The O'Donoghue Society

For all those interested in history and genealogy and whose names are derived from the Gaelic


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Contributed by Tom Donahue

My grandfather Patrick Donohue, who came to the US around 1850,  was born In Kilmuckridge in Wexford. He was illiterate when he became a US citizen in 1860 so the application for citizenship is marked by his 'X'.

Years later my father researched this application and noted that the Presiding Judge had written Patrick's name as Patrick Donahue, and so the name has remained these past 160 years. I remember as a child asking my father why we spelled the name as we do (with the 'a')  and he told me that my grandfather had had a schoolteacher named Donahue and that he copied her spelling. In fact, the judge approving his citizenship had made spelling it with an 'a' final, and so it has remained all these years.  

Contributed by James Donohoe

The Donohoes of Co.Cavan and Australia

The Donohoe family of Hugh Donohoe and Mary Garrity of Derra Cassin, near Templeport, Co. Cavan began leaving for Australia in 1856. The eldest boy, Patrick, set out for Australia in pursuit of gold.  Hugh was a tenant farmer on land owned by John Sheridan.  John Sheridan, meanwhile, had spoken up against the treatment of the Irish by the British. The land was confiscated and re-sold to John Smith.  Patrick [from Australia?] made Mr. Smith an offer for the land that he did not refuse. Hugh then took the title. Alas, Patrick died shortly afterwards. His siblings, including Hugh junior, migrated to Australia in 1867 to go gold prospecting in the predominantly Irish settled Boorowa area of New South Wales. It was there that Hugh junior met Mary Gilmartin from Limerick.
The couple had six children including William, their eldest and Arthur who won the Military Medal at Reincourt in World War 1. There are now six generation Australians in this Donohoe family.
At one of the generations, Hugh Donohoe (1911-1980) married Kathleen Clare Egan (1909-1981) in 1935.   They were my parents.  Clare, as she was known, was a direct descendant of Sarah Squire.  Sarah' sister Priscilla was the mother of Arthur Devlin junior, who was the model for the character ‘Pip’ in Charles Dickens' novel ‘Great Expectations’.  Arthur was also the father-in-law of Dickens’ son Alfred.
My Donohoe family is linked to Charles Dickens.
Historians have written about the identity of the real person on whom the Dickens' character ‘Pip’ of "Great Expectations" was based. They are wrong! He was Arthur Devlin Junior.
Irish rebel reader, ‘Big’ Arthur Devlin, was transported to Sydney, Australia in 1806 on the Tellicherry. Arthur was a significant player in the Mutiny against Colonial Governor, Captain William Bligh,in Sydney in 1808. About this time, Arthur married 14 year-old Priscilla Squire, a colonial lass. The couple had six children between 1806 and 1820. One was named Arthur and another was Martha. The real story belongs to Martha but it was more convenient for Dickens to cite Arthur's persona.
The story had its genesis in a letter Charles Dickens wrote to the Colonial Governor in the 1830s enquiring about a convict named Benjamin Dicken. By this time Charles was a prominent author.
Convict, Benjamin Dicken, aged 24, arrived in Sydney on the "Morley in April 1817". Benjamin drifted into the pub business and progressed onwards into hotels, becoming a very successful and wealthy businessman by the time he was 30. Unfortunately, Benjamin died in 1829 aged 36 years.
Some years later the famous author, Charles Dickens, learned of Benjamin. It was merely their common surname that acted as a prompt.
Their relationship is unclear.  Perhaps Dickens was looking for a storyline. Dickens’ enquiry was referred for reply to the Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales where Wills were probated and Intestacies administered.
His Honour answered and reported Benjamin’s death and summarised Benjamin’s will that had been probated. His Honour advised Dickens that Benjamin had left his estate solely to Martha Devlin citing “for whom I have a natural affection”. Such comments, especially the word “natural”, were generally construed as an acceptance of paternity. Martha Devlin was nine years of age at the time of Benjamin’s death so there was no romantic attachment.
At the time of His Honour writing, some of Priscilla's family had resettled in Newtown. His Honour naturally mixed in judicial circles and Newtown was the home of some lawyers and a retired Magistrate of the Bengal Colonial Bench, James Donnithorne, who lived in ‘Camperdown Manor’ sited at the corner of King and Fitzroy Streets. His Honour mentioned James’ weird daughter Eliza in his response.
Eliza had fallen in love with local beau.  The wedding was planned and a grand bridal reception prepared on the big day. Unfortunately, Eliza was jilted.
Eliza wore her wedding gown or something similar for the rest of her life and closed off the room where the reception was to take place. She awaited the return of her lover. Charles Dickens researched Eliza’s story further and he raised the matter with Sydney Identity Mrs.
Caroline Chisholm during her visit to London, where she was crusading for better working and social conditions for colonial women. Mrs. Chisholm further enlightened Dickens about Eliza whom Caroline knew personally.
