Ref NoP95
TitlePapers of Michael Cusack
DescriptionWritings by Michael Cusack for his family. Photographs pertaining to Michael and Margaret Cusack and their family, to John Cusack and immediate family. Memorabilia and documents regarding family history by Michael Cusack, and further collected by John Cusack. Family correspondence of John Cusack and Patricia O'Connell. Selection of records documenting the legacy of Michael Cusack, within the wider context in County Clare: biographical texts, G.A.A. and other memorials, development of the Cusack heritage site at Carron.
Related MaterialP121
Extent1 archival box
ArrangementThe collection has been arranged chronologically, thereby beginning with documents contemporary to Cusack, followed by records kept by his son John, and by personal letters and further documentation collected by Patricia O'Connell.
Administrative HistoryMichael Cusack was born on 20 September 1847 in Poll an Phúca, Carron, County Clare; his father was Matthew Cusack (d.1868), and his mother Brigit née Flannery (d.1864). He placed himself in context as "a descendant of the Norman-Welsh Cusacks of Tirawley who took possession of a considerable portion of the part of Connacht...under the protection of the shades of '98".[P95/ 3] From 1858 onwards, Michael Cusack attended Carron National School, and from 1862 he acted as a monitor, namely teaching the lower classes and being taught by master Thomas Finn at the same time. He then attended the Model School in Enniscorthy from 1864 onwards to qualify as a teacher, had a first teaching post at Richmond School, Corofin, in 1865, then furthering his teacher training at the Central Model School in Dublin in 1866. In the succeeding years, he taught at a variety of schools, at Lough Cutra near Gort (1867-1871), St.Colman's College, Newry, (1871-1874) at Blackrock College, Dublin (1874-1875), St.John's College, Kilkenny (1876), and at Clongowes Wood, Kildare (1876-1877). Beyond the general national school curriculum, he was employed as a teacher for mathematics and English (Newry), and commerce (Blackrock). While teaching in Newry, he met Margaret Imelda Woods (b.8 December 1854), of Dromore parish, County Down, daughter of James Woods and Mary Hewitt whom he married in 1876 (14 June).

Michael and Margaret Cusack had five or six children who lived to adulthood. Clare Cusack was born on 4 April 1877 (d. 10 December 1955), Michael on 4 August 1878 (d.26 January 1906); Bride on 14 September 1879 (d.16 June 1956); John on 12 December 1880 (d. [ ] October 1956); and Francis/ Frank on 13 December 1883 - John Cusack, when drawing up a pedigree in 1856, was not sure whether he was still alive (cf P95/ 26). There were also four others - including Mary Evangeline [Aoife], Mary, and Mary Ethel - and other children who died in infancy, all under 8 years of age.

After a somewhat peripatetic career, Michael Cusack was to stay in Dublin from 1877. Probably working as a private tutor for some years, he may have established an academy at Nelson Street, Dublin, possibly with Hamilton Bell, and in around 1879 he opened an academy under his own name at 4 Gardiner's Place which served as a preparatory school for the Civil Service, until 1887 or 1888. Margaret Cusack died of consumption on 16 September 1890 - a death notice in the press, presumably placed by her husband, reads "papers sympathising with Ireland's sorrows will please copy" [P95/ 14]. Both John and Frank were taken in care by St.Vincent's Orphanage, Glasnevin, and Frank subsequently given to his uncle in fosterage for a few years, a Dr Woods.

