F. X. Martin

Francis Xavier "F.X." Martin, O.S.A. (Irish: Proinsias Xavier Ó Máirtín; 2 October 1922 – 13 February 2000) was an Irish cleric, historian and activist.


Francis Xavier Martin was born 2 October 1922 in Ballylongford, County Kerry. Francis was the youngest son in a family of five boys and five girls born to Conor and Katherine Fitzmaurice Martin. His father was a physician. All but one of his brothers also became priests: Conor became professor of ethics and politics at University College Dublin, and his brother Malachi was for a while a Jesuit and became a controversial writer.[1]

Martin was raised in Dublin, and attended the local national school before attending Holy Faith School, Clontarf and then went to Belvedere College, in Dublin. In 1941, he became an Augustinian friar. He received a B.A. from University College Dublin in 1949. He was ordained a priest in 1952. Martin then pursued a doctorate at Cambridge University, where he was the first Catholic priest admitted since the Reformation.[2] In 1959, after completing his doctoral thesis at Cambridge, he became assistant in history at University College Dublin and in 1961 Professor of Medieval History. In 1963 he was appointed head of UCD's Department of Medieval History.[3]

Wood Quay demonstration, September 1978

He was chairman of the Friends of Medieval Dublin, 1976–83,[3] and of the Dublin Historic Settlement Group, and was noted as a leading member of a well-publicized struggle, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, to save the historic Wood Quay archeological site in Dublin.[4] While Martin could not prevent the construction of a civic office building, in 1978, part of the site was declared a national monument. Martin, a keen horseman, earned from his colleagues the nickname "The Beggar on Horseback", from his evading a fine by citing that he was a mendicant.

He was also chairman of the Council of Trustees of the National Library of Ireland from 1977 to 1981.[5]

He was the author of landmark books on the history of Ireland and of his own Augustinian order.[6]

He died at the house of the Augustinians near Rathfarnham, County Dublin on 13 February 2000, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.[7] According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, "The passion with which F.X. strove to save Wood Quay, whether as a litigant, as leader of huge public demonstrations, or as occupier of the site itself, was a passion for a Dublin which understood and treasured its past. He combined this passion with a great sense of fun and love of life."[2]

His papers are preserved in the archives of the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland.[5]


Select bibliography


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