Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.
Alfred O'Rahilly (see here and here),
Move to Cork:
Became Assistant lecturer in mathematics and mathematical physics, UCC, 1914. Stayed at UCC until he retired in 1954.
His 1st cousin The O'Rahilly died fighting in 1916 Rising.
He joined Sinn Fein in 1916.
At mar he is living Honan Hostel, Cork. He is "Master of Arts".
He mar 4 Sept 1916, Rathmines, Co.Dublin, to his 1st cousin Agnes O'Donoghue [born 6 May 1885].
See mar cert from here.
Still listed as "Rahilly" at dau's birth 1917. Soon after followed the example of The O'Rahilly and switched to "O'Rahilly".
Prof of Mathematical Physics, UCC, 1917-1943.
Nationalist in revolutionary period:
He was an active supporter of Sinn Fein. He opposed WWI conscription. He opposed use of UCC buildings as British Army Hospital. Contributed to nationalist periodicals. Disputed allegations that Sinn Fein was Marxist, anti-Catholic.
PhD, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 1919.
Member of senate of NUI 1919-54.
Registrar of UCC 1920-43.
Sinn Fein member of Cork City Corporation from Jan 1920 to 1921, during War of Independence.
Wrote controversial articles in Catholic Bulletin, Studies and Irish Theological Quarterly, offering a theological justification for the IRA war. In late 1920 he urged non-violent civil disobedience.
After publication of "The Theology of Tyranny" he was twice imprisoned by the British authorities. At one point he was held in Cork Jail, adjoining the grounds of UCC, SW side of central Cork.
In 1921 he published Who Burnt Cork City?, about the burning of much of Cork city centre by the Black and Tans in Dec 1920.
He was arrested Apr 1921, jailed for 6 months. Held in Victoria Barracks (now Collins Barracks), NE side of central Cork. Then held on Spike Island, near Cork. Then on Bere Island, W Co.Cork.
After the Truce he was released Oct 1921.
He went to London as constitutional adviser to Irish leaders negotiating the Treaty, Dec 1921.
After independence, he was on the committee that drafted the 1922 Constitution. He produced the "C" draft, which was very much a Catholic influenced document, but he failed to win the day with Cosgrave's government, and a more secular Constitution was adopted.
He was strongly pro-Treaty, early supporter of Cumann na nGaedheal.
He once said that (his 1st cousin's daughter) Sighle Humphreys would have shot him, if she had got hold of him during the Civil War.
Cumann na nGaedheal TD for Cork city 1923-24. Elected in 1923 general election (and here). Resigned 1924 to devote himself to UCC, causing 1924 by-election.
In physics he engaged in controversy attacking Einstein's
Theory of relativity.
Founded Cork University Press 1931. He added 350,000 volumes to UCC library.
Despite being pro-Treaty, he gradually came to be a strong supporter of de Valera.
He opposed the IRA's continuing activities in the 1930s.
He was pleased by de Valera's more Catholic 1937 Constitution that replaced the 1922 Constitution.
He supported de Valera's neutrality in WW2.
Hon. D.Litt., NUI, 1939.
D.Sc., NUI, 1940.
He was perhaps Ireland's most prominent
lay Catholic apologist in the mid 20th century.
Huge output of papers, articles, books and letters on wide range of subjects and controversies.
Engaged in controversy with H.G. Wells. See his reply [O'Rahilly, 1940] to Wells: "I come from Catholic forbears whose consolation amid the persecution of Mr Wells's fellow countrymen was - after Mass in a bleak field - the recital of the Rosary."
In the same he says: "If I wanted to anchor in any century, I would prefer the thirteenth .. At any rate it would be more preferable than to be so frightfully up-to-date as Mr Wells, so much at the mercy of the latest fad or ephemeral stunt."
Engaged in controversy with Flann O'Brien, who dubbed him "Alf the Sacred Raver" (reference is to "Alph, the sacred river").
President of UCC 1943-54.
Vice-chancellor of NUI 1943-45, 1948-51, 1954.
At UCC he instigated the Dept Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Dairy Science, Chair in Theology, adult education courses, and courses in Ethics for medical students.
He ordered the removal of the statue of Queen Victoria at UCC. See Irish Times, 26 Aug 1997.
At one point he was concerned about "immodest" dress among female students. He banned bare legs on campus. Staff asked to enforce it.
Founded Cork University Record 1944.
Lived in a house in UCC. Living "UCC Residence" at Agnes' death.
Delivered series of talks on "Religion and Science", Irish radio, early 1944, published as booklet 1948.
Agnes dies, 1953:
She died Bon Secours Hospital, Cork, 14 Sept 1953, age 68 yrs. See death cert from here.
Alfred was made Member of Order of St.Gregory 1954.
Alfred joins the priesthood:
After his wife died, he retired from the UCC Presidency Oct 1954, and fulfilled a lifelong ambition by finally becoming a priest.
On his retirement, the Irish Times profiled him, 25 Sept 1954. They mention that somebody described Alfred as "the finest mind of the twelfth century" (note this is not their description).
He was ordained 18 Dec 1955, age 71 yrs, in Blackrock College chapel, by Archbishop McQuaid, in the Holy Ghost Fathers (C.S.Sp.).
He was associated with Blackrock College, lived in a house in grounds of the college.
Became a Monsignor ("created a domestic prelate" 1960).
Worked on a comprehensive, multi-volume life of Christ, mammoth work, not completed before his death. (Finally collected and published as The Crucified, edited by J.Anthony Gaughan, 1985.)
Alfred dies, 1969:
He died St.Michael's Nursing Home, Dun Laoghaire, 2 Aug 1969, age 84 yrs, NOT 5 Aug.
See death cert from here. His address is Blackrock College. Incorrectly listed as "bachelor".
The O'Rahilly Building in UCC was named after Alfred in 1998.
Alfred and Agnes had issue:
From Irish Times, 25th Sept 1954.
From 1960 Reminiscences. See larger and full size.
See larger and full size.
From Fleischmann Diaries Online Archive.
Alfred O'Rahilly (now a Monsignor) at the marriage of his cousin's grandson Richard Humphreys in 1965.
See larger and full size.
[O'Rahilly, 1940] shows Alfred in full flight, a master of insult and ridicule - even if his arguments (in my personal opinion) are fundamentally flawed. A young student would need a lot of confidence to argue with him:
"But, then, Mr Wells has decided views on everything, views so clear to him that mostly he will not bother even to argue for them. I think it was Lord Melbourne who said: 'I wish to God I were as sure of anything as Tom Macaulay is about everything!' "
"Thus, from his superior height, speaks the B.Sc. (hons.) in zoology of London. Why, even as an undergraduate he knew almost everything"
"This megalomaniac pose is tremendously convenient. I once had a student who adopted it - but he was plucked."
Please donate to support this site.
I have spent a great deal of time and money on this research.
Research involves travel and many expenses.
Some research "things to do"
are not done for years, because I do not have the money to do them.
Please Donate Here to support the ongoing research and to keep this website free.