Charles O’Conor (1710-91)


Life
[Charles O’Conor of Belanagare; var. Belanegare;] b. 15 Jan. 1710, Cnoc Mór, Killintranny [var. Kilmactranny] Co. Sligo; descendant of Roderick [Ruairdhrí] O’Conor, and the O’Rourke’s of Breffny on his mother’s side, being dg. of Col. Tiernan Count O’Rourke; ed. by Irish speaking Franciscan, his uncle Dr. Thadeus O’Rourke (Tadhg Ó Ruairc), Bishop of Killala, who urged him to continue studying Gaelic; received copy of Contention of the Bards from Fr. Dominic Duignenan, his hedge-school master; left Belenagare for Dublin where he studied illegally, kept by Mr Walter Skelton, a priest, 1727-28; met Dr. John Fergus, a Catholic and a collector of Irish MSS, acquainted with the O’Neachtain circle in Dublin, he transcribed part of the MS of the Book of Ballymote in their keeping;
 
m. in 1731 Catherine Hagan of (d.1741), her fortune enabling him to buy a farm in co. Roscommon; succeeded to Belanagare, 1749, during his father’s lifetime, the estate having been regained by the latter through appeal in 1720 (it was mortgaged to his neighbours, the Frenches, at the time of the confiscations); engaged with Thomas Contarine, Henry Brooke and Richard Digby in their preparation of a fictionalised history of Ireland to be called Ogygian Tales, though never completed, 1743-44; issued reprint of Memoirs of the Marquis of Clanricarde (1744), as ‘Charles Connor’, in Dublin; published independently his Dissertations, an Account the Ancient Government, Letters, Sciences, Religion, Manners and Customs of Ireland (1753, revised edn. 1766);
 
issued edition of the Memoirs of James Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven in 1753 (rep. 1815); criticised Henry Brooke’s anti-Catholic Spirit of Party (1753) in a pamphlet called ‘The Cottager’; Brooke was later employed or ‘persuaded’ by the Catholic Committee to issue The Tryal and Cause of the Roman Catholics (1761) using material supplied by them; fnd. the Catholic Association in 1756 with Curry and Wyse, formed to present Address of Loyalty to the Speaker of the Irish House of Common; declared strongly against Registry Bills of 1756 and 1757; received ‘unsolicited’ letter from Dr. Johnson, 1757 (having sought through George Faulkner to gain Johnson’s support for Catholic Relief;
 
handed Belanagare over to his son Denis O’Conor (d.1804) in 1760, when the latter married Catherine Browne, O’Conor removing to ‘The Hermitage’; devoted energies to freeing Catholics from economic disadvantages of Penal Code rather than writing history; proposed to Dr. Sullivan of TCD an edition of the Annals of the Four Masters, 1763; wrote with John Curry and issued anonymously Observations on the Popery Laws (1771), a mild demand for civil rights; also a Statistical Account of the Parish of Kilronan (1773); invited with Dr. John Carpenter, Archb. of Dublin, to become corresponding members of Select Committee of Dublin Society for Irish Antiquities, 1753;
 
the Society sponsors his edition of Ogygia Vindicated against the Objections of Sir George Mackenzie (1775); subjected to claim upon Belanagare by his youngest br., Hugh, who conformed and sued for possession under Penal Laws (‘Discovery Suit’) in 1777; O’Conor being briefly placed under house arrest in Dublin, 1779; settled out of court, 1785 [see dispute as to dates of discovery suit, infra]; d. 1 July, Belanagare, bur. nr. Ballintober Castle; an unfinished ‘History of Ireland’ was destroyed on his instructions at his death; ]. RR ODNB DIB DIW FDA OCIL


Charles O'Conor
Charles O’Conor of Belanagare
See also ...
 
Images on the Clonalis House website online.
 
Commemorative engraving by Patrick Maguire, held at National Library of Ireland - online.
Patrick Maguire pinct.
Commemorative sheet

Papers: Charles O’Conor’s Gaelic MSS and other papers were largely removed to Stowe Library by his namesake grandson, and eventually returned to RIA Library in 1883 (B.I.1); the harp of Turlough Carolan [q.v.], long in the possession of the O’Conor family and kept at Clonalis House, passed into the keeping of the National Museum of Ireland in the 1960s; MSS from Clonalis have been rendered as on-screen images in the OSIS Project [see DIAS - as infra.]

