Fanny O'Donnell's Father
Neale Connell O’Donnell was born in Newport, County Mayo. Ireland c 1814 the third son in a family of eight children (3 sons and 5 daughters) born to 2nd Baronet Sir Neale O’Donnell of Newport Co. Mayo, Ireland and his wife Catherine Annesley (4th daughter of Richard, Earl of Annesley). (There are various websites and historic information on the O’Donnell Dynasty, the Baronetcy and their ancestry also recorded in Burke’s Peerage).
Author of "The Gambles of Graman", Rae Black,
visiting the Annesley's castle Castlewellan Castle,
built by 1865 by William Richard Annesley.
Extract from the Rolls and Records Office Dublin show Neale as: (Baptised 16 September 1814 – Connell Neal, son to Sir Neal O’Donel, Bart. and Lady Catherine O’Donel alias Annesley)
During the 1800’s Revenues of the O’Donnells of Newport House were in the vicinity of 40,000 pounds per annum. The O’Donnells owned properties in Dublin (some known being 15 Merrion Square, 7 Elyah Place, and a residence in Mountjoy Square) as well as fisheries and a town house in London.
The O’Donnells moved in the social circles of the landed Anglo-Irish aristocracy both in Mayo and in Dublin.
Neale’s father, Sir Neale O’Donnell 2nd Baronet died on 1st March 1827, his eldest son Hugh succeeded as 3rd Bart, Hugh was married to Arabella, daughter of Sir John Blake, Bart of Menlo Castle. Unfortunately Hugh met an untimely death as a result of gunshot wounds received in a duel and died on 9 July 1828, leaving posthumously a daughter named Arabella, upon whose birth the title of Baronet was inherited by the second son, Richard Annesley O’Donnell.
Sir Neale, 2nd Baronet. Locally known as Neal Beag.
There was no love lost between the two remaining brothers Richard and Neale. Neale, at age 17 years was living in Dublin and studying law at Trinity College in the University of Dublin sponsored by Rev A Bullock S.C. (means Socius Comitatus). These students had privileges that included paying double fees and doing their degree in three years instead of four.
Neale was living on an allowance from home (Newport) Co Mayo which had been set up by his father. His brother Hugh continued to pay Neale this allowance.
Richard as 4th Baronet was now struggling with debts of the estate, believed that his brother Neale was living in Dublin as if he were the heir apparent and ill bothered by matters of the estate. Richard proceeded to cut off Neale’s allowance saying Neale was a wastrel and gambler.
Now without an income, Neale appears before the Dublin Court on a charge of Highway Robbery which took place on 16th April 1833 between Clonskeagh Bridge and Dublin. (It is interesting to note that brother Richard was a sheriff of the county of Burrishoole at this time and could have been pivotal in having Neale tried and convicted). In his defense, Neale stated that his brother Richard was a miser, withholding money from him, making it impossible for him to live.
An extract from Dublin Court Recorders Book, Reference No. 71 states on 23rd April 1833 Neill O’Donnell was tried and found guilty of Highway Robbery. A sentence of death is recorded, then a commutation to transportation for life.
This trial is said to have excited a good deal of interest. Newspaper archives of the time from Freeman’s Journal, April 24, 1833. The Dublin Evening Post, 25 April, 1833 and the Belfast Newsletter, 26 April 1833 show versions of the trial which differ markedly, with very dubious and incomplete evidence given by witnesses and name of the robbery victim was different in each account.
In 1833 Neale, along with his accused cohort in the robbery Magee, was transported to the colonies aboard the “Royal Sovereign” departing Dublin on 6th September 1833 and arriving in Port Jackson on 19 January 1834, a voyage of 135 days. (Neale was listed as convict Neil McDonnell, perhaps to disguise any connection with the O’Donnells).
There was an incident on the voyage which warranted an inquiry by the Surgeon Superintendent, which indicated there was some notion of an idea to mutiny by Magee. Evidence revealed it could not have been a serious attempt at mutiny and Magee was punished. Neale had given evidence at the inquiry.
On board the “Royal Sovereign” upon arrival at Port Jackson were 168 male prisoners (two had died on the passage out). According to the disbursement of passengers One hundred and forty-four prisoners were sent into private service; eleven were assigned to public service and of thirteen remaining, two were too old for assignment, five were sent to the hospital, three to the invalid department, one to Carter’s barracks and two were sent to Port Macquarie as Specials; (One of these two being our Neale O’Donnell).
Neale was about 21 years of age at this time and was noted as literate and well educated. He was 5’ 6.25” tall with a dark, sallow complexion, dark brown hair and brown eyes. He had a scar on the left side of his forehead and another scar on the corner of his right eyebrow and a wart on the ball of his right thumb.
On 16 August 1842 Neale was granted a Ticket of Leave on the recommendation of the Port Macquarie Bench and was allowed to remain in the district of Port Macquarie and Camden Haven, engaged as a top sawyer in this rich cedar timber district.
