Profile of Castleisland Entrepreneur, W H O’Connor

There is such a thing as inability to relax … His active life was his 
whole life.  To the end, he was working.  There was no let up. 
– Rev Brother Francis writing of his brother, W H O’Connor

In 1955, Brother Francis of the Presentation Brothers, Cork, wrote an account of his older sibling, William Hugh O’Connor of Kingdom House, Castleisland, whose death occurred on 1 January 1949. ‘The life story of any man is worth recording,’ he wrote, ‘when simply and truthfully told.’[1]


Brother Francis O’Connor (left) and his sibling, William Hugh O’Connor of Kingdom House.  Image of W H O’Connor courtesy Paudie O’Connor and Castleisland Chamber Alliance


William Hugh (W H) O’Connor was born at Coolnageragh, Castleisland on 19 December 1878, son of Hugh William O’Connor and Ellen Hickey of Meenleitrim.[2]  W H was the eldest of a large family, nearly all of whom emigrated in their youth.[3]  His forebears on both sides were of the farming class, their roots embedded in Kerry.[4]


Coolnageragh, like so many places in Ireland, had suffered under the regime of landlordism, as recalled by John Roche, Chairman of Castleisland District Heritage:


My great grandfather, Maurice Roche, was evicted from Coolnagearagh during the Famine for refusing to sell a mare to the landlord.  When he informed the landlord his family had lived there for generations, he was told, ‘If you’re there that long, it’s time to get out.’  Eviction followed, and he died of the fever on Christmas Eve 1848.  At that time, my grandfather was the youngest of nine, aged four.


In 1885, six head of cattle belonging to Brinsley C Fitzgerald, were stolen from an evicted farm at Coolnageragh, property of Henry Arthur Herbert Esq, Muckross.  A party of police later made a minute search of the district and in the townland of Anna, found much concealed meat in outhouses and under the ground.[5]  At some period during this land agitation, Hugh William O’Connor left his farm at Coolnageragh as a protest against landlordism.


He took up residence above a shop in Castleisland ‘over the shop owned by Dan O’Callaghan, now in possession of D J Browne’, his father later acquiring a shop ‘in the place where W D Harrington has a victualing business at present.’[6]


W H attended instruction with Sister Ita at the Presentation Convent, Castleisland and also studied at a private school in Castleisland run by John O’Loughlin McGuinness ‘held in the house of Jer Andy next to the Crown Hotel.’  In addition he received education at Scartaglin National School.  He excelled at mathematics, and composed verse:


I love old Ireland, its every highland,
But I love Castleisland, far more than all;
I love its valleys, its shady alleys,
Its men who rally at every call.


And beyond measure, I fondly treasure,
Its every pleasure, each inch of ground:
Its salutation to all the nation,
No degradation shall here be found.


W H failed to gain entry to the Civil Service, and in 1899, decided to go to South Africa.  He joined the Cape Mounted Police in Rhodesia, returning to Ireland in January 1902.  He was unable to find work in Ireland and returned to South Africa at the end of the year where he took a job as a bricklayer, before taking up his first mechanical job in a mine.  He made sufficient money to embark on house-building, then in demand.


In March 1905 in Kimberley, W H married Julia Blennerhasset of Farmer’s Bridge near Tralee, who he had met in Africa.[7]  Later in this year, on 3 December 1905, W H’s father died.[8]


Nellie, W H’s eldest child (of twelve) was born in South Africa in 1906.[9]  In 1907, Julia returned to Coolnageragh with her daughter where she remained until joined by her husband later that year.  On his return, he purchased his brother Michael’s half share of the farm (Michael having entered the Presentation Brothers) and built a family home.  W H returned to South Africa for a third time in 1909 to settle up his property there.


