Ref NoLE10
TitleO'Connor Donelan Papers
DescriptionPapers relating to the O'Connor Donelan family of Sylane, Tuam, County Galway. The papers cover the legal dealings of the family, the management of their various lands, and personal papers relating to various family members. The bulk of the personal material relates to Thomas O'Connor Donelan (1812-1874) and his sons. His eldest son Dermot had an interest in genealogy and forestry, and his other three sons were doctors in Dublin, Leeds and Manila.
Date1698-1930
Extent4 boxes
Administrative HistoryThe Donelan family had been active in the country since the seventeenth century, and had their principal seat at Ballydonelan, Loughrea, County Galway. The family seems to have contained Protestants and Catholics, providing an Archbishop of Tuam (Nehemiah) and a Lord Chief Justice (James) in the course of the seventeenth century. Thomas Donelan, a member of a junior branch of these Donelans with property at Peterswell, County Galway, married Mabel, eldest daughter of Dermot O'Connor of Sylan, in 1778, and it is from this marriage that the O'Connor Donelans emerge. The O'Connors were also a landholding family from County Galway, with a number of holdings around Sylane. They stemmed from a Laughlin O'Connor who took part in the Williamite wars. He was second-in-command of the Jacobite garrison of Castleconnell that surrendered to Williamite forces during the course of the siege of Limerick. His son Dermot, who succeeded him, appears to have been a captain in the wars also, and two other sons, Turlough and Matias died at this time. The family survived the vicissitudes of the eighteenth century and appear to have been closely connected with a number of other catholic landholding families in the west of Ireland. Thomas Donelan and Mabel O'Connor acquired control of a number of holdings from both the O'Connor and Donelan families. He died in 1816 and Mabel in 1820, when control of the property passed onto his brother Nehemiah. Nicknamed "drunken
Nemmy", he appears to have lost control of much of the estate to a Charles Prisse Wallace. He married Doreathea Hunt, a member of a prominent Galway family. In a brief dated 14 July 1842 (LE 10/47) it is stated that Nehemiah "became embarassed in his circumstances and addicted to ardent spirits", forced to live with Dorethea in a gatehouse in Limepark. After Nehemiah's death in 1839 Dermot Donelan, eldest son of Thomas Donelan, won control of the lands from Charles Prisse Wallace. The bulk of the material relating to estate management begins from his time, and is evidence of a new energy in running the family estates.

This Dermot Donelan had two sons and two daughters. His eldest son, Thomas O'Connor Donelan, succeeded to the family estates in 1860, and appears to have run the various family interests for some time previous to that. Another son, William, studied at the Royal College of Surgeons in the 1830s. A series of letters relating to his adventures in Dublin show that he was more successful on the Dublin social scene that he was at his studies, eventually becoming a General Practitioner rather that a Surgeon. Another series of letters in the collection reflect quite a different aspect of life in the nineteenth century. These refer to Elizabeth Donelan, sister to Thomas and William. She stayed first with William and later at private asylums at Hartfield House and St. Vincent' s Asylum in Dublin. These letters, from family, friends and doctors to Thomas, reflect much of the attitudes towards mental illness at that time. Another sister, Belinda, married a Captain Lynch.

Thomas O'Connor Donelan was a Justice of the Peace, and was closely connected with the political interests ofW H Gregory, with a series of letters from him during the election of 1857. A number of other letters refer to the election of 1857, including a letter from H M Monckton, Major of the Light Dragoons who protected the voters from a mob, and praised the role that O'Connor Donelan played. " ... you gave me the order to clear the street after you had been struck & after Capt. Preston had been wounded on the head" [LEI0/356]. Thomas died in 1874 and the lands passed onto Dermot O'Connor Donelan. As well as looking after the lands in Sylane, Dermot had a keen interest in forestry and genealogy, and much of his personal papers cover these two topics. There is also a large body of correspondence between himself and his three brothers, John (a doctor in the Richmond Lunatic Asylum in Dublin), Tommy (a doctor in West Riding Asylum, Menston, North Leeds) and Joseph (a doctor in the Philippines). The correspondence offers a rich source of insight into the views of a catholic landed gentry family in the later nineteenth/early twentieth century. Of particular note is a letter of l0th May 1916 from John to Dermot, where he gives an account of events during the Easter Rising that is relatively unsympathetic to the rebels [LEl0/368]. There are also a number of photographs taken by various members of the family in the course of the later nineteenth century. These have been placed with the personal papers of Dermot because they relate primarily to Sylane during his time in residence there. Dermot O'Connor Donelan was keenly interested in genealogy, and in his attempts to have the family recorded in Burke's Peerage he leaves behind a rich vein of material, both in correspondence and also in copies of material from the Public Record Office of Ireland that have since been lost. There is also some material relating to the political interests ofDermot O'Connor Donelan, including correspondence with local priests during the Parnellite Split urging him, without success, to go against certain local politicians. In a letter of 9th March 1892, Fr. Mark Eglington of Belclare tells him that the campaign against these politicians "forms part of a moral and religious question in which the highest Ecclesiastical Authorities of the Country (to whom every Catholic of the name prays deference) have made a distinct and emphatic pronouncement" [LEl0/568]. There is also some interesting correspondence with Christopher Redington relating to a proposal for both of them to stand for the Nationalist Party in 1888, Redington considers the Land War a difficulty [LEl0/563]. Finally, there is some correspondence relating to the promotion of the forestry industry in Ireland, which Dermot O'Connor Donelan was a firm advocate of, the bulk of the surviving correspondence being with foreign forestry experts on species of trees that would best suite the Irish climate.
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