During his time in Port Macquarie, Neale met a young Caroline Amelia Collins who had been sponsored to the colony by John Marshall Esq, under protection of a 10 pound bounty, as a companion to a lady of title. Caroline was quite taken by the dapper little carpenter. The young couple applied to be married: (Permission to marry was refused on 12 October 1841 as Neale was in the Government Employ, a further refusal on 8 November 1842 stating there was no such person as William Henry Cornelius O’Donnell transported on the Royal Sovereign)
However on 24 February1843 at St Thomas’ Church of England, Port Macquarie, NSW Australia Neale O’Donnell and Caroline Collins were married by banns with the consent of the Governor, by John Cross, Chaplain. Witnesses to the marriage were John and Agnes Edwards.
His Ticket of Leave was again endorsed on 17th July 1846 and he was ordered to remain in service with Mr Nevison, who was from a prominent grazing family in the Walcha district. A complete Pardon was granted on 10 January 1849. (Pardon was obtained by influence of Neal’s friend, Phillip Ditmus from “Clarevaulx” Wellingrove near Glen Innes).
Together Neale and Caroline produced 9 children (one birth being twins). Fanny b 1842, Julia b 1844, Elizabeth b 1846, Neil b 1847, Caroline b 1848, Twins William and Sarah b 1848, Frederick b 1853 and Anna Maria b 1855.
Apparently Caroline urged Neale many times to contact his family in Ireland, but Neale would have nothing to do with them saying “Richard O’Donnell would spend a shilling to buy a rope to hang me but not sixpence to save me.” Neil also believed the Irish O’Donnells always knew where he was, along with details of his family and his doings here in Australia.
Neale died in Armidale Hospital in 1855 as a result of an accident. Family relates that according to their Mother, Neale’s wife Caroline, this accident was caused by his own obstinacy in Neale doing something Caroline had told him not to do. The page from hospital records concerning Neale’s admission/treatment and subsequent death had been mysteriously removed by unknown persons and no death certificate was ever able to be produced. Nor is there any record of his interment, which today still remains a mystery.
Meanwhile in Ireland, Neale’s brother Richard 4th Baronet died on 29 November 1878. Richard had produced two sons in a marriage with Mary, 3rd daughter of George Clendining Esq., of Westport, those sons being: George Clendining he succeeded as 5th Bart and died 1889 and Richard Alexander b. 15 Feb 1834 d. 1867.
Neither son had produced a male heir, however Richard Alexander had a daughter Millicent.
If Neale Connell had been alive upon the death of his brother Richard, he would now have been heir to a title and family estates.
There was a notice in “Freeman’s Journal” 7 March 1856 (note this is 12 months after Neal is accidently killed here in Australia) inviting creditors to furnish details in writing to Sir Richard Annesley O’Donnell as the committee of the estate of said lunatic (purported to be Neale O’Donnell), in order that he may include these claims in a charge to be filed to the Master of Chancery.
Following the death of Richard, an article appeared in The Age Newspaper, Melbourne, titled “The Last of the O’Donnells, Baronetcy Lapses” It was seen by Catherine O’Donnell Hamilton, who was Neale Connell O’Donnell’s daughter, she was married to compositor and printer John Hamilton, Catherine was well known in Melbourne, selling newspapers from a pram on the corner of Swanston and Collins Street and would read the newspapers between customers. Catherine contacted her sister Elizabeth O’Donnell Dunphy, they consult Burke’s Peerage and together with details in possession of the family, ascertained that their only surviving brother (also Neil O’Donnell) who is working as a miner at Hillgrove and living on Gara Station, near Armidale, is the heir presumptive to the title and the property.
Young Neil (heir presumptive) on discovering his good luck, proved too much for him and lost all reason to the extent he was placed under temporary restraint in Armidale. (young Neil was eventually admitted to Gladesville Mental Assylum with Acute Mania, he was transferred from there in 1910 to Parramatta Hospital for Insane. He died there on 13 October 1917 and is interred at Rookwood in the Roman Catholic Secion P grave No 1436)
The family on behalf of Young Neil, lodged a claim to the Baronetcy. This claim was unsuccessful and defended by Richard Alexander’s daughter Millicent Agnes O’Donnell who had inherited the O’Donnell estate from her uncle on condition Millicent’s husband changed his name to O’Donnell and any of her children also had the name O’Donnell.
Unfortunately two important documents which may have altered the outcome of the claim could not be traced or produced, these would be absolutely necessary to establish the title for Young Neil, those being his own birth certificate and the death certificate of his father Neale O’Donnell. During the claim upon the estate it was claimed that a lunatic, named Neale O’Donnell, supposedly died on 21 March 1860 aged 45 years at Ballywillwill and is supposedly buried in Kilmegan Church yard.
It is believed that elder brother Richard had kept a close eye on Neale and his family from Ireland in order that the Irish inheritance not be under threat from anyone in the colonies. The Newport Estate actually went into receivership in 1829, long before Neale departed for the colonies in 1833.
Most of the estate had been sold off in the 1850’s to pay enormous debts. Much money had been spent to refurbish Newport House in the past. However the estate was still worth a considerable amount and represented a fortune to those O’Donnell’s here in Australia struggling to make a living.
The baronetcy ceased with no male heir, however some property remains as Newport House Hotel, a now flourishing top class hotel and salmon fishing establishment. Portraits within the building of the O’Donnell family remain, unfortunately they are not named.
The 2 photos above show the O'Donnell family crypt
in the Old Cemetery Newport, Ireland.