Soon after leaving school, in 1946 two determined nineteen-year old women, raised on a diet of music, were offered life-changing opportunities to study opera singing in Milan. When my late mother [Kathryn O’Reilly, nee Byrne http://wp.me/p15Yzr-k7] asked her brothers for the £200 she needed to fund her studies they took the wind out of her sail, fretting over the amorous intentions of Italian men and the dangers of a young woman travelling to a newly formed Republic of Italy still numbed and severely damaged by war. Presumably, as was commonplace for a well brought up Irish woman at that time, she was expected to stay at home and wait for the ideal future husband to come along.
A pivotal moment for my mother, given that the second lady sold her pony and went on to become Ireland’s ‘Grande Dame’ of singing – singing alongside such talents as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, and teaching nearly every major Irish singer to have come out of Ireland.
My mother and her lifelong “sister” friend Dr. Veronica Dunne (“Auntie Ronnie”) were born within a day of each other, Ronnie arriving on August 2nd 1927… 90 years ago.
Last night, the Dublin Choral Foundation in tribute presented a “Happy 90th Birthday, Ronnie” gala operatic concert at the National Concert Hall (NCH), featuring current and former students including opera stars Celine Byrne, Miriam Murphy, Tara Erraught, YoungWoo Kim and pianist John O’Conor.
As Simon Taylor, tribute host and CEO of the National Concert Hall, noted it was probably one of the greatest operatic celebrations ever witnessed at the NCH. A fitting tribute to Ireland’s most glamourous and outstanding music talent.
Where words come to nothing so music persuades. What a thrilling and emotional night it was, truly unforgettable. Happy Birthday Auntie Ronnie!
46 years ago today I remember looking up from the kitchen window, the stepping (why did he always walk that way to work, or was it just this morning?) over the wire holding up the tennis court net (it must have been nice weather because it was unusual for the grass tennis court net to be set up so early), the walking stick, the wave by Mum and I from the kitchen, his cheerful smile… Then I remember being in our next door neighbour’s — the Breen’s — house, their formal drawing room, which we were always forbidden from playing in, the gilt-painted chairs and chaise longe. All so surreal. The three of them looking at me. Poor Mum in the middle. The story that I didn’t really understand about Dad going to see “holy god” and “heaven”.
May 10th arrived, Blackrock Church, the cemetery Deansgrange… I can’t remember my unilateral placing of a red rose on his coffin.
There were so many people… they all seemed to want to distract blond and blue-eyed me..
Why so many people?
Where was he?
That big box they were lowering into the hole in the ground.
The Study (a room in our house Avoca Lodge) was so crowded with grown-ups.
I overheard stories about an afternoon tea of chicken sandwiches at a New Ireland Assurance Board of Directors meeting, a chicken bone, a traffic jam, a hospital called Meath and 4.15pm… the time he suddenly met his maker.
My favourite beverage Schweppes bitter lemon …… laced… the first time I tasted alcohol (someone else’s drink or a well-meaning prank by one of my brothers?)…everything became hazy and very numb…
None of my teachers in either St Michael’s College or The Oratory School knew or cared about the anguish within. I was asleep, anaesthetised, numb…for eight years…. Perhaps quiet Niall was always like that… maybe not quite the full shilling.
I was about 19 when I awoke from the haze thanks to an amazing duo: Dr. Stephen Barcroft and Senator Maurice Rickard O’Connell (The great great grandson of Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator“). They cared, they understood, and they were both hugely influential in opening my eyes to the world.
… The trauma each one of my father’s sons and his wife had to bear alone in our own silence: Unmerited, totally.
All because of a chicken bone. What a waste?
Liam Sean O’Reilly (26th March 1913 – 8th May 1973), son of Dr. Michael William (deceased 21st November 1971) and Catherine “Cathleen” Mary O’Reilly (deceased 5th July 1957), a son of Synge Street CBS and Clongowes Wood College (1928 – 1931),my father, RIP.
My father died on the 112th anniversary of the birth of soon to be canonised Blessed John Sullivan SJ (8 May 1861 -19 February 1933), who in his role as spiritual director of Clongowes Wood College spent most of his life as a Jesuit at the school. Known for his virtue, goodness, and holiness Fr Sullivan had a great desire to bring out the best in the boys. Unmistakable from my father’s refined and honourable character, Fr John’s influence as a role model and mentor is a legacy I continue to stand by every day.
As the ‘International Year of the Child’ draws to a close we find it disturbing that the plight of millions of children working in slave labour conditions has received minimal publicity. The following is the story of some of them.
Like many other ill informed travelers – knowing a little but not enough – I had a certain impression of South America, a land of rhythmic music, colour, gaiety and an almost permanent fiesta. – Yes, I knew there was great poverty, but there isn’t a country to-day without it.
