Famous People

Daniel O’Connell
daniel o connell famous people1

Daniel O’Connell was born near Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry, on 6 August 1775. His wealthy childless uncle adopted him at an early age and brought him up at Derrynane. He spoke Irish and was interested in the traditional culture of song and story still strong in Kerry at the time. He also understood how the rural mind worked which served him well in later years. In 1791 he was sent to school at St. Omer and Douai and what he saw there of the French Revolution left him with a life-long hatred of violence. He read law at Lincoln’s Inn (1794 -96) and continued his studies in Dublin where he was called to bar in 1798. He had soon built up an enormous practice. The 1798 rising and the terrible butchery that followed it confirmed his horror of violence. While he approved of the principles of the United Irishmen, their call for reform and for Catholic Emancipation, he disagreed with their methods.

O’Connell married his cousin, Mary O’Connell, in 1802; their marriage was happy and eleven children were born to them, though only seven survived (four sons and three daughters). In 1815 O’Connell criticised harshly the Dublin corporation. O’Connell was challenged to a duel by one member D’Esterre. In the exchange of shots D’Esterre was killed and O’Connell vowed never to fight again. (See also John “Fireball” MacNamara). O’Connell was soon drawn into political action. Hopes of Catholic emancipation had been raised by promises given while the act of union was being passed. In 1823, O’Connell founded the Catholic Association. The aim of the organisation was to use all the legal means available to secure emancipation. It turned into a mass crusade with the support of the Catholic clergy. All members of the association paid a membership of a penny a month (the Catholic rent). This helped to raise a large fund.

The Clare election in 1828 was a turning point. O’Connell, with the support of the forty-shilling freeholders, managed a huge victory against the government candidate. He was well supported by the clergy whose influence on the poor uneducated peasant class was enormous. The polling took place in Ennis at the old courthouse where the O’Connell monument now stands. At the final count, O’Connell was elected by a majority of about eleven hundred votes. The ascendancy party had suffered its first big knock since 1798.

The whole country was aflame. The British Government feared a rising and granted Catholic emancipation in April 1829. The franchise was, however, raised to 10 pounds which excluded the forty-shilling freeholders. O’Connell was now the undisputed leader in Ireland and he gave up his practice at the bar to devote his time entirely to politics. At the King’s insistence, O’Connell was not allowed to take his seat until he had been re-elected for Clare. In February 1830, O’Connell became the first Catholic in modern history to sit in the House of Commons.

For the rest of his life, he was supported by “The O’Connell Tribute”, a public collection out of which O’Connell paid all his expenses. O’Connell now decided to concentrate on winning repeal of the act of union and getting an Irish parliament for the Irish people. British political leaders feared repeal as they did not fear emancipation. They saw repeal of the Act of Union as the first step in the break-up of the act of union, as the spirit of the repeal movement was revived when the young Ireland writers wrote about it in the Nation.

In 1841, O’Connell was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin and in 1843 the subscriptions to his Repeal Association, the Repeal “Rent” came to 48,400 pounds. He now began to organise monster meetings throughout the country. It is thought that three-quarters of a million people gathered on the hill of Tara to hear the man they called the “Liberator”. The government became alarmed at the strength of the Repeal Movement and a meeting which O’Connell had planned for 8 October 1843 in Clontarf, Dublin was banned. Huge crowds were already on their way when O’Connell called off the meeting to avoid the risk of violence and bloodshed.

He was charged with conspiracy, arrested and sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of 2,000 pounds. The sentence was set aside after O’Connell had been three months in prison. When he was released he continued with his campaign for repeal. However, a turning point had been reached. The tactics that had won emancipation had failed. O’Connell was now almost seventy, his health failing and he had no clear plan for future action. There was discontent within the Repeal Association and the Young Irelanders withdrew. There was also some failure in the potato crop in the 1840’s, a sign of things to come in the Great Famine of 1845-1847.

