Patrick MacGill

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  • People in History

Early Years

Patrick MacGill was born in Ardun in the Glen of Glenties, Co. Donegal on Christmas Eve 1889. He was the eldest of eleven children and grew up on a small farm.

Patrick attended Mullanmore National School until the age of ten, after which he went to a hiring fair in Strabane and was hired as a farm labourer.

Patrick escaped this difficult job and went to Ayrshire, Scotland at fourteen, where he worked in the potato fields as a 'tattie-howker' or potato picker.

London Years

Patrick stayed on in Scotland and was hired by the Caledonian Railway Company as a navvy. During this time, he gave himself a literary education through membership of a library, and read many authors, including Victor Hugo and Rudyard Kipling.

At 19, he self-published 8,000 copies of a small book he wrote called 'Gleanings from a Navvy's Scrapbook'. A year later in 1911, he got a job as a journalist for the London Daily Express.

In London, he met Sir John Neale Dalton, tutor to the Prince of Wales, while doing an interview for the newspaper. Sir John was so impressed by Patrick that he asked him to be his secretary. 

MacGill did not enjoy journalism and readily accepted the job. He was set to work in Chapter Library at Windsor Castle translating Latin manuscripts.