Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Dún Aengus Banquet in 1857. The Visitors

The cast of characters who were part of the 70 strong group, who sailed to Arran on the Trinity House Steam Yacht, Vestal, in September 1857.
Dún Aengus in 1821 by George Petrie.


The list is extensive and we can only hope to provide some small  background on a number of the more famous visitors.

This list should be read in conjunction with our two articles about the great expedition to Árainn in  September 1857.
 Part one can be read Here
 Part two can be read Here

For three days in early September 1857, the islanders must have found it difficult to bring a bucket of water from the well, without tripping over a Lord, Sir, Judge, Baron, Reverend, Professor, Captain, Doctor or even an Excellency.

When we started the list, we expected to be able to get some information on a dozen or so of the participants but the importance and notoriety of so many of the 1857 group led us down a very long path.

We realise that the list is a bit long but it may be useful to dip into now and again as different participants are mentioned. At the last count we had found out something about more than fifty of those attending.
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1.  George Petrie. (1790-1866)



 Although he was not the official leader of the group, the great George Petrie was probably the most distinguished antiquarian on board the Vestal   as it steamed out from Galway to the Islands.

His list of achievements is both extensive and varied, he being among other things, an archeologist, musician, linguist, architect, writer, publisher, surveyor and painter. 

A Dubliner, born to a Scottish father and English mother, Petrie is a fine example of a section of that  Anglican, Anglo Irish population who were fiercely proud of their Celtic heritage and did so much to preserve and encourage it.

As a small child he had watched unseen in his father’s studio, as a young woman wept in front of a portrait his father had painted, of the executed Robert Emmet.

The young woman was Sarah Curran.
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2. Dr William Wilde (1815-1876)




The official leader and organiser of the Ethnological section of the British Science Association expedition to Arran, was Roscommon man, Dr William Wilde, father to Oscar and husband of the poet Jane Elgee, better known as “Speranza”.

An eye and ear specialist with a worldwide reputation, he was also one of the finest archeologists, antiquarians and folklorists of his time.

William Wilde had been to Arran previously in 1848, when he viewed some ancient pieces of high cross. He was conscious that Aran and the West had historical links with his grandmother’s people, the O’Flaherties.

Wilde was accompanied to Aran by his nineteen year old son, Henry Wilson. Henry was one of three children Wilde fathered before marriage, by different mothers. His two daughters, who were living In Monaghan with their uncle, Wilde’s brother, died tragically when their ball gowns  caught fire in 1871. They were in their early 20s.

His colourful love life and extra marital arrangements were frowned on by polite society and a libel action against his wife, taken by one of his lady friends in December 1864, would further damage his reputation. Luckily for him, he had been Knighted earlier the same year..
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3. John O’Donovan (1806-1861)


A man to rival Petrie was the great John O’Donovan from Kilkenny. His work with the Ordinance Survey office is priceless.

Bad and all as the Anglicisation of Gaelic place-names was, without the tireless work of a native speaker like John, much more would have been lost. 

We suspect that the W J O’Donovan, London, listed as attending, was John’s son. As well as contributing to the Ordinance Survey, John O’Donovan had qualified as a barrister at Kings Inns in 1847.

His endless wanderings around Ireland helped preserve much but was to leave him with poor health and a relatively early death.

He had first visited Arran in 1839, in the company of the seventeen year old assistant/artist, William Frederick Wakeman. 

According to William, on first seeing Dún Aengus in 1839, the place he had heard so much about, O’Donovan shouted aloud, threw his umbrella in the air and rolled on the ground with delight.
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4. Eugene O’Curry (1794-1862)



A brother-in -law to John O’Donovan, Eugene O’Curry was the greatest expert on ancient Irish manuscripts of his time.

Employed for some years, like Petrie and  O’Donovan, with the Great Ordinance Survey of Ireland, he went on to be appointed Professor of Irish History and archeology at Newman’s new Catholic University, in 1854.

From his early days near Loop Head in Clare, he had a love for transcription and his experience on working on old manuscripts, his father had collected, would stand to him later.

 He was an expert on old Irish and he scoured various libraries and museums in different countries as he researched Ireland’s ancient past. 

Their total fluency in Irish gave both O’Curry and O’Donovan a huge advantage over most of the others, on their 1857 visit to the Aran Islands.
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5. Dr William Stokes (1804-1878)




One of the greatest Irish/British physicians of the 19th century, William Stokes was born in Ballinteer, Dublin into a family of science.

Unlike his United Irishman father, Whitley, William was a lifelong Unionist/Tory but with a passionate interest in Celtic studies and archeology.

A close friend of George Petrie, he published the story of Petrie’s remarkable life in 1868. He spent nine days exploring and recording, on the three Islands in 1867, in the company of the famous Lord Dunraven.

His son Whitley Stokes was a noted lawyer and Celtic scholar and accompanied his father to Arran in 1857. His wife Mary and his daughter, the antiquarian and painter, Margaret Stokes were also aboard the Vestal, although neither woman is named in newspaper reports.
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6. Sir Samuel Ferguson. (1810-1886)



 This Belfast born poet had, like so many of the other 1857 visitors, a wide range of interests. Many of us know him as the author of the poem Lament for Thomas Davis but he was a man of many talents.

As well as the poetry, Samuel Ferguson was a very accomplished lawyer, antiquarian, historian and painter and is credited by some as being inspirational in turning W.B. Yeats towards Irish mythology.

By 1857, Ferguson had spent almost 15 years learning Irish and during his three days in Árainn, it must have pleased him greatly to get a chance to use it as best he could.

Ferguson was from a family that embraced adventure. His older brother William Owens Ferguson died at the age of 28 while fighting his way through South America with the great General Boliver.

His “Lays of the Red Branch”, has been credited with inspiring others to take pride in their Irish heritage, and in particular, the heroes of Ulster.
Along with his pride in Ireland, Samuel Ferguson was also very proud of his Ulster/Scotch heritage. 
He was knighted in 1878 and became Sir Sam.
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7. Margaret Stokes 1832-1900



Margaret Stokes was just 25 when she joined her father William, mother Mary and brother Whitley on the Aran adventure of 1857.

