toole, of Nurney, touched the boards very lively to good time in a hornpipe.

The singing by Colonel Butler, who possesses a very fine voice, was much appreciated in “I saw from the Beach,” following which the Kildare branch occupied the boards with a four-hand reel. A selection of Irish airs was beautifully rendered on the violin by Miss Bridie Hennessy. Messrs. Twitchen and Dowling immediately afterwards got through a two-hand jig in capital style. Nancy Hennessy, who is quite a child, sang “Oh, I Love You, Dolly, I do,” very pleasingly, and a double jig by the boys of the Christian Brothers was much enjoyed.

In “The Sergeant and the Cart,” Mr. Cathal McGarvey was in his usual good form, and the singing of “The Coulin” by Miss Jones was much appreciated. At hornpipe by Mr. Crosby of Brownstown, followed, and was very well gone through. The chorus by the Christian Brothers’ pupils of “Has Sorrow Thy Young Days Shaded” was in perfect harmony and applauded, but there was not the slightest evidence of sorrow in the house when Miss Quinlivan in very fine voice described the manoeuvres of the impudent “Barney O’ Hea.” If she did not exactly pile on the blarney she must to say the least of it-have put the “comether” on the audience, judging by the extent of the applause.

An eight-hand reel was then gone through by the Kildare branch, after which Mr. M. Heffernan recited in very fine style “The Lament of the Irish Tongue.” This was followed by the dancing of a double jig in perfect time by the Kildare class. “The Wexford Threshing Song,” on of Mr. Cathal McGarvey’s favourites, was sung by him and each applauded, and Master M. Mullally very feelingly rendered, “Mollie Bawn.” An Irish dialogue by Messrs. Heffernan and Dunne was very interesting after which Mrs. Hennessy sang “Maureen,” and was received with much appreciation. In a fine dashing style, and in good voice, Mr. Quinlivan treated the audience to the “Irish Jaunting Car.” Mr. Connery, organiser, danced a very lively hornpipe, and footed the floor in rare fashion.

The final chorus was as appropriate to the occasion and the night as the opening one, where the young girls of the Convent School sang “The Dear Old Tongue.” This brought to a close on of the most pleasant evenings yet held in St. Brigid’s town by the lovers of the old tongue.

The getting through in such a successful manner of a Gaelic concert in Kildare entails a very large amount of work and worry on the few who never complain of any inconvenience but merely look on it as if it were on the day’s agenda in connection with the cause, and as a result-a labour of love. The good Nuns in an especial manner deserve very much thanks for the careful training which must have been bestowed on the children who took part in the concert. Indeed, they have ever since a Gaelic branch was started in Kildare not lost an opportunity of teaching the language and sowing in the minds of their young pupils a love for it.

It is scarcely necessary to say that over Ireland the Christian Brothers are strong in their support of the old tongue, and Brother Adrian, and the other good members of the Community at Kildare are not exceptions. One would pardon a feeling of pride at the manner in which their pupils turned out on Sunday night. In fact, all round it is apparent that in Kildare the young idea is learning to shoot in the way that it should.

Movies – script writer and actor

1. Finglas Fair Day – 1915 – the First Irish Fiction film, screenplay written by Cathal McGarvey

Trinity College Dublin, Irish Film and TV Research On Line

Producer: Mcavoy, Charles A.; Ireland
Script/Adaptation:  Cathal McGarvey
Photography: Mcavoy, Charles A.
Cast: F J McCormick (juvenile lead). Jack Eustace (blacksmith), John Connell (policeman), Frank Flanagan, Joe Flanagan, Eddie Flanagan (farmers), Harold Green, Dick Murray, Bill Penny (Irish lads), Bob O’Brien, Jack MacGarvey (English crooks).
Language English; Format 35mm
Colour b&w; Sound sil
Release date 1915
Summary A comedy about two English crooks who escape from jail, come to Ireland, and then try to rob a group of farmers there. When their activities are discovered and they are caught, they are thrown into the canal.
Note This film was shown at aTrade Fair in April 1916, but was not released. Note: Aka Finglas Fun Fair; Fun At Finglas Fair; Finglas Fair Day; Fun In A Finglas Fair. According to Slide 1988:11, Charles A McAvoy (sic), proprietor of the Masterpiece Picture House, Talbot St, offered a prize of three guineas in February 1915 for the best Irish comedy suitable for film production, to run not more than 1,000 feet and to consist of not more than 25 scenes. The winning entry was made into this film. This film seems to have been the first indigenous Irish fiction film, but was not released, though Slide reports that McEvoy’s Banda Company did release the film. The following accnt., from a contemporary witness, contradicts this: ‘After the trade show at the Masterpiece, during the Rebellion of 1916, the [British] soldiers entered the theatre and amused themselves winding all the films, both positive and negative, on the machines. They succeeded in destroying our good films. The cinema managers agreed that the film was good and would have been a huge success’. (Jack MacGarvey, IP 1/5/1947). Citing F J widow, Eileen Crowe, Slide disputes the accnt. by 6 Conluain 1953:42 that McCormick appeared in this film. F J McCormick was the stage name of Peter Judge (1889-1947). In 1918, following a number of years as an amateur actor, he became a member of the Abbey Theatre Company where he acted in over 500 plays. He was regarded by many as the greatest Irish stage actor of the following three decades. His most notable film role was as ‘Shell’ in ODD MAN OUT (GB 1947, see below) made shortly before his death, and one of only a few films in which he played. Camera operator Charles A McEvoy had visited Africa where he used a moving picture camera to photograph wild animals. The actors in the film were associated with the Columbian Players attached to the CYMS, North Frederick St, Dublin. The film was shot at Finglas, Westland Row Railway Station, the Moira Hotel, Blanchardstown Canal Bank and Railway Station. Gifford 06193: May 1916.
Production credits p/c: Charles A McEvoy, d: F J McConnick, sc: Cathal McGarvey.