Among the many places in South America I visited Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, with a population of 5,000,000 (five million) people, at an altitude of 8,612 feet, lies almost permanently in a drifting web of clouds, fortress like. Beneath the clouds, however, lies a cosmopolitan city of amazing contrasts both in people and ways of life. The clever modern architecture blends graciously with the old, unbelievable wealth – mostly gained from great mineral resources, and illicit wealth, which is not spoken of, fueled by the drug trade and illegal emerald racketeering.
If the wealth and prosperity of a country portrays itself in the way it treats its underprivileged children – then Bogotá should bow its head in shame.
In Bogotá one sees the sickening contrast of the ultimate in opulence next door to the most desperate poverty – I speak of the slum dwellings on the slopes of the Andes “Resotration” which sprawl down the hillsides overlooking the city’s northern shopping centre. These dwellings are make from stolen bricks, cardboard, sheets of plastic, pieces of wood and disused petrol drums – anything that substitutes for four walls – at any moment the bulldozer can come, sent at a whim by a local landowner or government official. When the rains come they are more often than not washed away.
Bewildered prematurely aged women in the squatter settlements migrate from slow starvation in the countryside, like so many desperate ‘Dick Whittingtons’, hopeful that the city can offer more than their rural life. They bear too many children: In Bogotá the infant mortality rate is said to be 60 per 1,000 live births, while many of those born will die of disease, malnutrition and lack of medicine. For example, last August, in just one Bogotá maternity clinic a lack of medicine resulted in the deaths of 93 babies. Girls, with poor young mothers facing intense peer pressure from husbands and relatives desiring the survival of sons over daughters, are particularly at risk. Moreover, a cultural inclination for the dilution of milk bottles, which invariably are contaminated, over breast-feeding further fuels the risk of malnutrition and disease.
Volunteer workers find that the most common objections to birth control are social ones, not religious, deriving from the male’s excessive concern with ‘machismo’. From this wretched background the wandering homeless urchins street children – the gamines[in Espanola pronounced (gah MEE nays)] are bred, left to fend for themselves on the pitiless streets of Bogotá.
[Blog Note: In 1978, according to Page 272 of “Gamines: how to adopt from Latin America” [by Jean Nelson-Erichsen and Heino R. Erichsen (1981)], there were 130,000 gamines were living on the streets of Colombia’s cities.]
The children, as young as six years old, are sent out onto the streets by their mother or father or whatever where they compete with the vultures in their daily quest for food among the city’s refuse bins. Ill clad in their torn shirts and pants – often with no shoes, sometimes straw slippers, they form packs, sleeping on quiet streets, in doorways, in local parks and under bridges. It is a well know fact that they can strip a car down to the chassis in five minutes flat. They are fast on their feet, so fast the police seldom catch them – more often than not the police turn a blind eye. Girls of thirteen become prostitutes, their faces reflecting the hopelessness of their lives. Even children earning ₤1 per week down the treacherous coal mines are considered lucky.
Three years ago, when the Pope visited Bogotá the government sent military trucks on to the streets to pick up the gamines, keeping them in the mountains until His Holiness had left, for fear that he would see them or that their plight would be brought to his attention.
To walk on the streets of Bogotá wear even a wrist watch is not just hazardous, it’s crazy. The gamines would pull it off your arm, and if it didn’t come your wrist would be at stake. The same fate applies to handbags or any kind of jewellery.
The Casa de las Menores is a kind of remand home where boys picked up from the streets were sent. They may have committed some small crime or be guilty of the crime of illegitimacy and abandonment, unwanted orphans without any identification papers. Many boys are crammed into limited accommodation, and, certainly in the past, gruesome offences have been committed by the stronger against the weaker.
I heard of a Christmas party given by some social workers for these children. When the children saw the food they went crazy, knocked over the tables and ate like animals. They paid for this misdemeanour by being flogged with thongs by the wardens who accompanied them.
I have been told that the authorities are doing “something” – but “something” is not enough. There are now a number of volunteer projects in motion – Colombian and American teenagers are dynamic in the work that they do for these waifs – but it is only the tip of the iceberg. A complete change in social attitudes is not only necessary but vital if the smouldering discontent is not to erupt into a volcano of violence that the lethargic authorities will be unable to control.
And what of us safely ensconced in the faraway ‘developed’ worlds of Europe and America? What responsibility do our affluent societies bear for the prevalence and maltreatment of Bogotá’s disposable street children? It is clear to me that with Columbia’s drug trafficking cartels seeking to cash in on growing demand in our world for the highly addictive cocaine, more and more the true cost, the victims, of such demand will be the Gamines, the throwaway children.