She would later go on to become one of the most productive researchers of Irish antiquity but it’s only been in recent decades that the importance of her contribution, has been fully appreciated.

Margaret, from her teenage years, was said to be greatly attracted to the handsome painter,  Frederick William Burton but for whatever reason, was unlucky in love.

Burton is especially famous for two paintings, one of which, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs, was recently voted Ireland’s most loved painting.
The meeting on the Turret Stairs. (National Gallery of Ireland.)

The painting is based on an ancient Danish ballad that Margaret’s brother Whitley had translated for Burton. It told of a young woman and her love for her bodyguard. Her father disapproved and ordered her seven brothers to kill her lover.

In the ensuing fight, the bodyguard kills the father and six of the brothers before the girl pleads for her remaining brother to be spared.

Alas, having spared the last brother, the bodyguard dies from his wounds and, in sorrow, the girl takes her own life.

In 1898, two years before she died, Margaret bought this painting and hung it in her house in Howth, bequeathing it and many others, to the National Gallery, after her death.

Margaret was a great organiser and many of the scholars of the time, from Petrie to Dunraven, benefited greatly from her keen eye and editing skills. 

You can hear a fine R.I.A. lecture on Margaret’s life, by Dr Marie Bourke Here
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8. Sir Frederick William Burton 1816-1900
Chalk drawing of himself. National Gallery of Ireland


As well as his famous watercolour, The meeting on the turret stairs, Frederick Burton also painted a famous picture associated with the West of Ireland,  The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child, which is almost certainly set in the Claddagh in Galway.

Born in Wicklow and raised in Clare, he went on to become one of Dublin’s favourite portrait painters.

His friendship with many of the great Antiquarians of the day, like Petrie, Ferguson and Stokes, fostered in him a passion for Irish antiquities which he partnered with his already extensive knowledge of the history of art.

Left handed, due to a childhood accident, Burton’s popularity has been increasing as the decades pass by.

In 1874, Gladstone appointed him Director of the National Gallery in London, a move that resulted in Burton ending his painting career.  Frederick Burton was Knighted in 1884.
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9. Rev Richard MacDonnell 1787-1867
By Stephen Catterson Smith (1806-1872)
Corkman, Richard MacDonnell was a very distinguished guest in 1857 and was given the honour of chairing the great meeting inside the walls of Dún Aengus.

Regarded as a reforming figure, he was elected Provost in 1852 and served until his death in 1867. 
His family owned a large tract of land around Dalkey in Dublin and his residence was Sorrento Cottage, a place with a view, both then and now.
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10. Rev John Hewitt Jellett (1817-1888)




Also present at the great banquet was the mathematician, Tipperary man, Rev John Hewitt Jellett, who would go on to become Provost of Trinity College from 1881-1888.

A senior figure in the Church of Ireland, in 1873 he was the only member of the Board of Trinity College to vote for the admission of women.

After the Great Hunger of the 1840s he devoted some of his time to studying an antidote to the potato blight and had some success with his ideas.
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11. Captain Rochfort Maguire (1815-1867)


Painting by Stephen Pearse (1819-1904) National Portrait Gallery, London.

It was a great coup for the Arran expedition to be accompanied by the Royal Navy hero, Rochfort Maguire from Mullingar.

Captain Maguire had just returned from two years searching, as Commander of HMS Plover, for the lost North West Passage expedition of Lord Franklin. Victorian society elevated dashing men like Rochfort to superhero status.
Captain Maguire’s ship HMS Plover


He had lectured the Association a few days previously on his fruitless search for Franklin and on some scientific readings he had recorded, during his time in the far north.

He would go on in 1866 to become commander of the Australian section of the Royal Navy but was to die in 1867, a month or so after an accidental fall. 
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12. Charles Cardale Babington (1808-1895)



One of England’s greatest botanists and a man with a great interest in archeology was Charles Babington. His trip to Arran and his rambles over the landscape must have pleased him greatly.

A contemporary of Darwin when a student at Cambridge, his  particular interest in butterflies would have made the exotic Aran examples a great treat. 

A devout evangelical Anglican, Babington was unconvinced by Darwin’s theory of evolution. However, he was said to have enjoyed his friend Bishop Wilberforce’s discomfort when confronted by Huxley at the famous British Association discussion on Darwin’s ideas, in 1860.

He had visited Ireland on a number of occasions previously. He would go on in 1861, to become Professor of Botany at St John’s College, Cambridge.
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13. Major General George Thomas Colomb.


Among the visitors was the seventy year old George Colomb, a professional soldier and amateur painter. 

In 1857 he was the Commander at The Hibernian Military School in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

He served with the British Army in North America at the time of the 1812 war. We don’t know however, if he was present when British troops burned both the White House and the city of Washington in August 1814.

This was in retaliation for an American attack on Ontario in Canada in June 1812. The Americans had burned most of the city of York and the British/Canadians made them pay a heavy price. 

General Colomb was an Englishman who settled in Dublin and was regarded as a very talented artist. Unlike many soldiers, he lived a long life and died in his bed in 1874.
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14. Sir Francis William Brady (1824-1909)


The year before his trip to Arran, Francis Brady had been part of the committee that set up the Irish Academy of Music. 

He himself was regarded as a musician and composer of some talent and the two nights spent on the island would have introduced him to local singers, songs and musicians.

A distinguished barrister, he served as a judge in Tyrone (1872-1908) and annoyed many by doggedly holding on to his office, well into old age. A man to be avoided whether innocent or guilty.

Judge Brady, like Provost MacDonnell before him, would live out his life, from the 1870s until his death, in Sorrento Cottage in Dalkey.
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15. John Thomas Gilbert (1829-1898)


A man who would go on to be regarded as one of the greats of Irish antiquity was the 28 year old Dubliner, John Thomas Gilbert. One of the younger members of the Arran expedition of 1857.

Son of a mixed marriage, John would never go to University as the only such establishment in Ireland at the time was Trinity College, which his Catholic mother declined to let him attend. 

John Gilbert had a wide range of historical interests but he is mainly remembered for the vast research he did on Ireland’s capital city, Dublin.

