Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Neill, Henry (1800-1880)

O'NEILL, HENRY (1800–1880), Irish archæologist, born at Dundalk in 1800, issued two works which are held in high estimation by Irish antiquaries. The first of these, entitled ‘The Most Interesting of the sculptured Crosses of Ancient Ireland, drawn to scale and lithographed by H. O'Neill,’ an imperial folio, containing thirty-six fine tinted lithographs with descriptive letterpress and an essay on ancient Irish art, was published by the author, London, 1857. It was followed by ‘The Fine Arts and Civilisation of Ancient Ireland, illustrated with chromo and other lithographs, and several woodcuts,' London, 1863. This ambitious work attempts to prove the existence of advanced civilisation in Ireland at a prehistoric period, and to refute the conclusions of Dr. George Petrie [q. v.] in his 'Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland' (1845). O'Neill maintained that the round towers were of pagan origin, but this view is now discredited ; nor have his other contentions borne the test of criticism as well as those which he attacked. He also wrote in 1808 a brochure claiming 'Ireland for the Irish 'and attacking 'landlordism.' His last production was a lithograph, with a careful description of the twelfth-century metal cross known as the 'Cross of Cong.' O'Neill died at 109 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, on 21 Dec. 1880, in the same year as his namesake the artist, Henry Nelson O'Neil [q. v.], leaving a family in straitened circumstances.

[Irish Times, 24 Dec. 1880; Athenæum, 1881, i. 27 (where, and also in the Academy. O'Neill is wrongly credited with a separate work on the Round Towers); Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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