Anderson, James Augustine (1837–1903), Augustinian priest and politician, was born in Drogheda, Co. Louth, where his mother's family, the Kellys, were well-to-do (an uncle, John Kelly, served as mayor in 1871). He was educated locally and at the Armagh diocesan college. Deciding upon an ecclesiastical career and choosing the religious order of an uncle, he entered the Augustinian novitiate at Callan, Co. Kilkenny, took his vows in 1859, and continued his studies in Italy (1860–62), mainly at Perugia, which he saw captured by the troops of Victor Emmanuel of Piedmont-Sardinia. In 1865 Anderson was appointed to the Augustinian house at Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, becoming vicar-prior two years later. He renovated the friars’ church and founded a confraternity and other pietistic societies for laymen; but it was on account of his extreme politics that he soon became a public figure.
At the parliamentary election at Dungarvan in 1868 he supported the independent liberal-conservative Henry Matthews (1826–1913), who challenged the retiring member Charles Robert Barry (qv), the candidate of the local parish priest and of the catholic bishop of Waterford. After Matthews was elected Anderson was censured and deprived of the faculty of hearing confessions in the diocese. His political tendencies were distinctly nationalistic and he was regarded, with ample justification, as a Fenian sympathiser. Such was his popularity that a national testimonial was made to him in 1870. In the course of his ecclesiastical career Anderson moved from Dungarvan to Augustinian houses in Cork, Galway, Ballyhaunis, Drogheda, Fethard (Co. Tipperary), Limerick, and Dublin; he visited the USA (1884) and Australia (1891), collecting in the Antipodes money for a new Augustinian church in Rome, St Patrick's, which became the favourite place for Irish marriages in that city. Anderson's reputation went with him, but often opposition from ecclesiastical superiors prevented him from living up to it.
When the newly formed Land League held a meeting at Claremorris, Co. Mayo (13 July 1879) Anderson was present at the head of a large contingent from Ballyhaunis and from the platform moved a nationalistic resolution. Back, shortly afterwards, in his native town as prior he became zealous again as a politician and founded (1881) the Drogheda Independent Club, the main vehicle of Parnellism in the town. In later life he was an energetic member of the Gaelic League and was one of the first to own a bicycle in Dublin. He was an early influence on Maude Gonne MacBride (qv), D. P. Moran (qv), and Patrick Pearse (qv). Despite the ill health that dogged Anderson throughout his career, he was an energetic campaigner for a number of political causes as well as a careful manager of the friaries where he served. His political populism, common among diocesan priests, was rare among regulars. James Augustine Anderson (his middle name was religious, not baptismal) died in Dublin on 24 July 1903, twelve days after unveiling a memorial at Dowth, near Drogheda, to John Boyle O'Reilly (qv).
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).