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O'Connor, O'Conor, Ó Conchobhair

O'Connor Family Crest
Vert a stag trippant
Crest: a hand in a
gauntlet erect holding a
broken dart all proper.

O'Conor is one of the most numerous names in Thomond, but none the less one of the most illustrious in Irish history. The O'Conors were once Kings of Connacht and also provided the country with our last two Árd-Ri (High Kings) namely Turlough O'Connor (1088-1198), and Roderick O'Connor (1116-1198).

This great sept is best represented today by the O'Conor Don of Belangare, Co. Roscommon, a direct descendant of the Kings of Connacht, who through the centuries maintained their estates and close attachment to Gaelic culture.

Many members of the family left evidence of their commitment to the Irish language and their interest in preserving cultural relics of our past. Charles O'Conor (1710-1791) was a noted antiquarian and a collector of Irish manuscripts, once quoted as having said "not one in Ireland but myself is now engaged in work of this kind."

Of his two grandsons, the Revd. Charles O'Conor, P.P., (1764-1818) was appointed librarian of the prestigious library at Stowe in England and prepared a catalogue of the Irish Manuscripts in that magnificent library while Matthew O'Conor (1839-1906) compiled a history of the Catholics of Ireland.

Charles Owen O'Conor, the O'Conor Don, was elected M.P for Roscommon and was an exponent of Roman Catholic opinion in relation to education. For many years President of the Royal Irish Academy and the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language he was the first to ensure the introduction of Irish into the curriculum of the Intermediate Board.

Several branches of this great sept established themselves in different parts of the country, the more notable being the O'Conor Roe, the O'Conor Sligo, the O'Conor Kerry and, closer to home, the O'Conor Corc who settled in North Clare becoming rulers of Corc Mogh Ruadh or Corcumroe, a name derived from Mogh Ruadh, a great grandson of Corc.

An extensive pedigree of the O'Conor Corc was prepared by MacFirbis, the noted genealogist which gives accounts of the more celebrated chiefs of this clan and of unhappy events that occurred in their patrimony.

"Melaghlin O'Conor, chief of the clan died A.D. 1113; Felim O'Conor, Lord of Corc - called "the hospitable" - died in 1365." That much conflict was witnessed in the locality is evident from a line in a mediaeval poem "Corcumroe of the Glittering Battle Hosts" and we learn that the Norman baron de Burgo in 1200 laid waste much of the district and put many of its inhabitants to the sword.

In 1318, however, Fedhlim O'Conor of Corcumroe in response to an appeal for help from Conchobhar O'Dea and Lochlann O'Hehir was able to muster a fighting force of about 200 men and their later incursion into the battle fought at Dysert O'Dea was one of the decisive factors in the outcome to that historic conflict.

From 1500 onwards the Clan Corc (The O'Conors) began to lose their power and prestige and forced to cede much of their long held possessions to a wave of foreign settlers and, as early accounts put it, "forced to become tillers of the fields for alien hosts and dwellers in miserable huts constructed in the shelter of the cloud supporting hills of Burren."

Clonalis House near Castlerea, now open to the public, is a treasure house of family memorabilia containing thousands of items of historical interest; numerous records in paper, vellum and parchment including an illuminated genealogy of the family.

Further Reading:
O Conchuir, M.F., "O Conor Corcomroe: a bilingual history." Dublin, Colour Books, 1996.
O'Donovan, John and Eugene Curry, "The antiquities of County Clare: letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the County of Clare collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1839." Ennis, Clasp Press, 1997.
Weir, Hugh, "O'Connor people and places." Whitegate, Co. Clare, Ballinakella Press, 1994.

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Learned Families of Thomond