O'Connell, Peter (DNB00)

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O'CONNELL, PETER (1746–1826), Irish lexicographer, was born in 1746 at Carne, co. Clare. He became a schoolmaster, and gave his spare time to the study of Irish manuscripts and to the preparation of an Irish dictionary. He was, of course, thoroughly versed in the spoken language, and became deeply learned in the older literary forms. He travelled about Ireland, and paid a long visit to Charles O'Conor (1710–1791) [q. v.] at Belanagare. In 1812 a Dr. O'Reardon of Limerick, who cared for Irish studies, gave him a home in his house and helped him in every way. O'Connell's ‘Dictionary,’ which he had begun in 1785, was complete in 1819; but, unfortunately, he had a difference with Dr. O'Reardon as to the method of publication, left his house, and carried the manuscript, and many others which he had collected, to the house of his brother Patrick at Carne. This brother died in 1824, and as the lexicographer had been able to find no means of publication, he sent his nephew, Anthony O'Connell, to Daniel O'Connell, the ‘Liberator’ [q. v.] of Tralee, at the time of the assizes, hoping that the great politician, who was an orator in Irish as well as in English, would aid the publication of the work. O'Connell declined, whereupon Anthony O'Connell pledged the manuscript in Tralee. Eugene O'Curry [q. v.] made efforts to recover it, but it became the property of James Hardiman [q. v.], who sold it and other Irish manuscripts to the British Museum. O'Connell's manuscript lexicon, which is of much philological value, is numbered Egerton 83, and is much consulted by editors of Irish texts. It consists of 330 leaves, and is written in English characters. Standish H. O'Grady has pointed out that the infixed pronoun in Irish, of which the discovery has sometimes been attributed to J. C. Zeuss (Grammatica Celtica, bk. ii. c. iv.), is clearly noticed and explained under the articles ‘rom,’ ‘ron,’ ‘ros,’ ‘rot,’ by Peter O'Connell. Three later manuscript copies of this dictionary exist: one in the British Museum (Egerton 84 and 85), made by John O'Donovan [q. v.]; one in Trinity College, Dublin (H. 5. 25. 26), copied from O'Donovan's copy; and one in the Royal Irish Academy, copied from the Trinity College copy. Eugene O'Curry and his brother Malachi both received instruction from O'Connell, and he was often a guest at their father's house at Dunaha, co. Clare, which is about ten miles from Carne.

[O'Curry's manuscript Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in British Museum; Hardiman's manuscript note in Egerton 83 in Brit. Mus.; S. H. O'Grady's Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum; Egerton 83.]

N. M.