For his lifelong devotion to this huge undertaking of research, and his services to antiquity and history, he was knighted in 1897.
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16. Rev Charles Graves (1812-1899)




One of the most interesting Members of the group was the professor of Mathematics at TCD, Charles Graves.

He would go on to be elected president of the Royal Irish Academy between 1861 and 1866.

Charles had a fascination with the old Irish ogham system of stone markings and other forms of rock art.

He was a man of generous and easy going nature and in difficult and bigoted times, as Bishop of Limerick, had a very friendly relationship with his Catholic counterpart, Bishop O’Dwyer.

Charles was father to the Irish poet, Alfred Percival Graves (1846-1931) and for many years lived at Parknasilla House near Kenmare, before selling it to Great Southern Hotels in 1894.

N.B. There were two Rev Graves’ listed in the group of visitors, the other being Rev Richard Graves. We think this may be the father of a very famous antiquarian, Rev James Graves (1815-1886) of Kilkenny. Confirmation either way would be appreciated. Perhaps it is a mistake and it was indeed James and not his father, who attended. 

A leading figure in Irish anthropology of the time, the Rev James Graves’, is conspicuous by his absence.

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17. Consul Frédéric de Burggroff (1817-1884)


The French Consul in Dublin was one of the main guests at the great banquet of 1857. After the banquet was finished, he made a speech in French, thanking his hosts and then proceeded to join in with the others who were dancing a jig to the accompanying pipes.

Many years ago, we mentioned to an old man about the great banquet and how they enjoyed the finest of food and wine. We then mentioned how the French Consul had danced a jig afterwards.

This triggered the understandable but unkind comment, “Fluthered, don’t you know”, as he misunderstood the natural exuberance of our Gallic cousins.

A very popular and much sought after dinner guest in the more fashionable parts of Dublin, during his years as Consul, 1848-1863.
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18. Dr Norton Shaw


Among the many overseas visitors was the Secretary of The Royal Geographic Society, Dr Norton Shaw. He served in this role from 1849-1863.

He was also the editor of the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London and was regarded as a great organiser and catalogued much of the society’s manuscripts.

In later years he served as British consul at Islay in Peru and later to St.Croix in the Virgin Islands.
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19. Sir James Young Simpson (1811-1870)




Among the many eminent medical men who attended the Arran event, none was more important than the Scottish obstetrician, Dr James Young Simpson.

A brilliant mind, he is credited with being the first, in 1847, to demonstrate the safe use of the anaesthetic chloroform, on a human. The human he experimented with, was himself. 

At the age of 28 he became Professor of Medicine and Midwifery at the University of Edinburgh.

He had a deep interest in the history and antiquity of Scotland and like his good friend, the Rev Charles Graves, had a particular interest in ancient rock art and stone carving.

He even did some field work in Ireland with Rev Bishop Graves and recalled the time the bishop rolled back some turf to reveal some ancient stone carvings.
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20. Dr Thomas Joliffe Tufnell (1818-1885)



Among the many medics in Arran in 1857, was the surgeon in charge of the Military Prison in Dublin, English born, Thomas Joliffe Tufnell.

In 1846 he was in charge of the old Provost prison but when the new District Military Prison, was opened shortly after at Arbourhill, he was put in charge of this.

Until Wellington in 1846 reduced the maximum number of lashes a soldier could receive from 200 to 50, there was plenty of need for medical care.

He was sent to inspect the army hospitals in Crimea in 1855 and in the same year, was  made Regis Professor of Military Surgery in Ireland.
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21. Sir Joseph Lister 1827-1912


Another giant from the field of medicine was the Essex born Quaker, Joseph Lister. Trained in England, he would spend much of his life in Scotland.

His greatest success was his application of carbolic acid to sterilise medical instruments and clean wounds. This was when the germ theory of disease had still to be fully accepted.

This made surgery much safer and earned for Dr Lister the title “Father of modern surgery” 

For his contributions to medicine, he was knighted in 1883 . He was  in time surgeon to both Queen Victoria and her son, King Edward V11.
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22. Sir John Francis Lentaigne (1803-1886)


The son of a refugee from the French Revolution, John Lentaigne was both a lawyer and physician. 

Although a staunch Catholic, he was one of the few of his religion to attend Trinity College.

A member of many government bodies, he was Judge in both Dublin and Monaghan and in 1844 served as High Sheriff of Monaghan.

For many years he was Inspector General of Irish prisons and also served as inspector of reformatories and industrial schools.

 He was viewed with suspicion by some Home Rulers for the many government appointments he held on to into very old age.

A Privy Councillor, he was at one time President of both the Royal Statistical and Royal Zoological, societies.
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23. Professor Charles Croker King 
Courtesy of Galway County Library.
Opened in 1849, The Queens College in Galway was represented on the Arran trip by their Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, Charles Croker King who qualified as a doctor in 1844.

Charles was the grandson of Samuel Croker King, the first President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. Samuel was credited with saving the life of a child who would go on to become The Duke of Wellington and Prime Minister of the U.K.

In the sectarian times that were in it, the hope was, that the three new Queens Colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway would be accepted, if made strictly non denominational. 

This proved not to be the case and they were condemned by the Catholic Hierarchy as “Godless” a name that kept many Catholics from attending.

In 1854 U.C.D was opened in Dublin, as a Catholic University, in opposition to the Protestant Trinity College. 

Those Catholics who attended the Queen’s Colleges were in many instances discriminated against by their co-religionists, for doing so.

Professor King would stay in his post until 1863, when he was appointed to the Local Government Inspectorate. He was medical Commissioner of the Irish Local Government Board when he died in February 1888.
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24.Dr Aquila Smith (1806-1890)


One of the greatest authorities on Numismatics, Aquila Smith from Tipperary, also visited Arran in 1857.

This is the study of currency in all its forms and with the many railways and canals being constructed around Ireland, he had plenty to study from the many coins unearthed.

He was also a keen archeologist as well as being a very highly regarded medical doctor. His interest in coins led him to develop a curiosity about minerals and whether Ireland ever produced tin ore.
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25. Martin Haverty (1809-1887)


Photo from National Library of Ireland.