This article was posted in the Irish Women’s Political Association (WPA) Journal No 14, Winter 1979. It was written by my late mother Kathryn O’Reillyhttp://wp.me/p15Yzr-k7 (or Catherine O’Reilly as attributed by the journal’s editor) who had recently returned from an extraordinary journey to Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela as guests of great personal friends the British Ambassador to Ecuador (John and Jenny Hickman) and the British Ambassador to Venezuela (Jock and Molly Taylor).
During International Year of the Child in 1979 many problems relating to children—slavery, abuse, prostitution, homelessness – which thus far had been rejected out of hand or blatantly ignored by municipal governments throughout Latin America were given an international airing. In her own small, yet determined, way my mother, Kathryn O’Reilly, had hoped her article would draw the attention of Irish women to the wrongful practices of the Bogotá authorities with respect to addressing the plight of the gamines. International pressure, with Unicef actively assisting in the exposure of nationally embarrassing child maltreatment issues, moved previously complacent national government and city authorities in Latin America to start taking steps, albeit piecemeal, to address child protection issues, particularly with respect to homeless street children.
Despite the nature of this article about the vicious cycle of poverty, desertion, abuse, neglect and children’s lack of access to basic amenities that breeds the gamines, the sight of which left an indelible mark on my mother’s psyche, she considered Colombia a wonderful and fascinating country. In Bogotá she met many inspirational local NGO volunteers and thus had a first-hand knowledge of their outstanding efforts to resolve the many complex, multidimensional, problems that every developing country with limited resources faces – which are mainly the result of a rapid increase in urban populations without the housing and service provisions that such growth demands. For my mother the best things about Colombia were its natural beauty and the warm welcoming attitude of Colombians towards visitors. In fact, given half the chance she wouldn’t have hesitated to go back!
Update: May 2019
If you would like to sponsor a homeless child in Bogotá check out the NGO
“Fr. Javier De Nicolo, a dedicated Salesian missionary, visionary and human rights activist, passed away on March 22, 2016 at the age of 88. He dedicated his life to saving the young people that no one else wanted to help – children living on the streets of Bogota, Colombia. As in the likeness of the founder of the Salesians, St. John “Don” Bosco, Fr. Javier De Nicolo was devoted to helping homeless youth that others refused to approach – many of whom had severe social problems and drug addictions. Fr. Javier De Nicolo developed a system of mutual trust and respect, which became the foundation of success for his street children program. He joined in the activities of the children, sharing in their experiences and even sharing a little bit of money with them. Once respect was established, he invited them into his community where they would be provided with showers, clean clothes, meals and a warm bed. The children were able to come and go as they wished, but most chose to stay. Through various additional steps, the children were introduced to basic education and skills training, and were given the opportunity of a promising future. Fr. Javier’s generosity, dedication and hard work is something that every Salesian missionary strives to accomplish. He gave those children who had nothing and needed everything the chance to live a life of dignity, joy and empowerment. In his more than 50 years of service, Fr. Javier was a faithful disciple of both Jesus and Don Bosco, allowing thousands of children to benefit from his generous heart. May he now rest peacefully. http://www.salesianmissions.org”
Omar Khayyám was an 11th and 12th Century Persian poet mathematician and astronomer. “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, which is said to be one of the ten best known poems in the world, and probably the most popular piece of Oriental literature, was originally written in Persian. The selected extractions below were translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald in the late 19th Century.
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it” (M)
“Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight” (M)
A special Mass for Mum will be held at St. Patrick’s Church, Monkstown, Co. Dublin at 6.00pm Saturday 1st August 2020 (two days before what would have been her 93rd birthday). The 1st August marks the eighth anniversary of her passing.
“August 3rd 1927
A cursory look at the newspapers on this day reveals news all about what was going on up in the air:
In Germany two Junker pilots had flown a Junker W33 airplane for a new distance world record – taking 54 hours and 22 minutes.
Here at home on this the eleventh anniversary of Roger Casement’s execution at Dail Eireann (The Irish Parliament) was debating cracking down on the ‘insurgents’, who days earlier had assassinated Kevin O’Higgins, the Vice President.
–For us seated here today the mere fact Dail Eireann was even sitting in August is probably the most revealing part of this story!
An unremarkable day so far?
Well, not quite.
Up at the Goffs Bloodstock Sales in Ballsbridge a horsey friend approached bloodstock auctioneer James Byrne Senior to congratulate him.
James, acknowledging the good wishes with his usual aplomb, thought the man was referring to his recent sale of a fine looking filly (a young female horse too young to be called a mare).
“No James, I am not talking about a horse. Your wife has just given birth to a baby daughter!!
50 miles away in Kilcullen, Mary ‘Min’ Byrne was resting upstairs in Byrne’s Hotel (later famously known as ‘The Hideout’ Pub) having just given birth to our treasured Mother –
KATHLEEN NORA MARY BYRNE
What appears to have been a rather run of the mill day was indeed very special.
