Patrick MacGill was born in the Glenties, County Donegal, where he left school when he was ten years old and was hired out at the Strabane hiring fair. He emigrated to Scotland when he was fourteen and worked as a navvy, a platelayer and a labourer. He published Gleanings from a Navvy's Scrapbook; Songs of a Navvy and Songs of the Dead End, all of which were very popular, the former procuring him a job on the editorial staff of the Daily Express. The archivist of the Chapter Library of Windsor Castle appointed MacGill, who was twenty-three, to the position of editor of ancient manuscripts. In 1914 he wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Children of the Dead End, which in its first week of publication sold thirty-five thousand copies in England. During the First World War he served with the London Irish Rifles and later published The Great Push: An Episode of the Great War, based on his experiences at the Battle of Loos in 1915 and during which he was wounded; Soldier Songs; and The Amateur Army. His play, Suspense, which also deals with the war, was published in 1930. Among his other works are Maureen, The Glen of Carra and The Rat Pit.
He went to America in 1930 on a proposed lecture tour, but because of the Depression, the tour fell through. Because he had no money, he and his family were stranded in Los Angeles. His wife, Margaret Gibbons MacGill opened a dramatic school in Los Angeles and later in Florida. She published twenty novels, and later, short stories. Patrick lived in America for the rest of his life, and died at Fall River, Massachusetts, where he is buried.
In 1981 the MacGill Summer School was established at Glenties and annually attracts distiguished speakers, performers and visitors from Ireland and internationally, tackling a wide range of themes and topics. amongts its exhibitions has been one dedicated to MacGill and his wartime experiences.
||1 January 1890