The man who recorded most of what we know about the 1857 expedition to Aran, was the journalist, librarian and historian, Mayo born, Martin Haverty.

Along with Eugene O’Curry, George Petrie, James Clarence Mangan, John O’Donovan, William Wakeman and others, Martin Haverty was part of a determined group of researchers, artists, copiers and field workers that worked on the huge Ordinance Survey task  that began in the 1830s.

He is famous for his “The History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern” published in 1860.
Now, more than 150 years later, we are indebted  to Martin for his detailed account of the Arran adventure.
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26. Robert Mackay Smith (1802-1888)


The Scottish businessman, philanthropist, scientist, meteorologist and antiquarian, Robert Mackay Smith was another of the overseas visitors.

Graduating With a science degree, at the age of 13 from Glasgow University, he served as Chairman of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and President of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts.
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27. Charles Hare Hemphill 1st Baron Hemphill 



A young man who attended the big picnic at Dún Aengus was Charles Hemphill. He would go on to have an illustrious legal career and in time become 
Solicitor -General for Ireland.

Some readers may remember barrister, the late Paul Anthony McDermott who was a most entertaining and knowledgeable commentator on all things legal.

We can remember Paul regaling listeners on his favourite legal case, which by chance, involved Charles Hare Hemphill.

The case involved a very decadent picnic that the members of Dublin Corporation treated themselves to, in 1892. In a court case in 1894, taken by a ratepayer who felt the vast amount of brandy, cigars, champagne  etc should not be paid for by the people of Dublin, Solicitor-General Hemphill appeared for the corporation. 

His defence was shredded in the most delightful way when the Judge, Sir Peter O’Brien from Clare, proceeded to list the menu on offer before finding for the citizens of Dublin.Irish Times article Here.

As Judge O’Brien listed off the fare on offer in 1892, we wonder if it brought back memories for Charles Hare Hemphill, of the great banquet at Dún Aengus in 1857. He became a Baron in 1906.
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28. John M Mitchell.(1796-1865)


The Foreign Correspondent of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, John M Mitchell, had a chance to add to his knowledge of Ireland and the West coast.

Seven years later, in 1864, he would publish a detailed account of the life and habits of the herring, which was of vital importance to the Scottish economy.

In this book he detailed the controversy over trawling in Galway Bay and makes a passing reference to the battles between the Claddagh fishermen and trawlers, in 1852.

A wealthy businessman from Leith, he was both a Belgian Consul of Scotland and a Knight of The Order of Leopold. In 1840 he had been made a fellow of The Society of Antiquarians.
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29. Rev John William Stubbs 1821-1897


One of Ireland’s finest mathematicians of the time, was Rev John Stubbs from Finglas. He was a young man in 1857 when he visited Aran, but would go on to make a name for himself.

Apart from being a brilliant and pioneering mathematician, he also had a great interest in astronomy. 

In 1889 he would publish The History of Dublin University, which was a vast undertaking. He would be elected a senior fellow of Trinity college as well as serving as bursar for a time.

A senior figure in the Church of Ireland, he was treasurer at St Patrick’ Cathedral. Born and reared at Fortwilliam in Finglas, so named because it was the spot where King William camped after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
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30. Thomas Higginbotham Thompson 1808-86



Every good story needs a villain and this role was played by Thomas, land agent to the owner of the three Aran islands, Miss Digby of Kildare.

Thomas H was the second son of the previous agent, George Thompson, and one could spend a fair few days exploring the three islands and never hear a good word said about either of them.

The Thompsons main family seat was Clonskeigh Castle in Dublin but the family also had property in Meath and Kerry. Thomas served as Grand Master of the Trinity College lodge of the Orange Order.

Thomas was also the belligerent chairman of the Dublin Protestant Association. Disgusted with the Catholic Emancipation act of 1829 and fearful of the disestablishment of the Episcopalian Church in Ireland, Thomas gave full vent to his feelings, just a few months before the 1857 visit to Arran.

Annoyed not just that Protestant control was being undermined in Ireland, Thomas railed against the decline of Protestant power in the rest of the U.K.
He preached about taking back control.

Tim Robinson has detailed the many grievances of the islanders against both men and their condescending, bigoted, arrogant, ruthless and greedy attitude, is still remembered.

A few years after the Aran trip, Thomas and his business partners would set up the Irish Iodine and Marine Salts Manufacturing Company and proceeded to exploit the islanders, who at the time were harvesting 500 ton of kelp per year.

Eviction was the threat to those who refused his low price and opted to sell to the traditional buyers. The ruin of the Aran plant, An teach Mór,  can be seen just East of the seal colony on the Low Road. It operated for only five years or so.

The promise of a 20% return P.A was the lure to draw in investors but this could only be achieved by robbing the people who risked their lives and their health, in gathering the kelp.

Thomas Thompson played a huge role in the whole 1857 expedition and the fresh coats of whitewash that the island  houses were given, was all to impress the visitors of the love and care of the owner and her agent, for their devoted tenants.
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31. The Truells of Wicklow.


We are unsure of who these two men, Robert and H.P Truell were but we are fairly confident that H.P. was Henry Pomeroy Truell (1836-1902) of Clonmannon, Ashfort, County Wicklow.

Henry Truell described his religion as Plymouth Brethren, a group who had split from the Anglican Church in Ireland in the 1820s.

Henry was deeply involved with the society for the protection of animals and also served as a justice of the peace in Wicklow. In 1871 he was appointed High Sheriff for Co Wicklow.

He was accompanied to Arran in 1857 by Robert Truell and whether this was his father, Robert Holt Truell (1797-1870) or his brother Robert Truell of Ballyhenny (1828-1867), we are unable to tell.

Clonmannon house would go on to be the Irish residence of the American mining millionaire, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, the man who in 1968 bequeathed to the Irish people, the magnificent and priceless collection which is housed in Dublin in the museum/library, named after him.
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32. Andrew Armstrong.



The man who probably did most of the donkey work in organising the whole 1857 expedition to Arran, was the secretary to the group, Andrew Armstrong.

We have been unable to find out much about Andrew but he was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1862 and died in 1875. He lived in Rathmines and later in Bray, Co Wicklow.

