Lawlor, Thomas (1842–1916), parish priest, was born 18 August 1842 at Irribeg, Lixnaw, Co. Kerry. Educated locally, he studied for the priesthood at the Irish College in Paris, where he was ordained in December 1866. On his return to Kerry he served as curate at Abbeydorney, Tralee and Castletownbere, where he founded a branch of the Catholic Young Men's Association. From there he was sent to Ballyferriter and then to Ballybunion where his parish priest, Father Morty O'Connor, was leading the local struggle for tenants’ rights. When he became parish priest of Valentia in 1879 he followed O'Connor's example, becoming one of the most ardent advocates of the Land League's principles and the vice-president of the league's first branch in the area. He was later president of the Cahirciveen branch and was the main source for Charles Russell's series of articles on the land war in Kerry for the Daily Telegraph. His letters to Russell were later included in Russell's book New views on Ireland. He also played a prominent part in the committee formed to relieve local distress.
In 1884 Lawlor was appointed parish priest of Killorglin. Lacking a suitable church, he set about raising funds locally and in the diocese, finally resorting to an almost year-long tour of the United States in 1886 and 1887, collecting among the Kerry emigrants in the large American cities. The church was completed over the next twenty years, with the Carnegie Trust contributing to the cost of the organ. He also rebuilt the small parish church at Cromane. Outraged at the conditions of the parish schools, he pressed the commissioners of the national education board to improve educational facilities. With the help of Thomas O'Donnell (qv) he drew up a detailed scheme of Irish education for the twelve parish schools and was vital to its implementation. In 1905 he applied, again with O'Donnell's support, for a grant for a library from the Carnegie Trust. This was completed in 1909, and he used the library to house the parish's first secondary school.
Following on from his Land League activities, Lawlor took an active part in the national movement. As president of the Irish National League branch formed in Killorglin in 1885, he presided over its development into the largest branch in Kerry. Although a keen advocate of boycotting, he was unequivocal in his condemnation of violence, with the result that Killorglin was one of the most peaceful areas at a time of widespread violence. He was effusive in his praise of the league's methods when he appeared before The Times commission (1888–9). Objecting to the ban on the league in November 1887, he was determined that the branch would not be suppressed, and conducted clandestine meetings whenever the opportunity arose. When the foundation stone of St James's church in Killorglin was laid in September 1888, he buried his National League membership card with it as an act of protest at the ban. His defiance was roundly praised by the nationalist press of the day.
In 1891 he was among the Kerry priests to sign the declaration of opposition to Parnell drawn up by Archdeacon O'Sullivan, and eagerly condemned the party leader throughout the parish. Although he counted Edward Harrington (qv) and J. D. Foley among his friends, he disrupted one of their meetings in Killorglin and urged the crowd to stand up for morality and renounce the Parnellite wing of the party. Despite political divisions, he continued to work for the betterment of his parishioners, devoting himself fully to his building and educational schemes. His health deteriorated from 1910 and he died 23 July 1916 at his home. He was buried beneath the altar of St James's church, Killorglin.