Lack School - 1863 to 1975

A History of the School and its Pupils
by James Hehir


18. Personalities

(a) Bianconi (John O'Connell)

Ballylean House was owned by the family of Daniel O'Connell, the liberator. It was the headquarters of his local estate. Its last occupant, and perhaps its most flamboyant, was the larger than life, John O'Connell who changed his name to Bianconi. As the most famous resident in the Lack school era, it is worthwhile to record a summary of his life.
His grand uncle was Daniel O'Connell, the liberator and his grandfather was Charles Bianconi, the Italian immigrant who established the stagecoach transport system throughout Ireland in the early 19th century. His father was Morgan John O'Connell, MP for county Kerry. The parents resided at Ballylean house where their son John grew up. He visited his grandfather Charles Bianconi at Longfield House in Tipperary on holidays from time to time. His grandfather took a particular liking to the child in view of his strong resemblance to the Bianconi family in Italy. On his death in September 1875, Charles Bianconi willed his residence, Longfield House, and substantial funds to his grandson, to be held in trust. On the death of his mother in 1908 John O'Connell changed his name to Bianconi by deed poll, fulfilling a condition of his grandfathers will.
The following points give an outline of the person and his impact on the area:

Ballylean House

Ballylean House - remaining buildings in 1995

Bianconi was a very large man. It is understood that he reached 26 stone at one time.
He married the daughter of his first cousin, Anabella Bourke Hayes and they had 4 daughters - Molly, Una, Mabel and Helen. The marriage broke down and the wife and children moved to Longfield House in Tipperary.
Many of Bianconi's staff were past pupils from Lack school. His right hand man was Jack Sheehan from Tonlegee who registered at the school in 1874 while his ploughman, Michael Hill, registered at the school in 1876.
Bianconi was a generous man and an excellent employer. In his time Kildysart prospered supporting 16 pubs. By the 1920's Bianconi had spent all of his funds and the estate went into decline. Eventually Lacknashanagh was acquired by the Land Commission and divided among the local farmers.
Bianconi, reflecting his generosity, divided Ballylean among his workmen. He left Longfield House to his estranged wife and family. He died suddenly on the 16 October 1929 at 48 years of age. His remains were laid to rest with those of his famous grandfather at Boherlahan, which is located between Cashel and Holycross, County Tipperary. Following his death, Ballylean House was unoccupied and deteriorated to a ruin in a short period of time..
Today, the water tower is all that remains of Ballylean House.