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Works
  • [In] Proposals for the Printing by Subscription, Ogygian Tales, or a Courious Collection of Irish Fables, Allegories, and Histories (Dublin: Oliver Nelson 1743) [Stowe MS];
  • Counter Appeal to the People of Ireland against the Appeal [ ...] of Sir Richard Cox (Dublin n.pub. 1749);
  • The Earl of Castlehaven’s Memoirs [with Charles O’Conor ed. and intro.] (Waterford: J. Caldwell 1753);
  • Dissertations on the Antient History of Ireland (Dublin: James Hoey 1753), published with 607 subscribers; Do., revised edn., as Dissertations on the History of Ireland. To which is subjoined a Dissertaion the the Irish Colonies Established in Britain with Some Remarks on Mr. MacPherson’s Translation of “Fingal” and “Temora” (Dublin: G. Faulkner 1766) [extract], and Do., reissued as Dissertations on the History of Ireland, in which an account is given of the origin, Government, Letters, Sciences, Religion, Manners and Customs. To which are added a dissertation on Irish colonies established in Britain, with Ptolemy’s Map (Dublin: Christie 1812);
  • Seasonable Thoughts Relating to our Civil and Ecclesiastical Constitution, Wherein is Considered the Case of the Professors of Popery (Dublin: George Faulkner 1751) [var. 1753], and Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: Faulkner 1754);
  • A Cottager’s Remarks on ‘The Farmer’s Spirit of Party’ [by Henry Brooke] (Dublin [n.pub.] 1754);
  • The Protestant Interest Considered Relative to the Operation of the Popery Laws in Ireland (Dublin: Patrick Lord 1756);
  • A Vindication of A Pamphlet Lately Entitled ‘The Case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland’ (Dublin: P. Lord 1755);
  • The Principles of the Roman Catholics, Exhibited (Dublin: Patrick Lord 1757) [answering Robert Clayton, Matter of Fact];
  • The Case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, wherein the principles and conduct of that party are fully explained and vindicated (Dublin: Patrick Lord 1755);
  • Maxims Relative to the Present State of Ireland. Humbly submitted to the Legislative Powers (Dublin [n.pub.] 1757);
  • Essay on the Ancient and Modern State of Ireland with Various Important Advantages Thereunto Derived under the Auspicious Reign of His Most Sacred Majesty, King George the Second (Dublin: Patrick Lord 1760);
  • ‘A Letter to David Hume, on Some Misrepresentations in his History of Great Britain’ [dated 30 March 1762], in Gentleman’s Museum (April-May 1763), pp.56-64; 64-78;
  • The Dangers of Popery to the Present Government Examined (Dublin: G. Faulkner 1761);
  • A Dissertation on the First Migrations and Final Settlement of the Scots of North-Britain. With occasional observations on the Poems of Fingal and Temora (Dublin: George Faulkner 1766);
  • Vindication of Lord Taaffe’s Civil Principles in a Letter to the Author of the Pamphlet Entitled ‘Lord Taaffe’s Observations on the Affairs of Ireland Examined and Confuted (Dublin: George Faulkner 1768);
  • ‘Remarks on an Essay on the Antiquity of the Irish Language ... Addressed to the Printer of the London Chronicle ... in 1772’, printed with Charles Vallancy, An Essay [ ... &c.] (3rd. edn. London. n.pub. 1818);
  • with John Curry, Observations on the Popery Laws (Dublin: Thomas Ewing 1771; 1772);
  • Statistical Account of the Parish of Kilronan in Ireland and of the Neighbouring District (Dublin: [n.pub.] 1773; Edinburgh: [n.pub.] 1798);
  • Preface to The Speech Delivered by R. Jephson ... in the Debate on the Committing of head of a Bill for the ‘Better Encouragement of Persons Professing the Popish Religion to Become Protestants (Dublin n.pub. 1774);
  • ed., Roderic O’Flaherty, The Ogygia vindicated against the objections of Sir George Mackenzie ... by Roderic O’Flaherty (Dublin: G. Faulkner 1775), 8o [based on unprinted MS 1695];
  • Reflexions on Our Present Critical Situation in a Letter from a Landed Proprietor (Dublin: Pat Wogan; London: J Caddell 1777);
  • dedication ‘To the Lords and Gentlemen of the Volunteer Associations of Ireland’, in Thomas Sheridan, A General Dictionary of the English Language (Dublin: Pat Wogan 1784).
Contributions to Collectanea
  • ‘Reflexions on the History of Ireland during the Times of Heathenism, with Observations on Some Publications on that Subject’, in Vallancey, ed., Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis (Dublin: Charles Vallancey 1770), reprinted in Collectanea, Vol. 4 (1783);
  • ‘On the Heathen State and Ancient Topography of Ireland’, in Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis (Dublin: Charles Vallancey 1783);
  • ‘Third Letter on the Pagan State of Ireland ...’, in Collectanea [ ...&c.] (Dublin: Charles Vallancey 1786).
Posthumous
  • Charles O’Conor, Memoirs of the life and writings of the late Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (Dublin: J. Mehain 1796)
Correspondence
  • Also John Gilbert, ‘Correspondence and MS of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, Co. Roscommon - The O’Conor Don, D.L., Clonalis, Co. Roscommon’, in Appendix to the Eight Report (London: Royal Comm. on Hist. MSS 1881).
  • Robert E. Ward, John F. Wrynn & Catherine Coogan Ward, eds., The Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, Vol. I, 1731-1771; Vol. II, 1772-1790 (Michigan: Irish-American Cult. Inst. 1980); Do. [in one vol.], ed. Robert E. Ward, John F. Wrynn, S.J., and Catherine Coogan Ward (Cath. Univ. of America Press 1988), xxxiv, 537pp. [details]; also as microfilm, viz., C. C. and R. E. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor, 2 vols. (Ann Arbor Michigan: Irish American Cultural Inst./University Microfilms 1980);
  • Gareth Dunleavy and Janet Dunleavy, The O’Connor Papers, A Descriptive Catalog and Surname Register of the Materials at Clonalis House (Univ. of Winsconsin Press 1977).
 
