O'Conor, William Anderson (DNB00)

O'CONOR, WILLIAM ANDERSON (1820–1887), author, was born at Cork in 1820. His family came from Roscommon, and spelt their name O'Connor. After being at school in Cork for a short period his health failed, and he remained at home for several years, eventually, when nearly thirty years of age, going to Trinity College, Dublin, with a view to entering the ministry. His course there was, however, interrupted by his father's financial difficulties, and he afterwards entered St. Aidan's theological college at Birkenhead, Cheshire, where he was soon appointed Latin lecturer. On his ordination in 1853 he became curate of St. Nicholas's Church, Liverpool, and subsequently at St. Thomas's in the same town. From 1855 to 1858 he had sole charge of the church of St. Olave's with St. Michael's, Chester, and in the latter year was appointed rector of St. Simon and St. Jude's, Granby Row, Manchester, a very poor city parish, in which he laboured for the rest of his life. He did not graduate until 1864. It was several years after settling in Manchester before his eloquence and originality as a preacher attracted much notice. He devoted himself with great assiduity to his parochial duties, but, on the whole, his surroundings were uncongenial and discouraging. He found much relief in literary pursuits and in the society of men of literary tastes, among whom he shone as a witty and versatile conversationalist and writer. To the ‘Proceedings’ of the Manchester Statistical Society and the Manchester Literary Club he was a frequent contributor. His numerous papers read before the latter body were marked by originality, subtlety, and humour. Projects of social reform found in him an active friend, and such organisations as the Dramatic Reform Association and the Manchester Art Museum Committee were aided by his co-operation. For a time he acted as a poor-law guardian.

In 1885 he went to Italy with the object of recruiting his health, and took the chaplaincy of an Anglican church at Rome. On his return he speedily became absorbed in work, but before long had to seek rest again. He then went to Torquay, where he died on 22 March 1887, the immediate cause of death being a second paralytic stroke. He was buried at Torquay. He married in 1859 Miss Temple of Chester, but had no children.

His figure was tall and spare, and his features pale and ascetic-looking. The best published portrait is one prefixed to Mr. Okell's admirable critical paper referred to below.

Besides several occasional sermons and addresses, he published the following:

  1. ‘Miracles not Antecedently Incredible,’ 1861.
  2. ‘Faith and Works,’ 1868.
  3. ‘The Truth and the Church,’ 1869.
  4. ‘A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,’ 1871.
  5. ‘The Epistle to the Hebrews, with an Analytical Introduction and Notes,’ 1872.
  6. ‘A Commentary on the Gospel of St. John,’ 1874. To this he appended the tenth chapter of W. R. Greg's ‘Creed of Christendom,’ in order that the reader might compare the sceptical view of the fourth gospel with his own interpretation.
  7. ‘A Commentary on Galatians, with a Revised Text,’ 1876.
  8. ‘History of the Irish People,’ bk. i., 1876. This pamphlet was afterwards expanded and continued, and published in two volumes in 1882; a further revised edition appearing in 1886–7. The work is not so much a history as an indictment against English rule in Ireland.
  9. ‘The Irish Massacre of 1641,’ 1885 (a pamphlet).

In 1889 a volume of ‘Essays in Literature and Ethics, edited, with a Biographical Introduction, by William E. A. Axon,’ was published. It comprised a selection of his papers read before the Manchester Literary Club, nearly all of which were originally printed in the ‘Transactions’ of the club.

[Paper by Peter Okell in the Manchester Quarterly, January 1891; Axon's Memoir cited above; Manchester Guardian, 25 March and 5 April 1887; Manchester City News, 26 March 1887; Momus, 4 March 1880; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. vii. 68, 174; personal knowledge.]

C. W. S.