Michael Cusack showed great interest in sports throughout his life, and proved considerable prowess in various disciplines of both athletics and team sports: among other achievements, he won weight-throwing competitions at the Blackrock College Cricket Club in 1875, and became an All-Ireland Champion at throwing in 1881. Before foundation of the G.A.A., he became involved in a number of athletics and hurling clubs: most notably, he co-founded both the Metropolitan Hurling Club and the Dublin Hurling Club in December 1882 - he was a member of the D.H.C.committee, ad the Club minutes are part of this collection (P95/ 12). His Academy also had its own club from October 1883. Cusack declared later that it was from the Metropolitan Hurling Club that the G.A.A. sprang. Cusack was concerned with more than the necessity of standardising rules; as Marcus de Búrca put it bhíodh sé ag scríobh agus ag díospóireacht ar mhaithe le hiomaíocht meáchan agus léimní, deireadh leis an aicmíocht nó seoinínteacht a choisceadh ar an ngnáthdhuine bheith páirteach i spórt, sin agus aontacht i mbainistíochtsla lúthchleas in Éirinn . A new centralised administrative structure was needed, and rules that would ensure fairness and prevent favouritism and gombeen practices. On his and Maurice Davin's initiative, a gathering was called for 1 November 1884 to Hayes's Hotel in Thurles, Tipperary, where seven attendees including Cusack founded the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes, later shortened to Gaelic Athletic Association/ Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. (There may have been more men present, but the subsequent "United Ireland" report only named these.) Cusack was to serve as secretary for the first years. The G.A.A. proceeded to take on the regulation of the rules for both Gaelic football and for hurling. In order to ensure longterm support for the association, it was decided at the Thurles meeting to seek patronage from Archbishop Croke of Cashel and from Charles Stewart Parnell, and later they also added Michael Davitt: this high-caliber support ensured the survival of the Association. Cusack also knew how to utilise the national press for his various interests, and specifically for Gaelic games and athletics. United Ireland (founded by William O'Brien) was one of the press organs used for circulation of rules, news of games, and general reinforcement for the cultural revival of things "Gaelic", as espoused by Cusack. Michael Cusack's overweening, strong personality invited and fostered controversy, leading to disagreements with some former associates, and as a culmination of events he was removed as secretary of the association in the summer of 1886, seemingly losing his regular column in United Ireland as a result. In order to continue making his views known, and further promote sports and Irish pastimes, crafts, and language, he founded a weekly paper, The Celtic Times , which was quite outspoken regarding the leadership of the G.A.A. The Celtic Times went beyond being a sporting paper, defining itself "for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Language, Literature, Music, and Pastimes of the Celtic Race". Paul Rouse comments "it was a paper of diversity and learning [and] saw him write on subjects that interested him". For finanical reasons, it proved short-lived - the last issue was of 21 January 1888. Cusack continued writing prolifically, with pieces accepted by the Shamrock, again the United Irishman , United Ireland , Fáinne an Lae , The Nation , The Irish Sportsman , and others. On his character, the authors of GAA: a people's history say that "Cusack was a singular man whose self-confidence had exploded after he had established his own school in Dublin in 1877 -Buoyed by this success, Cusack spoke his mind on everything that he saw around him. There was a restlessness, and individuality, a bluntness to everything he did. His warmth and generosity allowed him to make friends wherever he travelled; his impetuous nature saw him create enemies with similar ease". All of these aspects can be seen in the strident and humorous tones of his brief diary-letter of July 1902 [P95/1]. It has been suggested that James Joyce's "Citizen" in the Cyclops chapter of Ulysees, generally regarded as being based on Michael Cusack, should be seen as a caricature of the nationalist-militarist type and as critique of the "cult of Cú Chulainn", not as a depiction of Cusack himself derived from personal acquaintance. Patricia O'Connell judged on that matter that "his nationalistic outlook may not have endeared him to James Joyce, who was a man of the Pale." Cusack's commitment to the Irish language (being a native speaker) and to the revival of Irish sports went hand in hand: he was a committee member of Aontacht na Gaeilge which in 1882 founded the first Irish language periodical "Irisleabhar na Gaeilge" ["The Gaelic Journal"], published until 1909 - its first editor was David Comyn. Cusack was present at the founding of Conradh na Gaeilge, and could count fellow language enthusiasts such as Peadar Ó Laoire, Douglas Hyde, and Eoin MacNeill among his friends. In planning a commemorative Michael Cusack week, the County Clare organisers thought fit to hinge this on the centenary of the Irisleabhar in 1982 [P95/ 41]. Mathúin Mac Fheorais's work on the North Clare hurlers containing the poem in the North Clare dialect, Iománaithe Chill Chóirne was added to the collection The end of Michael Cusack's committee membership in the G.A.A. and his founding The Celtic Times did not mark a disassociation from it - he continued to support it in his writings, by attending games, meetings, and yearly conventions - his last one in January 1906 [P95/ 45]. Michael Cusack last visited his native Clare in the summer of 1902, partly to attend the spa at Lisdoonvarna [P95/1 and 2]. He died on 28 November 1906 and was buried in Glasnevin on 2 December. Michael Cusack's first son to live beyond infancy, Michael Dominic, a clerk, died in January 1906 from pneumonia, and his third surviving son Francis worked as a clerk at the General Post Office, Dublin but disappeared from the records after Michael Cusack's death. The second-born John Aloysius thereby inherited family heirlooms such as the prayer book [P95/ 14] and the family photographs contained in this collection. He was associated with the Hurling League which his father became a member of in 1902. Like Frank, he worked for a while as a clerk at the G.P.O. Shortly after he married Kathleen O'Connell (25 January 1911), six years his senior, he entered details of their household in Drumcondra onto the Irish census sheet, recording his profession as "solicitor's managing clerk", but according to his niece and his biographer, he advanced to his own solicitor's office in O'Connell Street. While they had no children, they had a close relationship with Kathleen's niece Patricia O'Connell. The photo albums (P95/ 18 and 19) also contain press cuttings regarding J.P.O'Connell's law studies - this was Augustine J.O'Connell's son [Kathleen's nephew]. Kathleen died on 30 October 1950, John in October 1956. Among John Cusack's papers were items of correspondence from one of his elder sisters Bride. She joined the Mercy Order in England and worked as a teacher; her name in religion was "Mary Gabriel". [P95/ 28-31] The other elder sister Clare seemingly was educated in England and became a civil servant, but nothing else is known about her. Patricia O'Connell was a niece of John Cusack's through his wife Kathleen, and as their favourite niece he left her his family heirlooms and documents. She was a librarian at University College Galway (1965-92), and also published historical monographs on the continental Irish colleges at Alcalá de Henares, at Lisbon, and at Santiago de Compostela. She died on 6 December 2006.
CodePersonNameDatesParallel forms of name
DS/UK/39Cusack; Michael (1847-1906); Founder of Gaelic Athletic Association, Irish Teacher1847-1906Mícheál Ó'Cíosóg
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