Evident from my research for the Ballymacoda History Project is the fact that people from Ballymacoda have made their mark on the world. We have successful and noted businesspeople, clergymen, academics, poets and patriots that we can claim as our own. Very often I come across surprising links also, and this is the story of one of those – Timothy Aloysius Smiddy, a contemporary of Michael Collins, and the first man to be appointed ambassador to another country by the Irish Free State.
Timothy A. Smiddy was born in Kilbarry, a small townland on the northside of Cork City, near Blackpool. He was born on April 30th, 1875, and was the son of William and Honora (nee O’Mahony) Smiddy. His father William Smiddy is what gives us our link the Ballymacoda – William was born in Ballycrenane, Ballymacoda on May 9th 1848, as were his parents (Timothy’s grandparents) – Timothy Smiddy (1793-1873) and Mary Boozan (Beausang – a distant relative of my own) (1806-1883).
By the time of Timothy’s birth in 1875, his father William had built up a successful merchant business in Cork city and ran a victualler business on Grand Parade, thus allowing Timothy the benefit of receiving a fine education. He attended St Finbarr’s College (Farranferris) on the northside of Cork City, and later, with his contemplation of becoming a priest, studied in Paris for a number of years, before moving to Cologne, Germany, to study commerce and economics.
Returning home to Cork, Timothy married Lilian (Lily) O’Connell at St Finbarr’s Cathedral in October 1900. He went on to study at University College Cork (then Queen’s College Cork), and graduated with a B.A. (1905) and an M.A. (1907). He became staff at the University in 1909, accepting a position to teach in the Faculty of Economics, later becoming Dean of Faculty and Professor of Economics. Timothy and Lily had six children, and the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland records show them living in Cobh. It is interesting the see the evolution of Timothy’s listed profession on the Census forms. It was listed as ‘Timber merchant‘ in 1901, which he worked as while studying, and listed as ‘Professor of Economics and Commerce B.A.,M.A‘ in 1911.
Obviously, the most notable event from an Irish perspective at the time period we are discussing was Ireland’s ongoing struggle for independence. In 1921, following the War of Independence and the resulting truce, Timothy Smiddy was appointed by fellow Cork-man and friend Michael Collins to be his Economic Adviser to Plenipotentiaries for the treaty negotiations that were to happen in London between October and December of that year. Smiddy was one of four economic advisors appointed to the Irish delegation. At the time, Collins’ official role in the government of the proclaimed Irish Republic was Minister for Finance.
In 1922, Smiddy was called upon again by Collins and sent to the United States to be the Irish Free State’s financial representative in Washington. His role was officially recognized in 1924, and he served as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the United States of America for the Irish Free State until 1929. During this time he facilitated the visit of William T. Cosgrave to the United States in 1928, the first leader of the Irish Free State, accompanied by Desmond Fitzgerald, Minister for Defence.
The appointment of Timothy Smiddy as the representative of Ireland in the United States was an important development in the history of the Irish state. Not only was he the first ambassador to another country to be appointed, but it was also the first attempt by a British dominion or colony (as the Irish Free State then was) to appoint a recognized ambassador to another country.
Following the end of his appointment in the United States, Timothy Smiddy later served as the Irish Free State’s High Commissioner to London (during 1929–1930), was a member of the Tariff Commission (from 1930–1933) and later became chairman of the Commission on Agriculture (1939–1945). He also continued to advise the Irish government on economic matters. He died on February 9th, 1962 at the age of 86, and is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin.
In early 2022, a book entitled The Men and Women of the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921 was released which details the lives of all delegation members involved in the Treaty negotiations in 1921. Joint editor of the book, Eda Sagarra, is a granddaughter of Timothy Smiddy. Sagarra is also author of the 2018 book, Envoy Extraordinary: Professor Smiddy of Cork, which comprehensively documents the life and achievements of Timothy Smiddy in his six decades of public service to Ireland.
References & Further Information
Ireland, Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911 [Available Online]
Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915 [Available Online]
Ireland, Civil Registration Births Index, 1864-1958 [Available Online]
National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Kilbarry House
Census of Ireland, 1901 Record for Timothy A. Smiddy
Census of Ireland, 1911 Record for Timothy A. Smiddy
Law Society Gazette Ireland, The people behind the 1921 Treaty, Fiona Murray, April 2022
Documents in Irish Foreign Policy, Letter from William T. Cosgrave to Timothy A. Smiddy, March 5th, 1928
The Men and Women of the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921, Dingle Publishing