At one stage Andrew owned Kylemore House in Connemara, which he leased in 1866 to Alexander Taylor. It’s still being run as a top class guest house.

In 1869, Andrew was among those who contributed to a memorial fund for the great Rev. James Henthorn Todd, who spent much of his life, researching and preserving the Irish language.

Rev Todd is very conspicuous by his absence on the 1857 visit to Aran. Perhaps he was ill or otherwise engaged. He was one of the most important archeologists of the time and his great interest in the Celtic languages would have made Arran seem irresistible.

We believe Andrew was born around 1801 but are not certain. In 1863, he presented the R.I.A with two ancient earthen vessels, called crachins, which had been found in the Hebrides.

In February 1872, Andrew seconded a R.I.A. motion, that a fund be set up in Ireland to help find Dr David Livingstone, who was missing, feared lost, somewhere in deepest Africa.
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Henry was the illegitimate but partly acknowledged son of William Wilde. Born thirteen years before Oscar’s parents married, William looked after his son although he was referred to as his nephew.

Like his father, Henry pursued a medical career and was an army surgeon for some years. His father would take him in as partner in his medical practise

 In 1877 Dr Wilson was appointed a trustee of St Marks Opthalmic Hospital in Dublin.

This was in place of his father, Sir William Wilde, who had died the previous year. Like Wilde, Henry Wilson was deeply involved with the Royal Irish Academy.

All in all, William Wilde brought a fair bit of colour to the group of excursionists and his enlightened attitude to his son, must have had tongues wagging in Victorian Dublin.

He was only nineteen years old when he joined his father on the Arran trip and would die the year after his father, at the young age of thirty nine.
This was just weeks before he was due to marry.
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34. J Huband Smith 

J. Huband Smith was possibly born in Westmeath and went on to build a distinguished career in Law. He also had a great interest in archeology and antiquity in general and was a regular contributor to the Royal Irish Academy.

Exploring Árainn in 1857 must have been very special to him as in the 1840s he had done a detailed study of the island of Iona where he did sketches and stone rubbings.

He had an interest in Colmcille who was in Árainn as a young monk before falling out with Naomh Éanna and being banished. 

Colmcille went on to settle in Iona, a spot we hope to get to visit some day. J Huband Smith would have been delighted, we are sure, to hear what the islanders knew of the row between the two great monks.
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35. Park Neville 1812-1886


Among the group was a famous architect and engineer, Mr Park Neville, who had been heavily involved in the design of a water and sewage scheme for the city of Dublin in the 1840s.

As an architect and engineer, Park Nevill would have had a great interest in the churches, towers and forts of Aran. This was before the Board of Works did some restoration work on the great forts, in the late 19th century.

At the time of his visit to Aran, Park Neville was the City Engineer and Local Surveyor for Dublin. 
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36. Dr William D Moore (1813-1871)


William was a Dublin based doctor with a keen interest in the history of medicine. Coming from a family of physicians and apothecaries, William was a prolific writer as well as having a gift for languages. He translated many medical papers from all over Europe.

In 1849 he presented a study of the old Barber Surgeons of the 18th century, who are the reason that barber shops once had a red and white pole outside.


In 1875 his son, Sir John William Moore, would succeed the great Dr William Stokes as chief physician at the Meath Hospital.

William was also a keen meteorologist and kept daily records which he studied in conjunction with medical conditions. An interest, his son John would continue for over 70 years.
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37.George Macdona


The visitors were well fitted out for their trip to Arran and the clothing company that did so was we suspect, that of George Macdona of number 32 Molesworth Street in Dublin.

In 1848, George was one of the more than 80,000 people in Ireland and parts of the U.K who signed a petition for mercy for the Young Irelander, William Smith O’Brien, who had been sentenced to death after the 1848 violence in Tipperary.

George was an active manufacturing member of the Royal Dublin Society which is no surprise, given his position as a successful merchant who fitted out both the gentry and the clergy.
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38. Thomas Hayden M.D. (1823-1881)



We believe this to be Tipperaryman, Professor Thomas Hayden from Cardinal John Henry Newman’s new Catholic university in Dublin. (Now U.C.D.)

Thomas was also one of Cardinal Newman’s two personal physicians. A friend to Eugene O’Curry who was Professor of Irish at the same university and one of the main figures of the 1857 visit to Aran.

In 1911,Thomas’ daughter Mary Hayden was appointed first Professor of modern Irish history at U.C.D. A fierce advocate for the rights of women, Mary is famous for her Short history of  the Irish People, published in 1921. 

In 1857, Thomas was just five years qualified as a doctor but would go on to become Professor of Anatomy at the Catholic University and in 1861, a physician at the newly opened Mater Hospital. 
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39. John Augustus Byrne (1828-1891)



A graduate of Trinity and a lecturer at the Catholic University, John A Byrne was one of the foremost Gynacologists and Obstetricians of the time.

Another example of how the 1857 expedition was dominated by medics and academics. In 1857 John was working as assistant physician at the Rotunda hospital but in 1859 was appointed by the Catholic Hierarchy to be Professor of Midwifery at the Catholic University. (UCD)

Like quite a number of those who dined inside Dún Aengus in 1857, John was a resident of Merrion Square in Dublin. He died in January 1891 at the age of 63.
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39. Pierce Creagh Q.C.


We are fairly sure that this was the barrister Pierce Creagh whose family owned large tracts of land in Munster and especially County Clare.

In 1857, Pierce Creagh was one of the best known “Gentlemen” in Clare and was based at Mount Elva, near Lisdoonvarna. He also had a home and office on Mountjoy Sq in Dublin.

A wealthy Roman Catholic landlord, he and his family had steered a delicate line between his co religionists and the Protestant Ascendency society,  where he socialised.

He was one of the few Catholics made a Q.C. in 1844. A Guardian at the Ballyvaughan Union, he was the leader in Ireland of the Boards of Guardians who feared bankruptcy because of the debts the government wanted them to assume for relief efforts during the Gorta Mór.

He is credited with being instrumental in forcing Gladstone to write off the Consolidated Annuities debts in 1853, although this did see the introduction of income tax in Ireland. 