2.  Irish Destiny

Production company: Eppels’ Films; Ireland
Producer; Eppel, Dr. Isaac J.; Director: Dewhurst, George; Script/Adaptation: Eppel, Dr. Isaac J.; Photography: Rosenthal, Joe
Cast: Paddy Dunne Cullinan (Denis O’Hara), Frances MacNamara [nee Alexander] (Moira Barry, a schoolteacher and Denis’ fiancee). Daisy Campbell (Mrs O’Hara, Denis’ mother), Clifford Pembroke (Mr O’Hara, Denis’ father), Brian Magowan (Gilbert Beecher, gang leader of the poteen-makers), Cathal McGarvey (Shanahan, a jarvey), Evelyn Henchey [later Lady Grace] (Kitty, Shanahan’s daughter), ‘Kit’ O’Malley (Captain Kelly, commandant, Clonmore Battalion, IRA), Valentine Vousden (priest), Tom Flood (Intelligence officer, IRA head-quarters), Derek Eppel (school child), Simon Eppel (man with cigar at Vaughan’s hotel).
Language English; Format 35mm
Colour b&w, tinted; Sound silent
Release date 1926
Summary: During the War of Independence and the Anglo-Irish Truce of 1920- 21, the love affair of Denis O’Hara and his fiancee, Moira Barry, is interwoven with incidents from the war shown through actuality material including the burning of Cork City (11/12/1920) and of the Customs House (25/5/1921), and the mass escape from the Curragh Camp (9/9/1921). In the peaceful village of Clonmore Black and Tans arrive to terrorise the people. Denis’ mother is badly affected by the disturbances. Her eyesight begins to fail from the shock and after her son joins the IRA. Following an ambush of a troop convoy by the IRA, an important communique is found on one of the officers. Denis is asked by Captain Kelly, the commandant of the Clonmore Battalion, IRA to take the infor mation to the IRA’s Dublin headquarters. He gets a horse but before setting off he sees Moira and tells her why he needs to go to Dublin. After he leaves, Moira’s horse is startled by a shot, and Denis gallops to catch the horse. Also on the scene is Beecher, leader of a gang of poteen-makers based at the Haunted Mill. Beecher offers to look after Moira, but when she recovers he tries to molest her. He becomes suspicious of Denis’ activities. Arriving at the ‘Meeting of the Waters’, Denis rests his horse, but he is spotted by an army motorcyclist. Giving chase on horseback, Denis shoots the soldier and takes his motorbike, which he uses to get to Dublin. As he is driving down O’Connell St, Denis believes he is being followed. At the IRA headquarters, Vaughan’s Hotel, Pamell Square, Denis delivers the message to an intelligence officer. However, the Black and Tans arrive, having been tipped off by Beecher, and Denis is shot and captured. His parents and others, including Captain Kelly, believe he is dead, but he is being cared for in a hospital. A sympathetic nurse smuggles out a message, and when he recovers he is imprisoned at the Curragh Detention Camp. There, in September 1921, Denis, along with 200 other prisoners, escapes from custody. Despite a search, including by aircraft, Denis remains free. He is given help by an old woman, and eventually finds his way to Shanahans, where he finds Kitty, the jarvey’s daughter. He enquires about Moira, who has gone by car with Beecher who told her that there was a wounded IRA Volunteer on the road needing attention. When he gets to the Mill, Beecher stops the car and drags the protesting Moira into the Mill. Meanwhile, Denis and Kitty get on a horse and give chase. In the Mill, Moira is tied to a pillar and is drunkenly assaulted by Beecher and a dwarf poteen-maker, as Beecher accuses her of providing information about the Tans to the IRA. A dispute breaks out between Beecher and the dwarf which leads to Beecher shooting the dwarf dead. As a result of the shooting the Mill is set alight. Denis and Kitty arrive at the Mill and Denis becomes locked in struggle with Beecher, whom he subdues. He frees Moira as the flames engulf the Mill and Denis and Moira join Kitty in safety outside as the Mill bums. Peace descends on Clonmore with the Anglo-Irish Truce. People dance on the roadway, while in Dublin crowds celebrate the coming of peace. Though blind by now as a result of the nervousness induced by the war, Mrs O’Hara is happy to have her son home, where he arrives with Moira, as Mr O’Hara and the local priest give their support. (V).

