Stephen O'Mara (see here),
His earliest memories were of the
"He could remember
the faces of hungry men, and people falling in the streets, faint from lack of food".
Successful bacon merchant. Started work in his father's company O'Mara's Bacon in 1860, age 15, and over his life helped it grow massively.
Member of radical Fenian (IRB) movement, young recruit 1862.
1925 election leaflet says he was involved in "the movement of '67", i.e. the Fenian Rising of 1867.
[GROI] lists him as "provision merchant", Limerick, at mar.
mar 1867 to Ellen Pigott [bapt 3 Apr 1845].
[GROI] records (children's births) list him as "provision merchant". His wife worked in the O'Mara family business with him.
They were living Chapel St (beside St.Michael's RC church, Denmark St), Limerick, at Mary's birth 1868 [GROI].
They were living 22 Roches St (the street O'Mara's bacon factory was on), centre of new town, Limerick, as at 1871-80 [children's birth's in [GROI]].
Like his father, he was an early supporter of Isaac Butt's Home Rule movement. Member (with his father) of the famous Butt Committee, which secured Butt's election for Limerick city, in by-election, 20 Sept 1871. This was not the first Home Rule seat (there were others earlier in 1871), but its first big urban seat, a turning point for them.
Lot of travel: Family letters shows that in the 1870s and 1880s Stephen went to Liverpool and London a lot on business. Ellen kept the business running in Limerick while he was away. Many letters also show either Stephen or Ellen on long breaks out of Limerick, usually in Kilkee or Lisdoonvarna, Co.Clare. They also used telegrams to communicate when separated.
Murder case: In 1879, Stephen gave evidence at the murder of one of O'Mara's customers in a mugging. He is not yet described as a councillor. The murder victim, Michael Maher, a general dealer, age nearly 70, had come from Thurles to Limerick with plenty of cash on his person. He purchased bacon and other goods from O'Mara's on Roches St on Fri 10 Oct 1879, at which time he had a bit of drink taken. That evening he was robbed, beaten and thrown into the Shannon to drown. Stephen O'Mara gave evidence at identification of the body on Sat 11 Oct 1879. See Irish Times, October 13, 1879.
Irish nationalist politics:
Stephen pledged his support to the Land League at its founding, Oct 1879. Charles Stewart Parnell was president. See item in Irish Times, October 22, 1879.
Stephen and Ellen were living 31 Roches St from at least Nell's birth 1882 to 1886 [family letters].
Stephen became a Town Councillor (T.C.) on Limerick Corporation.
He is listed as Town Councillor
for Shannon Ward
at least 1882 to 1898.
While in Limerick Corporation, he successfully opposed the imposition of an RIC tax on the ratepayers. Nationalists were opposed to the RIC.
Parnell in 1882 reformed the Home Rule party as the Irish Parliamentary Party (also called the Nationalist Party, the Home Rule party and the Parnellite party). Stephen became a supporter, and later an MP.
Stephen was living 31 Roches St when he reported death of his 1st cousin Mary Anne Lynch in Aug 1883. He was executor of her will.
In letter of 8 Oct 1883 he is in London, and "Called on Mr. Parnell" and is meeting him again.
He is listed as "TC" (Town Councillor) at dinner to celebrate the granting of the Freedom of Limerick to Michael Davitt in 1884. See Politics and Speech by Michael Davitt in [McMahon and Flynn, 1996].
Mayor of Limerick 1885 (would be approx calendar year, Jan 1885 - Jan 1886).
Town Hall, Limerick.
He was the first Mayor of Limerick elected on a Nationalist ticket.
He criticised the running of The Limerick Athenaeum in 1885, saying: "The Athenaeum is for the general benefit of the citizens .. not a closed borough". See Quotations in [McMahon and Flynn, 1996].
While he was Mayor, the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) came to Ireland on a visit (must be the Royal visit to Ireland, 8-27 April 1885). The luggage train was sent on to Limerick in advance. [Pat Lavelle] says: "Grandfather met the train and talked to the equerry in his quiet, friendly way, and explained again quite firmly that there would be no question of a civic welcome. The luggage was not derailed. The Prince of Wales did not visit Limerick. Grandfather had no opportunity to refuse a knighthood and practically nobody knew anything about the incident then or later."