Al though a fervent supporter of the Tory, Lord Derby and bitterly opposed to Gladstone, Pierce was also very generous to the Roman Catholic Church and contributed to the building of many churches in Clare. 

He moved with a foot in both camps, as many of those Catholics who managed to hold on to their land, tended to steer a delicate course.

At least Pierce Creagh would not be fazed by either the geology or the stone limestone walls of Árainn as he would have seen it all before in his native Burren.
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40. Stephen Nolan Elrington (1816-1890)


Stephen Elrington was the  co-editor of  Saunders Newsletter and we can assume that it was he who wrote up their report of the Aran trip.

As well as being a journalist, Stephen was a poet and composer and was called to the Bar in 1851. He would go on to be assistant librarian at the Law Library at Kings Inns.
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41. Arthur Edward Gayer Q.C.(1801-1877)


Arthur was both a barrister and a Protestant churchman. His brother Rev Charles Gayer (1804-1848) was heavily involved in the running of the Dingle and Ventry Protestant mission when the battle for souls and the battle against starvation, was raging fiercely, side by side.

Arthur served as honorary secretary of the Dingle & Ventry  mission for about 25 years. When Charles caught the typhoid  fever and died in 1848, Arthur took on the job of rearing his nine orphaned children. By all accounts, he reared them  with great kindness and they all did well.

His own clerical duties included him being the chancellor and victor general in Ossory in 1848, 
Meath in 1851 and for Cashel, Emily, Waterford and Lismore, also in 1851.

A few months after his visit to Aran, in March 1858, he unsuccessfully stood for MP for Dublin University. In 1859 he was appointed to the official post of Ecclesiastical Commissioner for Ireland, a position he held until it was abolished in 1869 as part of the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Ireland.

He is mentioned in the reports as one of three visitors who mounted a pony at the Gleanacháin in order to make their way to the Seven Churches and onwards to the Dún. The other two being Provost Macdonald and the English academic, Charles Babington. 

In the intolerant religious times of that era and given that the expedition was composed of those with different religious beliefs and indeed some with none, it is likely that matters of theology were avoided, for the sake of harmony.

Arthur Edward Gayer was a prolific writer on many topics and in 1870 published a book on his own family history, Memoirs of the Family Gayer.
Like many of the other visitors, Arthur was a member of the Royal Irish Academy.
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42. Marcus Goodbody J.P. (1811-1886)


This is almost certainly Marcus Goodbody who was born in Mountmellick but after his mother died in 1824 the family moved to Clara, Co Offaly. In 1869 he moved to Stillorgan in Dublin.

The Goodbody name in Ireland is famous for the incredible amount of generosity and concern they showed during different Irish famines. Members of the Society of Friends ( Quakers), they were  noted for giving to the starving, with no strings attached.

Marcus would have been 46 when he visited Aran and would have had an interest in the West, his family having property and land around Athenry.
There is a possibility that the man in Aran was his cousin, Marcus Russell Goodbody, who managed the Athenry estate. 

The Goodbody name is associated with the textile industry and their factory in Clara operated until the 1980s. Their attitude of giving good employment, in order to lift the people out of poverty, served as an enlightened model, for over a hundred years. 

OffalyHistoryblog have a great article on the Goodbody family by Michael Goodbody.Here
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43. Richard H Frith



A friend to William Wilde, Richard was also a fellow member of the Royal Irish Academy. Richard was County Surveyor for Dublin and in 1857 had published a book, Macadamised Streets compared with Paved Streets.

Researching Richard seems to suggest that he was born in Co Fermanagh and died in Dublin at the age of 58. He appears to have been married twice, his second wife Lavinia Lambert being from Athenry.

A strange Aran connection with Lavinia’s old ancestral home, Castle Ellen, is worth telling. A few years ago the old home of Stephen Dirrane of Bungowla and Man of Aran fame, was bought by our good friend, Micheál Ó Cionnaith.

He was a regular on our bus when he was doing up Stephen’s old house.

Micheál has also spent years restoring Castle Ellen near Athenry and today it is regarded as one of the most unusual places to stay in Ireland. Here is the link.Castle Ellen

A strange legal case arose in 1872, the year before Richard Frith died, where he took a case for assault and false imprisonment, against the Marshall of the Four Courts. Seems he called the Marshall a liar and the Marshall had him put in custody for a while.

There was no further record of this adjourned case and it seems Richard’s death soon after, may have ended the matter.
A link to the history of Castle Ellen. Here

And how did we start with the 1857 expedition to Aran and end up with the history of the house Edward Carson spent his holidays in ?
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44. Charles Henry Foot Q.C.


Another of the many legal people who had an interest in archeology was Charles Foot. He was a young man in 1857 but would die suddenly in December 1870.

The Royal Historical and Archeological Association of Ireland paid tribute to the papers he contributed and for all the members of the legal profession, he encouraged to join.

He wrote a number of legal books, the best known being The Statutes Relating to the Powers and Duties of Grand Juries. He also  submitted a paper to the Archeological and Historic Society  of Co Kilkenny on his exploration of Subterranean Chambers at the Mooney estate in Doon, Co. Offaly. 
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45. James Foulis Duncan MD.(1812-1895)


James was a Fellow of the College of Physicians and Physician in Ordinary to St. Patrick Dun’s hospital in Dublin.

He was a regular contributor to the Dublin Medical Journal of Science. A man of strong religious views, his paper God in Disease, would be regarded as unscientific by many today.

His warning in 1875 that the increased mental activity and distress of the industrial revolution, would lead to an increase in mental disorders seems prophetic.

He was a pioneer in the bringing of mental health into the 19th century and the introducing of medical doctors to replace what were little more than jailers. 

He was reared at Farnam House in Finglas, a private mental asylum that his father had bought in 1815 and he had a humane understanding of the suffering caused by mental illness.

Among the large crowd of medics who visited Árainn in 1857, James Duncan was one who did more than most, to move the profession on. 
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46. Sir Thomas Bernard Dancer 1806-1872


A landowner based near Borrisokane in N Tipperary, Sir Thomas had worked with Pierce Creagh in getting relief from the Consolidated Annuities which threatened to wipe out a large section of the Landlord class.