Selected pamphlets
  • Seasonable thoughts relating to our civil and ecclesiastical constitution (Dublin [1756]) and The principles of the Roman Catholics (Dublin: P. Lord 1756);
  • The touchstone of patriotism, in a series of interesting queries to the publick (Dublin: G. & A. Ewing 1756); Dangers of Popery (Faulkner 1761);
  • [prob.,] Observations on the Popery Laws (Dublin: T. Ewing 1771).

Note: the foregoing pamphlets identified and described in David Berman ‘A Note on Berkeley and his Catholic Coutrymen’, Long Room, Nos. 16 & 17 (Spring-Autumn 1978), pp.26-36.

 

A poem dedicated to Sir Richard Cox and transcribed in the hand of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (1710-1790) - who names the author at Cormac Ó Luinn in the MS - is held in Clonalis, the residence of the O’Conor Don at Castlereagh, Co. Roscommon. A digital copy has been produced for the Irish Script on Screen Project [ISO] at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies - online. A copy can be reached under Cox, q.v. - or viewed as an attachment.]

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Bibliographical details
Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare: A Catholic Voice in Eighteenth Century Ireland
, ed. Robert E. Ward, John F. Wrynn, SJ, and Catherine Coogan Ward (Cath. Univ. of America Press 1988), 537pp. with index; previously issued in University Microfilms Internat. as a two-vol. edn., The Letters, &c., 1731-71; 1772-1790, some of the letters being summarised for purposes of the new one-vol. edition; the extant letters are held in Clonalis; the Pearse St. Library; the British Museum Library, MSS Dept., Egerton MS, 201, ff.31-61; Add. MS 21121; the Asburnham Collection of the RIA, Stowe MSS, Bi1, Bi2, Bi1a, Bi2a; the Henry Huntington Library in San Marino, California, MSS STO 887-892 and 1346; Sheffield Public Library, Wentworth-Woodhouse Muniments, Bk. 1/43; O’Conor’s correspondents for successive periods were, John Fergus (1731-40); Michael Reilly (1741-50); John Curry, Denis O’Conor, George Faulkner, Hugh Stafford, Miscellaneous (1751-60); John Curry, Denis O’Conor, Archb. John Carpenter, Charles Ryan, Charles O’Conor Jnr., Miscellaneous (1771-80); Chev. Thomas O’Gorman, Joseph C. Walker, Denis O’Conor, Archb. Joseph Carpenter, Charles O’Conor, Jnr., Charles Vallancey, Miscellaneous (1781-90); by far the largest number are to John Curry, who does not however feature in the correspondence after 1780. [For longer extract, see infra.]

