The O’Connor Family

O'Connor heraldry

(Crests Nos. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17. Plates 3 and 4.)

THE O’Connor family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. This family embraced the four following branches: The O’Conor Don, the O’Conor Sligo, the O’Conor Roe, and the O’Conor Corcumroe.

O'Connor heraldry

(Crest No. 12. Plates 3.)

The founder of the O’Conors Don, O’Conors Roe, and O’Conors Corcumroe was Muiredach, or Mulrooney Mullethan, or Mulrooney the Bold, King of Connaught, who died A. D. 700, ancestor of that branch of the Hy Brune tribe called after him the Clanna Mulrooney, and which subsequently attained the dignity of a separate tribe. Besides other families, the O’Conors Don, O’Conors Sligo, O’Conors Roe, and O’Conors Corcumroe belonged to the Clanna Mulrooney.

O'Connor heraldry

(Crest No. 13. Plates 3.)

The founders of the O’Conor Sligo were Tourlough More, of the line of Muiredach or Mulrooney Mullethan, and Brian Laighmeach, of the same line. The chiefs of the O’Conors Don were styled Princes of Siol and Kings of Connaught; those of the O’Conors Sligo, Princes of Siol Murray; those of the O’Conors Roe, Princes of Fergal, and those of the O’Conors Corcumroe, Princes of Corcumruadh. The possessions of the first mentioned were located in the present County of Roscommon; of the second, in the County of Sligo; of the third, in Kings County, and of the fourth, in the County of Clare.

O'Connor heraldry

(Crest No. 14. Plates 3.)

The O’Conors of Connaught were the head chiefs of Siol Murray, in the County of Roscommon, and took their name from Conchobhar, or Conor, who was a King of Connaught in the tenth century. The meaning of this name is “Helper,” from Cu or Con, which figuratively signifies a warrior; and Cobhair, “aid”; hence, the literal meaning of the name is “Helping Warrior.”

O'Connor heraldry

(Crest No. 15. Plates 3.)

The grandson of this Conchobhar, Tadhg an Eich Ghal or Teige of the White Steed, who was King of Connaught in the beginning of the eleventh century, and who died A. D. 1030, was the first who took the surname of “O’Conor.” In the tenth century, as mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, two of the O’Rourkes are styled Kings of Connaught, but with those exceptions, the ancestors of the O’Conors of the race of Hy Brune and Siol Murray, and the O’Conors themselves held the sovereignty of Connaught from the fifth to the fifteenth century, and two of them became monarchs of Ireland in the twelfth century, namely, Tourlough O’Conor, called Toirdhealbhach More, or Tourlough the Great, who is styled by the annalists “the Augustus of Western Europe,” and his son Roderick O’Conor, who was the last Milesian monarch of Ireland.

O'Connor heraldry

(Crest No. 17. Plates 4.)

This Tourlough O’Conor died at Dunmore, in Galway, A. D. 1156, and was buried at Clonmacnoise. And Roderick O’Conor, after having occupied the throne for eighteen years, abdicated, A. D. 1184, in consequence of the Anglo-Norman invasion, and after a religious seclusion of thirteen years in Cong Abbey, in Mayo, died A. D. 1198, in the eighty-second year of his age, and was buried in Clonmacnoise, in the same sepulcher as his father. Roderick, who is chiefly memorable as the last monarch of Ireland, was, to use the mildest phrase, unfitted for the position at so critical a period. He was timid, irresolute, and vacillating at a time when strength of character in the ruling power, and decision of action were supremely needed. As Thomas Moore, in his History of Ireland, says: “The only feeling his name awakens is that of pity for the doomed country, which, at such a crisis of its fortunes, when honor, safety, independence, national existence were all at stake, was cursed, for the crowning of its evil destiny, with a ruler and leader so utterly unworthy of his high calling.”

Colonel O'Connor, Battle of Ayachuco

Chief-of-Staff at the Battle of Ayachuco, “the Yorktown of South America.”

Cathal Crovdearg, his brother, Prince of Connaught, succeeded as head of the O’Conors after Roderick’s death; but though brave and energetic, he was unable to withstand, in the absence of Irish national unity, the encroaching power of the Anglo-Normans. He is described by the Four Masters as “the best Irishman that came from the time of Brian Boru—a man in whom God had implanted more goodness with greater virtues than in any other of the Irish nobility of his time.” His son, Phelim, submitted to King John of England, who confirmed him in his estates. One of his descendants, another Phelim, fell in battle at Athlone, August 10, 1316, fighting under Edward Bruce, against the English.

In the “Memoirs” of Charles O’Conor, of Belengare, it is stated that in the latter part of the fourteenth century, the two head chiefs of the O’Conors, namely, Tourlough Roe and Tourlough Don, having contended for the lordship of Siol Murray, agreed to divide the territory between them. The families descended from Tourlough Don called themselves the O’Conors Don, or the Brown O’Conors, while the descendants of Tourlough Roe called themselves the O’Conors Roe, or the Red O’Conors. Another branch of the O’Conors obtained great possessions in the County of Sligo, and were thereafter styled the O’Conors Sligo.

The O’Conors, Kings of Connaught, had royal residences at Cruachan, near Elphin, and at Cluan Fraeich, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon, and also at Dunmore, in the County of Galway, and at Cong, in the County of Mayo, besides many castles in various parts of Connaught. The ancient Kings of Connaught were inaugurated at Cruachan, or Croghan, a beautiful green mound in the parish of Croghan, a few miles from Philipstown, on the borders of Kings County and Westmeath; but it appears from the Irish annals that they were inaugurated in after times as Kings of Connaught at the hill of Carn Fraeich, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon. The O’Conors held their ranks as Kings of Connaught down to the reign of Elizabeth.