All the poor Limerick lacemakers had made robes, etc, as gift for Queen Victoria's family. [Pat Lavelle] says: "Grandmother felt badly about leaving it in the hands of the poor people who made it" so she bought it off them for her own family.
This is the origin of the O'Mara wedding veil in which many O'Mara daughters and granddaughters have been married (presumably pictured here).
Mayor of Limerick 1886 (second term, would be approx calendar year, Jan 1886 - Jan 1887).
lived Hartstonge House, Limerick,
from 1886 [family letters]
to at least 1908 [date on a photo].
Kate Sullivan, the wife of Timothy Daniel Sullivan, Lord Mayor of Dublin, wrote to Ellen, 25 Sept 1886, asking her to join a delegation of the wives of leading Irish nationalists in making a presentation to Gladstone on 4 Oct at Chester, of the "Women of Ireland's declaration in favour of Home Rule". It is later clear that Stephen went to Chester but Ellen did not.
A letter from Stephen survives, written 12 Oct 1886 with letterhead from the Mayor's office, Limerick.
Visits America in May-June 1888:
He was wealthy enough to visit America on business in the 1880s, and see relations, and come back.
letters during his visit.
went on the
from Liverpool to New York.
He got on at Liverpool, Sat 12 May 1888.
It stopped at
Queenstown on the way.
Arrived New York on Sun 20 May 1888.
He kept a diary on board ship.
He visited Pigott relations in New York. When he arrived in New York he left his card with Sir Thomas Esmonde, 11th Baronet, who was staying there.
He visited O'Mara relations in Canada. His visit was noted on p.5 of The Catholic Record, 9 June 1888.
Letter of 18 June says he struggles to describe America: "to me it seems one busy seething mass of human beings in the cities, and in the country there is a vastness and grandeur indescribable." He returned in late June 1888.
Jailed for politics in 1889:
imprisoned for a few days in Limerick Gaol,
Articles in Irish Times, Wed 23 Jan 1889 and Tue 29 Jan 1889 and Sat 2 Feb 1889 describe the prosecution of David Sheehy, MP and other nationalists for conspiracy to prevent new tenants moving into evicted farms. The charges concerned a series of public meetings held at Castleconnell, first on 20 May 1888, and another on 28 (or 22) Oct 1888. At the latter 1500-2000 people were there, including O'Mara. Speeches were made. It was charged that these meetings were to intimidate a tenant who was moving into an evicted farm. He was denounced at these meetings and afterwards abandoned the farm.
The case was held at Castleconnell, Mon 28 Jan 1889. "Among others in court were ... Mr. Stephen O'Meara, High Sheriff". The prosecutor was a Mr. Morphy. Sheehy was sentenced on Tue 29 Jan 1889.
The newspaper does not record a sentence for O'Mara. But the trial clearly fits his letters from prison.
In a letter of 3 Feb 1889 he is in prison, and being visited by "scores" of political supporters. "I want you Nell to take a cheerful view of the matter. ... [I] am determined to enjoy my time as I would a brief holiday."
In a letter of 4 Feb he asks his wife not to visit him in prison because he thinks it will stress her: "Many thanks for your loving letter, and still more for your self-sacrifice in not coming to see me." He says he is being treated very well.
He only spent a few days in prison. On 8 Feb he is already free and in Liverpool on business.
There is some confusion about his jailing:
[Lavelle, 1961] said that Stephen was summoned to court before Ballyneety Petty Sessions, with Edward Carson as prosecutor. He was asked as a Crown witness to disclose what was said at a meeting of the Irish Party leaders at which Parnell presided. He refused, and was jailed. This does not fit with what the newspaper says though.
His obituary said he was jailed "under the Forster regime" (William Edward Forster, Chief Secretary for Ireland 1880-82, died 1886). This also does not fit.
Alderman of Limerick.
He is listed as "provision merchant and
at Kat's birth Sept 1889
He was a friend of William Abraham. Letters from Abraham to him in Dec 1889 to 1892 survive.
He was made one of the 3 trustees of the Irish Parliamentary Party funds 1890.
When Irish Parliamentary Party split over Parnell in 1890-91, he remained loyal to Parnell.
He met Parnell after his fall, alone at a railway station, with no one to meet him, "who but a year before, had been the idol of thousands" [Lavelle, 1961].