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Criticism
  • Sir John Gilbert, ‘Correspondence and MSS of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, Co. Roscommon, The O’Conor Don, DL, Clonalis, C. Roscommon’, Appendix to the Eight Report (London: Royal Commission on Historical Manscripts 1881) .
  • [q. auth.,] ‘The Streets of Dublin, in Irish Quarterly Review, 2 (June 1852), pp.284-347; 3 (March 1853), pp.17-50; [3] (Sept. 1853), & pp.541-625
  • Charles Owen O’Conor, The O’Conors of Connaught, An Historical Memoir, compiled from a MS of the late John O’Donovan with adds. from the state papers and public records (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, & Co. 1891).
  • Charles O’Conor, S.J., “The Early Life of Charles O’Conor 1710-1791 of Belanagare and the beginning of the Catholic revival in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century” [unpublished typescript dated 1930 in the Nat. Lib. of Ireland] (1930).
  • ‘Charles O’Conor of Belangare, An Irish Scholar’s Education’, in Studies 23 (1934), pp.124-43; ‘Part Two, A Visit to Dublin’, [idem.,] pp.455-469.
  • Giovanni Costigan, ‘The Tragedy of Charles O’Conor, and Episode in Anglo-Irish Relations’, in American Historical Review, 49 (Oct. 1943-July 1944), pp.32-54.
  • Charles O’Conor, SJ, ‘Origins of the Royal Irish Academy’, in Studies, 38 (1949), pp.325-37.
  • Síle Ní Chinnéide, ‘Dhá Leabhar Nótaí le Séarlas Ó Conchubhair’, in Galvia, I (1854), pp.32-41.
  • Ní Chinnéide, ed., ‘Dialann I Chonchúir’, in Galvia, I (1954), pp.32-41; IV (1957). pp.4-17.
  • C. A. Sheehan, ‘The Contribution of Charles O’Conor of Belnagare to Gaelic Scholarship in Eighteenth-Century Ireland’, in Journal of Celtic Studies, II (1958), pp.219-37.
  • G. & J. Dunleavy, eds., The O’Conor Papers: A Descriptive Catalog and Surname Register of the Materials at Clonalis House (Madison: Wisconsin UP 1977).
  • Ann de Valera,’ Antiquarian and historical investigations in Ireland in the eighteenth century’ (MA thesis UCD 1978).
  • R. E. & C. C. Ward, ‘The Catholic Pamphlets of Charles O’Conor 1710-1790’, in Studies, 68 (1979), pp.259-64.
  • Robert Ward, ‘Friendship and an Eighteenth Century History of Ireland’, in Éire-Ireland, 7 (Autumn 1972), pp.56-612 [concern O’Conor’s contrib. to Lord Lytton’s History].
  • C[atherine] C[oogan] and R[obert] E. Ward, ‘The Ordeal of Charles O’Conor’, in Éire-Ireland XIV [14.2] ([Summer] 1979), pp.6-14 [var. 14.4, Winter 1979].
  • Padraig Ó Macháin, DIAS, supplies references to W. D. Love, ‘Hibernian Antiquarian Society, a forgotten predecessor to the RIA’, in Studies, 51 (1962), pp.419-31.
  • Donal O’Sullivan, Carolan, The Life and Times and Music of an Irish Harper, 2 vols. (London 1958).
    [...]
  • Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, Ireland’s Others: Gender and Ethnicity in Irish Literature and Popular Culture [Critical Conditions Ser.] (Cork UP/Field Day 2001), q.pp.
  • Nollaig Ó Muraíle, ‘Keeping the Embers Alive: The Role of Charles O’Conor of Bellanagare Near the Close of the Irish Manuscript Tradition’ - paper to Irish Script on Screen - The Book of the O’Conor Don [DIAS Conference, 16 May 2009; details online].
 

See also copious notes in C. C. and R. E. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor, 2 vols. (Ann Arbor Michigan: Irish American Cultural Inst./University Microfilms 1980); Patrick O’Connor, The Royal O’Connors of Connaught (Swinford 1997), 80pp. [distilled from The O’Conors of Connaught, 1891].