In researching the Aran visitors of 1857, it’s noticeable that many knew each other, some were related and many were neighbours in Dublin.

Merrion Square and Rathmines featured prominently. In many ways it was a get together of old friends and acquaintances with perhaps a few younger hopefuls doing some networking with all the important people.

A magistrate who had served as High Sheriff of Tipperary in 1852, Sir Thomas was involved, like many another Tipperary man, in the horse racing industry.

He also had property in England and Kildare and is likely to have known the Miss Digbys of Kildare, owners of the three Aran Islands.

He also had an interest in the development of railways throughout the West coast of Ireland, from Limerick to Sligo. 

In 1851, Sir Thomas caused some upset in Tipperary when he invited an English farmer to take up a tenancy on 300 acres of prime land.

A feature of post famine Ireland was the introduction of Scottish and English tenants to farm some of the better land.

He died at his home in Bath in 1872, the day after his eldest daughter’s wedding
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47. John Grattan 1800-1871


It turns out that John made quite a contribution to antiquarian studies in 19th century Ireland. Born in Dublin in 1800 he qualified in apothecary in 1824 and moved to Belfast in 1825. 

He was President of the Belfast literary Society in the 1840s and contributed a number of papers.

The study of skulls was very popular in those times and it seems John Grattan had a fascination for them and for Round Towers. 

In 1852 John delivered to the Belfast division of the British Association, a talk on the skulls he had dug up inside some Round Towers and even had the skulls on display.

This was not unusual at the time, when freelance amateur archeologists were exploring the countryside, but it would be very much frowned on today.

At Grattan’s Belfast lecture in 1852, a member of the audience stood up and announced that he had with him the skull of the great Bard O’Carolan, which had been sent to him that morning.
You couldn’t make this up.

It can be assumed that with his great interest in Round Towers, John Grattan was delighted during his trip to Árainn, to be in the company of the world’s greatest authority on them, George Petrie.
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48. George Ellis M.D. (1810-1909)


George was a life member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and was a regular attendee at the Association’s yearly meetings, in different parts of the U.K.

By far the longest liver of the Aran group, George was 99 years old when he died in 1909. 

Like Eugene O’Curry, he was born in Co Clare but would have had quite a different upbringing than Eugene as George came from a Protestant background.

He qualified as a doctor in 1834 and spent most of his long life, working in Dublin. In 1844 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

He did quite a lot of research on stomach ailments and in 1852 presented his findings on the effectiveness of using sulphuric acid in the treatment of dysentery.

He championed a cure that he invented himself and which he recommended other medics to use to combat stomach problems caused by stress and irregular hours.

The cure involved taking parts of the stomach of a newly killed calf and putting them in a wine bottle. The bottle was then filled with sherry, corked and let stand for three weeks before using.

While this sounds like a strange and slightly bizarre way to treat gastric problems, it’s worth reflecting that George Ellis lived to the grand old age of 99.
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49. Captain Brownrigg 1798-1873


We believe this man was the deputy Inspector General of the Irish Constabulary. The year after his trip  to Aran, Henry Brownrigg would become Inspector General of Constabulary, a position he held until 1865.

In November 1858, Henry Brownrigg became Sir Henry, as befitted his position as the most senior policeman in Ireland. The same year he received great praise for reforms he introduced to policing which were expected to put an end to agrarian outrages or Ribbonism.

Sir Henry retired from the force in 1865.

After the abortive and poorly organised Fenian rising of 1867, which his reorganised force is credited with defeating, the constabulary was awarded the title “Royal” and became the “Royal Irish Constabulary.”

Before this they were known as simply, “The Irish Constabulary.” The present Garda Band can trace its roots back to the Irish Constabulary Band, formed in 1861 by Henry Brownrigg.

Like almost all senior policemen in Ireland at the time, Sir Henry was Protestant and like all of the very senior ones, was both ex military  and English.

Sir Henry John Brownrigg died in London in November 1873 at the age of 75.
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50. Thomas Fitzpatrick MD (1806-1898)


We are unsure who this doctor was but we suspect it was the obstetrician, Thomas Fitzpatrick of 31 Lower Baggot Street in Dublin. 

Thomas was it seems heavily involved with the charitable work of the Vincent de Paul and a  member of the British Association.

He was also for many decades, the medical officer in Dublin for a London based insurance company.

Other than that, we can only say that it’s likely that O’Donovan mentioned to him that at one stage the Fitzpatricks were part owners of the Aran Islands until they sold them on.
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51. Charles B Johnston


It’s hard to be sure who this was but we think it was the superintendent of Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin.

His appearing on a number of juries and the letters esq after his name, make him very likely to be among the 1857 visitors.

In November 1856, the Ballsbridge based Protestant charity, “Dublin by Lamplight” thanked Charles for his donation of potatoes. This was a charity for women who had fallen on hard times.

We have been unable to get much information on Charles, except that he is referred to as “late” in 1883 and that his son, Lieutenant George Bernard Johnston, died in Calcutta in March 1867.
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52. L Litton


We are unsure who this was but we suspect he was from the legal community of Dublin and a son of the Master in Chancery or perhaps the master himself.
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53 H.H.G. Mac Donnell



This is almost certainly Hercules Henry Graves Mac Donnell (1819-1900). Hercules was the son of Trinity College Provost, Richard MacDonnell who chaired the great meeting at Dún Aengus.

A Justice of the Peace and barrister, Hercules had a great interest in music and just the year before coming to Aran, he and another explorer, Francis William Brady, had been elected joint honorary secretaries of the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Hercules lived at Sorrento Cottage while his father lived at Sorrento House, and his friendship with Sir Thomas Brady would see Brady rent first and later buy, Sorrento Cottage, with Hercules moving to Roby Place in Kingstown. ( Dún Laoghaire)

Blessed with a fine baritone voice, we wonder if he entertained the travellers to a few songs as they lounged on the grass inside the great fort of Dún Aengus.

In 1836 he had been summoned by the Dean at Trinity for choral practises in his rooms. Hercules defended himself by comparing his activities to the “other Fellows who made the nights hideous with their unseemly orgies in their chambers”

He won the argument and the result was the formation of the College Choral Society the following year.

