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O'HEARN, FRANCIS (1753–1801), Irish catholic divine, was born at Lismore, co. Waterford, in 1753, and educated at the Irish College in Louvain, where he was ordained, and afterwards became a professor, and finally rector. Daniel O'Connell [q. v.] was for a short time a pupil of his in this college. While a student there, O'Hearn attended the university of Louvain, and became a member of the Flemish 'nation,' one of the groups into which, in accordance with old custom, the university was divided. He became a diligent student of the Flemish language; and, moreover, did much to foster the language, then much in neglect, among the Flemings themselves. He wrote several poems in Flemish, of one of which the Bollandist Father de Buck has remarked that few Flemings of that day could produce so good a poem. O'Hearn was an accomplished scholar, and spoke several European languages fluently. He was also an enthusiastic traveller, and had made journeys through most of the continental countries on foot. On one occasion, while travelling in Turkey, he was suspected of instigating a rebellion against the sultan, and his arrest was ordered; but he escaped to Russia, and, it is stated, wandered through a portion of Siberia, and returned to Belgium by Norway, a remarkable feat of travelling in those days.

On the outbreak of the revolution in Flanders in 1790, O'Hearn took sides with the popular leader, Van Vonck, but, finding the latter's views too advanced, he gave his support to another leader of the popular party, Van der Noot, whose intimate friend and counsellor he became. Van der Noot sought to enlist the sympathies of the English, German, and Dutch courts, and published a manifesto, which he despatched to those courts, O'Hearn being sent as envoy to the Hague. When the French occupied Belgium in 1792, the members of the Irish College of Louvain became dispersed, and the building was used as a powder-magazine. O'Hearn took refuge in Germany, thence returned to Ireland, and was appointed parish priest of St. Thomas's in Waterford, where he died in 1801.

[Van Even's De Ierlander, Francis O'Hearn, Louvain, 1890.]

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