 

For further resources, see Hayes, Sources for ... Irish Civilisation [periodicals & MSS], and Gaelic MSS catalogues (particularly at the RIA - probably covered in Hayes); see also the card-catalogue of the UCD Folklore Dept. [Letter from Robert Ward of 14 Sept. 1992.]

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Irish Manuscripts On Screen (Project of DIAS)DIAS Notice on Clonalis House

Clonalis House holds an important archive of books, pamphlets and manuscripts relating to the affairs of the family of O’Conor Don, Co. Roscommon, from the late 16th century onwards. Included among this material are papers and letters of the great eighteenth-century man of letters Charles O’Conor of Bellanagare (1710-1791). Many of his Irish manuscripts were transferred to Stowe by his grandson, Fr Charles, from where they eventually reached the Royal Irish Academy in the 1880s. A small few such as the Book of Magauran and the Book of the O’Conor Don were kept at Clonalis. Other Irish language material associated with Charles O’Conor, such as his memorandum books, also survived at Clonalis.

Bibl.:
  • Gareth W. Dunleavy and Janet E. Dunleavy, The O’Conor Papers: A Descriptive Catalog and Surname Register of the Materials at Clonalis House (Madison; University of Wisconsin Press 1977);
  • Catherine Coogan Ward & Robert E. Ward, The Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (Ann Arbour, Michigan 1980).

Photo-images of the MSS accompanied by “transcribed text” from the The Book of the O'Conor Don and other MSS now or formerly in the possession of the O'Conor family have been supplied by OSIS - via “Index in English” > “Collections” > “Clonalis House” > online - viz.,

The Book of the O’Conor Don
Two Legal Deeds
Poem for Sir Richard Cox
The Shield of Fionn

Front cover
Folio 1
Inside Board
Book of the O'Connor Don (spine)
Book of the O'Connor Don (folio 1)
Book of the O'Connor Don (plate)

[ Enquiries to: Padraig Machain pmachain@celt.dias.ie. ]

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Commentary
See separate file [infra].

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Quotations
See separate file [infra].

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References
Dictionary of National Biography
cites Dissertations (1753); preface and terminal essay to O’Flaherty’s The Ogygia Vindicated, and letters on Irish history in Vallancey’s Collectanea; collected ancient Irish manuscripts and published pamphlets on the abolition of political disabilities of Roman catholics. See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica, Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.453.

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R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland (1988), p.199, succeeded to Belanagare in 1749; tracts on Irish Catholic relief; ed Castlehaven’s Memoirs [Waterford 1753; rep. Dublin 1815], and published Dissertation[s] on the Ancient History of Ireland (1753); fnd. Catholic association with John Curry and Thomas Wyse, 1756; ed. O’Flaherty’s Ogygia Vindicated (1775). Published 2 essays in Vallancey’s Collectanea (1783); MRIA, 1785; published with John Curry Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland (1775), which sought to counter Protestant accounts of the ‘massacres’ of 1641.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, p.957: O’Conor came to Dublin in 1727 to pursue scientific studies; kept diary (dialann) in Irish and had correspondence with leading figures incl. Burke; collected and annotated Irish MSS; means reduced when a younger brother turning Protestant and claimed the family lands. An account of O’Carolan’s meeting with the woman he had loved, as told to J.C. Walker by O’Conor, appears at Vol. 1, p.977. Also: a note to J. C. Walker’s ‘Life of Turlough O’Carolan’, in Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (1786), quotes O’Conor as saying that O’Carolan ‘at all times ... kept a good pair of horses, and a servant to wait on him’ [Vol. 1, p.977]. (Cont.)

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1 - cont.: Samuel Johnson to O’Conor, 9 April 1757: ‘I have long wished that the Irish literature were cultivated. Ireland is known by tradition to have been the seat of piety and learning, and surely it would be very acceptable to those who are curious, either in the original of nations, or the affinity of languages, to be further informed of the revolutions of a people so ancient, and once so illustrious. I hope you will continue to cultivate this kind of learning, which has lain so long neglected, and which, if it be suffered to r. B. Hill, OUP 1971, I, pp.321-22) [Vol. 1, p.1291]. O’Conor was an informant for one Ferdinando Ward, author of an Ecclesiastical History of the 18th c., who next produced a History of Ireland, in which Thomas Moore claimed to have found inspiration for his song, ‘The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls’ [Vol. 1, p.1060ftn] (Cont.)

