Humphrys genealogy

Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.

My ancestors - O'Mara - Contents

Kate O'Brien

Kate O'Brien.
See full size. Posted here.
See other version. Posted here.

Kate O'Brien,
the writer (novelist and dramatist),
born 3 Dec 1897, Limerick city.
See wikipedia.
Family home was Boru House, Mulgrave St, Limerick.
Her mother died 1903, when she was age 5 yrs.
She spent many years as a boarder at Laurel Hill, Limerick.
"I've always been alone", she said in an interview in later life.
Her father died June 1916. She was orphaned at age 18.

She was educ UCD.
She was friends with the children of James O'Mara. She was especially friends with Pat Lavelle.
[O'Brien, 1969] recalls that: "in childhood and on through the university I was friends with the elder children of James" [O'Mara].
Her sister married in Feb 1918 to James O'Mara's younger brother Stephen O'Mara.
Kate worked as secretary to James O'Mara when he was in the USA, in Washington, DC, around 1920.
She lived in England.
She mar c.1924, London, to Gustav Renier [or Gustaaf, Dutch journalist]. No issue.
They quickly separated. [Muffie de Courcy] said she came home to Limerick in tears shortly after marriage, saying he was bringing women back to the house. Old Stephen O'Mara advised her to leave him.
She lived in Spain for a time.

Debut novel in 1931.
Her novels became very popular, despite some of them being banned. She was possibly the most popular Irish woman novelist of her time.
During WW2 she worked for Ministry of Information in London.
Lived Roundstone, Connemara, from 1949 to 1960 [O'Brien, 1969].
She died Canterbury, Kent, 13 Aug 1974, age 76 yrs.
She was bur Faversham, Kent. See grave.

Kate O'Brien's works include:

  • Without My Cloak (novel, 1931). A bestseller.
    • Tells story of a family of Catholic merchants (the "Considines") who rose from poverty in the 18th century to great 19th century prosperity. Set in "Mellick", a fictional equivalent of Limerick. The Considine who first comes to "Mellick" in 1789 is a horse thief. His son founds the family business in 1810 and rises to great prosperity. The story spans from 1789 to 1877.
    • It is very evocative of the history of the O'Mara family, with the history of the O'Brien family in there too.
    • See Considine family tree.
    • There are contradictory memories of it in the O'Mara family. Some say the O'Maras saw family members as characters in it. Others say the O'Maras saw it just as fiction.
    • Biography says: "A chronicle of middle-class Irish life, it is, in effect, an Irish Forsyte Saga. Its theme would be constant throughout her novels, namely the struggle (particularly the struggle of Irish women) for individual freedom and love against the constricting demands of family, bourgeois society and Catholic religion."
    • Won James Tait Black Memorial Prize and Hawthornden Prize.

  • The Ante-Room (novel, 1934). A sort of sequel to Without My Cloak.
    • Set in the fictional Limerick. The Considine family and their relations appear. But it is a quite different book to Without My Cloak. No sweeping family drama. Rather it is an intimate story about a small group of people and their problems and desires. Little in it that one can relate to the O'Mara family history, apart from the setting, which is like Strand House.

  • Mary Lavelle (novel, 1936).
    • Based on her experiences in Spain. Has a character struggling with her lesbian feelings. Banned in Ireland for "obscenity".
    • Note that Kate O'Brien was a good friend of Pat Lavelle.
    • Made into a movie, Talk of Angels (1998). Also here.

  • Farewell Spain (political travelogue, 1937).
    • There was a story that for criticising Franco in this book, she was banned from Spain for 20 years. And she was allowed back into Spain in 1957 through the intervention of her in-law Michael Rynne, Irish Ambassador to Spain. Another version of the story says she was banned from Spain because of her portrayal of Philip II in That Lady (1946).
    • But Michael Rynne in a 1976 letter in [P133/3] says he knows nothing about it. See letter to him, and transcript of reply.
    • In fact, Kate O'Brien may never have been banned from Spain.

  • The Land of Spices (autobiographical novel, 1941).
    • Based on her long years as a boarder at Laurel Hill. Set in a fictional equivalent of Limerick.
    • Banned in Ireland because of a reference to (male) homosexuality.
    • Complaining about the censorship, Sir John Keane, 5th Baronet read out in the Irish Senate the offending passage on 18 Nov 1942. The offending words, and other censored works he read out, were deleted from the Senate record - the first occasion on which the Senate censored itself. The debate in the Senate carried on into Dec 1942.

  • That Lady (historical novel, 1946).

  • Presentation Parlour (autobiographical novel, 1963).
    • Similar to The Land of Spices. Refers to Stephen O'Mara.

Cover of [Reynolds, 1987].
From here.

Cover of [Walshe, 2006].
From here.

Kate O'Brien.

The centenary of Kate O'Brien's birth (1897) was commemorated on an Irish postage stamp in 1997.
From here.

There is a "Kate O'Brien's Irish pub" at 579 Howard St, San Francisco.
From street view.
It is an Irish bar, NOT a gay bar.

Trailer for Talk of Angels (1998).
Based on Mary Lavelle (1936).

The fictional Considine family tree

The "Considine" family of "Mellick" (Limerick) in Without My Cloak (1931) does strongly resemble the O'Mara family (with the dates pushed back one generation). There are also similarities with the O'Brien family (also with the dates pushed back one generation).

One thing about the book is that it is an affectionate portrayal of the family. Even the "villains" of various sub-plots are not actually bad people. It is very positive about human nature.

A sketch of the fictional "Considine" family tree would be as follows. All the links in the Considine tree are to people and things in the O'Mara tree that it resembles.

Anthony Considine.
He was from somewhere W of Mellick.
He arrived in Mellick in 1789 on a stolen horse.
He mar in Mellick to a widow and shopkeeper.
He died 1790 in a fight.
They had issue:

  1. John Considine,
    "Honest John",
    born 1790 in poverty in old part of Mellick.
    He started family business 1810 in the old quarter.
    He mar 1813 to a girl from next street.
    He built up business from nothing, rose to great wealth.
    He became an Alderman of Mellick before 1843.
    Supporter of Daniel O'Connell.
    His wife died 1845.
    The business moved to the New Town in 1851.
    He lived as a widower in a fine town house in the New Town.
    He died 1861, age 71 yrs.
    They had issue:

    1. Dr. Joe Considine, eldest son, doctor.
    2. Fr. Tom Considine, priest.

    3. Eddy Considine, born 1825,
      went into family business, Considine's agent in London.

    4. Anthony Considine,
      born 1826, youngest son.
      He went into family business.
      He mar in 1855.
      He built in 1860 a fine new house, "River Hill", by the river in grounds just outside the city (to the N).
      He took over family business after his father.
      Mayor of Mellick 1870.
      He had issue:

      1. Denis Considine, born 1856.

    1. Teresa Considine, married.
    2. Caroline Considine, married.
    3. Mary Considine, nun.
    4. Agnes Considine, stayed home minding her father.

    1. 5 other children, died young.

There is also a patriarch of the wealthy Hennessy family who is called "The Grand Old Man" of Mellick.

Sources yet to be consulted


Papers to be consulted


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