Aware of the fact that he had failed with his great goal, (the Repeal Movement), O’Connell left Ireland for the last time in January 1847. He made a touching speech in the House of Commons in which he appealed for aid for his country. In March, acting on the advice of his doctor, he set out to Italy. Following his death in Genoa on 15 May 1847, his body was returned to Ireland and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Paul O’Connell
O’Connell made his debut for Ireland against Wales in the Six Nations 2002, scoring a try. He was a part of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup 2003 squad, and, in the first game of the Six Nations 2004, against France, he was stand-in captain for the injured Brian O’Driscoll. He toured with the 2005 British and Irish Lions to New Zealand, where he was one of only two Lions players to play every minute of all three Test matches, bar the 10 minutes he spent in the sin-bin. After a period of absence due to injury in the early part of the 2005–06 season, O’Connell returned to the Munster side to play an integral part in his side’s march to its first Heineken Cup final since 2002, and also helped Ireland win the Triple Crown captaining the sides which played France & Scotland.

Shortlisted for the International Rugby Board player of the year and the only Northern Hemisphere nominee. The other four nominees were New Zealand fly half / out half Dan Carter, fellow All Black openside flanker Richie McCaw, Australian fullback Chris Latham and South African scrum half Fourie du Preez. McCaw was the eventual winner.

More recently, O’Connell again took over from an injured O’Driscoll as Ireland captain in their historic match against France in the 2007 Six Nations, the first rugby match ever at Croke Park. O’Connell was awarded the Man of the Match accolade following Ireland’s historic (and record breaking) 43–13 win over England at Croke Park during the Six Nations Championship. He also captained Munster to victory in the 2007-08 Heineken Cup and the 2008–09 Celtic League.

He scored the last ever International try at the Old Lansdowne Road before it was demolished and rebuilt as the Aviva Stadium.

He was a member of the victorious Ireland team that won the 2009 Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam.

On 21 April 2009, O’Connell was named as the British and Irish Lions Captain for the 2009 tour to South Africa. He played in all 3 Test matches, first with Alun Wyn-Jones and then with Simon Shaw. He played in all of Ireland’s 2009 November Test matches against Australia, Fiji and South Africa. O’Connell missed Ireland’s first two matches of the 2010 Six Nations due to injury, but returned to play England, Wales and Scotland. He missed Ireland’s 2010 Summer Tests due to a groin injury that became infected,and also missed the Autumn Tests. He made his comeback for Munster against Cardiff in December, and made his Heineken Cup comeback against Ospreys a week later, only to be sent off and banned for four weeks. He came back against Toulon and London Irish and was selected in Ireland’s 2011 Six Nations squad, playing against Italy, France, Scotland, Wales and England.

O’Connell injured ligaments in his ankle during the Munster-Leinster Magners League match on the 2nd April, and was out for four weeks, making his comeback against Harlequins on April 30, 2011.

He captained Munster to victory over Leinster in the 2011 Magners League Grand Final, and was selected in Ireland’s 2011 Rugby World Cup training squad for the warm-up tests in August. He played in both tests against France, captained Ireland in their final warm-up Test against England and was selected in Ireland’s 30-man squad to go to New Zealand, receiving the Man of the Match award against the USA.

Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill

Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill was a member of the Muintir Uí Chonaill of Derrynane, County Kerry, being one of twenty-two children of Dómhnaill Mór Ó Conaill and an aunt of Daniel O’Connell. She first married at age fifteen, but the marriage was childless and her elderly husband died after only six months.


In 1767 she fell in love with Captain Art Ó Laoghaire of Rathleigh, Macroom, County Cork, as he rode past on a dark white steed, the peerless, whose forehead bore a snow-white star. He had recently returned from service in the Hungarian Hussars. Eileen was 23; she had been married to “old O’Connor of Firies” when she was 15, and widowed within six months of that marriage. With the marriage against the express wishes of her family, Art and Eibhlin eloped, marrying on 19 December 1767 and settled down to life at Rathleigh where they lived with Art’s father, Cornelius Ó Laoire, having five children, three of whom died in infancy. She was pregnant at the time of Art’s death.

Art Ó Laoghaire (O’Leary) was a Roman Catholic, one of the few surviving Catholic gentry. The anti-Catholic Penal Laws in force in Ireland during the 18th century made it impossible for 95% of the population to receive an education or have a career in their own country. Ó Laoghaire had been educated on the Continent and served as a Captain in the Hungarian Hussars, a Regiment of Empress Marie Theresa’s Army of Austro-Hungary. As would befit a well-regarded soldier, aristocrat and husband and father, the epitaph on his tomb reads “Lo! Arthur Leary, generous, handsome, brave, / Slain in his bloom, lies in this humble grave.”