He was at Parnell's deathbed in Brighton, 6th Oct 1891, "and was one of the Members who accompanied his coffin to Dublin".
After the Parnell split, he remained as trustee of Irish Parliamentary Party funds, devoted himself to the reunion of Nationalist forces (which occurred under Redmond in 1900).
He is in London on political business at the House of Lords in letters of 17 and 18 May 1892.
After the Parnell split,
Stephen continued as Town Councillor (now Alderman) on Limerick Corporation,
and bacon merchant.
He is listed as "Alderman" at his brother Jim's death and funeral in July 1893.
"Stephen O'Mara" sp bapt of his niece Nora O'Mara 1897.
"Ellen O'Mara" sp bapt of her niece Susan O'Mara 1898.
He is listed as Alderman for Shannon Ward, Limerick, in [Thoms, 1898].
He was re-elected to Limerick City Council Jan 1899.
[Modern Ireland, 1899] describes him as head of O'Mara's bacon company, and says he was also a member of the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, a Limerick Poor Law Guardian, a Governor of Barrington's Hospital and St.John's Fever Hospital, and a Trustee of the Limerick Savings Bank.
He is listed as "Alderman" at time of his son James' election as an MP 1900.
in 1901 census at Hartstonge House.
He is "bacon merchant".
Two servants living with the family.
The house has 13 rooms,
10 windows in front of house,
with 2 coal cellars as out-buildings.
He attended Dr. David Humphreys' funeral 1903 (their families knew each other, but they were not yet joined by marriage). He is listed as "Alderman".
He purchased Donnelly's bacon factory, Dublin, 1906.
He was one of the promoters of the Munster-Connaught Exhibition, Limerick, 1906.
President of Limerick Chamber of Commerce.
He resigned trusteeship of Home Rule Party funds 1908, broadly agreeing with his son James' recent move to Sinn Fein. Alfred Webb writes to him about his resignation, 11 Apr 1908.
A date on a photo suggests they were still at Hartstonge House in 1908.
They moved c.1909, possibly 1908, to Strand House, Limerick.
They were living Strand House when Ellen's marriage was announced in Aug 1910. See telegrams in Aug 1910 and Sept 1910. See photos of her wedding day at Strand House on 11 Oct 1910.
Ellen dies, 1910:
She died of cancer, Strand House, 26 Oct 1910, age 65 yrs, only 2 weeks after her dau Ellen's wedding.
She was bur 26 Oct 1910 at Mount St. Lawrence cemetery, Limerick.
See death notice (and title) in Irish Times, October 27, 1910.
Stephen is listed at Strand House in [Census, 1911]. He is "chairman of bacon factory". His widowed daughter Mary Rynne is there with him.
He co-founded the
Irish National League
as an alternative to Home Rule party
in response to the 1916 Rising.
His son James helped persuade the Irish National League to merge with Sinn Fein 1917-18.
In Apr 1917 he was elected member of organizing committee of the National Council to put Ireland's case before proposed post-war Peace Conference (which did not happen until Jan 1919).
The Baronetcy story:
In Apr 1918, during WW1,
there was an
attempt to introduce conscription to Ireland.
"It was a common belief in our family that grandfather was approached at this time,
and offered a baronetcy
if he would support conscription
- and that he refused the offer"
"Just prior to the General Elections of 1918" [Dec 1918] "when the Irish Party were so signally defeated by Sinn Fein, Mr.O'Mara had espoused the latter side in politics, and to use his own words, he 'broke with life long ties', giving all his support and encouragement to the new movement, subscribing to its funds with his usual characteristic liberality".
War of Independence:
See Apr 1921 interview,
during the War of Independence.
In May 1921, in a time of great strain, his son James was attempting to resign from his position in the US. Stephen would not hear of it: "Tell Jim not to stab his country in the hour of her agony. I am hurt beyond words". But his son, for once, would not listen to him.
He lived to see Irish independence.
The Treaty, 1921:
On 5 Dec 1921, De Valera
staying the night in
as the Treaty
was being signed in London.
Talking in the drawing room, Dev asked: "I have always wanted to know, Mr. O'Mara, what you thought of Parnell". Stephen: "I'll tell you what I thought of Parnell - if he and I were walking across Sarsfield Bridge together and he said to me jump in the river I would jump in".
