Humphrys genealogy

Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.

My ancestors - O'Mara - Contents

James O'Mara

James O'Mara and Agnes Cashel.
Detail of 1905 photo.

James O'Mara.
Home Rule MP, Sinn Fein TD, Member of First Dail, Free State TD.
See Wikipedia and Wikitree.
See his election record.
He was born 6 Aug 1873, Limerick.

He was educ at Christian Brothers, Limerick [Lavelle, 1961, p.18]. This is confirmed by letter of 1910.
A biography here thought he was educ CBS, Spanish Point, Co.Clare. But this is confusion with a story in [Lavelle, 1961, pp.17-18] of him staying with Christian Brothers on holiday in Spanish Point.
He was educ Crescent College (Jesuits), Limerick. He is in their records from 1882 (no end date recorded).
He was educ Clongowes Wood College (Jesuits). School register says he was there 1888-1892. NOT 1888-1891.
He went up to Clongowes with his younger brother Paddy in 1888. Letter of 28 Aug 1888 talks of bringing "the boys" to Clongowes.
He became friends with The O'Rahilly there.
Writing from Clongowes: "We go to bed every night at 8.30 and get up, it seems to me, about 3, but the fellows call it half-past 6".

He was admitted as a member of the Catholic Institute, Limerick at meeting of 10 June 1892. Living Hartstonge House. Blennerhassett Cashel was a council member of the Catholic Institute. James would later marry Blennerhassett's daughter.
He knew Dr. David Humphrys since early 1890s, when both were single in Limerick. (His daughter would much later marry Dr. David's son.)
After school, he went to work in the family business, O'Mara's bacon factory.
He was educ Royal University of Ireland, studied for university at home after work.
1st Arts, RUI, summer 1893.
1st Eng, RUI, summer 1893, 1st class hons, 1st place in Ireland.
2nd Eng, RUI, 1st place in Ireland.

Move to London, 1893:
He worked as a bacon merchant in the thriving family business.
He was sent to London in late 1893 as agent for O'Mara's Bacon Company after his uncle Jim died in July 1893.
James writes on 2 Nov 1893 from the London office of O'Mara's.
He writes on 2 Mar 1894 from London and mentions "Humphries". Think this is his friend Dr. David Humphrys. Both of them single at this point. Dr. David is also apparently mentioned in O'Mara family letter of 11 Oct 1893.
He couldn't find time to continue studies after went to London. Had to postpone RUI studies for business. He writes on 6 June 1894 from London and says: "I have given up studying."
Listed as "Agent", living 35 Norfolk St, Strand, London, at time of marriage 1895. This is Norfolk Street, Holborn, which is now gone, but was between Arundel Street and Surrey Street (see map).

James mar 23 Apr 1895 to Agnes Cashel [born 21 Dec 1870, descendant through Blennerhassett of Edward III].
They lived "St.Chad's", Epsom, Surrey, after marriage 1895. Son born in Epsom in Sept 1896.
James and Agnes moved to Sydenham, SC London, in 1898. There by letter of 11 Feb 1898. Daughter born in Sydenham, July 1898.
He finally got BA, Royal University of Ireland, summer 1898.