Meanwhile James Donnithorne died and left a small fortune to Eliza that was administered by the family solicitor, an honourable man. He was Eliza’s sole visitor. Otherwise Eliza dealt with trades people and beggars only at her front door. Eliza was noted for being particularly sensitive to the needs of the local poor and never turned away a genuine case of need.
Benjamin Dicken’s bequest to Martha Devlin generated much intrigue. Then there was the mystery behind Arthur Devlin’s death in gaol awaiting trial for killing a neighbour’s sheep. The question emerged as to why Devlin slaughtered his neighbour’s sheep and then why the neighbour retaliated by having Devlin criminally charged and incarcerated in conditions that cost Devlin his life. Arthur's accuser was Col George Johnston, the man who led the mutiny against Bligh. Arthur was the informant who got the message to Bligh about a conspiracy to mutiny.
Bligh over reacted and had five Irish free men arrested as well as the conspirators. Arthur was one of them. This incident was one of several that motivated Col. Johnston to mutiny against Bligh. Johnston was later ordered to return to England for court-martial.
George Johnston returned to New South Wales from his court martial, where he was demoted from Lt. Colonel to Private and then cashiered.
Arthur Devlin was living in Cabramatta next door to one of George Johnston’s properties at the time of George Johnston’s return to the Colony in 1813. Having been severely punished for his role in the removal of Governor Bligh, Johnston would have returned a bitter man. It would not have helped his distress very much either to realise that his property adjoined Arthur Devlin’s and that at some point Johnston learned that it was Arthur Devlins' father in law James Squire who was Bligh’s informant about the agitation for an insurrection by a couple of Irish malcontents and also that Squire’s source was Arthur Devlin, from next door.
The story is well put together by the great author in his work, ‘Great Expectations’. He transposed the storyline from a narrow and convoluted colonial yarn into a magnificent English classic. Dickens transferred the bequest to Martha’s brother, Arthur Devlin junior, who became the character Pip. Arthur’s second wife, Esther McClelland, became the character, Estella. Dickens merged Michael Dwyer and George Johnston to create ‘Compeyson’. Arthur Devlin and Benjamin Dicken together became Magwick. Then Eliza Donnithorne was added in as the strange Miss Haversham to embellish the mysteries.
Charles Dickens set out for Australia in 1861 to promote the novel in its true setting. He planned to travel to the USA first, then travel on to Panama and Sydney, landing firstly in the USA where he commenced to lecture on his books. However, the Civil War erupted with each side blockading each other’s ports. Dickens was stranded in the USA for quite some time. His health deteriorated while he awaited port clearance so ultimately he aborted his plans to go on to Australia. He decided to return home rather than sail for Australia when the opportunity to depart the USA finally arose.
Arthur Devlin Junior and his wife Esther sailed for England sometime after ‘Great Expectations’ was published. Unfortunately, Esther contracted tuberculosis and died in Boulonge-sur-Mer, France. Whether the couple actually met Charles Dickens is not recalled, however, it does appear that they did meet.  Something like a meeting between them influenced the direction of the Dickens family.
Charles Dickens’ son Alfred Tennyson D’orsey Dickens set out for Australia in the late 1860s. His brother Edward Lytton Dickens followed.
The two brothers went into a partnership and bought a sheep run in the Forbes district of New South Wales.  This partnership did not work out and the property was sold. Edward moved to Moree and eventually entered the New South Wales Parliament as the Member for Wilcannia serving for many years alongside James Squire’s grandson, James Squire Farnell, who at one time was Premier of the Colony. Alfred moved to Hamilton in Victoria where he managed a sheep run.
Meanwhile Arthur Devlin junior had become the owner of a major shipping line which was Melbourne based. Alfred had the occasion to visit Melbourne and called on Captain Devlin, as Arthur junior was then known.
Arthur and Esther has several children including Miss Augusta Jessie Devlin considered to be the most beautiful woman in Victoria at the time. She was known as Jessie Devlin the ‘Belle of Melbourne’. Alfred married Jessie in early 1874 in Toorak. It was the biggest society wedding of the year. A daughter, Kathleen Mary, was born late in that year and another daughter, Violet Georgina, was born in 1876.
Miss Eliza Donnithorne did not die in a fire as depicted in the novel but of old age in 1886 many years after the book was published. It has been claimed that Eliza learned of the novel and was distressed by the references to her image. The movie focusing on Eliza Donnithorne’s reputed reaction to her depiction in ‘Great Expectations’ has been scripted.
My Donohoe family, through my mother, descend from Mrs Priscilla Devlin sister, Sarah Squire. Incidentally, following Big Arthur Devlin's death, she remarried, to Thomas Small. Thomas's brother, William, is the ancestor of Maestro, Richard Bonynge, husband of the late Diva Dame Joan Sutherland.
Sometimes a cock up works out for the best...not often, but it did on this occasion.

