Quigley, Michael (1768–1849), United Irishman, was born at Rathcoffey, Co. Kildare, eldest son of John Quigley (d. 1795), a farmer and builder, and his wife Mary (d. 1773). He attended school locally with Hugh Ware (qv) and took up the trade of bricklayer. With his father and a brother he was employed in improving the Rathcoffey house of Archibald Hamilton Rowan (qv); he also worked as a bricklayer on buildings at Maynooth College (1795).
Rowan's democratic ideas may have influenced Quigley in joining the United Irish rebellion in 1798. As captain of the insurgents from Rathcoffey, he was present at the sack of Prosperous (23–4 May) and at skirmishes at Ovidstown and Hortland (mid-June). Intrepidly he commanded a party of insurgents who ambushed a unit of yeomanry at Gollymocky Bridge near Clane (4 July). He was one of the eighteen insurgent leaders who signed a general surrender at Sallins (21 July); among the others were William Aylmer (qv) and Hugh Ware. Accounts that he clandestinely made his way to France are untrue. In fact he was imprisoned at Kilmainham and, having been named in the Banishment Act (6 October 1798), was released during the peace of Amiens (9 April 1802) and allowed to go to France (late June). In Paris he found work in the building trade and became acquainted with other United Irish exiles, among them William Putnam McCabe (qv), a close associate of Robert Emmet (qv), who, in Dublin, was planning another rebellion.
In February 1803, accompanying William Henry Hamilton (qv), Quigley left France for Ireland; he arrived in Dublin on 5 March and two days later met Emmet, who entrusted him with a mission to Co. Kildare to obtain support. On this he was accompanied by another Rathcoffey man, Thomas Wylde (qv), and was probably present at a mass meeting of United Irish at Timahoe on 13 March. After his return to Dublin, using the nom de guerre ‘Captain Graham’, he was one of Emmet's two chief lieutenants and in charge of his principal arms depot, in Marshalsea Lane, off Thomas Street. The rebellion (23 July) proved a fiasco, in part owing to blunders by Quigley himself, and he escaped with Emmet and Nicholas Stafford (qv), all three in ostentatious military uniforms, to the Dublin mountains. A few days later Quigley, Stafford, Wylde, and several others made for Rathcoffey, where they hid for six weeks. After Emmet's execution (20 September), Quigley and Stafford, dressed as spalpeens (itinerant labourers), headed west with four others to Co. Galway. In a proclamation of outlawry a reward of £300 was offered for the capture of Quigley and Stafford.
On 12 October the fugitives were arrested and conveyed to Dublin castle for questioning. One interrogator, the chief secretary, William Wickham (qv), wrote afterwards, ‘Quigley is by far the cleverest man I have yet seen or conversed with of the rebels’ (MacDonagh, 437). In danger at first of prosecution and of his life, Quigley agreed to give information to the government (24 October), which he did for the next five years. He was the most senior United Irish leader of 1803 to do so, but it is clear that he gave little of importance; moreover it is argued that in agreeing to inform he saved the lives of insurgents held in prison, no more being executed afterwards (Cullen, 147–50). From 23 October 1803 until 12 July 1806 he was held without trial in Kilmainham jail.
After his release Quigley married (19 October 1806) Wylde's sister Mary, who had played a courier's role in Emmet's rebellion. She bore him at least four children, two sons and two daughters. Probably with £200 supplied by the government, Quigley conducted a public house in Echlin Street, Dublin (near Grand Canal Harbour). Later he moved nearby to Cork Street and eventually back to Rathcoffey. In 1833 he was farming 120 acres in the district. In later years crop failure, cattle loss, and poor health caused his house and remaining land at Raheen (14 Irish acres) to be repossessed by the owner of the freehold, Captain John Aylmer of Courtown, who behaved badly in evicting Mary Quigley when her husband lay bedridden and dying. Michael Quigley's death occurred late in September 1849. He was buried in the Quigley family plot at Ladychapel.