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1 - cont.: O’Conor provided translations of Gaelic annals for Thomas Leland, who quotes such an account of the judicial murder of Sir Brian Mac Felim O’Neill in Anno 1574, in his History of Ireland (1773, vol. 2., p.257); the passage is also quoted in O’Connell’s ‘Speech in Defence of William Magee’ [Vol. 1, p.941]. The introductory passage from Dissertations quoted, shows O’Conor arguing that ‘the Study and Knowledge of this ancient People, through all Stages of their Story, can hardly fail of being edifying to the present Times’; using that history as a measure of the history of ‘Liberty itself; or (what ought, perhaps, to be as edifying to our Readers) the ABUSE of it’; and admitting that the constitution of the nation ‘gave ... too great a Price for the popular Arts’ - in other words, fell down on the rational and effective institutions of national, and centralised government [Vol. 1, pp.908-09]. Vol.3; disowned Jacobite cause espoused by previous generations and pledged loyalty to the Crown, 595n; cited - and mispelled - in Oliver MacDonagh (States of Mind &c, 1983.) For further comment, see under Ledwich, supra), pp.619-20.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: In 1759, the Catholic Committee was formed under the stewardship of leading Catholic figures such as Charles O’Conor. They disowned the Jacobite cause espoused by previous generations of Catholics, and in the 1770s their pledges of loyalty to the crown intensified after the passing of the Relief Act of 1788 ... In the early 1790s, the association of the Catholic cause with the radical republicanism of the United Irishmen placed Catholic loyalty to the crown under considerable strain’ (Vol. 3, p.595ftn.) Further: ‘Charles O’Conor, the intellectual force on the Committee, pioneered the study of Irish and antiquarianism among native Catholic, publishing his Dissertations on the Antient History of Ireland in 1753 (ibid., 619 ftn.).

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De Burca Books (Cat 18) lists Dissertations on the History of Ireland, in which an account is given of the origin, Government, Letters, Sciences, Religion, Manners and Customs. To which are added a dissertation on Irish colonies established in Britain, with Ptolemy’s Map (Christie, Dublin 1812).

The Morris Collection of the University of Ulster holds Dissertations on the History of Ireland &c. (Printed by J. Christie 1812).

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Notes
Book of the O’Conor Don, [A] seventeenth century paper manuscript containing a large collection of bardic poetry ... In the eighteenth century it came into the possession of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, Co. Roscommon, whose annotations are to be seen throughout, and today is in the keeping of the O’Conor-Nash family of Clonalis House.

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The Book of Magauran (Duanaire Mhéig Shamhradháin): ‘This fourteenth century Gaelic vellum manuscript is the oldest known book of bardic poetry. Thirty three poems, in whole, or in part, have been preserved in this duanaire. Several scribes seem to have taken part in the work, but the main scribe was Ruaidhri Ó Cianáin, and he tells us that he wrote the duanaire for Tomis Mac Briain [Mag Shamhradhain] who died in 1343. Ó Cianáin died in 1387. The poems preserved in the manuscript are, for the most part, typical early modern Irish praise-poems and reflect the Gaelic society of their time in which tradition and ancestry were so important. They are thus an interesting literary and historical record. The edition of them by the late Rev. Lambert Mc Kenna, S.J., published in 1947 under the title The Book of Magauran by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, has made them available to the twentieth century reader. / This manuscript had been for centuries in the possession of the O’Conor Don family at Clonalis, Co. Roscommon, from whom it was purchased with the aid of a special subvention which [the Trustees] generously provided.’ (See Report of the Trustees of the National Library, NLI 1972, p.4.)