Tim Donohue sent me a book order.  I didn't read it properly and instead of sending him Heroic Landscapes: Irish Myth & Legend I sent O'Donoghue People and Places.  Perhaps it was a busy day!

Tim pointed out my error but said that I had solved a problem for him - what to give his cousin John Donohue for his 80th birthday.  So all's well that ends well

From Tim: John grew up here in Northern California and spent most of his working years buying and harvesting timber from independent owners. We are the Great Grandsons of Martin O'Donohue born into the famine in 1848 of County Clare. He came to America in 1872 and worked the 'redwood railroad' North of San Francisco for his life's work. 
We are all proud O'Donoghues Mor. Thanks for making a mistake as this was the PERFECT present that I would have never thought of ;-)

Contributed by Mike O'Donoghue

I thought you might like this photo from our celebration of St Patrick’s day.  They made the local bar into an O’Donoghue Ale House. My brother and I had a great afternoon of Irish dancing, bands and song.  
It was at Eagle Farm race course, Brisbane

Contributed by Roderick O'Donoghue

When Rod announced that the subject of the April snippet would be "The Family Farm", my immediate reaction was that i could submit nothing.....
I thought about what a farm is, and how I came to learn about them through books, songs and schools. I wonder whether there is an Irish form of Old MacDonald's farm? I thought about chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep, cows, wheat barley....and probably in that order. Nothing came to mind that related to a family farm.
Violet Evangeline O'Donoghue, daughter of Rev Edward Geoffrey O'Donoghue, followed in her father and grandfather's footsteps in writing books. Her father  wrote non-fiction. Her grandfather wrote fiction, while she, too, wrote fiction under her married name, Whish. One of her books bore the title 'Come to Good Farm'....a tenuous connection to farming.
My mind continued to drift. Could i argue that successive generations of a family focussed on producing similar output was like a 'family farm'? A flock of writers...a herd of writers??

The thinking was becoming tortuous as my mind went blank. Yet having let my mind go blank, I remembered the obvious.....but a subject i had repressed. 
How often do we forget things which are uncomfortable? But research requires rigour and honesty, however difficult that would be....
My family had spent almost all of the 19th century in India, Burma and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Louis Rumbold O'Donoghue went into tea planting. My great grandfather, (Louis' brother) Algernon Leopold O'Donoghue, worked in Burma, for the Bombay and Burmah Trading Co, as manager of their forestry interests. He was based in Kindat, Upper Chindwin River area. In a way he 'farmed' trees....slightly larger than ears of barley...but.... 
His son, Algernon Charles O'Donoghue, was born in Kindat in 1900, but moved back to Bath, England, where he became a sound engineer, variously at the BBC, ITN, and in films. He hankered for the colonial life and took his family to Kenya. In Kenya, they lived at Kitale where they bred dogs for the English market, a brutal and unpleasant market of crime, betting and horror.....which is why, I expect, I repress the facts. Algernon, known as Don, stayed in Kitale mostly, but his wife, Cara, worked in Nairobi and took advantage of the Happy Valley Set, which was made into a book and then a film called 'White Mischief'.
Perhaps it was karma, if such a thing exists? - as they lost everything, farm, stock, savings, everything, during the MauMau uprisings, and during their flight back to England.
Perhaps now I wish i had not remembered, or dared to divulge. Yet we cannot escape the truth of our past, or only remember the good things. Nor can we keep back the truth from others.......we are not censors but researchers, surely......? And we have to accept that the social mores change in time and from place to place...our lens is different from theirs.

Contributed by Roderick O'Donoghue

"Books are like unsown seeds. When they open up and are allowed to sow their own seeds in our minds, their effect can be 'seismic'.


In my youth I was told that I was descended from O'Donoghues who had once been kings. I decided to find out whether this was myth or truth, so I turned to family members and traced back to Colonel John William O'Donoghue of the 47th Foot. I then found a copy of Irish Family Records from 1976 which revealed a Jeffrey Wrixon O'Donoghue and, after considerable digging, i discovered that they were one and the same person, and that Jeffrey Wrixon O'Donoghue changed his name in 1794 to join the British Army. Strangely, he reverted to his birth name on his marriage certificate and his occupation was Major in the 47th Regiment of Foot.