Happy 85th Birthday Mum!
Taking on the onerous task of summarising the life of our dearest mother (your Aunt, your friend, my very best friend) here and now will not do justice to the charming, gracious, humourous, beautiful and very loving woman that is Kathryn.
My two brothers (William and Conor) and I know that everyone of you here today holds a very special memory of our mother – with plenty of humour attached.
So, to share the joy that is our mother Kathryn, after the (cremation) service at Mount Jerome, we sincerely wish to invite all our mother’s friends (Our Friends), and relatives here today to come up to our house in Tivoli Close. We have arranged for Cafe de Journal on The Crescent here in Monkstown to provide catering and you will also have a chance to view our mother’s magical garden!!
Regarding our mother Kathryn words come to mind which I expect will strike a chord, evoke a memory.
Mum’s husband, our father, Liam. Their engagement was announced on 12th July 1952, and they married six months later, on 15th January 1953, in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.
Mum’s brothers Jim and Tom Byrne; her sister Maureen; her “adopted” brother Barney Byrne, who living in Hong Kong survived as a prisoner of war in Hong Kong and Japan.
Mum’s schools – Loreto Abbey Dalkey (from the age of six years old, a school she ran away from twice. Following the outbreak of the second world war she recalled seeing German aircraft from her school, which overlooked Dublin Bay, while all the windows at night were covered with heavy blackout curtains. The close proximity of the school to potential bombing raids prompted her parents to transfer her to; Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) School Newtown Barry, Bunclody, Wexford About FCJ Convent & School Bunclody; a school she loved, and where she excelled in music and sports. As Captain of her school hockey team she was fondly referred to a “Legs Eleven”. She completed her schooling years at Loreto Abbey Rathfarnham, in Dublin.
Fashion– Spontaneously creative, having personally designed many of the striking dresses, blouses, and jackets that she wore with an almost effortless ease, there was always elegance and appeal in the way our mother presented herself. She had trained in “beauty and sales” in Harrods and worked as a fashion model in London (living in St. Mary’s Convent, Institute of the Blessed Virgin, Fitzjohns Avenue, Hempstead, and in Bath), and here in Dublin with Henry White. She also worked as a colour coordinator and fashion and design consultant for the nylon hosiery manufacturer Berkshire Knitting Mills in Newtownards, County Down, Reading Berkshire. Her proud horsey father, James, loved to quip to his daughter that she had “a fine pair of fetlocks” (horsey-speak for ankles)!
Fragrance – YSATIS de Givenchy.
Music – Mum studied music from childhood. Soon after leaving school, in 1946 two nineteen year old ladies were offered life changing opportunities to study singing in Milan. When Mum asked her brothers for the £200 she needed to fund her studies they took the wind out of her sail, fretting over the amorous intentions of Italian men and the dangers of a young woman travelling to a newly formed Republic of Italy still numbed and severely damaged by war. Presumably, as was commonplace for a well brought up Irish woman at that time, she was expected to stay at home and wait for the ideal future husband to come along. A life-changing moment for Mum, given that the second lady sold her pony and went to become Ireland’s ‘Grande Dame’ of singing. My two brothers and I are absolutely delighted that Mum’s life-long friend Dr. Veronica Dunne (“Auntie Ronnie”) is here with us today (Mum and Ronnie were born on the same day, August 3rd 1927).
Entertaining – Mum had a deep and genuine interest in everyone she met – people from all walks of life. She was one hell of a party organiser: Ambassadors, Taoisigh, or just our neighbours. I know you’ll have a smile when you recollect Kathryn’s talent for quickly putting complete strangers at ease whether in Knockbrack, Avoca Lodge, Tudor House or Moorefield.
Painting – Mum loved her painting, especially her classes with Alma (Brayden), Margaret (Margetsen), and Bernie (Lyons). It didn’t matter what the end product looked like (despite sometimes getting up at 3:00am to add a dab here and a touch-up there) – she loved colours and new ideas.
Writing – Mum loved the English language, in her free time writing with a modest yet thoughtful expression which – whether a letter to her dearly-loved children, or an opinion piece for a fashion or societal magazine – always portrayed her deep sense of humanity and compassion. In an article written for the journal of Irish Women’s Political Association titled ‘The Gamines (Los Gaminos) of Bogotá‘ she asked: “And what of us safely ensconced in the faraway ‘developed’ worlds of Europe and America? What responsibility do our affluent societies bear for the prevalence and maltreatment of Bogotá’s disposable street children?” (Source / read more: http://wp.me/s15Yzr-2593)
Interior decorating – Mum’s eye for fashion, intuitive sense of style and her ability to create/recreate were subject to a constant stream of compliments, regarding the way she designed our family home and how good her taste was when it came decorating and updating old furniture, undertakings which she loved.