Home Rule MP, 1900-1907:
James was elected Home Rule MP for Irish Parliamentary Party (largest party in Ireland, 3rd largest party in UK) in 1900.
He was returned unopposed for Kilkenny South, 6 Oct 1900, in UK general election, Sept-Oct 1900. He was age 27.
He continued living London.
See brief biography in biographies of new MPs, The Times, 16 Oct 1900, p.9.
[Lavelle, 1961] says: "Winston Churchill and Dad were the two youngest Members of Parliament. At some championship in the House, chess or billiards (but I think chess), the two of them reached the finals. They were both young enough to be elated at outplaying their elders." (Churchill was born 1874, first elected 1900.)
[P102/72] is letter of 6 Dec 1900 from him to The O'Rahilly. See image.
They are listed in March 1901 UK census at 30 Maida Hill West, Maida Vale, London.
Living Maida Vale at birth of children Dec 1901 to May 1906.
[Lavelle, 1961] says he used obstructionist tactics. He spoke for hours one night in June 1901 on bream or otter trawling off the coasts of Ireland, "a subject about which he knew next to nothing". Does this refer to this brief question by him on 20 June 1901?
He travelled to Romania Oct 1902 to sound out prospects for trade in bacon.
Bacon from the factory at Turnu Severin (now called Drobeta-Turnu Severin, on River Danube, SW Romania) was first sold on London market 1903.
He introduced the Private Member's Bill in March 1903 that made St.Patrick's Day a national holiday in Ireland.
He made many representations on behalf of his constituents, particularly concerning evictions and the land issue.
Agnes was a pioneer supporter of the Suffragette movement when she lived in England (Women's Social and Political Union founded 1903). James - though he supported them politically - was strongly opposed to his wife actually getting involved in demonstrations.
He accompanied his brother Joseph to America. They arrived 14 May 1904 [Ellis Island]. James returned c.20 June 1904. See [Lavelle, 1961].
He introduced The O'Rahilly to the Irish Home Rulers in London [O'Rahilly, 1991]. A letter of 4 July 1904 on his return from US to London says: "I find O'Rahilly has moved to Brighton since I left".
He made a failed effort to close the pubs on St.Patrick's Day in 1905-06.

James was returned again unopposed for Kilkenny South, 20 Jan 1906, in UK general election, Jan-Feb 1906.
He was still living 30 Maida Hill West, Maida Vale, as at Apr 1906. See postcard to his 7 year old dau Pat (think from her grandfather). The postcard says: "Will you tell your Dad I wish him every success with the St.Pat's Bill. I was sorry to see the opposition it met with."
He was still living 30 Maida Hill West, Maida Vale as at postcard of June 1907.
James corresponded with The O'Rahilly, now in the US and, like James, growing strongly pro-Sinn Fein.
He resigned from the Home Rule party on 15 June 1907 to join Sinn Fein. One of the first to do so. The start of the swing towards Arthur Griffith's party.
He resigned as MP (by-election to replace him held 29 July 1907). Sinn Fein was more an idea than a party at this point.
He said he had to leave Parliament: "the British were so charming, I would have been won over to them!"
See his many contributions to parliament 1901-07. And here.

James and Agnes moved autumn 1907 to "Dunlica", College Rd, Dulwich, London. Daughter born there in Oct 1908. They lived there until 1914.
Children born and grew up London, came over to Ireland to stay with their grandparents in Limerick, and holiday in Kilkee, Co.Clare.
It was NOT him who resigned as a trustee of the Home Rule party 1908 (that was his father).
He subscribed to The O'Rahilly's efforts to revive the daily Sinn Fein newspaper 1910.
They are listed at "Dunlica" in 1911 census. See entry from here. He is "agent for bacon and allied products". They have 3 servants living with them.

Return to Ireland, 1914:
James came back to Ireland with his family in 1914 (after more than 20 years) to run Donnelly's bacon factory, Dublin.
They moved to 15 Ely Place, Dublin. There at time of 1916 gift.
Agnes met the Dublin Suffragettes, including Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington.
James accompanied his son Steen to America when Steen was accepted at Georgetown University, DC. They arrived at Ellis Island, NY, on 22 Nov 1915.
Listed at 15 Ely Place in [Thom's, 1917].
He acquired a summer house, "Barfield", just outside Galway, there as at 1917-1919.
He funded the re-launch in early 1917 of Arthur Griffith's paper Nationality.
He became Assistant Financial Director of Sinn Fein in autumn 1917.
He moved to 43 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, lived there c.1918 to c.1925.

Sinn Fein TD, Director of Elections, Trustee of Dail funds:
James became Director of Finance for Sinn Fein 1918.
He was the 4th and last Sinn Fein Director of Elections for their stunning victory in the Dec 1918 general election (also here), all 3 of his predecessors having been successively jailed. The massive election victory made independence inevitable. His obituary says: "It was perhaps of all his work for the national cause that of which he was most proud."

TD 1918-21: He was himself elected Sinn Fein TD for Kilkenny South in the Dec 1918 election, with over 80 percent of the vote.
W.T. Cosgrave won in Kilkenny North.
He was a member of the First Dail, but was not at its very first meeting in Jan 1919. In the rollcall at the Dail's first meeting on 21 Jan 1919, "Séamus Ó Meaghra" is "as láthair" (absent). A commemorative poster says he was absent through illness.
He moved his summer house in 1919 to Cashel House, Co.Galway, on Cashel Bay.

