Hayden, Father Augustine (1870–1954), Capuchin priest, nationalist and Irish language advocate, was born John Hayden in November 1870, to William Hayden and Mary Hayden (née Morrisey) in Gowran, Kilkenny, and grew up in Blarney, Co. Cork, where his father was appointed railway station master.
In December 1884, he was one of the first pupils admitted to the newly opened Seraphic College at Kilkenny, a school with a Franciscan ethos that aimed to foster vocations amongst its pupils (two years later it moved to Rochestown, Co. Cork, by then the location of the Capuchin novitiate). Hayden entered the Capuchin order, taking the name Augustine, in November 1885 at a pivotal time in the history of the Capuchins in Ireland. After years of decline, the Irish province of the Capuchins was re-establishment in 1885 and forged strong links with the emerging national movement and Gaelic revival. The college at Rochestown was at the centre of this.
Hayden was ordained in November 1893 at the Church of St. Augustine and St. John on Thomas Street in Dublin and went to live in a Capuchin community in Germany for two years. When he returned to Ireland, he joined the community based at Church Street, Dublin, which was the major centre for the Capuchins in the city. Hayden was appointed rector of Rochestown College in 1898, a position he held until 1907. During his time there he put considerable effort into his work on preserving the Irish language, in which he was fluent, and together with Shán Ó Cuív (qv) he helped establish Coláiste na Mumhan, the country's first Irish language college, at Ballingeary, Co. Cork, in 1904. He was also involved in Conradh na Gaeilge and served as the president of its Cork branch for a number of years.
Hayden returned to Dublin to serve as the 'guardian' of the Church Street Capuchin community from 1913–16. During the Easter rising of 1916, he assisted Cumann na mBan in setting up and running a first aid station at Fr Mathew Hall to treat those wounded in nearby fighting. As the gun battle around them intensified, Hayden went to the British lines to make a case for protecting the station and managed to negotiate a ceasefire to allow for their seriously injured patients to be removed to the nearby Richmond Hospital, and to allow others to leave the besieged building. Along with his fellow Capuchin priests, Hayden also visited the Four Courts to minister to the Volunteers there, at great personal risk. In his later recollection of the events of the rebellion for his official witness statement, Hayden spoke reverentially of the Volunteers he ministered to, including a young man of 'twenty-nine summers' he anointed at the Four Courts, who would die a 'grand catholic death in the Richmond Hospital kissing his crucifix and murmuring ejaculatory prayers' (BMH).
On Sunday 30 April 1916, Hayden and Fr Aloysius Travers visited Patrick Pearse (qv) at Arbour Hill prison and James Connolly (qv) at Dublin Castle to verify the legitimacy of the surrender order they had issued the day before. The priests then acted as go-betweens taking messages between the British army leadership at Dublin Castle and Thomas MacDonagh (qv) and John MacBride (qv), who were still holding out at Jacob's biscuit factory. Hayden and Travers organised and attended the meeting between MacDonagh and General William Lowe at St Patrick's Park which ultimately resulted in the surrender of positions at Jacob's, the South Dublin Union and Marrowbone Lane.
Hayden and his Capuchin confrères visited the captured Volunteers at Richmond barracks and Kilmainham gaol, consoling them, hearing confessions and bringing messages to and from their families. When the executions of the rebel leaders started the following week, they ministered to the condemned men. Hayden was with William Pearse (qv), John MacBride and Con Colbert (qv) in their last moments at Kilmainham gaol.
He counted Éamon de Valera (qv) and Terence MacSwiney (qv) amongst his friends, and officiated at MacSwiney's wedding to Muriel Murphy (qv), which took place through Irish, in the village of Bromyard in Herefordshire in England in June 1917. Hayden was also a co-celebrant at the marriage of McSwiney's daughter Máire MacSwiney Brugha (qv) many years later in 1945 in Cork. In the period between the rising and the war of independence (1919–21), Hayden travelled to the US where he gave lectures on the cause for Irish freedom, as well as conveying messages from Dublin to Éamon de Valera and Harry Boland (qv) who were also there at the time.
Hayden was celebrated for his talents as a missionary and lecturer, and throughout his career he delivered retreats at centres across the country. He also spent many years abroad, travelling to US missions and then to Switzerland and Rome before ill health led him to return to Ireland for good in the 1940s. He was a prolific writer, and penned a number of devotional texts including St Francis and the blessed eucharist (1932), Ireland's loyalty to the mass (1933) and Ireland's loyalty to Mary (1952). He also wrote on Edmund Ignatius Rice (qv), the founder of the Irish Christian Brothers and Theobald Mathew (qv), the renowned temperance crusader.
Fr Augustine Hayden died on 7 February 1954 at the Bon Secours Home, Cork. Dr Cornelius Lucey (qv), Bishop of Cork, presided over the requiem mass at the Holy Trinity church in Cork city, which was attended by Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, and the lord mayor of Cork, Patrick McGrath, TD. He was buried at the Capuchin community cemetery at Rochestown. The papers relating to his role in ministering to republican leaders and their relations during the 1916 rising are held by the Capuchin Provincial Archives, and his official witness statement is available from the Bureau of Military History (1913–1921).