W H O’Connor and Julia with their twelve children; photo courtesy Mikey O’Connor, grandson of W H O’Connor.  Sons Joe and Hugh are in the back row, Liam in the third, and Sean seated at the front.  The daughters, Nellie, Kathleen, Maureen, Norrie, Frances (Frank), Patricia, Peggy and Shelia are incompletely (and cautiously) identified as Maureen (2nd row 1st left), Patricia (3rd row, 1st left), Sheila (3rd row, far left) and Frankie (seated at front)


Business and Community Life in Castleisland


‘My motto is economy with efficiency’


In 1910, W H, now a member of the Rural District Council, proposed a Carnegie Library for the town at an RDC meeting.  He moved that the town be adopted under the Libraries (Ireland) Act, pointing out the convenient central situation of the town, funds available to pay for books and a librarian, and the number of people in Castleisland who had already offered a free site.  His motion was greeted with ridicule:


Mr Counihan: If Castleisland is such a central place why was not the workhouse built out there
Mr C Mahony: Scartaglin should get the library
Mr Counihan: If the centre is not in Tralee I propose that it be out at Glanagalt
Mr M J O’Sullivan: You want to get a free grant from Mr Carnegie?
Mr Counihan: You have no chance of that.  You might as well try and move a planet
Mr W H O’Connor: You are acting a proper dog in the manger today
Mr Counihan: They have reading enough in Castleisland
Mr R O’Mahony: There is too much education altogether in Castleisland
Mr Counihan: They have too much learning in Castleisland


W H had the last laugh, however, for the following year he publicly thanked Mr Andrew Carnegie for his generosity in handing over £1,500 for the construction of a library in Castleisland and confirmed that Mr M R Leeson-Marshall had given the site ‘between the two roads out of Castleisland.’[10]


W H stood as candidate for the County Council elections in 1911.  At a public meeting in Brosna, he was introduced as a man who had acted independently in the interests of the labourers and ratepayers to serve their interests.  Thanking those present for their enthusiastic reception, W H said:


I have come forward as a candidate in response to a requisition spontaneously signed by nearly 300 of the most influential and representative of the electors.  I was not anxious for the position.  I am not anxious for the sake of the position but it would be my greatest pride if I could be of any use or assistance whatever to the people whom I live amongst.  I do not look for honour or glory or place or power, I come forward in response to your appeal, an humble individual ready to give his energies and his abilities to your service.[11]


He spoke about his role on the RDC:


I have at all times tried to bear in mind that my duty was to assist the poor, to show fair-play and justice to the labouring class, and to keep a watchful eye on extravagance, and to try to keep the rates within reasonable bounds.  It is not the trivial amount given in relief to a poor deserving old person that swells the burden of your taxation so much as the hundreds of pounds increases granted to the high-salaried officials and the thousands otherwise extravagantly spent.[12]


Property and Business Interests in Castleisland


W H purchased a house and drapery business on Lower Main Street, Castleisland known as the Fountain Warehouse, and The Fountain Bar, opposite the old Market House and water fountain. The Fountain Bar & General Warehouse was up and running in 1916.


The Fountain Bar & General Warehouse, site of today’s Kingdom House (centre)


Brother Francis recalled:


There was, and is, a shed in the yard at the rear of the old Fountain Bar where he installed some primitive machinery of a primitive type and bought up corn of any variety and every variety.  They were mixed up, ground and sold to farmers as concentrated feeding stuff … He travelled far in search of supply even Belfast and the food produced might be called his first real attempt at milling.


In 1918, W H purchased the Castleisland flour mill to grind maize (Indian meal).  The property, built by Lord Ventry in 1846, was derelict.[13]  Brother Francis described how work began with carpenter James Tangney repairing and transforming the structure, ‘years of neglect had eaten into the building and machinery.’[14]


The quality of flour from the mill was remarked on by ‘Specs’ (Liam Brosnan, Close Cottage):


Last week I saw a good quantity of home grown wheat ground at the Castleisland Mills for a merchant in the town, splendid looking whole flour and doubtless wholesomer to a degree than the best imported flour.  This is a step in the right direction … the secrets of national prosperity are more production, more export.  It is now a far cry to the time when a big population found employment on the land and when the land supplied practically all the wants of the people.[15]