Trustee of Dail Eireann funds 1919-21: He was one of the 3 trustees of the funds of the underground government, Dail Eireann, June 1919 on, the others being Eamon de Valera and Dr. Michael Fogarty, Bishop of Killaloe.

Went to US, 1919-1921:
He went to US Oct 1919 to join de Valera (there since June 1919) to campaign for recognition of the new Irish republic, and raise funds.
He went as a stowaway on the SS Lapland, because denied an exit visa by Britain. He hid among lifeboats, helped by two of the crew.
He and de Valera spent subsequent period mobilising support of Irish in America. Huge fund raising drive (the Irish Republican Loan) for the new self-declared Republic, and campaign for its recognition, while War of Independence raged at home.
See Republican Loan film, 1919 made by his brother-in-law Jim Sullivan.
"James O'Mara, Treasurer of the Government of which de Valera is President, has arrived from Ireland to take part in the Loan campaign .. Apparently he came by the same mysterious methods as did Valera, both having been denied passports by the British Government" [a New York evening paper, 2nd Dec 1919].
"The Irish-American leaders in New York understood him to be a millionaire, which gave him a status with them that none of the rest of us enjoyed" [McCartan, 1932].
Agnes was also denied a passport, but managed to join him in America for a time. She sailed to US to see him, with her dau Pat, in Apr 1920.
He was founder member of American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) 1920.
De Valera returned to Ireland Dec 1920. Jim persuaded to stay on in US.
Convention of the AARIR, Chicago, Apr 1921.
He had disagreements with de Valera. He resigned his position in the US, his trusteeship of the Dail funds and his Dail seat, May 1921.
He returned to Ireland July 1921 (as the truce was being signed).
They had raised $10 m (about $500 m in today's money), funding the War of Independence and the Dail.
They had not got official US recognition for the Irish Republic, but America had brought strong pressure on Britain to call a truce and negotiate.

James supported the Treaty Dec 1921, but took no side in civil war (any of his family that did take a side were, however, Republican).
He tried to speak to de Valera: "Now you will want your friends around you", and de Valera waved him away and said: "Not you any way". "It was nearly 20 years before they spoke to each other again" [Lavelle, 1961].
He was appointed the first Irish Ambassador to the USA by the provisional Free State government, Feb 1922. Only served for a few months.
He was selected but declined to contest June 1922 general election.
He was appalled by the Civil War. "The disillusion of that time was soul-searing. Disillusion came quicker to Dad than to most of his fellows, because he now stood alone - an outsider - looking on at the debacle of all he had helped to build" [Lavelle, 1961].
He was close friends with Harry Boland (killed July 1922) and Michael Collins (killed Aug 1922).
He tried desperately to stop the execution without trial of his friend Liam Mellows, Dec 1922, which "left the longest and most bitter memory of all the bitter memories of the civil war" [Lavelle, 1961]. His dau Eithne said that after this he came home and tore up all his things.
Biography in [Thom's Irish Who's Who, 1923] lists him as "R.C.S." Think this means member of Royal Colonial Society.

Free State TD for Dublin South 1924-1927.
After W.T. Cosgrave's brother Philip Cosgrave died in Oct 1923, there was a by-election for Dublin South on 12 Mar 1924.
James stood for the pro-Treaty Cumann na nGaedheal. See his election leaflet. W.T. supported him to replace his brother. See letter of 1 Mar 1924.
James narrowly held the seat for the pro-Treaty side. See results. The opponent he narrowly beat was the future Taoiseach Sean Lemass.
He refused a ministerial position in W.T. Cosgrave's cabinet. (Many years later in 1965, his grandson married W.T.'s niece.)
The Free State finally closed the pubs on St. Patrick's Day in 1924, but James O'Mara was apparently not involved.
James moved to The Grove, Killiney, Co.Dublin, c.1925.

