As a child, Douglas Hyde became fascinated with the colourful folk tales and the rich Irish language he heard all around him in the counties of Roscommon and Sligo, where he spent his childhood. It was a fascination that led him to high office in the state and to acclaim as an authority on Irish.
He was born in 1860 at Castlerea, County Roscommon. His father, the Reverend Arthur Hyde, became rector of the Church of Ireland church at Tibohine. As a boy, Douglas was tutored at home and learned lrish from the local farmers. He never lost his love for the ancient tongue and devoted much of his life to reviving it. At Trinity College, Dublin, he was a versatile scholar, earning prizes in history, and gaining a law degree.
With the poet W.B. Yeats, he formed the Gaelic League in 1893, a society aimed at preserving the dying Irish tongue. The League became very influential in forming a national consciousness at the time, and many later revolutionaries were among its founders. However, he became disillusioned with the League's increasing politicisation and resigned to teach modern languages, first in Canada and then at University College, Dublin, where he became Professor of Modern Irish. ln 1938 he became Ireland's first president, an office he held until his term expired in 1945. He returned to his home in Frenchpark where he died in 1949.