Aspects of Rhyno Mills: In 1928 (centre) and in recent times


In November 1927, Specs reported that ‘with characteristic enterprise, Mr W H O’Connor is preparing to start in the immediate future a bit of pork industry which no doubt will grow to be a great business of immense benefit to the town’:


It would mean employment and feeding our people, for we have been starving in the middle of plenty as far as this delicious and nutritive meat is concerned … of course W H will not draw the line at milling now, when the moment is opportune for other projects essential to this good old town and its big, rich and populous district.[16]


Brother Francis remarked on W H’s pig-feed product, ‘Rhyno’:


His formula for the manufacture of ‘Rhyno’ was his own.  It was, and has been successful.   … Could his spirit revisit the scene today, it would be surprised at the many changes; the many improvements effected; the many additions to the nucleus round which everything has grown – the old mill!


‘Rhyno’ would ‘revolutionise old-fashioned cast-iron ideas on pig feeding’:


The old-fashioned style of pig-feeding suited well enough in days gone by when pigs were allowed to run for most part of a year before being housed for fattening.  Nowadays pigs require to be finished at from four to six months and consequently require from the start a correctly balanced ration properly mineralised in order to produce weight and quality … Rhyno claims to do all this.  In short, Rhyno for pigs means plenty of profit for the pig feeders.[17]


As an aside, on November 10 1930, ‘Seldom Led,’ a greyhound reared by Daniel Daly of Kilfalney, Currans won the Trafalgar Cup, Wembley’s event for puppies.  He attributed the success of the dog to the fact that it was fed as a puppy on Rhyno pig feed manufactured in Castleisland.


Versatile: Rhyno Pig Feed, patented by W H O’Connor.  In the centre, ‘A Pig Fair in Ireland on a Wet Day’ (1895) drawn by Charles Joseph Staniland (1838-1916), Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RI), during a month long excursion to Ireland.  An observant journalist for the Kerry Evening Post (21 September 1895) wrote: ‘A Pig Fair will be readily recognised as Castleisland Fair.  It will be remembered that Mr T W Russell MP accompanied by Mr Staniland, visited Kerry and made Pound Lane, Castleisland, famous, their impressions having been published in a series of letters and sketches in the Daily Graphic’


Political Life


In politics, W H was identified with the Sinn Fein movement. He was chairman of the Castleisland Volunteers in 1914 and in 1920 became one of the first local judges of the Republican Castleisland Arbitration Court.[18]


On 8 May 1921, two RIC men, Head Constable William K Storey and Sergeant James Butler were shot by the IRA, the former fatally, as they left mass in Saints Stephen and John Church in Castleisland.  Sgt Butler later died from his wounds.[19]  During the afternoon of the same day, lorries carrying Crown forces visited the town in reprisal, burning five houses, including the Fountain Bar and General Warehouse, to which a banner was appended, ‘God Save our King.’[20]


The family took refuge at Coolnageragh and later Artane House, Dublin, where they lived for some years, working in the drapery business.   The following item appeared in 1925:


Amongst the claims submitted for compensation for damages sustained in connection with the late explosion at the Masterpiece Theatre, Talbot Street, Dublin, we find the name of Mr W H O’Connor down for £600.  Many persons would not recognise in this the name of a prominent citizen of Castleisland, who, with characteristic enterprise, opened a large drapery establishment in Talbot Street, Dublin, now some time ago.  As proprietor of the Castleisland Mills, and the splendid drapery and general business premises in the same town, recently rebuilt on a truly lavish and imposing scale after destruction by the Black and Tans, Mr O’Connor is well and favourably known throughout Kerry and indeed a great part of the South of Ireland.[21]


Back in Business in Castleisland Town


The rebuilt Fountain Bar and General Warehouse, a three storey 12 bedroom building with drapery and grocery business beneath and a small lounge bar preserving the old name The Fountain Bar, was renamed The Kingdom House.


