Bishop James Thomas O'Brien

O'Brien, James Thomas, Bishop of Ossory, Ferns, and Leighlin, was born in the County of Westmeath, in September 1792. His father was a corporation officer of New Ross, and the lad was sent to Trinity College, chiefly at the expense of the borough. He became Fellow in 1820, and in 1826 we find him refunding the amount that had been spent for his education. Having entered the Church and been for some time Dean of Cork, he was in 1842 consecrated Bishop of Ossory.

His biographer says: "Few will be found to deny that the many-sided excellence of Dr. O'Brien's long episcopal career has conferred a quite exceptional distinction on the ministry that appreciated and promoted him... He was an insatiable reader, and until latterly a very early riser. He was a keen logician and a forcible writer; his style being weighty and luminous, and his sentences, though long, yet not involved." He was an ardent advocate for the Church Education Society as against the National System of Education; and was the foremost champion of the Irish Church against disestablishment. He published Sermons on Justification, and other theological works. "He possessed perhaps the loftiest and best cultured intellect that Dublin University has produced since the time of Bishop Berkeley; and, take him for all in all, there was in his day and generation no more lordly type of the Celtic race... His entire life was one of the most unsullied purity."

He was of a commanding presence; his face was massive and intellectual, and lit up with eyes of peculiar brilliancy and beauty, Bishop O'Brien died in London, 12th December 1874, aged 82, and was buried at St. Canice's, Kilkenny.


262. O'Brien, Bishop, Memoir: Rev. W. G. Carroll. Dublin, 1874.