Retired from politics:
He did not contest 9 June 1927 general election. He retired from politics. See letter of 25 June 1927.
See his Dail profile. Search for his contributions. Unlike many of his comrades he was never in jail in his life.
He was angered by the fact that a lot of the money he raised in America, which was meant to be for the Irish Republic, was controversially used by de Valera to set up the Fianna Fail / de Valera family newspaper, the Irish Press, 1931.
James was one of the richest men in Ireland. Muffie de Courcy said that at one stage, Ireland had its first four millionaires, and they said James was one of them. (Note £1m in 1935 is about £100m in today's money.)

In retirement in 1930s, James and Agnes went on cruises with the two unmarried daughters Maureen and Sheila, who both found husbands on board ship. See cruises to West Indies in 1934 and 1935. They travelled in North and South America, North Africa, Middle East.
James sold Donnelly's to his brother Phons in mid-late 1940s.
They celebrated their Golden Jubilee [50 yrs married] in April 1945 at Cashel House. [P150] has an invite to De Valera. So clearly they were on friendly terms again.
He had black hair, red moustache.

James dies, 1948:
He died 30 Eccles St, Dublin (think part of Mater Hospital), Sun 21 Nov 1948 [NOT 22 Nov], age 75 yrs [GROI].
Donnelly's closed for two days, Mon 22 and Tue 23 Nov, as a mark of respect. See notice.
Funeral 23 Nov 1948, bur Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Fr.Paddy celebrated the mass.
His daughter in [Lavelle, 1961] says: "There was no tricolour over his coffin, no bugles sounded over his grave. No guns were fired in salute but we paid silent tribute to him for all he had done and suffered that Ireland might be free."
However this does not give the full picture. Those present at the funeral included the former and future Taoiseach Eamon de Valera and the President Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh and Sean MacEntee and Gerald Boland and W.T. Cosgrave.
See funeral report in Irish Times, November 24, 1948.
See James O'Mara papers.
Obituaries of James O'Mara:

The family sold Cashel House in 1952.
Agnes dies, 1958:
She died Mon 2 June 1958, The Grove, Killiney, age 87 yrs [GROI].
See obituary, Evening Press, Tue 3 June 1958.
See death notice in Irish Times, June 4, 1958.
Funeral 4 June 1958, bur Glasnevin Cemetery.
See Photos of children.
James and Agnes had issue:

  1. Stephen O'Mara,
    "Steen", Stephen C. O'Mara, born 10 Sept 1896, Epsom, Surrey.
    He was educ Clongowes (like his father).
    He is listed in 1911 census with other boarders at Clongowes. His family is in England. It incorrectly states he was born Co.Limerick.
    He was educ Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
    He arrived at Ellis Island, NY, with his father on 22 Nov 1915 on the St.Paul from Liverpool. See [Lavelle, 1961].
    At this point, Mary Kickham (the adopted child of his great-granduncle William Kickham) was alive and living in Washington, D.C. Wonder did they ever meet.
    He fought on Republican side in Irish civil war 1922-23.
    He was captured June 1922. He was not closely guarded, escaped and came home.
    He didn't marry.
    Living at home in Killiney at mother's death 1958.
    He died 9 Aug 1972, St. John of God's Hospital, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin, age 75 yrs, bur Glasnevin.

  2. Patricia O'Mara,
    born 23 July 1898, Sydenham, London.
    Always known as "Pat".
    "Patricia Kathleen Mary" on wedding invite. "Patricia K.M. O'Mara" in 1911 census.
    Some other sources have "Patricia Mary Kathleen" and "Patricia M. O'Mara".

  3. Maureen O'Mara,
    Maureen Agnes O'Mara, born 13 Dec 1901, Maida Vale.
    She was educ Paris.
    Member of Cumann na mBan in War of Independence 1919-21.
    Nurse at Mater Hospital.
    Nurse at Cork St Hospital, The Coombe, temp 1925-26.
    Nurse at Holles St maternity hospital.
    She wit her sister Eileen's mar 1929.
    She is living at The Grove at mar.
    She mar 29 Sept 1937 [her age 35, him age 43] to Dr. George Duggan [born 22 July 1894] and had issue.
    They met on a cruise. He was ship's doctor.
    They mar at Ballybrack church, Killiney (near The Grove). See mar cert from here.

