RICHARD O’CONOR NASH
A POTTED HISTORY
The O’Conor family held the throne of the Kingdom of Connacht up until 1475 but their pedigree goes back much further, listing 12 High Kings and 23 Kings of Connaught since the time of Christ. From these generations a rich inheritance of castles and abbeys and other objects remain to this day.
(Photo: Tomb of Felim O’Conor at Roscommon Priory. Photo credit: Colm Boyle)
The title of O’Conor Don goes back to 1385 when two O’Connor cousins – both named Turlough – were vying for the same position. To avoid confusion they were distinguished by their hair colour: one being Ui Conchobhair Rua or Roe (red haired O’Connor) and the other O’Conchobhair Dunn or Don (brown haired O’Conor). The kingdom was divided between them with Roe taking east of Roscommon and Don the west of the county until the O’Conor Roe branch became extinct in the seventeenth century. Fast forward to the twentieth century and Rev. Charles O’Conor Don, a Jesuit priest sees in his sister Gertrude’s son Pyers a boy after his own heart who will come to ‘farm the land’ and take up the custodian duties at Clonalis.
The unique historical importance of Clonalis does not lie in the nineteenth century when it was built but many centuries before. Clonalis does not stand in isolation in time; it is part of a continuum. From the inauguration site at Carnfee at the time of Christ to the twelfth century Cross of Cong, to the structures in the Irish landscape like the fourteenth century Roscommon and Ballintober castles, abbeys at Clonmacnoise, Cong, Knockmoy and Bellintubber and the eighteenth century O’Conor houses at Bellanagare to the present. They all give witness to this continuum, for the family had an almost unique ability to survive without compromise.
(Photo: Roscommon Castle. Photo Credit: Christopher Funk)