Dromgoole, Thomas (c.1750–c.1826), doctor and controversialist, was born in Ireland. Little is known about his early career. Educated at Edinburgh University, he graduated as a medical doctor before moving to Dublin, where he established a practice at Dawson St. A fervent and devout catholic, he became involved in the struggle for catholic emancipation in the 1800s, occasionally acting as secretary to the Catholic Board. Well versed in history, he was unshakeable in his nationalistic beliefs, and intolerant of anyone who did not maintain a rigorous moral standard. A humourless and somewhat preposterous figure, he always carried a huge cane with a golden head, which he would bang on the ground for emphasis during his many declamations. He opposed strongly any government veto on the appointment of bishops and made many virulent speeches in 1813 that were regarded as contributing to the defeat of the relief bill of Henry Grattan (qv).
He achieved notoriety with a speech to the Catholic Board (8 December 1813), in which he argued that catholics were bound by their religion to subvert the established protestant church; the speech ignited religious fears and prejudices in the country. Further offence was created by his description of the protestant faith as a ‘novelty’, in reply to protestant descriptions of the catholic faith as ‘idolatry’. There was an immediate outcry in Dublin at these comments, and the board passed (24 December 1813) a resolution disavowing his sentiments and censuring him. This created further problems, with some catholic members sympathetic to Dromgoole, and the censure was withdrawn (3 March 1814). Despite the furore, Dromgoole stubbornly refused to apologise for his comments. A sixty-eight-page Vindication of his speech was published in 1814, with the authorship usually attributed to Dr John Lanigan (qv), an ecclesiastical historian, who is also credited with writing many of Dromgoole's speeches.
Daniel O'Connell (qv) had little time for him, and in 1832 claimed that the only sectarian speech on the catholic side during the entire emancipation campaign was the one from Dromgoole. O'Connell's wife Mary (qv) also despised the intolerant doctor. He became an object of much ridicule, satirised by a fellow physician, John Brenan (qv), as ‘Drumsnuffle’, and toasted by the Orange Order for having brought into the open the catholics' schemes for persecuting them once in power.
With the waning of his popularity and influence he became an embarrassment to the Catholic Committee, who sought ways to remove him from the country. In 1819 he was sent to Rome to regulate the relationship of the committee with the Vatican. Residing for a time in Paris, he encountered Miles Byrne (qv), the former United Irishman, who held him in high regard. In 1820 he returned to Ireland, but, increasingly marginalised, he returned to Rome, and spent the remainder of his days within the walls of the Vatican, and died sometime between 1826 and 1829. He did not marry.