Company director – Her father-in-law Dr. MW O’Reilly observing Mum’s capacity for “listening” appointed her to the Board of Directors in two of the many companies he established in Ireland.
Cooking – The Coffee Cakes, the Guinness Cake, and, of course, the Brown Bread. Mum derived enormous pleasure from her delicious cooking. I plan to spend a lot of time studying her all-embracing cookery book collection, which stretches back to the days of her grandmother.
Gardening – As you can see from the photo at the back of the Mass pamphlet, our mother, born under the sun sign of Leo, loved gardening (the garden was where she felt closest to God). She could reel off the Latin names of the flowers and shrubs which emblazoned her magical garden – and her Eden was always alive in a myriad of colours and chorus of chirping birds.
Travel – Honeymoon in Paris, Nice and Italy; UK, especially London, and Berkshire where her boys went to school; Mauritius (de Froberville and du Maurier families); Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela (British Ambassador John and Jenny Hickman, British Ambassador Jock and Molly Taylor) – [In Ecuador she was also a guest of elder statesman Galo Plaza Lasso (former President of Ecuador), and developed a deep interest in the many unknown tribes of the dense rain forests of Oriente region of eastern Ecuador]; Florida and New York; The Hague, Bonn, and East Berlin (British AmbassadorJock and Molly Taylor); pate, cheese and wine Tour de France (Mum driving, Niall navigating); China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (Niall).
Rugby – A forthright armchair supporter and at times severe critic of the Ireland and Leinster rugby teams, especially when seated in front of a glowing fire on a cold winter’s afternoon armed with a mug of Barry’s tea.
Family Nest– Her welcoming“Moorefield” (Our home) – her ‘red room’, books and the warm cozy fireplace, her time-honored glowing Christmas, replete with tradition, her love of antiques, Muffin I and II (the family dogs), her car…
Devotion – Mum’s absolute devotion to God and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
Family – Our Mother’s primary love, her reason for being, was her family.
Husband – A devoted wife to our dear father Liam who passed away on Tuesday May 8th 1973.
In one of our numerous conversations about her formative years, before she married Liam, Mum told me both a medical student as well as a doctor friend proposed to her within the period of a week, and in her innocence, not wishing to upset them, said “yes” to the both of them. She didn’t even know they had being courting her. Of course, when her mother Min found out there was holy war!
Following the death of our father Liam, 39 years ago, Mum devoted herself to the sole purpose of ensuring the well-being of her children. Throughout this period she endured many hardships and impediments, but kept persisting through fear, confusion and loneliness, always placing her children first. Life was hard, but Mum was harder!
Right to her last breath – HER BOYS WERE HER LIFE!
Kathryn was simply a wonderful mother, true friend, and close confidante, indispensable in every way. She loved her community of dear friends from all walks of life, and it is this trait that brings us all here today to celebrate the life of our mother on her birthday.
Finally, William, Conor and I wish to extend our genuine and heartfelt appreciation to all the staff of the Blackrock Clinic, as well as two fantastic family friends – Kevin O’Donnell and Maura Fennell – and Father Maurice O’Moore (Chief Celebrant at Mum’s funeral mass) for all your devoted and steadfast support during these very sad days.
Mum, heaven was made for you!
May you rest in peace!”
The gap left in a home from the loss of a mother just cannot be replaced.
Sources: A few words about our Mother as written and delivered by me at the Requiem Mass to Celebrate the Life of Kathryn O’Reilly, at St. Patrick’s Church, Monkstown Village, Saturday August 4th 2012, 10 am.
– Kathryn O’Reilly Curriculum Vitae as handwritten in the early 1980’s.
O’Reilly, with its variants Riley and R (e) illy, comes from the Irish Ui Raghallaigh, “grandson of Raghallach” thought to be from ragh meaning “race” and ceallach meaning “sociable”. The family was part of the Connachta tribal grouping and the particular Raghallach, and Irish chieftain from whom the name is derived is said to have been a descendant of the O’Conor kings of Connacht. A great-grandson of Maomordha, he lived at the time of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, and, like him, died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
The O’Reillys were for centuries the dominant ruling family of the kingdom of East Breifne, and at their height controlled most of counties Cavan and Longford and large parts of county Meath, despite many attempts by their main rivals, the O’Rourkes, to make it otherwise.
