O’Connor Family History


But what of the House built in 1878?

Some said an attractive house in a beautiful sylvan of oak, copper beech, lime, ash and cypress; some said a handsome elegant house set in simple formal gardens; some said an austere house. In truth it is all of these, but of one thing we were reasonably certain, Clonalis is one of Ireland’s most Historic Houses.

Charles Owen O'Conor, Don - died 1906The mansion was built by my Great Grand Father, Charles Owen O’Conor Don, to the design of the well known English architect F Pepys Cockrell, to replace the ‘Old’ Clonalis, a double gable-ended early 18th century, ‘two storey over basement’ residence some five hundred yards away. The ‘Old’ Clonalis House as it is known was constructed rather too close to the River Suck and quite damp as a consequence.

Historic as the old house was with its hidden chapel and legends of secret tunnels, the dwelling was a source of sadness to Charles Owen as he was orphaned at the age of seven when both his parents died. He was distraught when at the age of 27 his beautiful wife, Georgina died having borne him 4 sons. This resulted in the building of the ‘new’ Clonalis.Photograph of Georgina O'Conor - died 1872

However the ‘new’ house at Clonalis was only the most recent manifestation of the built heritage of the O’Conor’s over the past 1500 years.

In the library at Clonalis can be seen the pedigree completed by Sir William Betham, the Ulster King at Arms, in 1823 . This pedigree of the O’Conors lists 11 High Kings of Ireland and 26 Kings of Connacht since the time of Christ. From these generations a rich inheritance of castles and abbeys and other objects remain to this day.

In the library at Clonalis can be seen the pedigree completed by Sir William Betham, the Ulster King at Arms, in 1823 . This pedigree of the O’Conors lists 11 High Kings of Ireland and 26 Kings of Connacht since the time of Christ. From these generations a rich inheritance of castles and abbeys and other objects remain to this day.

I believe a poem by the renowned poet Catherine Raine who visited Clonalis in 1972 captures the spirit of the history of the Family. The poem was composed during the lifetime of The Rev Charles O’Conor SJ, O’Conor Don.

“No true king but in sacred history by devine right
of a dream by many shared
of the lost Kingdom that will come again.

Clonalis of the muted wood,
the incense-fragrant cypress,
still house where O’Carolan Harp stands silent,
memories here are gathered thick as yellowing leaves
of Ireland’s sad seasons,
generations who kept faith with the High King of an inner Kingdom.

Old royal face passed down
from warrior to farmer, exile scholar,
O’Conor Don wears now
the priestly robe Of the King of the world
who will make all things new. In this demesne,
held against time through time,
Young sapling trees stirred by an evening wind remind
How fresh, how green that realm in the beginning”.

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