Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Hara, Kane

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O'HARA, KANE (1714?–1782), writer of burlesques, born about 1714, came of an old Sligo stock famous for their musical taste. He was youngest son of Kane O'Hara of Temple House, co. Sligo, who in his will, dated 28 March 1719, named a sum to be expended on his younger sons, Adam and Kane, during their minorities. Kane, the younger, entered Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated B.A. in 1732 and M.A. in 1735. He subsequently resided in Dublin, and interested himself in music. The musical academy at Dublin was founded in 1758 mainly by his exertions. Meanwhile the Italian burletta had been introduced into Ireland by a family of musicians and actors called D'Amici. Dublin ran mad after the new form of entertainment, and in 1759 O'Hara undertook a travesty of it at the instance of Lord Mornington, father of the Duke of Wellington. The result was an English burletta entitled 'Midas,' which he composed at the seat of William Brownlow, M.P., on Lough Neagh.

O'Hara then lived in King Street, Dublin, where the Gaiety Theatre now stands, and John O'Keeffe states that he was present in this house with Lord Momington and Brownlow when the latter, with a harpsichord, helped to settle the music for 'Midas.' The piece was played at Oapel Street Theatre, Dublin, in 1761. It was repeated at Covent Garden, with Shuter as Midas, on 22 Feb. 1764, when it was published. It was constantly revived in London, and was performed at the Haymarket as late as 23 July 1825.

O'Hara followed up this success with a similar effort, entitled 'The Golden Pippin,' a burlesque on the story of Paris and the three goddesses, which was first acted at Covent Garden on 6 Feb. 1773, with Miss Catley in a prominent part. On 21 Jan. 1775, at the same theatre, was produced O'Hara's 'Two Misers,' a musical farce, borrowed from the French (Genest, v. 462). The cast included Quick and Miss Catley. In the registry of deeds office, Dublin, under date 16 Nov. 1780, is a document by which Thomas Ryder, manager of the Theatre Royal, Crow Street, Dublin, covenanted to purchase this piece of O'Hara and produce it at his theatre. 'The Two Misers' was published in 1781. A burletta of inferior quality, 'A Fine Day,' was performed for the first time at the Haymarket on 22 Aug. 1777, with Banister as Don Buffalo. It was published in the same year. O'Hara three years later converted Fielding's 'Tom Thumb' (1733) into an opera, with original songs. It was first performed at Covent Garden on 3 Oct. 1780 (ib. vi. 186).

Before 1780, when he signed with his 'mark' the covenant with Ryder, O'Hara was completely blind, but, despite his affliction, posed as a brilliant wit and fine gentleman. He was notably tall, and was nicknamed St. Patrick's Steeple. A favourite Italian glee of the day contained the refrain 'Che no' hanno crudeltà,' and a parody on this, 'Kane O'Hara's cruel tall,' was written by a local wag, which had much popularity in Dublin as a slang song. In his old age he is described as having the appearance of 'an old fop with spectacles and an antiquated wig, yet withal a polite, sensible, agreeable man, the pink of gentility and good breeding, and an am using companion, though somewhat prosy.' O'Hara in later life moved from King Street, Dublin, to Molesworth Street; but much of his time was spent on visits to the country seats of his friends. He died on 17 June 1782 in Dublin. He left no will.

Among the songs composed by Torlogh O'Carolan [q. v.] on Sligo men from whom he had received, hospitality is one entitled 'Kian O'Hara.' A translation from the Irish, by Furlong, of another — 'The Cup of O'Hara' — appears in Hardiman's ' Irish Minstrelsy ' (vol. i. p. viii).

O'Hara, like O'Keeffe, was also gifted as an artist; his etching of Dr. William King, the learned Anglican archbishop of Dublin, was copied by Richardson. O'Hara's own portrait is still at Annaghmore, the seat of is family in co. Sligo.

A skit called 'Grigri, translated from the Japanese into Portuguese,' and clearly shown to be O'Hara's, was first published in the 'Dublin Monthly Magazine' for 1832. 'Irish Varieties' by J. D. Herbert, whose real name was Dowling, assigns to O'Hara the Dublin slang song, 'The night before Larry was stretched;' but we know, on the authority of Thomas Moore, that the writer was the Rev. Dr. Burroughes.

[Recollections of John O'Keeffe; Register of Trinity Coll. Dublin; Reminiscences of Michael Kelly; Biographia Dramatica, Dublin, 1782; Gilbert's Dublin; Archdeacon O'Rorke's Hist, of Sligo; Registry of Deeds Office, Dublin; Records of the Irish Probate Court; letter from Caldwell to Garrick, 3 June 1766; Manuscript Account-book of Kane O'Hara in possession of the present writer; Irish Monthly Mag. 1832; Genest's Account of the Stage.]

W. J. F.