The Liberator’s home

On a recent trip to Kerry, we visited the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator.  Since we had visited his crypt and round tower at Glasnevin cemetery, you can read about our visit here and got to touch his coffin and for years admired his statue on O’Connell street, we couldn’t miss an opportunity to see where the great man once lived.

Brief history of Daniel O’Connell’s Life

Daniel O’Connell was born in  1775 in Cahersiveen, Kerry.  The O’Connell family had been wealthy Roman Catholics that had been dispossessed of their lands.

Daniel O'Connell
Portrait of Daniel O’Connell at Derrynane House

His Uncle Maurice O’Connell

At the age of five, Daniel moved to Derrynane House to live with his wealthy childless Uncle, Maurice “Hunting Cap” O’Connell who had fostered him. Maurice was the head of the O’Connell clan and was to have a strong influence on Daniel’s education and life. Daniel was eventually to inherit this house and he renovated it and made it his Summer residence.

Old picture of Derrynane House
Old sketch of Derrynane House, the ring wing is now demolished

Under the patronage of his wealthy Uncle, Daniel went to France to study along with brother, they had to flee France during the French Revolution. Daniel went to Law school in London and trained as a barrister. After he qualified, he worked for several years as a barrister around the Munster circuit.

His wife Mary O’Connell

In 1802, he married a third cousin, Mary O’Connell, despite his Uncle and families wishes, as Mary was not wealthy, it was a love match and they went onto have a happy marriage and seven surviving children. When Mary died in 1836, Daniel was heartbroken, he stated “she gave me thirty-four years of the purest happiness that man ever enjoyed.’

There were rumours of Daniels infidelities and illegitimate children at the time but these may have been spread by his political enemies.

Dining room at Derrynane house
In the dining room of Derrynane House, portraits of Daniel’s wife Mary O’Connell and his Uncle Maurice ‘Flat Cap’ O’Connell

Campaign for Catholic Emancipation

In 1811, he established the Catholic Board, which campaigned for Catholic emancipation.  This would give Irish Catholics the opportunity to become members of parliament.

In 1823, he set up the Catholic Association which embraced other aims to better Irish Catholics, such as: electoral reform, reform of the Church of Ireland, tenants’ rights, and economic development.  This Association was funded by membership with subscriptions set at 1 penny a month, so Irish peasants could afford it.  The campaign was successful and sufficient funds were raised to campaign for Emancipation.

Fatal Duel

In 1815, in a speech Daniel referred to the Dublin Corporation as a “beggarly corporation”. The corporation members were outraged and because O’Connell would not apologise, he was challenged to a duel by John D’Esterre.

They met in Kildare for the duel and D’Esterre who was an experienced duellist shot first, by chance his bullet missed O’Connell and hit the ground in front of him, O’Connell had aimed low and shot D’Esterre in the hip, not intending to gravely hurt him but the bullet logged in his stomach and D’Esterre died from his injuries two days later. Daniel felt much aggrieved at the killing and supported D’Esterre’s daughter for 30 years after.

Duelling pistols
Duelling pistols, the bottom pistol was Daniel’s

 

Daniel O’Connell Member of Parliament

O’Connell stood in a by-election to the British House of Commons in 1828 for County Clare, he won the election but was unable to take his seat as members of parliament had to take the Oath of Supremacy.  The Prime Minister fearing another rebellion in Ireland, if O’Connell was refused his seat, introduced the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829.

Daniel Imprisoned

In 1844, Daniel was arrested and imprisoned for 3 months, he had been charged with ‘seditious conspiracy’ for his campaign to repeal the Act of Union, which had moved the Irish parliament to Westminister in 1800. The Repealers hoped to re-establish an independent parliament for Ireland by putting pressure on the British authorities. The Repeal campaign organised Monster peaceful meetings, one had been held on the Hill of Tara with 100,000 people in attendance.

On his release from prison, a procession was held and Daniel was paraded through the streets of Dublin, in a large chariot, called the Triumphal chariot. This chariot was restored and is now displayed in the Coach house at Derrynane house.

Daniel O'Connell's Triumphal chariot
Daniel O’Connells Triumphal chariot
Daniel O'Connell atop the Triumphal Chariot
The Triumphal procession of Daniel O’Connell

Derrynane House 

In 1825, Daniel’s Uncle, Maurice O’Connell died and Daniel finally inherited Derrynane House and set about renovating it.  The house dated back to 1702 and over the generations, rooms and wings had been added as needed. In the 1950’s, two great granddaughters of Daniel O’Connell’s who were then aged in their 80’s resided at Derrynane, as the original house dated back to the 1700’s and as no maintenance work had been carried out on the house in many years it had already fallen into disrepair.

Derrynane House
Derrynane House

After the ladies passed away the house was gifted to the Irish state, by this stage, it was decided that the main section of the house had to be demolished, this housed the kitchens and bedrooms, the other wing of the house, the part that Daniel had designed and constructed in the 1820’s are what remain of the house today. Daniel added a dining room, drawing room, a study and library and changed the entrance of the house, he also added a small church to the house, which also survives.

