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Theobald Mathew

Theobald Mathew (1790-1856), Irish temperance reformer, popularly known as Father Mathew, was descended from a branch of the Llandaff family, and was born at Thomas-town, Tipperary, on October 10 1790.

He received his school education at Kilkenny, whence he passed for a short time to Maynooth; from 1808 to 1814 he studied at Dublin, where in the latter year he was ordained to the priesthood. Having entered the Capuchin order, he, after a brief time of service at Kilkenny, joined the mission in Cork, which was the scene of his religious and benevolent labours for many years.

The movement with which his name is most intimately associated began in 1838 with the establishment of a total abstinence association, which in less than nine months, thanks to his moral influence and eloquence, enrolled no fewer than 150,000 names. It rapidly spread to Limerick and elsewhere, and some idea of its popularity may be formed from the fact that at Nenagh 20,000 persons are said to have taken the pledge in one day, 100,000 at Galway in two days, and 70,000 in Dublin in five days. In 1844 he visited Liverpool, Manchester and London with almost equal success.

Meanwhile the expenses of his enterprise had involved him in heavy liabilities, and led on one occasion to his arrest for debt; from this embarrassment he was only partially relieved by a pension of £300 granted by Queen Victoria in 1847. In 1849 he paid a visit to the United States, returning in 1851. He died at Queenstown on December 8, 1856.

See Father Mathew, a Biography, by J. F. Maguire, M.P. (1863).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.