The chiefs were inaugurated on the Hill of Shantramon (Seantoman or Shantoman) between Cavan and Ballyhaise, in Castleterra parish on the summit of which may still be seen the remains of a Pagan Druidical temple consisting of three huge stones standing upright and known as Fionn McCool’s fingers. In later times the O’Reillys were inaugurated on the Hill of Tullymongan, above the town of Cavan; and took the tribe name of Muintir Maolmordha or the People of Maolmordha, one of their celebrated chiefs. This name Maolmordha or Mulmora was Latinized “Milesius” and anglicised “Miles” or “Myles,” – a favourite personal name among the members of the clan.
The patron saint of the O’Reilly family was St. Maedoc.
The Right Hand Symbol, a symbolic representation of God the Father in the Middle Ages, was the principal symbol of the clan.
The primary place of residence and Castle was Ballyreilly (Baile Ui Raghallaigh)
Their religious zeal is evident from the following foundations that were endowed by them: Monastery of the Augustinian Canons Premontre (Trinity Island, Lough Oughter, County Cavan, founded by Cathal O’Reilly, Prince of Breifne, circ 1237); Franciscan Monastery, Cavan town, founded by Gilla Isa Ruadh O’Reilly, King of Breifne, in 1300; Franciscan Brothers, Third Order Conventual, founded in 1414 by William O’Reilly at Thacineling, County Leitrim; Inchamore Abbey, Lough Gowna, County Cavan; while abbots of the O’Reilly family ruled the Monastery of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, Kells, County Meath from 1423 to 1523.
They were also renowned in medieval Ireland for their involvement in trade; their success may be gauged by the fact the “reilly” was at one point a colloquial term for money in Ireland, for the O’Reillys were the only clan in Ireland known to have a money system, their own coinage, which encroached on the monetary system of the English Pale and of Britain before being banned in 1447. What use they made of their prosperity can only be conjectured, but the phrase “the life of Reilly” is suggestive. After the collapse of Gaelic power in the seventeenth century, large numbers emigrated to serve in the armies of France, while many joined Colonel Edmund O’Reilly’s regiments in Austrian and Spanish armies during the 1700s.
The connection with the original homeland is still strong, however; even today (O’) Reilly is the single most numerous surname in both Cavan and Longford. The return of the prefix has been spectacular. Less than 10% give their name as “O’Reilly” in 1890, but almost 60% in 1996. The O’Reilly name is extremely common (as is Wang in China, or Kim in Korea) and widespread throughout Ireland, ranked the 8th most common in 1890 and 11th in 1996.
Myles Maolmordha O’Reilly, better known as Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly fought his great fight as the heroic defender on the Bridge of Finea in Co. Cavan in 1644 where he and a band of one hundred held out against a 1,000-strong Cromwellian army. O’Reilly is commemorated by a cross in the main street of Finea, a pretty village on the banks of the River Inny.
Count Alexander O’Reilly (1722-1794) was born in Baltrasna, Co. Meath. Like so many of his “Wild Geese” generation, during the penal times he left Ireland and fight Spanish army. He became Governor of Madrid and Cadiz, and Captain-General of Andalucia. As a Field Marshal and Count, his later career took him to Cuba in 1769 to quell a rebellion. Many his of O’Reilly descendants are still to be found in Cuba. His name is recorded in one of Havana’s streets: Calle Orely.
The O’Reillys of Templemills, Celbridge, County Kildare: Pedigree
FATHER: Liam Sean O’Reilly, son of Dr. Michael William O’Reilly (http://wp.me/p15Yzr-R) I and Catherine Cooney, m. Kathryn O’Reilly, and had issue: Michael William III; Conor James; Niall Joseph.
GRANDFATHER’S BROTHER: Stephen James, son of John O’Reilly II, m. Elizabeth O’Toole (whose family have a tradition of descent from the O’Tooles of Wicklow) and had issue: Cathal; Elizabeth (Lilly).GREAT GRANDFATHER: John O’Reilly II, son of John O’Reilly I and Anne Craddock; m. Mary Lyons, and had issue: John Joseph; Stephen James; Michael William I;Mary Anne (Molly).
GRANDFATHER’S SISTER: Mary Anne (Molly), daughter of John O’Reilly II, m. Richard Eyre and had issue: Mary Una; Roland; Finbarr Roche; Margaret Elizabeth; William Joseph.
GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: John O’Reilly I of Templemills, Celbridge, born circa 1828-1832, son of Thomas Reilly and Anna Lynch, m. Anne Craddick (Craddock), 11 Oct. 1858 (Register of Celbridge), and has issue: John O’Reilly II and Michael O’Reilly.
GRANDFATHER’S FATHER’S BROTHER: Michael O’Reilly, m. Alice Barrett, and had issue: Edward Clement, Johanna Mary, Padraig Gabriel, Michael William, Angela, Margaret, and James Joseph.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: Thomas Reilly II, of Templemills, who m. Anna Lynch, circa 1812-1828, son of Thomas Reilly I of Templemills.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: Thomas Reilly I of Templemills, born circa 1792 son of James O’Reilly of Templemills.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: James O’Reilly of Templemills, born in County Cavan circa 1762-1777 (descended from Colonel Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly) m. (Anne Gorey?), circa 1792.