Home of Daniel O'Connell
Derrynane House, ancestral home of the Liberator Daniel O’Connell
Ornate table belonging to Daniel O'Connell
Ornate table carving of dogs and Irish harp under a table in the drawing room of Derrynane House
Daniel O'Connell's drawing room
Drawing room with large wooden throne at Derrynane House
Library at Derrynane House in Kerry
Portrait of Daniel O’Connell hanging his library at Derrynane House

In 1847, Daniel went on a pilgrimage to Rome to get the Pope’s blessing, in Genoa in Italy, he took gravely ill and died a few days later at the age of 71 years old. He was a man who was ahead of his time, although a religious man,  he believed in the separation of the church and state.

This is the actual bed from the Feder hotel in Genoa that Daniel O’Connell died in. It was donated to the Office of Public Works by the Pontifical college in Rome who had come into possession of it back in 1926 from the family that owned the hotel.

 

Daniel O'Connell's deathbed
Daniel O’Connell’s deathbed from the Feder hotel, where he died in 1847

Daniel had stated on his deathbed, My body to IrelandMy heart to Rome, My Soul to Heaven

His last bequest was granted and his heart was sent to Rome and his body returned to Ireland and his coffin is held in a crypt under the Daniel O’Connell round tower at Glasnevin cemetery which you can visit and view.

Daniel’s ancestral home is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and you can visit the house from March until early November, click here to find directions.

 

Sources:

Information gathered during visit to OPW - Derrynane House

Background Info: http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/02/03/daniel-oconnells-childhood/

Background Info: derrynanehouse.ie

Background Info: wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_O%27Connell

Journey to the South Pole

On a recent trip to Kerry, we decided to visit the village of Annascaul.

The main reason was to visit the pub once owned and run by the famous Irish Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean and to visit his grave site.

I think I first became aware of Tom Crean, from the iconic Guinness Ad from 2002 and the newspaper reports about Tom’s life.

A few months ago, we went to the Hawks well theatre in Sligo to see the one man play about Tom Crean, written and performed by Aiden Dooley, it was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot about the life of Tom Crean, the Kerry man, who went on three expeditions to the Antarctica with Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. If you get the opportunity to go to this play, go see it.  As we had a trip planned to Kerry a few weeks later we decided to put Tom Crean’s pub on our road trip itinerary.

We saw another play related to the Antarctic voyages last year, in the Factory Performance theatre space on Lower Quay street, Sligo.  The Blue Raincoat theatre company produced an audio visual performance more than a play, four silent actors recreated the scenes and atmosphere of the Antarctic and Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, using old photographs, ship puppetry, sounds, lighting and shadows.

Tom Crean

In 1893, at the age of 16, Tom Crean from Annascaul in Kerry, enlisted in the Royal Navy. He travelled the world with the Navy and in 1901 while docked at a port in New Zealand, by chance he got the opportunity to join Captain Robert Scott’s Discovery expedition.  He later rejoined Captain Scott on the Terra Nova expedition, this is the expedition where Scott lost his life and Crean saved the life of his comrade Edgar Evans, he was awarded the Albert Medal by King George on his return.

Kerry Antarctic explorer Tom Crean
Famous photograph of Tom Crean on the wall of the South Pole Inn

Crean’s third expedition was with Sir Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance expedition.  The ship became trapped in ice and was crushed, the men had to escape onto the ice and drifted for 492 days before the ice melted and they had to row their small boats to Elephant island.  After reaching Elephant island, deserted except for Elephant seals, Crean was part of a small crew lead by Shackleton which volunteered to row a further 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) from Elephant Island to South Georgia, to seek aid for the stranded party.  Crean and the crew miraculously survived and managed to get help and all of the 22 men were saved.

Crean retired from the Navy in 1920 and returned to Kerry.  He married Ellen Herlihy and had three children, opening a pub that he decided to call the South Pole, in recognition of his time in the Antarctic. He sadly died in 1938 from a burst appendix, he was only 61 years old.  Crean rarely talked of his achievements, he was quite modest and gave no interviews.

This sculpture in the village, depicts Tom Crean holding the sled dog puppies in the Antarctic and was erected in 2003 across from his pub.

Statue of Tom Crean in Annascaul, county Kerry, Ireland
Sculpture of Tom Crean with his sled dog puppies

About 5 kilometres from the village, we visited Tom’s grave, its located in Ballynacourty cemetery.  Many of the graves in this cemetery,  are above ground in crypts.  People have left coins and piled small stones on his grave.

Antarctic explorer Tom Crean's grave
The grave of Tom Crean and his wife Ellen and their daughter Kate.

Crean bought the pub in Annascaul in 1927 from a bursary received from Captain Scott’s widow in gratitude.  The pub itself is a warm and rustic place and serves nice food and has lots of old photographs on the walls about Tom and the Antarctic voyages.

Endurance voyage
Photos of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance voyage hanging on the wall of the South Pole Inn

Annascaul is a quaint small Irish village, the day we visited it was lashing rain but we walked up the street for a look round and we passed another well known Irish pub by chance, as I didn’t realise it was located in Annascaul. Dan Foley’s pub was once featured on an Irish pub postcard series and also on a pubs of Ireland poster.

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