He was strongly pro-Treaty.
He is described as an "ex-Alderman" in his son's biography, 1923.
He was called 'the Governor' as a pet name by his own family.
He lived to see the 4th generation, see picture 1924.
Free State Senator, 1925-26:
He was a Free State Senator
from Sept 1925
to death July 1926.
See cover and body of his election leaflet to Free State Senate for the Sept 1925 election.
He lived to see one great-grandchild, Ruaire Lavelle (born 1924).
Stephen dies, 1926:
He died Mon 26th July 1926, Limerick, age 81 yrs.
Obituary describes him as "head" of O'Mara's bacon company, says he was walking at mid-day from his office in Limerick to Strand House when he collapsed, taken home and died.
[Muffie de Courcy] said he collapsed coming over Sarsfield Bridge (the bridge leading to Strand House).
See obituary and photo in Irish Times, July 27, 1926.
See item in Irish Times, July 28, 1926. This says the flag is at half mast at Limerick town hall, and notes messages of sympathy from W.T. Cosgrave and Sir Thomas Esmonde, 11th Baronet and Mary MacSwiney and Cardinal O'Donnell (a fellow trustee of Irish Parliamentary Party funds).
Funeral Wed 28 July, bur Mount St. Lawrence cemetery, Limerick.
Funeral attendance included De Valera, William Redmond and Thomas Westropp Bennett and Patrick Clancy and James Ledden and John Nolan and the Mayor of Limerick and many other local and national politicians.
See item (and heading) in Irish Times, July 30, 1926. This notes message of sympathy from David Keane, Bishop of Limerick.
Funeral list in Limerick Weekly Echo, 31st July, obituary in Limerick Echo, 31st July.
(todo) See The Times, 21 Mar 1927, p.17, which says he left a personal estate in the UK of £42,669 (perhaps £10m in today's money).
Many of his letters survive. See Rynne papers.
Stephen and Ellen had issue:
As at mid-Sept 1872 they had 3 children.
One month later they had none. All three children were dead.
Stephen O'Mara, his wife and children, must be 1890 (by age of Kat).
Back (Left to Right): Joe, Paddy, Mary, James.
Middle: Nell, Norrie, Stephen O'Mara, Ellen Pigott.
Front: Phons (born Oct 1887), Kat (born Sept 1889), Stephen.
The house where Parnell died in 1891, 10 Walsingham Terrace, Hove, Brighton.
Stephen O'Mara was at his deathbed.
Walsingham Terrace was what is now the stretch of Kingsway between Carlisle Road and Walsingham Road (see map). It is now re-developed.
The Parnell house is gone, but there is a plaque on the apartment block at the site. See street view of plaque.
Image from here at English Heritage.
Baptism of James O'Mara, 8 Aug 1873 [St.Michael's, Limerick].
Stephen O'Mara's son, the younger
Stephen O'Mara, the new Mayor of Limerick,
had just been arrested, on the morning of this interview.
Ewart quotes old Stephen O'Mara as saying, looking back on the last 5 years: "The rising of 1916 gave a new soul to Ireland; she found her soul that day."
Old Stephen O'Mara says that if a settlement is reached: "Ireland can be counted on as a loyal friend. England, you must bear in mind, is our natural market for eggs, butter, bacon, cattle, and linen. We might find other markets for ourselves, but England is the natural one and always will be."
AI animation of Ellen Pigott in 1905 photo.
"I have got a letter"
[when ship stopped at
"from my dear wife, full of cheerfulness,
and hopeful, so like herself, unselfish.
I know she forced herself to write in that strain,
for she always loved her Stout,
I wonder what would become of me if I had not met her,
most likely an early death, for I had no good in me when she married me
and whatever is in me now, is due to her gentle and long influence"
- Diary of Stephen O'Mara on board ship on his trip to America, 1888.
"Thank God that we lived to see Jem's birthday ...
May you and I live to celebrate his 21st birthday as content and as happy as we are today.
It may be that God may not leave him to us, if so welcome be His Holy Will."
- Stephen in letter of 7 Aug 1877 to his wife, just after the 4th birthday of James (the second James). After the death of their children, they do not know what the future holds. In fact, they both did live to see James' 21st birthday in 1894.
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