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O'Connell, Peter
(1746 or 1755 -1826)


Scholar and lexicographer, Peter O’Connell was born in Carne, near Killimer, County Clare. The year of his birth is uncertain, sometimes shown as 1746, sometimes as 1755. He became a schoolmaster and Eugene O’Curry was one of his pupils. O’Curry wrote a personal description of his teacher: "Peter O’Connell was about 6 feet 2 inches in height, straight, venerable and dignified in his old age which reached to over eighty years. He was always a welcome guest in my father’s house at Doonaha." He spent long hours studying old Irish manuscripts and was befriended by Charles O’Conor, a librarian and antiquarian, whose home at Clonalis was a treasure trove of ancient Irish manuscripts. Peter travelled throughout Ireland, Wales, the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides tracing rare and unusual words. He devoted most of his life to the compilation of a comprehensive Irish dictionary. He completed his epic work in 1819 but attempts to get his dictionary published failed. Daniel O’Connell was one of those who refused to help and the manuscript was pawned in Tralee. Peter’s nephew, Anthony O’Connell, later sold the unpublished work to James Hardiman, who hired the young John O’Donovan to copy the manuscript. Peter’s original was sold to the British Museum by Hardiman and there is a copy in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Eugene O’Curry believed it to be the most comprehensive Irish-English dictionary in existence.

Peter O’Connell died on February 24th, 1826. He is buried in the old churchyard at Burrane, near Killimer.

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