George Sigerson

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Sigerson, circa 1922.

George Sigerson (11 January 1836 – 17 February 1925) was an Irish physician, scientist, writer, politician and poet. He was a leading light in the Irish Literary Revival of the late 19th century in Ireland.[1]

Doctor and scientist

Sigerson was born at Holy Hill, near Strabane in County Tyrone, the son of William and Nancy (née Neilson) Sigerson. He had had three brothers James, John and William, and three sisters, Ellen, Jane and Mary Ann. He attended Letterkenny Academy but was sent by his father, William, who developed the spade mill and who played an active role in the development of Artigarvan, to complete his education in France.[where?][2]

He studied medicine at the Queen's College, Galway, and Queen's College, Cork, and took his degree in 1859. He then went to Paris where he spent some time studying under Charcot and Duchenne at the Salpêtrière; a fellow-student was Sigmund Freud.[2] Sigerson published successful translations of Charcot's Clinical Lectures in 1877 and 1881.

He returned to Ireland and opened a practice in Dublin, specializing as a neurologist. He continued to visit France annually to study under Charcot. His patients included Maud Gonne, Austin Clarke and Nora Barnacle. He lectured on medicine at the Catholic University of Ireland. He was professor of zoology and later botany at the University College Dublin.[2]

Cultural nationalist

While a student he taught himself Irish and made the acquaintance of Charles Kickham and John O'Leary.[2]

His first book, The Poets and Poetry of Munster, appeared in 1860. He was actively involved in political journalism for many years, writing for The Nation. Sigerson and his wife Hester were by now among the dominant figures of the Gaelic Revival. They frequently held Sunday evening salons at their Dublin home, No. 3 Clare St, to which artists, intellectuals and rebels alike attended, including O'Leary, Yeats, Patrick Pearse, Roger Casement and 1916 signatory Thomas MacDonagh. Sigerson was a co-founder of the Feis Ceoil and President of the National Literary Society from 1893 until his death.[2] His daughter, Dora, was a poet who was also involved in the Irish literary revival.

Nominated for a twelve-year term, to the first Senate of the Irish Free State,[3] Sigerson briefly served as the first chairman on 11–12 December 1922 before the election of Lord Glenavy.[4] On 18 February 1925, the day after his death, the Senate paid tribute to him.[5]

GAA supporter

The Sigerson Cup, the top division of third level Gaelic Football competition in Ireland is named in his honour. Sigerson donated the salary from his post at UCD so that a trophy could be purchased for the competition. In 2009, he was named in the Sunday Tribune's list of the "125 Most Influential People In GAA History". The cup was first presented in 1911, with the inaugural winners being UCD.[1]


George Sigerson died at his home in 3 Clare Street, Dublin, on 17 February 1925, aged 89, after a short illness.[6] He was predeceased by his wife, Hester (née Varian), whom he married at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on 1 December 1861. She published poems and short stories in various journals and wrote one novel A Ruined Race (1889, Ward & Downey).[7] She died in 1898. The couple had four children. One of these, William, predeceased both parents; two others (George Patrick and the poet and sculptor Dora Maria) would predecease their father. Only one of George and Hester Sigerson's children, Anna Hester, also a writer, like her parents and sister, outlived them both.[2][8]

Partial bibliography

  • The Poets and Poetry of Munster (1860)
  • Cannabiculture in Ireland; its profit and possibility (1866)
  • Modern Ireland (1869)
  • Political prisoners at home and abroad
  • On the need for village hospitals in Ireland
  • Celtic influence on the evolution of rimed hymns
  • The advantages of Ambidexterity
  • Discovery of fish remains in the alluvial clay of the River Foyle
  • Bards of the Gael and Gall (1897)
  • Fare Thee Well Enniskillen, trad., adapted by George Sigerson, (1894).[9]
  • The Mountains of Pomeroy by George Sigerson.[10]

Further reading

  • Curran, C. P. (1970). Under the Receding Wave. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. ISBN 0-7171-0276-9.
  • McGilloway, K., George Sigerson: Poet, Patriot Scientist and Scholar, Ulster Historical Foundation, 2011[11]


  1. ^ a b McEvoy, Enda; Kieran Shannon; Dave Hannigan (4 January 2009). "125 Most Influential People in GAA History". Sunday Tribune. Archived from the original on 9 August 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 401. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4.
  3. ^ "Dr. George Sigerson". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  4. ^ Election of temporary chairman, Seanad Éireann - Volume 1 - 11 December 1922
  5. ^ Seanad Éireann - Volume 4 - 18 February 1925 DEATH OF SENATOR SIGERSON.
  6. ^ Prtofile,; accessed 8 July 2015.
  7. ^ Irish Literature. vol. 8. 1904. p. 3145.
  8. ^ Profile (with dates of birth and death of children),; accessed 8 July 2015.
  9. ^ The Enniskillen Draggons Lyrics and Chords Irish Folk Songs.
  10. ^ Dr George Sigerson 90th Anniversary Tyrone GAA Website
  11. ^ "Magazine: Sigerson book reveals genius of young Irish state". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.

External links

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