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Anthony O’Connell, later sold the unpublished work to James Hardiman,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.
in the Barony of Moyarta, Co. Clare, and Their Legends by Thomas Johnson
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