A connection had been made between family data, proven facts, and a recorded pedigree.


Sadly, the entry  for O'Donoghue in Irish Family Records contains 12 different errors and several queries. It taught me that records, even in books, can frequently be wrong, yet many people accept them.


The next book is our Society founder's book 'O'Donoghue People and Places'. This was written a few years ago now and gives a fuller historical picture and context to Irish history and some notable O'Donoghues through history. This not only added to my knowledge but triggered a greater interest in the historical of my family and those who share the same name.


Rod's book is invaluable and provides a good starting point for research proper, rather than name collecting. As Rod was a pioneer in trying to formulate a coherent account of People and Places, subsequent research may or may not discover new facts, which modify some of his early findings. This is in no way a criticism, as his research is formidable and helps greatly. It is just that sometimes a writer has to include, in good faith, their very best insights at the time of writing. Indeed, I would always recommend Rod's book over Irish Family Records, even though Irish Family Records is part of the Burke's Peerage group of books.


I discovered an ancestor named Mhaire Ni Dhuibh O'Donoghue. She married Daniel O'Connell Mor, Chief of the Name. Her grandson was Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator. In an effort to discover more about her and our O'Connell connections, I purchased a book, The Last Colonel of the Irish Brigade. This book revealed that my ancestor, Jeffrey Wrixon O'Donoghue and his older brother were great nephews of Mhaire, and that they are listed in her son Colonel and Count Daniel O'Connell's regiment of the Irish Brigade. I also discovered that Mhaire was a noted poetess, and that her brother, Geoffrey, was also a poet, (but he is  not to be confused with the more famous poet of the same name, Geoffrey O'Donoghue,  about whom both PS Dineen and John Minahane have written).


Another ancestor, Blanche Augusta O'Donoghue, seemed, for a long time, to disappear from late Victorian records, until I discovered a record of a marriage in the India Office. She married Lionel Slade Carey, the son of the Bailiff of Guernsey. I wondered how my Victorian ancestors could be so connected to, and marry into, the families of the Queen's representative in Guernsey, to  Generals, to the illustrious Spencer of Althrop family. The answer soon became clear, viz. Indian colonial administration. So i started to look into the Careys of Guernsey  by buying an esoteric book called The History of the Careys of Guernsey. To my surprise, I discovered that three of my Victorian O'Donoghue ancestors married into Careys mentioned in the book, and that two of the O'Donoghues were born in Ireland. The O'Donoghue Carey marriages gave rise to such people as Cedric O'Donoghue Carey, or Rupert O'Donoghue Carey.


These snippets show that a simple quest to collect names is transformed by books which give further lists; is added to by books which give historical context; is amplified further by more detailed family books; and overflows into researching other areas and other families in the hope that more can be discovered. Family research through books grows like seeds into family trees, and fleshes out and  clothes the names we discover.


It also shows that research has to question and check everything. One only has to look at Ancestry to see how often major mistakes are repeated, and the more they are repeated, the more they are believed. "

Contributed by Jim Horgan

My wife, Bridget and I made our first visit to the O'Donoghue farm in 1989.  Bridget's mom was an O'Donoghue and this was the farm Bridget's grandfather grew up on.  The property is located in Ardydonegan, Duagh, Kerry on a beautiful spot that rolls down to the banks of the river Smerlagh.  We had to drive through the Scanlon family farm to get back there and found cousin Joe living in a tent inside of the old farmhouse which was falling down around him.  He is still living there and the County Council has since provided more suitable housing for him on the property.  Joe was a wonderful host at that time and told us many stories about the farm and the local area.  I was taking furious notes about any tidbits he shared about the O'Donoghue family history and this was the beginning of my research in to my wife's family history!
Contributed by Mike Donahue

An anthology of newspaper columns written by Finley Peter Dunne helped me understand what life was like in Chicago when my great grandfather, Patrick Donohue and his wife, Mary Kelly Donohue raised their family in the Southside neighborhood called Bridgeport.
Dunne was an American journalist; he was born in Chicago in 1867. His Irish immigrant parents settled in Chicago at about the same time as my great grandfather. By 1900, Finley Peter Dunn was the most widely read newspapermen in Chicago.
To tell his stories, Dunne created a character named Mr. Dooley, the proprietor of a saloon on Archer Avenue, at the north end of Bridgeport. In Dunne’s newspaper columns, Mr. Dooley discussed the news of the day while serving a customer named Malachi Hennessey.
Mr. Dooley and Hennessey spoke in the dialect of the unfashionable neighborhood where they lived; they were Chicago’s “shanty Irish.” Having them speak in dialect allowed Dunne to say what went unsaid in other (polite) newspaper columns. He described life of Bridgeport through Mr. Dooley's chats with Hennessey, painting a portrait of ethnic urban life in the neighborhood where my ancestors, including my grandfather, Mike lived and worked.
Dunne wrote more than 500 columns between 1893 and 1915. Selected columns were published in eight anthologies. I found copies in the Indianapolis Public Library and read two of them. They were insightful and reminded me that my grandfather, who was born just a decade after Finley Peter Dunne, likely read these same stories when they were first published.