Destroyed: The Ruined Fountain Bar and General Warehouse (left), rebuilt as The Kingdom House


At the end of 1925, it was observed that it had ‘eminently earned its apt appellation’:


I often wonder if the people in the surrounding districts realise the good value that they are able to obtain in Castleisland, when compared with the prices that are charged for the same goods elsewhere … If all the merchants of Castleisland would but advertise their goods regularly I am sure that as in the case of The Kingdom House and The House of Progress, we would have a big influx of people from districts far away to secure some of the bargains we are at all times offering.[22]


Undeterred: Advertisement for The Kingdom House in 1926, serving the people of Castleisland and beyond


W H O’Connor continued in business in the decades that followed, speaking out on the rights of the labouring class.  Throughout the 1930s, he was vocal on the interests of pig breeders. He opposed the provisions of the Pigs and Bacon Bill on the grounds that the producers had no representation at all on the Pigs Marketing Board, and at the Dairy Congress in February 1937, he gave his views on pig production in the Free State.


He advocated the establishment of a Swine Research Laboratory at which pig ailments could be studied in a proper manner and suggested that the Pig Producers’ and Feeders’ Association was entitled to representation on the Pig Marketing Board.[23]


It was in the 1930s that his son, Joe O’Connor, who played rugby for Castleisland and University College Cork, was selected to play in the Ireland vs Scotland International Rugby match in Dublin on 1 April 1933.[24]  ‘Town loyalty was well evidenced in distant Castleisland’:


It is the birthplace of Joe O’Connor, the newly-capped Irish Rugby International left wing, who played his first game for Ireland on Saturday last.  In honour of the great occasion, and to see their young hero in action quite a number of the townsfolk – men and women – left Castleisland some time on Friday last to make the long journey by car to Dublin to see ‘their Joe’ in action at Lansdowne Road.[25]


Joe O’Connor dashes for the line in a local match in March 1933 (centre) shortly before playing for Ireland in April.  The earlier scheduled date, Saturday 25 February 1933, was postponed after a blizzard delayed the Scottish team and covered the pitch with six inches of snow


W H continued to be vocal on local affairs into the 1940s.  He spoke in favour of Fenit Pier in 1946, stressing the necessity for a direct road route to the pier and the need for ships of heavier tonnage to be allowed to berth there.


W H O’Connor died from a heart attack on 1 January 1949 soon after celebrating his 70th birthday.[26] The following is taken from an obituary published in the Kerryman, a medium for his numerous business advertisements over the years:


The late Mr O’Connor farmed extensively, and built up for himself a solid reputation as a keen business man and a practical and successful farmer.  Locally, he enjoyed the reputation of being an authority on farming methods, and on a national scale he made his Rhyno Mills products for balanced rations in animal feeding-stuffs known to the pig and fowl rearing communities.  Always to the fore in the advancement of his native town, the late Mr O’Connor showed enthusiasm and perception in sponsoring and supporting local movements calculated to help his fellow citizens.  His sound judgment and kindly advice were ever at the service of those who needed them.[27]


He was laid to rest in New Kilbannivane Cemetery.


Brother Francis – Michael Joseph O’Connor


Brother Francis, otherwise Michael Joseph O’Connor, author of the biographical manuscript of his brother, William Hugh, was born at Coolnageragh on 20 September 1883.  He joined the Presentation Order in June 1905.  He had an interest in history and published a study of Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Sisters.   He celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his profession on Christmas Eve 1961.  He died at St Kevin’s Nursing Home, Cork on 24 January 1965 in his 82nd year.  An obituary outlined his productive life:


Brother Francis O’Connor was a native of Castleisland, Co Kerry.  He had spent more than fifty-six years in the Presentation Brothers.  Having completed his studies, Brother Francis went to England.  He returned to Ireland in 1914 and afterwards taught in Killarney, Milltown, Birr and Greenmount.  He retired from teaching in the early 1940s[28] and spent the last eleven years of his life in the South Monastery, Douglas Street, Cork.  During a long life he read widely and frequently contributed sporting or historical articles to the press.  Almost up to his last illness, which lasted only two days, he was a keen student of history and an ardent follower of games.[29]


Another obituary acknowledged the contribution of his family to the commercial and sporting life of Castleisland:


