Theobald Mathew, "the apostle of temperance," born at Thomastown, county Tipperary, Ireland, Oct. 10, 1790, died Dec. 8, 1856. He was educated in an academy at Kilkenny and the college of Maynooth, and entered a Capuchin convent at Kilkenny, where he remained until after his ordination in 1814, when he was placed in charge of a chapel in Cork. His urbane manners and charitable disposition soon acquired for him an extraordinary influence. He interested himself warmly in the condition of the lower classes, and organized a religious association for visiting the poor and sick, in which he induced numbers of young men to enroll themselves. In 1838 a Quaker first directed his attention to the necessity of suppressing intoxication. Soon afterward he was invited by several teetotallers in Cork to join them in devising a public crusade against drunkenness. A total abstinence society was formed, of which he was unanimously chosen president. Thirty-five persons took the pledge at his hands at once; on the following day several hundreds joined the society, and in the course of five months he administered the pledge at Cork alone to 150,000 converts. No small part of this success was due to Father Mathew's personal popularity.
He was invited to all parts of Ireland. In Limerick the crowds who came to hear him from the furthest parts of Connaught were so large, that but for the liberality of the citizens there would have been a famine in the place. He now gave up everything else to devote his life to the cause of temperance. At Galway he administered the pledge to 100,000 persons in two days, and after visiting every large town in Ireland he went to England, where he was received with the greatest enthusiasm. His benevolent labors had involved him deeply in debt, and although he received from the queen a pension of £300, most of it was applied to paying an insurance on his life for the benefit of his creditors. His brother, a wealthy distiller in Ireland, assisted him until his business was ruined by the progress of the temperance movement. After travelling and lecturing for some time in England with scarcely less success than in his native country, he visited the United States, lecturing in the principal cities, and returned to Ireland in the autumn of 1851. A statue has been erected to him in the city of Cork, and in September, 1874, a movement was in progress in New York for the erection of a similar statue in Central park.