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Charles Vallancey: O’Conor gives an account of his publications in Vallancey’s Collectanea in several letters, viz, I ventured to write two tracts on our antiquites, one published in the tenth and the other is now in manuscript with Colonel Vallancey. Both were drawn from me to refute very injurious as well as false representations published in the ninth number of the same Collectanea by Mr Ledwich ... and Mr Beaufort ... the latter published his Topography [&c.] in the eleventh number ...’. (See Ward and Ward, eds., Letters, 1988, p.424.) Note that the bibliography O’Conor’s writings in Ward and Ward’s edn. of the Letters cites ‘Reflexions ... [&c]’ and ‘On the Heathen State ... [&c.]’ as appearing in 1770 and 1783 respectively, the former being reprinted in Vol. 4 (1783); but see also the bibliographical note that assigns them to Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 of Collectanea (Letters, p.425, n.1.), while a letter of 9 July 1783 identifies the later piece, ‘a second tract of mine on the heathen state of Ireland’, with the twelfth number of Collectanea (Letter to O’Gorman, p.426); note also, ‘three volumes of his Collectanea are now published [viz, 1770, 1782, 1783] ... these volumes have hardly any sale (Letter to O’Gorman, p.427).

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Sir Lucius O’Brien: Sir Lucius invited Charles O’Conor to become a member of a select committee of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) in a letter that set forth its purpose in these terms: ‘If our Researches shall turn out of any service to the Publick or of any Honour to Ireland; If by shewing that the Inhabitants of this Islands were at all Times Respectable & often the Masters & more often the Instructors of Brittain we can Convince our Neibours that, alltho Providence has at present given them superior strength, yet ought they not to treat the Irish as a Barbarous, or a Contemptible People.’ (Quoted in Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fior Ghael [2nd Edn.], Cork UP 1997, pp.34748; cited in Spurgeon Thompson, article on ‘Antiquarianism’, on Novelguide website - online; accessed 27.02.2011.)

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Forged letter: In an exchange of letters between Sean Murphy and Sean Connolly in History Ireland (Winter 1995), the former claims that the latter has uncritically cited a forged letter, fathered on Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, in which Charles Lucas is made the author of a mere Corporation politician and anti-Catholic bigot (p.10).

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Dr. Johnson: The suspected Jacobitism of Dr. Johnson, alleged by Jonathan Clark, is discussed on a correspondence between Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Donald Greene, and others, in the Times Literary Supplement (Oct. 1995). The basic evidence rests on the absence of letters in his Correspondence for the years 1745-46. Note the title-page epigraph to J. C. O’Callaghan, The Green Book [ ... &c.] (1841), taken from Boswell and refers to Johnson’s connection with O’Conor: ‘He (Doctor Johnson) had a kindness for the Irish nation, an thus generously expressed himself (in 1799) to a gentleman from that country, on the subject of an UNION with us, Sir; we should unite with you, only to rob you.” (Boswell’s Life of Johnson.)

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Macpherson again: O’Conor’s Dissertation on the First Migrations [… &c.] (1766) includes a imaginary conversation between Macpherson and Ossian as to how Ossian can best put over Macpherson’s scheme. (See Celtica, 1967; catalogue of Gaelic materials in National Library of Scotland; p.21.)

Thomas Moore, Captain Rock (1824), makes reference to O’Conor: ‘Mr. O’Connor [sic], the learned Irish antiquary, used to relate, as his biographer tells us, that his father, after the Revolution, was obliged to plough his own fields, and that he would often say to his sons, “Boys, you must not be insolent to the poor. I am the son of a gentleman, but ye are the children of a ploughman.”’ (Ftn., p.146.)

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Kith & Kin
Charles O’Conor (1804-1884), b. NY City, son of Thomas O'Connor (1770–1855), a member of the OConor Don family who emigrated in 1801 and worked as a journalist; the son changed his name back to to O'Conor; worked as lawyer and appeared as a candidate in the US Presidential Election; came to prominence with the Forrest divorce case when he won substantial alimony for his client in contest with John Van Buren, et al. for the defendant; other private cases incl. the Slave Jack case (1835), the Lispenard will case (1843), the Lemmon slave case (1856), the Parrish will case (1862), and the Jumel real estate suit (1871); member of the Directory of the Friends of Ireland, organized in anticipation of a rising in Ireland, 1848; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governorship of New York, also 1848; appt. United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York,1853-54; m. Mrs. McCracken [formerly Cornelia Livingston, d.1874], 1854; supported the States' rights Democrats and sympathized with the Southern states throughout the Civil War; with others, he prosecuted Boss Tweed and members of the “Tweed Ring”, 1871, using a special branch of the attorney general's office established for the purpose and named by him the Bureau of Municipal Correction; drafted the Civil Remedies Act in response to an appeal, 1875; issued Peculation Triumphant, being the Record of a Five Years' Campaign against Official Malversation, A.D. 1871-1875 (NY 1875) is response to disheartening results of the first cases; declined compensation for his services; built a house at Nantucket, Massachusetts, 1881 - which included an adjacent fire-proof library; he is buried in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, NY; 100-vol. collection of records of his cases preserved in New York Law Institute. (See Wikipedia - online; accessed 27.02.2015.)