Brother Francis was the oldest surviving member of a numerous Kerry clan.  Brother of the late W H O’Connor, Kingdom House, and Cornelius H O’Connor, Coolnageragh, he had many relatives in his native district who play a prominent part in the social and commercial life of East Kerry.  The Kingdom House family were prominent in the rugby field.  His nephew, Joe O’Connor BE, is the Irish international of the early thirties.  His brother Liam was an inter-provincial, and two other brothers – Hugh and Sean – played for Castleisland and were always consistent supporters of the local rugby club.  Brother Francis was a regular contributor to the Cork Examiner and Evening Echo, writing on ancient Cork in the days when it was a walled city, and on many other subjects, including rugby, fishing, shooting, poetry and historical research.[30]


Brother Francis was laid to rest in the Community Graveyard at Mount St Joseph’s, Cork.[31]


[1] The unpublished typed manuscript is in the ownership of the family.  A small number of pages are held by Castleisland District Heritage, ref IE CDH 128.

[2] W H O’Connor’s baptism record at Irish Genealogy records his birth at Castleisland on 19 December 1878, father Hugh O’Connor of ‘Coolnagare,’ mother Helen Hickey.  Hugh William O’Connor of Coolnageragh and his sister, Ellen O’Connor (who married Dan Horgan, Kilcummin and had one daughter, Mrs Mary Ellen Groves) were the children of William O’Connor of Coolnageragh and Mary Russell, Clounclough, Currow. 

[3] The siblings of William Hugh O’Connor were: Minnie born 1880, married John Scannell of Knockane in 1908 and lived for about six years at Clounagh, Glounsharoon, Castleisland.  Emigrated in 1915 and settled in Arkansas.  Four children in California, William, Hugh, Nellie (Mrs Wagner / Mrs Cromer) Mary (Mrs Sands), who died of fever in childbirth 22 July 1924 in Arkansas USA, baby also died.  John born 1881 went to California then South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands returned to Australia all trace of him disappeared, died there presumed unknown date, last contact a card in 1919.  Michael Joseph (1883-1965) Brother Francis of the Presentation Brothers Cork.  Cornelius (twin) born 1886 remained at the homestead, Coolnageragh.  Married Norah H Crowley, Mountfalvey, Scartaglin and had six children (Bessie May died as child; Hugh of Ballygree (m McSweeney Kilsarcon) four children; Anne, Dan, Con, Sheila; Nellie married Tom Brosnan Knockanban, four sons Timmy Con Liam Austin; Cornelius (Frank) married Rita Egan Cork six sons Con, Eugene, Frank, Kenneth, Bryan, Gerard; Maureen married Jack O’Connor Knockeen, five children Norah, Sheila, Marian, Michael, Patricia; Liam married Joan O’Connor Dromulton.  Four children Con, Liam, Norah, Hugh William).  Cornelius H O’Connor died 25 November 1960.  Hugh (twin) born 1886 died as infant 1887.  Hugh born 1887 emigrated to South Africa, then to Australia accidentally drowned in 1909 in Waihuka Valley, while bathing in a pool near railway construction camp where he was working. James born 1890, emigrated to California in 1914 died there unmarried 16 April 1949.  Catherine ‘Kattie’ Mary O’Connor born 1892 went to America with her sister Eileen in 1914, lives at Tacoma, Washington.  Married McKinley Hobart Wood, postmaster of Tacoma, died 7 December 1980 at Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina.  Helen ‘Eileen’ O’Connor born 1895 emigrated in 1914.  Married James Kaneen of New York.  Died at Montgomery, Pennsylvania, in June 1979.

[4] The following extract is taken from his brother’s unpublished memoir: ‘On his father’s side related to the Russells of Clounclough, Currow and on his mother’s to the Tuomeys of Tralee, Enrights of Listowel, Guineys of Knocknaclarig, Brosna, Brosnans of Close, Kerins of Scartaglin, Horans of Carhue, Husseys of Ballygree, Walshs of Cordal, Griffins of Ballyplymouth Cordal and Downeys of Brosna.  All his forebears were of the farming class on both sides.’ 