Note (2 edition, passed by Official Rim Censor, 30/7/1926)); IR Re-Rel 15/1/1927; USA Rel 28/3/1927. This film’s production credits list Dr Eppel as both writer and director. This was the only film Eppel produced, but he was the owner of the Palace Cinema, Pearse Street. The film’s on-screen credits use the following pseudonyms which modem sources have identified: Desmond O’Shea (Denis O’Hara), Una Shiels (Moira Barry), Mary Connor (Mrs O’Hara), Michael Dempsey (Mr O’Hara), Peggy O’Rorke (Kitty Shanahan). According to Lady Evelyn Grace, nee Henchey, who plays ‘Peggy Shanahan’ in the film, and other sources, Dewhurst was in charge of direction. ‘Kit’ O’Malley had been Adjutant in the Dublin Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence. The cameraman, Joe Rosenthal, is not, as some published accnts suggest, the same Joe Rosenthal who became famous as a cameraman during the Boer War, but his son, who was also named Joe. Some contemporary correspondence survives which suggests that additional scenes may have been shot after the film’s Irish release. The available print, the USA release version, includes newsreel footage of the 1927 New York Saint Patrick’s Day parade, which took place shortly before the film’s USA release. IRISH DESTINY was the first fictionalised film accnt. of the War of Independence. It was photographed in Dublin, Enniskerry and other County Wicklow locations, and at either Shepherd’s Bush Studios or Walthamstow Studios, London, where scenes at the poteen-makers’ den were shot in an expressionistic style. There is some confusion in the film about its exact periodisation in 1921. While the escape from the Curragh Camp occurred on 9 September 1921, it appears to be followed by the Anglo-Irish Truce, which came into effect on 11 July 1921, two months earlier. The impression one is left with it is that it is the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 which ends the film. IRISH DESTINY was banned by the British Board of Film Censors in 1926 but a re-titled and re-edited version, AN IRISH MOTHER (Irl 1928), described variously as a ‘crime’ film and a ‘melodrama’, was released with perhaps less emphasis placed on scenes of the IRA/British Army engagements. On 11/12/1993 at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, the complete restored copy from the Library of Congress was screened accompanied by a new score for the film by Micheal Ó Suilleabhain. ‘Mother Machree’ and ‘Danny Boy’ are recommended as musical accompaniments on the film itself. The event was attended by President Robinson and proved a great success.

‘The acting and photography… are above reproach’. (DEM 3/4/1926:2). IRISH DESTINY ‘will bring back to the minds of many the exciting times which have passed in Ireland. Raids and arrests by the Auxiliaries, reprisals and ambushes, are all realistically depicted and were evidently ‘staged’ by someone who had a thorough knowledge of the original happenings. One of the most exciting incidents is a running fight with Auxiliaries in which the battle wages fast and furious’ (DEM 6/4/1926:5). ‘IRISH DESTINY contains the highest elements of art, action, scenery and photography. It is a triumph for Irish enterprise’. (DEM 10/4/1926:2). Eppel’s ‘skilful and tactful handling of his theme pay high tribute to his ability as a picture producer, and incidentally affords evidence of what Irish enterprise can do’. (DEM 13/4/1926:5). ‘This may be THE BIG PARADE (USA 1925) and WHAT PRICE GLORY (USA 1926) of the Irish cinema, but it is doubtful whether its appeal will interest others than those from the ould sod… [Eppel] has succeeded only in grinding out a picture with class instead of public appeal… The battle scenes are well reproduced and a coherent love story sustained of a boy who upon his wedding eve enlists with the Republican army and does himself proud’. (Var 13/4/1927). ‘The scenes of IRISH DESTINY elicited constant waves of applause [at Daly’s Theatre, New York]. The spectators manifested their enthusiasm when the Black and Tans fell, and they hissed, as in the days of old melodrama, when a Black and Tan bullet struck an Irish volunteer’ (NYT 29/3/1927:23). This film was screened at the 2007 San Francisco Irish Film Festival; and the St Patrick’s Day London Irish Festival 2007.

By Gael McGarvey, researcher.

Email to contribute research or make corrections:
mcgarveysinireland at

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