Art had a long-running dispute with Abraham Morris (or Morrison) of Hanover Hall, who was Sheriff of Cork (“dirty treachorous Morris”, “Morris ghránna an fhill”). Because of the Penal Laws, all Irish Catholics had to endure severe restrictions on employment, trade, ownership of property and the practise of their religion. Lack of opportunity in Ireland resulted in thousands of Irish men and women leaving for Europe and America; indeed, this was why Art had sought military service in the first place. Morris vigorously attempted to enforce these laws, while Art made regular attempts to overcome them, resulting in extremely bitter and personal enmity between the two.

The dispute came to a head in 1773 when Morris offered Art five pounds for his horse; according to the Penal Laws, Catholics were proscribed from owning horses worth more than five pounds, so Morris was entitled to do this. Art refused, and went on the run. Morris was able to use his position as a Protestant, and as sheriff, to have Ó Laoghaire outlawed. A price of 20 guineas was put on his head. Once proclaimed an outlaw, he could be shot at sight quite legally.

Ó Laoghaire attempted and failed to ambush Morris at Millstreet and soon after was shot at Carraig an Ime. His mare raced into Rathleigh, riderless, soaked in blood. Eibhlín Dubh mounted the mare and galloped back to Carraig an Ime, where she found Art’s body.

Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, Ó Laoghaire’s “Dark Eileen”, composed a 390-line lament mourning Ó Laoghaire’s death and calling for revenge. The Caoineadh was composed by Eibhlín Dubh ex tempore and became part of the Irish oral tradition (it was not written down until many years later). It has been described as “the most remarkable set of keening verses to have survived.” A number of Irish writers have attempted to capture her grief and rage in translating the lament, including Frank O’Connor, John Montague, Thomas Kinsella and Eilis Dillon.

Burial of Art

Initially Ó Laoghaire was buried by Eibhlín in the Old Cemetery of Cill na Martra (Tuath na Dromann), near to Dundareirke Castle. His family wished him to be buried in Kilcrea Friary, but burial in monastic ground was forbidden at that time under the penal laws. His body was moved temporarily to an unconsecrated field adjacent to the Friary. When it became legally possible, his final interment in the sacred grounds of Kilcrea Friary took place. Art was buried a tomb that bears the following inscription:

Lo Arthur Leary
Generous Handsome Brave
slain in His Bloom
Lies in this Humble Grave
Died May 4th 1773 Aged 26 years.

Maura O’Connell
Maura O’Connell (16 September 1958) is an Irish singer and actress. She is known for her contemporary interpretations of Irish folk songs, strongly influenced by American country music.


O’Connell was born in Ennis, the main town in County Clare, in the west of Ireland. Born into a very musical family, the third of four sisters. Her mother’s family owned Costello’s fish shop in Ennis where Maura worked, until music became her full-time career. She grew up listening to her mother’s light opera, opera, and parlor song records. Her father’s interest leaned towards the rebel ballads. Despite the presence of classical music in the house, O’Connell got very involved in the local folk club scene and together with Mike Hanrahan, who later fronted trad/rock outfit Stockton’s Wing, they performed, a country music set, as a duo called ‘Tumbleweed’.

Musical career

Solo career

O’Connell began her professional musical journey during a six-week tour of the U.S. in 1980, as vocalist for the traditionally-based Celtic group De Dannan. The following year, she was featured on the band’s landmark album, The Star Spangled Molly, (where she has the lead vocals on four tracks) which became something of a national phenomenon in her homeland. However, not long after joining the group she became very interested in the experimental roots music of America’s New Grass Revival when the bands’ paths crossed, and moved to the U.S. in 1986, settling in Nashville, Tennessee. There she met newgrass pioneers Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas, with whom she’d work on most of her records.