[5] Account in full, Kerry Evening Post, 9 September 1885.

[6] The former property mentioned here was located at Lower Main Street/Killarney Road and the latter in Church Street.

[7] See detailed study of the Blennerhassett family by Bill Jehan.  Julia was born in 1878, her marriage taking place at St Augustine’s RC Church, Beaconsfield (Kimberley) on 2 March 1905.  She died on 10 March 1967 and was buried at Kilbannivane Cemetery (Pembroke), Castleisland. 

[8] At a meeting of the Scartaglin branch of the United Irish League on 17 December 1905, a resolution was passed ‘amid deep silence’ to record sorrow and regret at the death of Mr Hugh William O’Connor.

[9] The other children of the family after Nellie (Mrs George McNiece) were Hugh, Maureen, Kathleen, Joe, Peggy, Norrie, Sheila, Liam, Patricia, Sean and Francis (Frank).  Their genealogy is given in Appendix B and beginning of Appendix C of the unpublished manuscript.

[10] Messrs C K Brosnan, W H O’Connor and Bryan O’Connor of Castleisland formed a committee and plans were made to get the construction underway.  The architect was Rudolf Maximilian Butler and the tender of contractor James O’Connor in the sum of £1,451.4s.7d was accepted.  The contractor was shown over the site on 11 August 1913, and work began.

Two years later, the council sought a caretaker/librarian at a salary of £12 per annum and the following year, 1916, the building was furnished.  Its history since that date is now a matter of record.  Today, the building is utilised as modern office space under the management of Castleisland Chamber Alliance, who in March 2021 unveiled a portrait of William Hugh O’Connor, courtesy Paudie O’Connor, Rhyno Mills, in recognition of this enterprising Kerryman. 

[11] Kerry News, 17 May 1911.

[12] Ibid. ‘I have interested myself on the question of a Carnegie Library for the districts embraced in the Castleisland division.  It has been the only occasion in recent years where the spending of a sum of money was diverted from Tralee and brought into the Castleisland district.  Three years ago a rate of ½ d in the £ was levied over the Tralee Rural District for the purpose of the Libraries Acts.  That money was collected every year, and allowed to lie idle in the bank.  I thought that we at this side of the county might as well have the benefit of it as anyone else, and our proposal for the establishment of a Free Library in Castleisland, with circulating libraries to be established in connection with it in every National School in the Castleisland county division, was carried after a battle of three or four rounds with the North Kerry members … I am in favour of and will strongly support the establishment of a National Civil Service … It is a disgrace that at the present time no man, no matter what talents he may possess, unless he has his pocket well lined with cash or mighty influence at his back, can aspire to a public position in our county … My motto is economy with efficiency … I will help in any way I can the Language Revival Movement, the Irish Industrial Movement.’

[13] In 1898, ‘The Castleisland Mills’ owned by Redmond Roche Esq and ‘held under lease dated 18 June 1873 made by the present Lord Baron Ventry to Redmond Roche, Deceased, for the term of 98 years from the 25th March 1873’ was advertised for sale.  The four storey old-established mill with ‘four pairs of stones’ on 8 acres ‘will be kept at work until the completion of this sale’ (details of sale in Kerry Evening Post, 4 June 1898).   In August 1912, an extensive sale of machinery at ‘Roche’s Mills’ was advertised (details of sale in Kerry News, 9 August 1912).  

[14] Brother Francis describes opposition from Tralee merchants.  In the Kerryman (3 July 1920), a columnist observed that ‘a combine of Tralee merchants kept the Castleisland mill idle for many years, a result that was achieved by the simple process of buying the mill and machinery.’

[15] Kerry Reporter, 24 September 1927.  Specs later wrote, ‘Our milling lies very near the roots of our economic life and the decay of that industry is one of the saddest chapters in our history’ (Kerry Reporter, 27 August 1932).  More information on Specs at this link

[16] Kerryman, 5 November 1927.

