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Alice Milligan (1866 - 1953):
Writer; political activist

Alice Milligan was born in Omagh, one of thirteen children, to Seaton and Charlotte (née Burns) Milligan, a middle class Protestant and Unionist family. In the 1870s the family moved to Belfast where Seaton Milligan managed the Bank Buildings department store (now Primark). Seaton, who was a member of the Royal Irish Academy, co-wrote Glimpses of Erin with his daughter Alice. Alice and her siblings attended Methodist College and Alice then studied at King’s College, London, before returning to Ireland to train as a teacher in Dublin. She taught in schools in Belfast and Derry. She became an Irish nationalist following the death of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891, soon becoming an active figure in the Gaelic League. In 1898, Alice initiated women’s commemoration of the centenary of the United Irish Rising, leading tours to the newly-restored graves of those who had been active in the rising. She founded three branches of the Women’s Association around the north of Ireland and organised events such as tableaux vivants, or "living pictures", where people dressed in costume to illustrate scenes from Irish history.

With her friend Anna Johnson (who wrote under the name Ethna Carbry” she edited the Belfast journals the Northern Patriot and the Shan Van Vocht, publishing the first articles of James Connolly. Amongst the poems written by Alice is “When I was a little girl”, about a child excited by the thoughts of the Fenians, even though the child comes from a different background.

After the Easter Rising Alice supported Sir Roger Casement, standing outside Pentonville Prison when he was hanged. She returned to Belfast to support the election campaign of Winifred Carney and during this time she visited republican prisoners in Crumlin Road jail. She helped to found the Anti-Partition League in the 1930s and remained active, despite living a quiet life back in Omagh, where she cared for her brother. In 1941 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the National University of Ireland, presented by its Chancellor (and future Irish President) Eamon de Valera, in recognition of her work for Irish language and culture.


From the Dictionary Of Ulster Biography (1993):

Alice Letitia Milligan was born at Gortmore, Omagh, County Tyrone on 4 September 1866; the third of 13 children. She was educated at Methodist College, Belfast, Magee College, Derry, and King's College, London. She went to Dublin to learn Irish, and as organising secretary of the 1798 centenary celebrations in Ulster, she invited John O'Leary to Belfast. She was a friend of James Connolly, a member of Inghinidhe na hEireann and of Sinn Fein, and supported Winifred Carney when she stood for parliamentary election in Belfast in 1918.

For some years Alice was organiser for the Gaelic League and gave history lectures throughout Ireland. She published poetry in the United Irishman among other journals, and in 1895, with Anna Johnston (pseudonym Ethna Carbery) founded and edited the Northern Patriot. She also edited the Shan Van Vocht from 1896 to 1899.

In 1900 she wrote a play, “The Last Feast of the Fianna”, for the Irish Literary Theatre, and “The Daughter of Donagh” for the Abbey Theatre. In 1898 she published a “Life of Wolfe Tone” and later a novel, A Royal Democrtb” as well as a book of poetry, The Harper of the Only God. She published two other books; one of them, Glimpses of Erinn, in collaboration with her father, and the other, Sons of the Sea Kings, with her brother. She was a founder member of the Ulster Anti-Partition Council. In 1941 she received an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland. She died in Omagh on 13 April 1953.

Born: 14 September 1866
Died: 13 April 1953
Margaret Ward
Sheila Johnston, Alice – A Life of Alice Milligan (Belfast: Counterpoint Books, 1994); Catherine Morris, Alice Milligan and the Irish Cultural Revival (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012); Dictionary of Ulster Biography, Kate Nemann (compiler), Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1003