The O’Conors Failey, or Princes Offaley, took their names from Conchobhar, Prince of Hy Failge, who is mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, A. D. 1014, and had their chief fortress at Dangan, now Philipstown, in Kings County, and several castles in that county and in Kildare. These O’Conors maintained their independence down to the reign of Elizabeth, when their estates were confiscated.

The O’Connor Kerry is descended from Fergusius Magnus, grandson of Roderiens Magnus, the eighty-sixth monarch of Ireland. This Fergus Mor, commonly known as Fergus MacRoy, was forced from the sovereignty of Ulster by his cousin, Connor MacNessa, and retired to Connaught, where he was favorably received by Maud, the famous Queen of that province. The three sons of Maud by Fergus were Conmac, Kiar and Corc; this Kiar was the ancestor of O’Connor Kerry. The O’Connor Kerry clan took its name from Magthgamhan O’Conchobar, King of Kerry, or Carraighe, A. D. 1138. This branch of the O’Connors settled in Kerry in the early years of the Christian era.

The O’Connors have maintained down to the present the prominent character that distinguished them for so many years before they were deprived of their power and possessions.

The O’Conors were also chiefs of Triocha Ced Fer Arda, and of Corcumroe, in the County of Clare, anciently called Crioch Cuire, or the territory of Corc, which name it received from Corc, Prince of the race of Ir, from Ulster, who settled there in the first century.

Charles O’Conor, of Balingare, the distinguished Irish scholar and antiquary, born in 1710, was descended from the family of Roderick, the last monarch of Ireland. His granduncle adhered to the cause of Charles the Second, but had his estates restored to him after the Restoration. He was afterward in the service of James the Second, and died a prisoner in Chester Castle. Charles was one of the most learned men of his time, but was debarred from advancement or recognition, on account of his religion. His life was devoted to the preservation and elucidation of Irish history and antiquities. It has been truly written of him that “the entire object of his long life seems to have been to redeem 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 he had received.” His grandson, Rev. Charles O’Conor, D. D., was also a learned antiquarian. His brother Owen, on the death of a kinsman, became the head of the present family of O’Conor Don. Another brother, Matthew O’Conor, was the author of “History of the Irish Catholics,” “Military History of the Irish Nation,” and other works.

Roger O’Connor, born in Connerville, County of Cork, 1762, possessed of ample means, and with a brilliant outlook at the English Bar, sacrificed fortune and future, and joined the United Irishmen. He was imprisoned at Fort George, Scotland, with Thomas Addis Emmet, Dr. McNevin and their associates. His son, Colonel O’Connor, went to South America, where he bore a conspicuous part in the war for independence. He raised a regiment at Panama, and afterward was appointed chief of staff to San Martin. He fought until the close of the war, and was chief of staff to General Sucre at the final battle of Ayachuco, the Yorktown of South America. He contributed largely to that decisive victory.

“Of Sucre’s skill, O’Connor’s aid,

Cordova’s flashing, ruddy blade.

The Chilian muse will boast;

And seldom can that muse essay

The story of a nobler day

Than that La Serna lost.”

Arthur O’Connor, brother of Roger, was also a prominent member of the United Irishmen; was the founder and editor of the Press, the organ of that body, and suffered a long imprisonment in Fort George, in Dublin Castle, and in the Tower of London. After regaining his liberty he proceeded to Paris, and became General of Division in the French Army.

Fergus O’Connor, nephew of the preceding, was the chief leader of the Chartist movement in England some years ago, and exercised for a time great influence over the working people in the North of England. The name is honorably represented in Ireland to-day by Mr. Arthur O’Connor, one of the ablest members in the British Parliament, and by Mr. T. P. O’Connor, the well known journalist and author.

In America, also, this name has an honorable record. The late Charles O’Conor, in ability and legal learning, was without a superior at the American Bar. He was, in all that goes to make up character, one of the foremost citizens of the Republic. His father, Thomas O’Conor, was a man of ardent character and enthusiastic devotion to his country and liberty, and took a prominent part in the Irish insurrection of 1798. He escaped to America in 1801, and on his arrival in the City of New York, he consulted the directory to find if any persons of his name were living there. There was only one, a Mr. Hugh O’Connor. The exile visited him, but found that he was not a relative, or even from his part of Ireland. He had, however, a handsome daughter, whom O’Conor married, from which union was born the famous jurist and leader of the American Bar.

In the hierarchy and clergy of America this name is also honorably represented. Among the pioneer Bishops of the Unted States there are few with a nobler record than that of the Most Rev. Michael O’Connor, first Bishop of Pittsburg, Pa. Rev. A. A. Lambing, the historian of the Church in that region, truly describes him as “one of the most brilliant lights that has ever shed luster on the Church in the United States.” His brother, the first Bishop of Omaha, Neb., was also distinguished for his missionary success. And the Most Rev. Dr. O’Connor, of London, Canada, is to-day recognized as one of the most distinguished prelates in the Dominion.

In the ranks of the priesthood may be mentioned the eminent writer, Rev. J. F. X. O’Connor, S. J., of New York; Rev. Angelus O’Connor, St. Bonaventure’s Seminary, Allegheny, Pa.; the Very Rev. J. J. O’Connor, of Newark, N. J., and the Rev. Daniel O’Connor, of Philadelphia, Pa., one of the most eminent and successful pastors of that Archdiocese. In journalism and politics the name is worthily represented by Mr. Joseph O’Connor, editor of the Rochester Post-Express, and Senators Edmund O’Connor, of Binghamton, N. Y., and Eugene F. O’Connor, of Brooklyn. N. Y.