[17] Kerryman, 26 January 1929.  In 2022, McDonnell Brothers, Cork purchased Rhyno Mills, 'operated in Castleisland since 1926 by the O’Connor family who are now retiring from the business’ (Irish Farmers Journal, 2 February 2022).  It is worth noting that W H O’Connor had business interests in Cork; in 1935, he purchased a farm at Commeen House, Carrigaline, Cork.

[18] The following, which gives some background on Arbitration Courts of this period, is taken from Evidence on Conditions in Ireland Comprising the Complete Testimony, Affidavits and Exhibits Presented before The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland (1921).  It would appear the courts were held openly for about six months until the beginning of summer 1920: ‘These  courts,  when  they  first  began,  as  far  as  I  know the  British  Government  made  no  objection  to  them.  I  think  they thought  they  were  a  kind  of  little  amusement  for  the  Sinn  Feiners, and that they  would never attain any serious proportions.  But, as a matter of fact, they were taken up with great favor by the Irish people, for the Irish people have a great love for law.  These new courts were taken up with very great favor because there is no red tape to them.  The courts, of course, were instituted by the Republican Government.  They had their elections to the courts.  The amazing thing about these courts was that the British people who came over were very much struck by the way the people accepted these courts and accepted their decisions almost in all cases.  Mrs. Swanwick made the comment that she had never seen nor heard of any case of government by consent  like the government of Ireland by the Dail at the present time … They used to meet in a public hall or  room, and it was quite open … when  these  courts  became  very  popular,  then the  British  Government  tried  to  suppress  them.  All over the country they were suppressed … Now they are driven underground, and hold their sessions in all sorts of places, wherever they can get a room.’

[19] An account of the affair, ‘Why I traced the man whose ancestor’s death led the Tans to burn my grandmother’s home’ by Donal O’Donovan, Business Editor of the Irish Independent, was published in that journal’s Review on 29 May 2021.  Donal O’Donovan is great grandson of W H O’Connor through his grandmother Kathleen, daughter of W H O’Connor, who was aged ten at the time of the incident.

Brother Francis was a Headmaster in the Presentation Brothers Cork when Mrs Storey, widow, and two sons, were enrolled in the school.  Rumours circulated that the boys were sons of a Black and Tan and the upset caused the family to move on again.  It is suggested that the incident caused Brother Francis to pen a clear and compassionate account of his view of Ireland and its rejection of families like the Storeys, ‘caught between two fires.’ 

[20] ‘Another was added by my grand-uncle, "God Save our House".' (Ref: Brother Francis, unpublished manuscript).  Other buildings burned were J Reidy [Jack Bolden Reidy, now Lynch’s Pharmacy], Maurice Fleming, Ellen McGillicuddy and the Market Bar.  The farmhouse of John Griffin, Cahirnard, whose pub had been commandeered months earlier, was also burned.

[21] Kerryman, 12 December 1925.

[22] Kerryman, 19 December 1925.  ‘The popular proprietor studies the requirements of the public and stocks everything in drapery, millinery, boots, beds, bedding, and all-wool Irish manufactured blankets of all sizes at prices that defy competition.  His commodious well-laid out premises can compare favourably with city houses’ (Liberator Tralee, 17 December 1929).  The Kingdom House, much changed and now a bed and breakfast hotel with a ‘Fountain Bar’ installed beneath, was sold out of the family circa 1984.

[23] Later that year, in June, speaking at a meeting of the Saorstat Pig Breeders’ and Feeders’ Association at Ballsbridge, he reiterated the urgent need for a veterinary research laboratory in An Saorstat to deal with animal health and disease in livestock. 

[24] A report of the game in the Limerick Leader, 8 April 1933, stated ‘Joe O’Connor did nothing wrong, he banged the ball away up in the air with a high kick in approved Munster Cup fashion.’

[25] Irish Press, 5 April 1933.  ‘Unfortunately, he saw very little of the ball in the course of the game and so was denied the opportunities to show his prowess.’

[26] Thanks extended to Martine Brennan for genealogy records.