She recorded her first solo album in 1983, however, it didn’t make any impact in Ireland or in the United States. O’Connell received a Grammy nomination for her 1989 album, Helpless Heart, which was her first record released under Warner Bros. Records. Real Life Story (1991), and Blue is the Colour of Hope (1992), registered a move toward a pop synthesis. O’Connell’s versions of “Living In These Troubled Times” and Cheryl Wheeler’s “Summer Fly” became standout tracks on the 1993 album A Woman’s Heart, on four all-female overseas tours and on the 1994 follow-up album in her homeland. A Woman’s Heart Vol. 2 features her heartfelt renditions of Nanci Griffith’s “Trouble in the Fields” and Gerry O’Beirne’s “Western Highway.” After numerous album heavily inspired by American newgrass music, O’Connell returned to her Irish roots with the 1997 release, Wandering Home.

As the new millennium approached, O’Connell signed with the Sugar Hill label in late 2000 and began working on her seventh album. Instead of working with her longtime producer Jerry Douglas, O’Connell had Ray Kennedy (who worked with Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams) produce Walls and Windows, which was released in 2001, and featured an eclectic collection of songs, including work by Kim Richey, Van Morrison, John Prine, Eric Clapton and Patty Griffin. Her 2004 album, Don’t I Know, contained musical textures added by everything from fiddles, to clavinets, to lap steel and B-3 organ.

The 2009 album, Naked With Friends, is Maura’s first a cappella album. Guest vocalists include: Mary Black, Paul Brady, Moya Brennan, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Tim O’Brien, Dolly Parton, Sarah Dugas, Kate Rusby and Darrell Scott. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Other work

In addition to her solo work, O’Connell has collaborated with a number of Celtic, folk, pop and country artists, including Van Morrison, Brian Kennedy, Moya Brennan, Mary Black, John Prine, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, John Gorka, Bela Fleck, Robert Earl Keen, Dolly Parton and Shawn Colvin. She has also sung background vocals for a number of artists, including Van Morrison’s 1988 project with the Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat and Stockton’s Wing on Take A Chance (Tara3004).


Aside from the music world, Martin Scorsese cast O’Connell, scruffed up for the role, as an Irish migrant street singer in his 19th century epic The Gangs of New York, released in 2002.

Other O’Connells noteworthy of mention:

Aaron D. O’Connell, Creator of the world’s first quantum machine
Anthony O’Connell, American Catholic bishop
Arthur O’Connell (1908–1981), American actor
Bill O’Connell, (1957–), American photographer
Carlos O’Connell, Irish decathlete
Charlie O’Connell, American actor
Christian O’Connell, English radio DJ
Dáithí Ó Conaill (David O’Connell) (1938–1991), IRA member
Daniel O’Connell (1775–1847), Irish politician
Daniel P. O’Connell, American politician from New York
David O’Connell (North Dakota), American politician
Bishop Denis J. O’Connell, American Catholic bishop
Eileen O’Connell (Irish writer)
Helen O’Connell (1920–1993), American singer, actress, and dancer
Jack O’Connell (born 1951), California politician
Jerry O’Connell, American actor
Jock O’Connell, American economist and writer
Joe M. O’Connell, American writer
John M. O’Connell (1872–1941), U.S. Representative from Rhode Island
John O’Connell (MP) (1801–1858), Irish politician, son of Daniel O’Connell
John O’Connell (b. 1930), Irish politician
Joseph F. O’Connell (1872–1942), U.S. Representative from Massachusetts
Martin O’Connell (footballer)
Martin O’Connell (Canadian politician)
Martin O’Connell, IRA member
Maura O’Connell, singer
Max O’Connell (born 1936), Australian cricket umpire
Mick O’Connell (born 1937), Irish footballer
Mike O’Connell, hockey player and general manager
Paddy O’Connell, British TV presenter
Patrick O’Connell (actor), Irish actor
Patrick O’Connell (Irish footballer)
Patrick O’Connell (poet), Canadian poet
Paul O’Connell (born 1979), Irish rugby player
Stephen C. O’Connell (1916–2001), Florida Supreme Court justice (1955–1967), president of the University of Florida (1967–1973)
Taaffe O’Connell, actress
Terri O’Connell, American motor racing driver and transsexual
Thomas J. O’Connell (1882–1969), Irish politician
William Henry O’Connell, American Catholic archbishop and cardinal