O’Connor Power was in Italy in the spring of 1875. He was present when Henry Edward Manning was made a cardinal. And, although, as a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he was excommunicated, he had an audience with Pope Pius IX.
I took That Irishman to revisit his old haunts – London’s Fleet Street, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and the Middle Temple. A call to the Johnson House revealed that the library’s holdings will shortly be on-line.
Coincidentally, my travelling companion, William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, makes mention of Hodge twice.
My next port of call was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a tavern unspoilt by ‘the fury of innovation’ and a favourite haunt of O’ Connor Power. The atmosphere remains warm and welcoming and I presented the manager with a copy of That Irishman.
And so to Somerset House, former home to the Admiralty, for a delightful lunch with Sile, overlooking the Thames. She joined me on my afternoon tour of the Middle Temple. We took photographs of O’Connor Power’s chambers – 5 King’s Bench Walk (1882-7), 2 Brick Court (1888-96), 1 Essex Court (1897-1916). 2 Brick Court was a former home of Oliver Goldsmith.
Oliver Goldsmith Chambers celebrates Rumpole of the Bailey:
I made efforts to locate a bust of O’Connor Power, MP, 1881, by John Lawlor, the famous Irish sculptor. It was entered for a Royal Hibernian Academy exhibition in 1881 and then withdrawn because of political unrest. The Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Academy in London were helpful but the location of the bust remains a mystery.
That Irishman’s father, Patrick Power, was from Ballygill, just outside Ballinasloe. ‘Power’s Garden’, as it was known, was close to Ballygill Bridge.
The eighteenth century Ballygill Lodge was ’10 chains East of the river Suck’ and in ruins when O’Connor Power was a boy. Anthony Trollope’s The Landleaguers (1883) describes a meet for the local hunt in Ballytowngal.
A visit in late September to Kilmainham Gaol. O’Connor Power was arrested in Dublin in February 1868, a few days after his twenty-second birthday. He was released in July.
Photographs of a prison cell in the Victorian East Wing. That Irishman spent several months in this cell or in one just like it.
‘Home Rule sun rising up in the northwest’ James Joyce, Ulysses.
As the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s Supreme Council representative for Connacht, O’Connor Power moved to Mayo. The Fenians campaigned for Catholic landlord George Henry Moore in the Westminster elections. It was at meetings in Moorehall that Moore and Fenian leaders agreed on a new departure – constitutional and physical force Nationalists to work together and separately to forward the goal of an independent Ireland.
For an account of the Moores of Moorehall visit www.historicalballinrobe.com. There are photos of Moorehall in all its nineteenth century glory.
Moorehall as it is today.
That Irishman – the prequel to 1916 and the foundation of the Irish state.
Our national epic has yet to be written, says Dr Sigerson
James Joyce, Ulysses.
IN 1867, he helped to organise a raid on an arsenal in the north of England to get arms to start a rebellion in Ireland. By the 1870s, he had moved toward constitutional politics and became MP for Mayo in the House of Commons. He was at the first meeting of the Mayo Tenants’ Defence League, precursor of the Land League, in 1876 and he, not Michael Davitt, may have coined the phrase “the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland”.
He was a brilliant orator, whose recently republished book The Making of an Orator , can be bought online from Amazon today.
And yet John O’Connor Power, a contemporary of Davitt and Parnell who was once a force in Irish and British public life as both politician and journalist, has largely been forgotten by history. Indeed, he had pretty much been forgotten by 1919, when he died in London.
John O’Connor Power
John O’Connor Power (13 February 1846 – 21 February 1919) was an Irish Fenian and a Home Rule League and Irish Parliamentary Party politician and as MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland represented Mayo from June 1874 to 1885. He practised as a barrister from 1881…