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Cornelius O'Brien

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Sir Cornelius O'Brien
Born about in Birchfield, Clare, Ireland, United Kingdom
Husband of — married in Clare County, Ireland
Died about in Clare County, Ireland [uncertain]
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Cornelius was born about 1782. Cornelius O'Brien ... He passed away about 1857. [1]

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  1. Entered by Joe Fitzgerald, Feb 28, 2012

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Memories: 1

On February 29, 2012 Joe Fitzgerald wrote:

Sir Cornelius O'Brien (1782 – 1857) was an Irish politician. He built a tower, now referred to as O'Brien's Tower on the Cliffs of Moher in 1835 as an observation tower for the hundreds of tourists that frequented the cliffs during the time. O'Brien's Tower stands on a headland of the Cliffs of Moher. Folklore holds that Cornelius O'Brien was a man ahead of his time, believing that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and bring people out of poverty. O'Brien also built a wall of Moher flagstones along the Cliffs, and it is said in the locality that he built everything around here except the Cliffs. He died in 1857 and his remains lie in the O'Brien vault in the graveyard adjoining St Brigid’s Well. Genealogy: One tourist brochure names Sir Lucius O’Brien as the father of Cornelius, another attributes his paternity to Sir Turlough. However, in spite of this convenient but confusing pedigree, he did not belong to the Inchiquin family. His parentage is not very obscure. A memorial to be apprenticed to Cornelius O’Callaghan, attorney of the Courts of Chancery and Common Please and Exchequer states:- “Cornelius O’Brien was the third son of Henry O’Brien, late of the town of Ennis in the County of Clare, Esq., deceased and Helen O’Brien, otherwise O’Callaghan. He is aged at least 16 years. He was educated in the school of Stephen O’Halloran in the town of Ennis in the county of Clare and was reading Virgil when he left same.” A separate petition dated 12 November, 1802 states that “he studied Grammar, Corderius, Ovid and part of Virgil.” An entry in the Who’s Who of British M.P.s reads:- “4 North St., Westminster, London; 20 Summerhill, Dublin; Birchfield, Ennistymon. Son of Henry O’Brien, Esq. of Birchfield, Co. Clare by Helen, daughter of Donough O’Callaghan, Esq. of Kilgorey, Co. Clare. Born at Birchfield 1782. Married 1816, Margaret, daughter of Peter Long of Waterford and relict of James O’Brien of Limerick. A solicitor in Ireland from 1811, a magistrate for Clare, a Liberal in favour of the Repeal of the Union with Ireland, tenants rights and vote by ballot. Sat for Clare from 1832 to 1847 when he was an unsuccessful candidate. Regained seat July 1852. Retired 1857. Died 1857.” It appears that Henry O’Brien was the son of Kate McDonough, daughter of Nicholas of Birchfield by her marriage with an O’Brien of Toonagh. Concerning Edward, born 1779, eldest son and heir of Henry O’Brien, the Biographical Succession List of Glendalough Diocese by Canon B. Leslie, D. Lit. (copyright Representative Church Body) states:- Son of Henry O’Brien, gen., born in Co. Clare; educated by Rev. M. Fitzgerald; entered Trinity College as Sizar June 5, 1798 aged 19. Scholar 1805, B.A. 1806. He was curate of Hollywood (Glendalough diocese) c.1825. A daughter, Mary, married John Lysaght of Ballyvorda. They had two sons, Andrew and Henry. Their daughter, Mary, married Michael Finucane of Ballymacooda House, Ennis. Another son, George died in 1867 in Clare, Ireland. Storied Urn or Animated Bust: The impressive column, some call it Doric, some Ionic, which stands beside the roadway near St. Brigid’s Well, has become the butt of journalistic jibes and a source of phallic preoccupation to one lady writer; but it has fulfilled its object in commemorating Cornelius O’Brien. His name, if nothing else, must have been noted by thousands of tourists from all over the world. The oft-repeated libel that the memorial was erected by O’Brien himself, during his own lifetime and paid for with money wrung from his unfortunate tenants, is completely without foundation. The date on the inscription - 1853 - can only be explained as a stonecutter’s equivalent of a typist’s error. The internal evidence alone proves it wrong. O’Brien was an M.P. for 20 years at the time of his death in 1857 and not in 1853 as the inscription states. The suggestion of a testimonial first appears in the editorial column of the Clare Journal on October 5, 1854. An article in the same issue by “an English Visitor” heaps praise on Cornelius O’Brien for his developments at the Cliffs of Moher - the tower, pathways, stables, round table etc. and even the provision of a piper to entertain the visitors. Unfortunately, the piper fell over the cliffs while drunk. The writer remarks that such public spirit should be marked by some sign of the people’s appreciation. The response to the suggestion, formation of a committee and collection of subscriptions, is reported in subsequent issues and a full list of subscribers is published. This is headed by Bishop Fallon of Kilfenora and Bishop Vaughan of Nenagh. The list totals £400 and includes £36 ‘wrung’ from the tenants in Birchfield and Caruduff. According to a letter from Orbilus in the Clare Journal of 2 March, 1857, the form of the memorial had not been decided. Three suggestions were being considered:- a. an extension to the Carnegie Library in Ennis; b. an inscribed silver dinner service. (not favoured by O’Brien); c. a memorial at the Cliffs of Moher A letter from visitor to Lahinch on 22 August, 1861 refers to the completed monument. All in all, Cornelius O’Brien was quite a man. His vision, backed by a secure parliamentary seat and ten thousand acres of land in Birchfield, Inagh and Toonagh, would make him a giant in the Ireland of today. He had style in his works, words and deeds and there was charisma and a touch of poetry in the man responsible for the following inscription in Kilmacrehy cemetery: - Erected by Cornelius O’Brien M.P. to the memory of his friend John Collins Esq., M.D. A good man respected for his learning and loved for his benevolence and virtue by all who had the happiness of his acquaintance. Here he sleeps well by the seashore wherein he loved to dwell. February 16th, 1841.

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DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Cornelius by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share significant DNA:

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