Charles O'Conor

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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O'Conor, Charles, of Belanagare, a distinguished Irish scholar and antiquary, was born in 1710. [His family traced its descent from a younger brother of King Roderic O'Conor. His grand-uncle followed Charles II. into exile, was restored to his estates by the Act of Settlement, was a major in the service of James II., and died a prisoner in the Castle of Chester. At great cost, some 800 or 900 acres of poor land were rescued from the wreck of the family property.] Charles O'Conor being a Catholic, was debarred from the advancement due to his talents. But meagre particulars of his life are preserved. In 1754 he published a tract relative to Irish mining, and in 1766 the work by which he is best known — Dissertations on the History of Ireland.

He is spoken of with uniform respect by Irish scholars. Dr. O'Donovan styles him "this patriotic and venerable gentleman.. who understood the Irish language well," pays a tribute to his exertions for the preservation of Irish manuscripts, and acknowledges that it was his writings which first induced him to devote himself earnestly to the study of the annals of Ireland. Mr. Wyse, in his History of the Catholic Association, says: "The entire object of his long life seems to have been to redeem it [his country] from the self-ignorance, the blind impolicy, the national degradation to which it had been reduced. In this lofty and noble vocation, no man ever put out, with more perfect abandonment of all unworthy motive, the valuable gifts which he had received."

Charles O'Conor died at Belanagare, 1st July 1791, aged 81. His valuable collection of manuscripts (containing the only then known original of the First Part of the Annals of the Four Masters), passed by purchase into the hands of the Marquis of Buckingham, and are now in Lord Ashburnham's library; where, when O'Curry wrote in 1857, they were inaccessible to scholars.

Sources

53. Burke, Sir Bernard: Landed Gentry. 2 vols. London, 1871.

73. Catholic Association of Ireland: Thomas Wyse. 2 vols. London, 1829.

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

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