As Colonel Myles died in 1644, there must be three or four generations missing between him and my GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER James O’Reilly of Templemills.
Sons of the Slasher
The following is the pedigree of Colonel Myles O’Reilly, from Burke’s “Landed Gentry”, O’Hart’s “Irish Pedigrees, “The Dictionary of National Biography”, the Preface by O’Donovan to Carlton’s “Willie Reilly”, and the manuscript 23.D.9:-
Myles (Maelmordha) “the Slasher” O’Reilly m. Catherine O’Reilly and had issue: John, Philip, and Edmund.
From Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly’s sons John, Philip, or Edmund, according to constant family tradition, is descended my GRANDFATHER Captain Michael William “M.W.” O’Reilly, I.R.A. 1916 (Commandant in P.H. Pearse’s division, holding the General Post Office during the Easter 1916 Rising against British rule in Ireland).
Alexander O’Reilly (Count Alexander de O’Reilly / Marshal Alejandro, Conde de O’Reilly)
Alexander O’Reilly was born in Baltrasna, Co. Meath in 1722. Military tradition ran in the family; his grandfather John O’Reilly was a colonel in the army of King James II, whose regiment—‘O’Reilly’s Dragoons’—fought at the siege of Derry.
Colonel John O’Reilly died on 17 February 1716. His wife was Margaret O’Reilly of County Cavan and they had five children, Brian, Eugene, Myles, Cornelius and Thomas.
The latter Thomas O’Reilly, father of Alexander, married Rose MacDowell of County Roscommon. Their four children were James, Nicholas, Dominic and Alexander.
Thomas O’Reilly left Ireland with his family and settled in Zaragoza, Spain where Alexander O’Reilly was educated. Aged only eleven, Alexander O’Reilly joined the Spanish army as a cadet in the Regimento de Infanteria de Hibernia, or Hibernia Regiment, formed in 1705. He was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant in 1739 (he was 17 years old), the year that war broke out with Britain and Austria. His regiment was sent to Italy to confront the Austrians. He showed such outstanding bravery and ability in several battles that he was promoted to Infantry Lieutenant. In the Battle of Campo Santo he was badly injured and lay all night on the field with other wounded and dead. The following morning, about to be bayoneted by an Austrian soldier, he convinced him he was of a wealthy Spanish family and worth a ransom. He was taken before the Austrian commander, who, as luck would have it, was another Irishman called Browne (Austrian military leader and scion of the “Wild Geese”, Maximilian Ulysses, Reichsgraf von Browne, Baron de Camus and Mountany), who had O’Reilly’s wounds tended to, and returned him to the Spanish side, but with a permanent limp as a result of his wounds.
Peace was signed and Alexander O’Reilly returned to Spain, now third in command of the Irish brigade Regimento de Infanteria de Hibernia or Hibernia Regiment. He immediately petitioned the king for a temporary transfer to the Austrian army, no longer at war with Spain, but now with Frederick the Great of Prussia. The Prussian army was renowned for its advanced tactics of manoeuvre and attack, and O’Reilly’s proposal was to study these with the view to their incorporation in the Spanish army.
In 1757 he joined the Austrian army, and distinguished himself against the Prussians at Hochkirchen, in 1758. The following year he entered the French service and assisted at the Battle of Bergen (1759), and the taking of Minden and Corbach.
War having broken out between Spain and Portugal, he re-entered the Spanish service, was made a Lieutenant-General / Brigadier, and defeated the Portuguese before Chaves, in 1762.
After campaigning in the Spanish invasion of Portugal not only was Alexander O’Reilly / Alejandro O’Reilly viewed as a fighting soldier, but also as an expert in military strategy and his recommendations for the tactical restructuring of the Spanish armed forces were approved. He subsequently swore allegiance to Spain and rose to become a Brigadier General.
Alejandro O’Reilly stayed acting as Adjutant and second-in-command for the new Governor of Cuba Conde de Ricla. While in Havana (Havannah), Ricla and O’Reilly received the city back from the British forces that had besieged and occupied it at the end of the Seven Years’ War.
Alejandro O’Reilly analysed what had gone wrong with the defenses of Havannah during the successful British siege in 1762, and recommended sweeping reforms to completely reorganise the defense of the island, while also calling for the introduction of a new justice system, increasing agricultural production, with a guaranteed market in Spain, and beef production. His recommendations were quickly approved by the Spanish Crown.
