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In 1713 he arrived at Cadiz, and here his kinsman, Father John O’Honan, a Franciscan priest and chaplain to the Irish Brigade, persuaded him to enter the Spanish Navy. He did so, entering as a private and, as he said himself, “tugging against wind and tide” until he had attained the post of Admiral.
About the year 1753 he was put in command of the Spanish Fleet which was then stationed at Ferrol, and he was appointed Military Governor of that town. Honan spent a long and arduous career in the service of Spain, and although he many times asked permission to take his well-earned retirement and return to Ireland, this was not granted until the year 1766. Honan was by then close on seventy years old—too old to return to Ireland, as he desired—so he settled in the more equitable climate of Cadiz and probably died there shortly after.
In all Honan’s long residence abroad, he never forgot his native Clare or his kinsmen there. In the year 1756 he presented a chalice to his native parish of Killaspuglenane, where it is still in use, “a decent, solid piece costing £7 10s.,” and inscribed in Latin: “The illustrious man, Sir Daniel O’Huony, who recently held the post of Governor of Ferrol under His Catholic Majesty, and who at various times commanded several ships of the same King, gave this chalice to his native parish of Killaspuglenane in the year 1756.”
During his life in Spain he kept up a regular correspondence with his Clare relatives, the Lysaghts; sent them money from time to time, and received three of them in Spain in order to help them to a career. The latter service was not entirely voluntary, and in one of his letters he asks that his aunt, Brigett Loyd, be disabused of “ye extravagant notion she has of my riches and grandeur,” lest she send any more impoverished relatives to him in Spain. One of the latter, George Lysaght, his grand-nephew, was so rich when he returned to Ireland that he built the mansion of Ballykeal, near Kilfenora, and was known locally as Seoirse-an-oir.
Honan also retained his love and knowledge of his native language, and in one of his letters, written after thirty-seven years’ absence on the Continent, he wrote the old proverb, again dissuading his relatives from coming to sponge on him: “Is mor adharcha na mbo abhfad on bhaile.” Foreign cows have long horns.
Source: Robert Herbert, ‘The Worthies of Thomond, II’, Limerick, 1944
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