[27] Obituary, Kerryman, 8 January 1949, ‘Leading Business Man’s Death in Castleisland.’ Obituary in full: ‘The death occurred on Saturday last of Mr W H O’Connor, Kingdom House, Castleisland, prominent Kerry business man and founder of the firm of W H O’Connor Ltd, well-known millers, drapers and general merchants.  Born at Coolnagragh [sic], Castleisland seventy years ago, deceased spent his early years in South Africa.  On his return to Ireland, he became prominently identified with the Sinn Fein movement, being one of the first local Judges in the Republican Courts.  His national activities brought him into disfavour with the British authorities, and his dwelling house and business premises were destroyed by British forces in 1921.  Proprietor of a large drapery and general business as well as the Rhyno Mills, Castleisland, the late Mr O’Connor farmed extensively, and built up for himself a solid reputation as a keen business man and a practical and successful farmer.  Locally, he enjoyed the reputation of being an authority on farming methods, and on a national scale he made his Rhyno Mills products for balanced rations in animal feeding-stuffs known to the pig and fowl rearing communities.  Always to the fore in the advancement of his native town, the late Mr O’Connor showed enthusiasm and perception in sponsoring and supporting local movements calculated to help his fellow citizens.  His sound judgment and kindly advice were ever at the service of those who needed them.  Deceased is survived by his widow and eleven children, one of whom is the well-known international rugby footballer, Mr Joe O’Connor.  A great tribute to the deceased was paid by the people of East Kerry, particularly, and the rest of the county generally, when the funeral took place on Tuesday to New Kilbannivane.  Rev J Enright, CC, Castleisland, assisted by Rev R Walsh, CC, do. Rev B Horan, Tucson, and Rev D Walsh, Killeentierna, officiated at the graveside.  The chief mourners were Mrs Julia O’Connor (widow); Hugh, Joseph, Liam and Sean (sons); Mrs G McNeice, Mrs J O’Donovan, Mrs K Jehon [Jehan], Mrs T O’Halloran, Mrs J Bryant, Misses Maureen, Patricia, and Frances (daughters); Rev Bro Francis O’Connor and C O’Connor (brothers); G McNeice, J O’Donovan, K Jehon [Jehan], T O’Halloran, and J Bryant (sons-in-law); Mrs H O’Connor, Mrs J O’Connor, and Mrs L O’Connor (daughters-in-law).

[28] ‘Departing from Kinsale after a number of years among us, Rev Brother Francis O’Connor carries with him the good wishes of the townsfolk and a large circle of friends.  A native of Castleisland, Co Kerry, Brother Francis is a man of many interests and hobbies’ (Kerryman, 13 September 1947).

[29] Irish Examiner, 25 January 1965.  Brother Francis seems to have contributed to the Cork Weekly Examiner and Hollybough in 1935. 

[30] Irish Examiner, 26 January 1965. 

[31] ‘There was a large attendance at Mount St Joseph’s, Blarney Road, Cork yesterday to pay final tribute to Brother Francis O’Connor, a member of the Presentation Order for 56 years.  He was laid to rest in the Community graveyard at Mount St Joseph’s.  Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated by Rev P Cahalane, CC, Gurranabraher, deacon, Rev M Murphy CM, St Vincent’s, Sunday’s Well; sub-deacon, Rev W Burke, CC Blackpool  The chief mourners included Mr and Mrs T Brosnan, Mr and Mrs J O’Connor, Mr and Mrs G McNiece, Miss M O’Connor, Mr and Mrs J O’Donovan, Mr and Mrs K Jehan, Mr and Mrs T O’Halloran, Mr and Mrs S Bryant, Mr and Mrs P Hannon, Mrs F Kelleher, Mr and Mrs F O’Connor, Mr and Mrs W O’Connor, Mr and Mrs H O’Connor, Mr and Mrs J O’Connor, Mr and Mrs H O’Connor, Mr and Mrs L O’Connor and Mr and Mrs S O’Connor (nephews and nieces).’  Funeral report in full, Irish Examiner, 27 January 1965.