Contributed by Tim Donohue

So many to choose from.


Certainly your books Heroic Landscapes:Irish Myth and Legend and O'Donoghue-People and Places would be a good foundation.


In a more general sense I really enjoyed these books.


"The Imortal Irishman" by Timothy Egan. A look at Irish American Thomas Francis Meagher banished to Tasmania in 1849 for life. He was part of the 1849 "Young Irelander" uprising along with Patrick O'Donoghue, William Smith O'Brien and other prominent nationalist. Their eventual escape to America cover much of the history of the early famine and independence movement.


"In The Time Of Famine" by Michael Grant, a fictional look at the life of a young man born into the terrible times of famine and his struggle for dignity and life. Not specific to O'Donoghue but the historical facts are worth the read if you are interested in learning more personal insights about Ireland during the time of famine and the migration. 

Submitted by Carol Hurley

The indescribably harsh decade of the Irish Famine turned out to be in time a positive happening for my Irish Immigrant ancestors and their descendants.    My paternal greatgrandfather was Thomas Hurley.  According to son’s written history, Thomas was born in 1815 to Jeremiah Hurley and Honora Fitzgerald, in County Kerry, somewhere south of the Shannon River, not far from Tralee.   He emigrated in 1846.  He possibly sailed from Queensland, Cobh Ireland to Liverpool, England for Atlantic sailing To New York City.  There he was hired as a railroad laborer in Vermont.   In I847, he married Catherine Lawlor in Brattleboro, Vermont.   Catherine too was a Kerry Immigrant from near Listowel.   In 1840, 15-year old Catherine sailed with older brother Richard to Quebec, Canada.   For seven years, they were indentured servants at a Catholic Indian Reservation. 

Thomas and Catherine’s first child, my grandmother Honora, was born in 1848.  They were to have 12 more children.   Seven made it to adulthood. 
Thomas and Catherine found their way to Virginia where they farmed for 18 years.   In spite of a huge family to support, the couple managed to save enough money to buy a mountain in the brand new state of West Virginia.   And had the wherewithal to split it into legal lots.   It covered a portion of three counties, Fayette, Greenbrier and Summers.   They deeded only to Irish Catholics.    Farming was not easy in the steep, rocky Appalachian Mountains.   This enterprise could be called a “rural ghetto,” like the Catholics in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.  

Thomas and Catherine organized their fellow Irish Catholic immigrants into a united group where labor and resources were shared for the greater good of all.   Not really so unlike the ideology then being formulated by Marx and Lenin across the Atlantic.   
My mother and father, children and grandchildren of Famine immigrants, grew up next farm to each other on “Irish Mountain,” as it came to be known.   Mother Irene’s parents were Mary Sullivan and Patrick Donahoe, son of Florence Donnoghue and Mary Moynihan, famine immigrants from Killarney.   Father William Hurley’s parents were Honora Hurley and John Hurley, a Cork Famine immigrant. 
I grew up in Ohio listening to stories about life on the remote mountain.   Day to day survival had to be really tough, but their core strength and deep Catholic faith provided an unbreakable bond.   Eventually Thomas and his Mountain neighbors accumulated enough money to purchase a tract of land in Fayette County.    For the next 25 years they cleared the land, buried their dead, and built a charming New England Style chapel-meeting hall called the Sacred Heart Church, where weddings are still being held today by descendants of the original Irish Mountain settlers.    The first mass was held I 1898, some 25 years after Thomas became the first resident on his Mountain.  My two sisters, and many, many relatives are buried there.   My brother Basil Hurley and our first cousin Bernard Twohig wrote a history of the area called “Foresight, Fortitude, Fulfillment.”   And what an apt description this is of these remarkable Irish immigrants.
Although there is an anti-immigrant sentiment in our land today, I’m so proud of My Immigrants.  I can’t but think that their commitment to their families, their faith, and to their new country was anything but a great gift to America, and to their descendants.  I have hundreds of cousins who share my story, themselves Irish Mountain descendants.  We can all be proud and joyous about our bountiful heritage.