Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Connor, Roger

O'CONNOR, ROGER (1762–1834), Irish nationalist, born at Connorville, co. Cork, in 1762, was son of Roger Connor of Connorville by Anne, daughter of Robert Longfield, M.P. (1688–1765), and sister of Richard Longfield, created Viscount Longueville in 1800. The Connor family was descended from a rich London merchant, and its claims to ancient Irish descent are very doubtful. Arthur O'Connor [q. v.] was Roger's brother. Roger entered the university of Dublin in 1777, and joined the English bar in 1784. His early bias was in favour of the old tory régime; as a young man he entered the Muskerry yeomanry, and helped to hunt down ‘Whiteboys.’ He soon, however, changed his views, and joined the United Irishmen. In 1797 a warrant left Dublin Castle for his arrest, at the instance of his own brother Robert. He was imprisoned at Cork, was tried and acquitted. On his liberation in April 1798 he went to London, with the intention, as he says, of ‘residing there and avoiding any interference in politics;’ but his brother Arthur had just been arrested at Margate, and the home office decided on again securing Roger. He was sent from place to place in the custody of king's messengers, and on 2 June 1798 was finally committed to Newgate in Dublin.

In April 1799, with his fellow-prisoners, T. A. Emmet, Chambers, his brother Arthur, and others, he was removed to Fort George in Scotland. In the same year he managed to publish ‘Letters to the People of Great Britain.’ After some years' imprisonment he obtained his release. His affairs had been ruined meanwhile, but he had fortune enough to rent Dangan Castle, Trim, co. Meath. The house was burnt down shortly after he had effected an insurance on it for 5,000l. He then eloped with a married lady, and in 1817 was arrested at Trim for having headed a band of his retainers in robbing the Galway coach. The son of O'Connor's agent asserted that this raid was made by O'Connor not for money, but in quest of a packet of love-letters, written by his friend Sir Francis Burdett, and which were likely to be used in evidence against Burdett at the suit of a peer who suspected him of criminal intimacy with his wife. Sir Francis Burdett hurried to Ireland as a witness on O'Connor's behalf at his trial at Trim, and Roger was acquitted.

In 1822 O'Connor published ‘The Chronicles of Eri, being the History of the Gael, Sciot Iber, or Irish People: translated from the Original Manuscripts in the Phœnician dialect of the Scythian Language.’ The book is mainly, if not entirely, the fruit of O'Connor's imagination. Roger's portrait is prefixed, described as ‘O'Connor Cier-rige, head of his race, and O'Connor, chief of the prostrated people of this Nation. Soumis, pas vaincus.’ O'Connor is described as a man of fascinating manners and conversation, but Dr. Madden considers that his wits were always more or less disordered. Through life he professed to be a sceptic in religion, and declared that Voltaire was his God. He died at Kilcrea, co. Cork, on 27 Jan. 1834.

His will, a strange document, beginning: ‘I, O'Connor and O'Connor Cier-rige, called by the English Roger O'Connor, late of Connorville and Dangan Castle,’ is dated 1 July 1831. Feargus O'Connor [q. v.], the chartist, was his son.

[O'Connor's Letters to the People of Great Britain, etc., Dublin, 1799; Pelham MSS., Brit. Mus.; Fitzpatrick's Secret Service under Pitt, 1892; Dublin and London Mag. 1828, p. 30; information from Professor Barry, Queen's College, Cork (son of Roger's agent); Madden's United Irishmen; Ireland before the Union.]

W. J. F.