On two occasions, Hercules and his wife sang for Queen Victoria when she visited Dublin.

He died in Dún Laoghaire in 1900 in his 82nd year. 
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54. Acheson Lyle 1795-1870.


Acheson is recorded in 1846 as being treasurer  of the Dublin Geological Society so the karst limestone crags of Aran would have been of great interest.

Called to the Bar in 1818, he was for a time Assistant Barrister in the Queens County (Offaly)
At the time of his visit to Aran in 1857 he was Master of Chancery at the Four Courts in Dublin.

In 1860 his appointment as Lord Lieutenant of his native County Londonderry (Derry) caused great outrage among northern Lodges and Businesses as he was the first Whig (Liberal) to be appointed to such a position in the north.


The office commanded a salary of £2,500 a year, which was a vast sum at the time. The idea of a Presbyterian barrister being appointed, rather than an Episcopalian aristocrat, incensed the Belfast News-Letter.

He died after a long illness at The Groves, in Derry in April 1870.
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55. Cathcart Lees MD.


Cathcart was physician to the South Dublin union in  when he presented a paper to the Dublin Journal of Medical science on Hypertrophy in the brains of Children”

It’s striking just how many of the 1857 visitors  were medical men but of course the leader of the expedition was Dr. William Wilde, who would have been friendly with most of them.

He lectured at the Ledwich School of Medicine and was a surgeon at the Meath Hospital. 

He died at the young age of 49 in December 1861 and is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. 
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56. Captain Percy.(1798-1882)


We suspect this was Captain Francis Percy, who had recently, like Captain Brownrigg, become an Assistant Inspector General in The Irish Constabulary. He had just taken up command of the Constabulary depot in the Phoenix Park.

With the amount of important people in Aran in 1857, it’s no wonder that two Assistant Inspector Generals of the Irish Constabulary were part of the group. It’s likely that a number of other policemen were also sent to Aran, for the duration of the visit.

 Retiring in Dublin on a pension of £500 a year, Francis Percy died at the age of 85 in March 1882.
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57. Thomas O’Hagan(1812-1885)


Although we have listed Thomas very far from the top, it’s possible that he was, in later times, the most important legal figure in a group of very important legal figures.

We had never heard of Thomas O’Hagan but researching him triggered a huge amount of information as he had a diverse range of interests.

Born in Belfast, he was educated at the Royal Belfast Academic Institution, which had been founded by the emerging Belfast merchant elite, for a more rounded education for their sons.


The only Roman Catholic in his school, he was regarded as its most brilliant student. From school he spent some time as a journalist before starting on a law career. His letter of admission was signed by Daniel O’Connell.

His Unionist leanings and opposition to Repeal would see O’Hagan and O’Connell drifting in different directions.


Thomas O’Hagan was at a distinct disadvantage as he was a Roman Catholic. In the Ireland of those times, Episcopalians were first class citizens with Dissenters and Roman Catholics filling the next two positions.

O’Hagan’s father had operated a small boat before opening a liquor store in Belfast and was part of the emerging middle class.

In 1857 when he joined the excursionists to Árainn, William had been a QC for eight years and three years after, in 1860, he would become Solicitor-General for Ireland.

A brilliant orator and lecturer, he was in great demand as a speaker and seems to have lectured widely, on a variety of topics.

His rise to Solicitor-General was not just down to his legal brilliance but also to the fact that he was a supporter of both the Union and the Whigs. Appointing a Roman Catholic Unionist was viewed as beneficial for harmony in Ireland.

He was returned as Liberal MP for Tralee in 1863 and in 1865 was made a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland). A high point of his career came in 1868 when he was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

It would have been impossible for Thomas to have held this office when he was rambling the limestone crags of Aran, as until 1867, it was illegal for a Roman Catholic to hold this position.

Thomas O’Hagan steered a delicate path during his life as he tried to keep a foot in two camps. Although he had much support among the Catholic Hierarchy, he came into conflict with those who wanted Repeal of the Union. He would have been disparagingly described as a “Castle Catholic” by many of his opponents. 

He became a peer in 1870 and resigned as Chancellor in 1874 before resuming the role again in 1880.

Sir Thomas O’Hagan died in London in February 1885 and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin.
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We have now reached the end of our list of diners at the great Dún Aengus banquet.

Of the people listed officially as attending, we have just three who are not in our list.

1.William Millen, Belfast
2.William Robinson, Dublin
3. L.F. Byrne, Dublin.

William Millen may have been a well known shoe and boot retailer in Belfast. He lived at Nelson Street in Belfast where his wife Jane died at the age of 65 in 1859.

There are letters on record of William writing to John O’Donovan seeking advice on Archeological sites in Ballyeaston, Co Antrim.

L.F. Byrne may have been the chairman of the Dublin vintners.

Any information on these will be gratefully received as will any additions or corrections to our main list.

This list should be read in conjunction with our two articles about the great expedition to Árainn in  September 1857. 
Part one can be read Here
Part two can be read Here
Rev William Kilbride who was a keen antiquarian.
No mention of him in the reports of the trip to Aran
Photo from Jane Shackleton collection.
One man noticeable by his absence was the local Protestant Minister, William Kilbride (1826-1899). He had taken up his position in 1855 and was a keen archeologist with a great interest in the Irish language. Perhaps he was away or perhaps neither he nor the Parish Priest, John Moran, were invited.
Ml Muldoon. February 2020





2 comments:

  1. Amazing research in this article. Great pictures/photos. Most interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Richard Graves may be Richard Hastings Graves, d. 1877, a clergyman in a parish near Mitchelstown. His father was the eminent Rev. Dr. Richard Graves of TCD, whose other son was the very famous doctor James Graves of Merrion Square, of Graves Disease fame Another participant in the 1857 expedition to Aran would appear to confirm the identity of Richard Graves as this Richard Hastings Graves. That participant was the Provost Richard McDonnell. They were brothers-in-law. McDonell was married to RHG's sister, Jane Graves. See J. H. Cole, Church and Parish Records of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, 1903.
    Gerald O'Carroll, author of the forthcoming biography of Charles Limerick, Charles Graves (1812-1899)

    ReplyDelete