Before the horse ran, O'Kelly acquired a share in him for the sum of 650 guineas, a vast price in those days for an untried horse. It was on the occasion of Eclipse's first race, the Queen's Plate at Winchester, that, over the second heat, O'Kelly made his famous bet of placing the horses in order, which he won by running Eclipse first and the rest nowhere. In heat races a flag was dropped when the winner passed the post, and all horses that were not within 240 yards of the post were ignored by the judge and were ineligible to start in another heat. Not long after O'Kelly became the sole owner of Eclipse for a further sum of eleven hundred guineas. In those days all the valuable sweepstakes at Newmarket were confined to members of the Jockey Club, and Eclipse's reputation made it impossible to match him for money. Consequently O'Kelly's profits from him must have been derived more from his value as a sire than from his winnings. In July 1774 he bought Scaramouch (by Snap) at the sale of the Duke of Kingston's stud. In 1788 the Prince of Wales won a Jockey Club plate with Gunpowder, which he had bought of O'Kelly. O'Kelly improved his social position by obtaining a commission in the Middlesex militia, in which he was successively captain, major, and colonel. He bought a country house, Clay Hill, at Epsom, and subsequently the famous estate of Cannons, near Edgware, previously the property of the Duke of Chandos.
O'Kelly was additionally famous in his day as the owner of a talking parrot, which whistled the 104th Psalm, and was among parrots what Eclipse was among racehorses. O'Kelly is described by a contemporary as ‘a short, thick-set, dark, harsh-visaged, and ruffian-looking fellow,’ yet with ‘the ease, the agremens, the manners of a gentleman, and the attractive quaintness of a humourist.’ He evidently showed no wish to turn his back on his poor relations, and it is to his credit that, although a professional gamester, he would never allow play at his own table. But he is said to have held post-obits to the amount of 20,000l. from Lord Belfast. He died at his house in Piccadilly on 28 Dec. 1787.
Eclipse, his colt Dungannon, and a number of mares, were left to O'Kelly's brother to be carried on as a breeding stud. The rest of the property went to a nephew, who became a member of the Jockey Club, and ran Cardock for a Jockey Club plate in 1793. O'Kelly was determined that his property should not go as it had come; and, acting on the same principle as another noted gamester, Lord Chesterfield, he inserted a clause in his will that his heir should forfeit 400l. for every wager that he made.
[A Genuine Memoir of Dennis O'Kelly, London, 1788; Gent. Mag. 1787, pt. ii. p. 1196; Scott's Sportsman's Repository; Black's Jockey Club and its Founders, 1891, passim.]
O'KELLY, JOSEPH (1832–1883), geologist, born in Dublin on 31 Oct. 1832, was the second son of Matthias Joseph O'Kelly, who had married Margaret Shannon. His father was noted for a love of natural history, especially of conchology, and yet more for his activity in the cause of catholic emancipation Joseph O'Kelly entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1848, proceeded B.A. in 1852, and M,A. in 1860. He also obtained a diploma in engineering. After working for a few years under Sir Richard John Griffith [q. v.] he was appointed to a post on the Geologic Survey of Ireland in 1854. In this capacity he was chiefly occupied in the field with the district around Cork, the igneous rocks of Limerick, and the coal fields of Queen's County and Tipperary, investigating the last named, with the aid of colleagues, in great detail. But the work involved real hardships, such as exposure to stormy weather and accommodation worse than humble. By these O'Kelly's health was seriously impaired, so that, after working for a time in Galway, he was transferred, in October 1665, to the post of secretary to the Survey. In his new office his services were of great value, not only for his extensive knowledge of Irish geology, but also from his straightforward honesty and genial disposition, which enabled him to diminish friction and to promote cordial co-operation in official circles.
His health proved to be permanently injured, and he died of acute bronchitis on 13 April 1883. His contributions to the literature of geology, practically restricted to the memoirs published by the Survey, indicate his powers and his thoroughness as a geological observer. He was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy early in 1866, and married in 1870 Miss Dorothea Smyth, by whom he had a family of five sons and four daughters; these all survived him.
[Obituary notice in Geological Magazine, 1883, p. 288, and information from Mrs. O'Reilly and friends.]
O'KELLY, PATRICK (1754–1835?), eccentric poet, known as the 'Bard O'Kelly,' was born at Loughrea, co. Galway, in 1754. He seems to have obtained a local reputation as a poet before he published his first volume, 'Killarney: a Poem,' in 1791. His fame rapidly spread, and subsequent volumes were issued by subscription. When George IV