Colonel Thomas Gay Biography


Colonel Tomás Ernán Gay (1886 – 1953) was a member of the Committee of Enquiry into Resignations and Dismissals from the Royal Irish Constabulary, replacing Colonel Commandant F. Saurin, who resigned on 28th of March 1923.

Gay’s military service commenced on the 20th of September 1914 when, on the night following John Redmond’s speech at Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow, he joined the Irish Volunteers. During the Easter Rising he served in the Fourth Battalion, Dublin Brigade and reported to Captain Con Colbert and Seamus Murphy at the Marrowbone Lane distillery and rendered service there up to the time of the surrender. On the Sunday morning of the surrender he went to Jacobs’ factory to arrange food supplies with Thomas MacDonagh and from there carried Major MacBride’s verbal order for surrender. He evaded capture by the British by walking out of the Distillery after the arrival of a British Officer and a priest from Church Street who had come to arrange the details of the surrender.


"He was a Librarian"

 (Diarmuid O'Hegarty recounting Gay's service in support of his Military Service Pension application 24SP8332THOMASERNANGAY)


He was involved in I.R.A. intelligence work from 1918 and was a pivotal link between the Director of Intelligence (Michael Collins), other members of the Intelligence Department, General Headquarters Staff (G.H.Q.), G.H.Q. directors and friendly members of the Dublin Metropolitan police (‘G’ division) during the War of Independence.

"A" Division, D.M.P., from I.R.A. Intelligence Scrapbook (BMH_CD_227_35, p. 27)
Library Association Certificate from Thomas Gay's Private Collection




Gay’s fulltime occupation was Librarian of Capel Street library and according to his Military Service pension referee Ned Broy, his home was used by Michael Collins for meetings practically every week. Broy also felt that Gay’s occupation must have been interfered with as he was often out after midnight delivering important dispatches.

Letter from Frank Thornton to Thomas Gay, 1921, from Thomas Gay's Private Collection
Letter from Gay to Collins late August 1922, from Thomas Gay's Private Collection

"You will always be associated with my earliest memories of Michael Collins.. No words can express our sorrow"

(Sinéad Mason, confidential typist to General Michael Collins, 24 August 1922. From the Private Collection of Thomas Gay)


In September 1922, he enlisted in the National Army at Portobello Barracks and took up the position of Staff Captain under Major Joseph McGrath in G.H.Q., Intelligence.  He remained in close contact with General Michael Collins during this period in a personal and professional capacity.

Letter from Sinead Mason to Gay after Collins' death, from Thomas Gay's Private Collection

In March 1923 he was appointed to the Committee of Enquiry into Resignations and Dismissals from the Royal Irish Constabulary and his personal papers held in Military Archives contain forms connected with individual cases and Gay’s background investigations into same. In November 1923 he resigned from the National Army with the rank of Colonel and received his demobilisation papers on the 20th of December 1923. Gay returned to work as a Librarian within the Dublin library network and retired from working life as a fulltime Air Raids Precautions Officer for Dublin Corporation in 1948.

Air Raid Precautions certificate of training
Letter of Condolence, on the death of Thomas Gay, from his private collection

"Tommy Gay will be remembered with affectionate esteem by his remaining colleagues [....]"

Letter of condolence from Charles Anderson, Library Association of Ireland, from Thomas Gay's Private Collection.


Throughout his working life and retirement, Gay maintained contact with his former I.R.A. and National Army comrades through the activities of the 1916-1921 Club and the Old I.R.A. Pensions Committee (Comhairle Pinsin na Sean-Oglach). His personal papers contain menu cards from veteran social events and many letters and photographs from friends, including Colonel Michael Joseph Costello documenting his travels in the United States of America (U.S.A.) during the army’s military mission to the U.S.A. in 1926.  Gay’s lifelong interest in books and reading is also clear from the collection of book lists, publications and periodicals held in his private papers.