In 1765 he saved the life of King Charles III (King Carlos III) in a popular tumult in Madrid and was awarded by being sent Alejandro O’Reilly to Puerto Rico to assess the state of the defenses of that colony. Alejandro O’Reilly, known today as the “father of the Puerto Rican militia,” took a very detailed census of the island and recommended numerous reforms, including the instilling of strict military discipline in the local troops. He insisted that the men serving the defense of the Spanish crown receive their pay regularly and directly, rather than indirectly from their commanding officers, an old practice that had led to abuses. Some of O’Reilly’s recommendations resulted in a massive 20-year program of building up the Castle of Old San World Heritage Site.
Returning to Cuba, Alejandro O’Reilly married into a prominent Cuban family. His wife, Dona Rosa de Las Casas, was the sister of Luis de Las Casas, who served as Governor of Cuba. Today there is a street in Old Havannah “Calle Orely”, which is still named for O’Reilly, marking the location where this he came ashore while the English were embarking to leave.
Captain General of Louisiana
Alejandro O’Reilly was appointed Governor and Captain-General of colonial Louisiana while in Spain in April 1769, with orders to put down the revolt in Louisiana, and re-establish order.
Arriving in New Orleans from Cuba in August 1769, O’Reilly took formal possession of Louisiana. O’Reilly then held trials and severely punished those French Creoles responsible for the expulsion of Spain’s first Governor Antonio de Ulloa from the colony.
He is still remembered in New Orleans as “‘Bloody’ O’Reilly” because he had six prominent rebel Frenchmen executed in October 1769.
Having crushed the ringleaders who had led the Rebellion of 1768, O’Reilly turned his attention on administratively getting Louisiana back on its feet, and stabilising the food supply.
O’Reilly reformed many French bureaucratic practices and his proclamations and rulings affected many aspects of life in Spanish Louisiana, including the ability of slaves to buy their freedom, and the ability for masters to more easily manumit slaves. He also banned the trade of Native American slaves.
He regularized the weights and measurements used in marketplaces, regulated doctors and surgeons, and improved public safety by funding bridge and levee maintenance.
The affront to the self-esteem of the Spanish Crown having been quickly dealt with, and good public order restored, O’Reilly efforts had firmly positioned Louisiana as a dependency of the military and political establishment in Cuba.
Return to Spain
Back in Spain after October 1770, the king honoured O’Reilly with the title ‘Conte’ O’Reilly. He resumed his duties as Inspector General of Infantry, and then was named Inspector-General of Infantry and Governor of Madrid, which gave him control of all civil and criminal administration.
In 1775, O’Reilly was given command of a major Spanish expedition to Algiers, and it is said that jealously amongst the Spanish officers resulted in the ill-fated attack which left 2,000 soldiers dead and thousands injured. Although this North African campaign was a national humiliation, Alejandro O’Reilly was still held in high esteem by the king, who in 1776 appointed him Captain General of Andalucía and Governor of Cadiz, the key port connecting Europe with the Americas. He was very much at home in the political ambience of the time that was enlightened absolutism, and tight control from the centre attempting to resolve old ills and reform introduce reform. When he resigned in 1786 most of the people he worked with in Andalucía were full of praise for his energetic and authoritarian character as well as his special talent for implementing change.
He died in Bonete, near Albacete, Spain, in 1794, aged 72, while on his way to take command of Spanish force in the Eastern Pyrenees that had been ordered to resist, on behalf of French royalists, invading French revolutionary forces, following the beheading of Louis XVI during the French Revolutionary wars.
1). “The O’Reillys of Templemills, Celbridge and a pedigree from the old Irish manuscripts brought up to dat, with a note on the history of the clann Ui Raighilligh in general”
By E. O’H.
Published 1942 by Compiled and printed for M. W. O’Reilly Moorefield, Dundrum Co. Dublin Ireland.
An artist is defined as someone whose creative work shows aesthetic feeling and imagination. That’s all nothing more, nothing less.
I am not an artist.
Yet I am judgemental and critical about so many artistic matters. Moreover, I have even feigned to provide advice to people who are much much further down the road of colours, sounds, shapes and movements than I will ever be.
I simply don’t have the human condition which relates to the known and unknowns that you have. Truly it takes an artist such as you to guide the rest of us on the journey.
I wish I could paint. I really wish I could paint
I consider the displaying of your works at the ‘Take Five’ Artists Exhibition to bea really big deal. I know you don’t expect too much. I know you don’t really want to part with any of your paintings.
What ever happens, just keep in mind you don’t have to prove anything to anyone, you started painting long before you ever heard of this exhibition, and you will continue to be an artist and make art long after this association has passed, because you get immense personal pleasure from it, and because you are a dream-maker.
Exhibition by ‘Take Five’ Artists entitled “Points of View”
Venue: Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre, Castle Street, Dalkey,