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Lord O’Hagan (1812-1885): Educationist and Penal Reformer

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 01, 1985


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by John Magee

"When Thomas O'Hagan, first Baron of Tullahogue, died in London on 1 February 1885, The Time obituary described him as 'one of Ireland's most gifted, respected and distinguished sons', and the Northern Whig, whose editor, Thomas Macknight, had for years been a close personal friend, claimed that his death had left 'a blank...which no other living Irishman can be considered qualified to fill'.

Victorian journalists were prone to hyperbole in their obituary columns, but, in O'Hagan's case, it is understandable that contemporaries should write in these exaggerated terms.

For more than a generation he had occupied an influential position in Irish public life; a distinguished lawyer and politician, he had been the first Catholic Lord Chancellor of Ireland since the time of James II, and the first member of the legal profession to wear the blue riband of the illustrious Order of St Patrick; a commissioner of national education and of intermediate education, a senator of Queen's University, and first vice-chancellor of the Royal University, he was one of the most ardent advocates of mixed education at all levels, from primary school to university; an enlightened and compassionate social reformers, he devoted much time and thought to the development of industrial schools, reformatories and open prisons, and was largely responsible for the amendment of the lunacy laws and for the drafting of a Jurors Act which contributed to the impartial administration of justice."

This article looks at Lord O'Hagan, first Baron of Tullahogue, a distinguished lawyer, commissioner of education, senator of Queen's University and first vice-chancellor of the Royal University.