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Denis Armar O’Conor (1912-2000) - obituary in The Telegraph [London] (21 July 2000) [sub-title: Head of an ancient family, inspector for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Master of Beagles]: ‘The O’Conor Don, who has died in Dublin aged 88, was the head of a native Irish family of great antiquity descended from the pre-Norman Kings of Connaght [sic] and last High Kings of Ireland; but his own immediate background and upbringing was English. Denis Armar O’Conor was born in London in January 1912. His father Charles William O’Conor, the nephew of Charles Owen O’Conor Don who bore the arms of Ireland at the Coronation of King Edward VII, lived at Croft Castle in Herefordshire. His mother Evelyn was the daughter of Admiral Armar Lowry-Corry, a younger son of the Earl of Belmore. The young Denis O’Conor won a classical bursary to Downside where he was captain of boxing. He went on to Sandhurst, was commissioned in the Lincolnshire Regiment and served in the East. In India he was a crack polo player; in China he trained horses, one of which, Kilrea, won several races in Hong Kong. A wild and spirited young man with an eye for the girls, he enjoyed Army life in the East to the limit and often beyond. He married, in 1936, Elizabeth Marris, a clergyman’s daughter, but the marriage did not long outlast the birth of their only son. His wife married subsequently James Cameron, the journalist. O’Conor then married, in 1943, Rosemary O’Connell-Hewett, a great grand-daughter of Daniel O’Connell, the 19th-century Irish Liberator. O’Conor was wounded in a training accident early in the Second World War and never saw active service.
He retired with the rank of Major in 1946 and moved to live in Roundwood, Co Wicklow, where his father had bought a farm. He was not well off and he abandoned farming to become a representative for a firm that sold tractors to farmers. Later he became a dedicated inspector for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In his spare time he was Master of the Delgany Beagles and was a regular judge at shows. His love of dogs and his way with them was legendary. Because he was divorced, O’Conor was precluded from following the family tradition of becoming a member of the Order of Malta. But he joined and eventually became Grand Prior of the Irish priory of the Oecumenical Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, which contributes to the relief of leprosy. His own charitable impulses found a practical outlet in teaching disabled children to ride. O’Conor succeeded as O’Conor Don on the death in 1981 of his second cousin, Father Charles O’Conor, the former provincial of the Jesuit Order in Ireland. Whereas the Jesuits in their austere way had insisted that Fr O’Conor not call himself O’Conor Don, Denis O’Conor acclaimed the title with relish, and enjoyed its prerogatives to the full. He became chairman of historical and genealogical societies, a regular presiding presence at community events and was even involved in tourist promotion.
He was founder member of the Council of Irish Chieftains, consisting of the descendants of the few princely families whose pedigrees have been authenticated by the Chief Herald of Ireland. But for all O’Conor’s lineage and obvious love of Ireland, he would still have been counted by most people there as more English than Irish. Since O’Conor’s father had sold the remainder interest in the entailed family estate, he was never to inherit Clonalis, the family seat in Roscommon, which is now the residence of Pyers O’Conor Nash, the nephew of the Jesuit O’Conor Don. But Denis O’Conor’s son Kieran, an archaeologist, has acquired, with a view to restoration, the ruins of Balanagare, the home of his ancestor Charles O’Conor, the 18th-century antiquarian. Denis O’Conor was a big man with a booming voice and a rugged ruddy countenance. Larger than life, he was friendly to all comers, rejoiced in convivial gatherings and had a fair appreciation of Irish whiskey. He could quote poetry at length and had a good knowledge of history, especially that of his own family. He is survived by his wife and three sons. The eldest, Desmond, who lives in Sussex and is regional director of Dresdener Kleinwort Benson for South America, succeeds as O’Conor Don. (Available at The Telegraph - online; accessed 28.02.2015 [paragraphs united].)

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