Mr. Thomas H. Gillespie, father of the Gillespie brothers, Tommy. Dick, Alfie and Bernie, took over the editorship of the Connaught Telegraph in 1899.
Though just 25-years old at the time, he was a man of the wold, having spent several years prior to that in Chicago, having travelled there while just a schoolboy, on the request of his brothers, who were then occupying prominent positions in Windy City.
He returned to Castlebar in 1898 to represent the Chicago National Society at the '98 Centenary celebrations.
His brother, the late R.A. Gillespie, who was then in charge of the Connaught Telegraph, induced him to remain and he did so.
The following year Mr. R.A. Gillespie was offered and accepted a lucrative position in one of the leading printing houses in Dublin and Thomas H. took over the proprietorial charge of the paper and became editor.
Thomas H. was one of the large family of the late Mr. R. C. Gillespie and Mrs. Gillespie (Canavan), and was born in Main Street in September 1874. His father was then and for many years previously foreman of the Connaught Telegraph.
He received his early education in the National School in Chapel Street of which the late Mr. Michael McDonnell was principal. He continued his studies at the schools of the De La Salle Order in Castlebar during which time he emigrated to the US.
On taking over the running of the paper, Thomas H., espoused the cause of the United Irish League which was founded by William O'Brien and threw the columns of his paper open to the advocacy of the demand for Irish Legislative Independence and the Land for the people.
In conjunction with the late Very Rev. Canon Lyons, P.P. he was one of the promoters of the Castlebar Bacon factory, later becoming its secretary, a position which he help up to a few years before his death in April 1939.
Thomas H. was a popular figure on concert platforms, being possessed with a rich baritone voice, and was also an excellent pianist.
About thirty years before his death he was appointed Justice of the Peace during the Liberal administration and resigned that office on being elected Clerk of the Castlebar Petty sessions District in 1916, a position which he filled up to the passing of the Treaty.
In 1924 he was appointed a Peace Commissioner for four of the five counties of Connaught, and a few years subsequently he was elected to the Urban Council of his native town., and was a member up to the time of his death.
He was honoured by the Municipal Authorities Association, who elected him one if the three representatives on the Executive Council of that body.
He was also a member of the Irish Master Printers' Association and the Irish Newspaper Owners' Association.
During his term as editor the pages of his paper were employed unstintingly towards and for the betterment of the people of the county and the county as a whole.
At all times and on every occasion he championed all good and National causes, and the columns of the Connaught Telegraph he alway freely handed over to those interested in such causes as well as to those who wished to spread uplifting ideals or propagate just and patriotic principles.
For many years Thomas H. was a member of the Castlebar branch of Fine Gael.
For close on 40 years he was editor of the Connaught Telegraph, a record in Irish journalism for an unbroken connection with a newspaper.
Reprinted from The Connaught Telegraph commemorative issue, April 1996.