Douglas Hyde (in Irish, Dubhghlas de hÍde) is best known for serving as the first President of Ireland from from 25 June, 1938 to 24 June, 1945.
Born the son of a Church of Ireland rector at Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon, Ireland on 17 January, 1860, Hyde dedicated his life to the study and revival of the Irish language.
He was the cofounder (along with Eoin Mac Néill) of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) on the 31 July 1893, and was its first and longest serving President until his resignation in 1915.
Under Hyde’s leadership, the Gaelic League was enormously successful, reinvigorating an Irish language community which was under severe cultural pressure and encouraging large numbers of people to learn and use the Irish language at a time when this was very difficult.
In 1905-06, Hyde undertook a 6 month tour of the United States, visiting over 50 cities, meeting President Theodore Roosevelt twice, and raising enough money to fund the Gaelic League’s network of travelling organisers and teachers for three years.
These organisers and teachers had a tremendous influence on Irish life, preserving and reviving ancient Irish music and dances, teaching Irish history at a time when it was not being done through the school system, and encouraging the learning and use of the Irish language. The self-confidence created by this renewed pride in Irish culture was a key factor in motivating many of the revolutionary generation who had such a huge impact on Irish history in the decades afterwards.
On retiring from the League, Hyde dedicated himself full-time to academia, serving as University College Dublin’s first professor of Modern Irish from 1909-32, and as a Senator for 2 short periods in 1925 and 1938.
After the ratifaction of the new Irish Constitution in 1937, Douglas Hyde was the unanimous choice of all parties, and was elected unopposed as the first President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann)
He served one seven-year term, retiring from the presidential residence Áras an Uachtaráin, to another house in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. He died there on 12 July 1949.