  4. Eileen O'Mara,
    Eibhlin Mary O'Mara, born 7 Aug 1903, Maida Vale.
    Listed as "Eiblin A. M. O'Mara" in [NUI, 1964].
    She was educ Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Co.Dublin.
    She was educ in Paris.
    She wit her aunt Helen Cashel's mar 1926.
    She was educ UCD in architecture. B.Arch. UCD 1929.
    [1968 article] says she was the first female architect to qualify at UCD. She never practiced.
    At mar she is living The Grove.
    She mar 30 July 1929 to Dr. Alec Spain [poss. descendant of Edward III] and had issue.
    They mar at Ballybrack RC church, Killiney, Co.Dublin, by her uncle Fr. Paddy O'Mara. See mar cert from here.

  5. Dr. Una O'Mara,
    born 19 Jan 1905, Maida Vale.
    Listed as "Una M. M. O'Mara" in [NUI, 1964].
    She was educ Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Co.Dublin.
    She became a doctor, educ NUI.
    MB, B.Ch., B.A.O., 1930 [NOT 1929].
    She never practiced.
    She mar 1932 to Dr. John Shanley [born 17 Sept 1895].

  6. Sheila O'Mara,
    Sheila Mary, born 23 May 1906, Maida Vale.
    She was educ at school in Cambridge, must be St.Mary's.
    She was educ in Paris.
    BA (Economics) Oct 1929.
    She wit Maureen's mar 1937.
    She mar 16 Feb 1944 [her age 37, him age 47] to Capt. George Rice. No issue.
    They mar at Ballybrack RC church (near Killiney), Co.Dublin [GROI].
    They were mar by her uncle Fr. Paddy O'Mara.

  7. Eithne O'Mara,
    Eithne Maire O'Mara, "Eithne Mary" on passport,
    born 14 Oct 1908, family home, "Dunlica", Dulwich, London [GRO.UK].
    Passport is wrong to say born Co.Dublin.

Baronetcy story: Stephen O'Mara was apparently offered a baronetcy if he would support conscription in 1918, and he refused.
If he had accepted, he would have been the 1st Baronet.
James would have been the 2nd Baronet.
Steen would have been the 3rd Baronet.
Michael would have been the 4th Baronet.

The last page of a seven page summary of James O'Mara's character, by his nephew Stephen Rynne, written after James' death in 1948.

St.Patrick's Day

James O'Mara is the man whose effort made St.Patrick's Day a national holiday in 1903:

James O'Mara made a failed effort to close the pubs on St.Patrick's Day in 1905-06:

The Free State finally closed the pubs on St. Patrick's Day in 1924, but James O'Mara was apparently not involved.


15 Ely Place, Dublin

15 Ely Place, Dublin.
James O'Mara and family moved here after he came back to Ireland in 1914. Living here by 1916.
The previous occupant was Oliver St.John Gogarty.
The O'Maras left c.1918.

15 Ely Place was later the home of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA).
In 1972, work began on a new RHA building at the site. No.15 was demolished.
The project stalled in 1974 though, and the new building was not finished until around 2002.
The site is now the new RHA building.
See street view.

Ely Place on Ordnance Survey of Ireland map. Date created: 1838. Date modified: 1847. From here.
This shows no.15 as the bottom LHS house, beside the gardens.
The street has not been re-numbered since. We know this because the numbering is the same today.
So this house is the O'Mara house.
However this house is vanished today.


James O'Mara grave, Glasnevin

James O'Mara grave, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Location: vD 12/13. Go in gate, straight ahead, veer right, round RHS edge of round tower, past Republican Plot, grave is on LHS.
It is just in front of Eamon de Valera's grave. Other O'Mara family members nearby.
See street view.
See for James and Agnes.

Location of James O'Mara grave, Glasnevin.
Screenshot 2011. From street view. Click through to rotate.

James O'Mara grave, Glasnevin. Photo 2006.
See full size and alternative shot.
Note grave of Eamon de Valera in background.
Photos courtesy of Richard Humphreys.

AI animations

AI animations of old photos.
Made using Deep Nostalgia at MyHeritage.

AI animation of James O'Mara in 1905 photo.

AI animation of Agnes Cashel in 1905 photo.


Sources yet to be consulted


Books and articles


Pictures of James O'Mara

The First Dail

Children of James O'Mara


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