OıMahony in Navan
16 Keegan Cup wins to their credit, Navan OıMahonyıs are
the most successful senior football club in Meath, but what
of the man after which they are named? The connection between
the current OıMahonyıs club and the Navan Pierce OıMahonyıs
club that had a brilliant but brief existence in the late
19th century has been well documented. But who was the aforementioned
Pierce OıMahony asks Liam OıRourke.
In the course of his commentary of this years Allianz
National Football League Division 1 final between the Kerry
and Galway on Sunday, May 2, Michael OMuirecheartaigh
welcomed the ten countries from Eastern Europe that joined
the EU the previous day and remarked that Pierce OMahony
traveled widely in the region in the early years of the
Pierce Charles de Lacy OMahony was a Kerryman, born
in on June 9, 1850 at Kilmorna, in the north of the county
between Abbeyfeale and Listowel. He was the third son of
Pierce Kenifeck OMahony and Jane Gun-Cunningham, who
originally hailed from Newtownmountkennedy, County Wicklow.
His father died when he was a few months old.
He inherited the liberal views of his grandfather, who was
Daniel OConnells solicitor, as well as a love
of botany. His great-grandfather, another Pierce OMahony,
converted from Catholicism to Protestantism and dropped
the O from his surname.
His mother married again, this time to Charles Vicars, a
retired British Army colonel and it appears the new family
unit moved to Leamington in England.
OMahony had a privileged upbringing and was educated
at Rugby School, Oxford University before making his mark
at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, winning
in 1875 the Haygarth gold medal for practical agriculture
He married Helen Louise Collis in 1877 and they had two
sons, Pierce Gun who died in 1914 (as a result of a shooting
accident) and Dermot Gun who later became a Cumann na nGaedheal/Fine
Gael TD for Wicklow between the years 1927 and 1938,
Two years after the death of his first wife in 1899, Pierce
OMahony married again. His marriage to Alice Jane
Johnstone lasted five years until her death in 1906. In
1900, Pierce inherited the estate at Grangecon, County Wicklow
following the death of his uncle David. Grangecon is roughly
halfway between Baltinglass and Dunlavin in the west of
Working for the Land Commission in the 1880s, OMahony
traveled widely throughout the country in his work as an
assistant commissioner with the Land Commission. He was
also very friendly with Charles Stewart Parnell.
A series of events led to OMahony being elected as
M.P. for North Meath. First, the sitting Member of Parliament,
Kevin ODoherty decided to return to Australia. Parnell,
who held the seat between 1875 and 1880 before successfully
standing for Cork City, persuaded his friend to contest
Parnells support was enough to persuade the electorate
in North Meath to support the Kerry-native and he was elected
unanimously. OMahony remained loyal to his friend
to the bitter end and remained committed to Home Rule cause
after Parnells death aged 45 at Brighton on October
OMahony lost his seat in the General Election the
following July when the Irish Nationalist Party put Michael
Davitt, who was a central figure in the Land League as well
as being a patron of the GAA on the card. A bitter campaign
ensued and Davitt triumphed by 403 votes, 2,549 to 2,146.
However, the matter did not end there and OMahony
successfully took an election petition to court claiming
that the then Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath, Dr. Nulty
had intimidated voters into voting for Davitt. In court
a pastoral letter issued by Dr. Nulty was produced and was
deemed to be unlawful interference and a second election
in the constituency was called.
Davitt himself was cleared of any blame after it was shown
he tried to prevent publication of the offending letter,
but was bankrupted after failing to win the seat.
Another narrow defeat was OMahonys lot in the
second election, which took place on February 17th 1893,
with James Gibney of Kells claiming the seat by 2,635 votes
to 2,377. OMahony again blamed Nulty for his defeat
but there was no comeback on this occasion.
OMahonys travels to eastern Europe began as
an attempt to lay claim to a large fortune left in Russia
by his ancestors the de Lacys and in 1905 he is reputed
to have received property, gold and silver valued at £300,000,
a considerable sum of money one hundred years ago. One of
his relatives, Peter de Lacy, had been a Field Marshall
in the Russian Army.
Around this time while traveling through Sofia, the capital
of Bulgaria, with his second wife Alice Jane, they encountered
children orphaned in the aftermath of the St Ilindens
Day uprising of August 2, 1903.
Moved by their plight they founded an orphanage in the city
that was opened on March 30 the following year. It appears
he used his Russian inheritance to fund the venture. OMahony
took a personal interest in their welfare and even brought
some of them back to Ireland to be educated that they
might be a credit to their country.
The orphanage remained in existence for over a decade. OMahony
was an advocate of Bulgarian independence from the Ottoman
Empire, which was finally achieved in 1909. A few years
later King Ferdinand I rewarded OMahony with the Order
of Civil Merit, while there is a street in Sofia named
after him. During his stay in Bulgaria he adopted the title
The OMahony and is still fondly remembered
in that country by that name.
OMahony and the Bulgarian monarch fell out over the
latters decision to side with the Germans in the Great
War. After returning home, OMahony supported John
Redmonds efforts to recruit soldiers for the British
Army for which he was honoured with a CBE (Commander of
the British Empire) in 1920, but a few months later he declined
the honour in protest at Britains failure to grant
Home Rule to Ireland after the war.
A Deputy Lieutenant during the Great War, he also resigned
from the British Army - he had been a Deputy Lieutenant
during the war - and burned his uniform, replacing it with
a traditional Irish outfit complete with kilt, black beret
and feather, tan coat and green shawl fastened with a Tara
While in Bulgaria, OMahony also pursued his interest
in botany and traveled widely on plant-hunting expeditions
with the help of the king, who lent him his special train.
OMahony retained a special interest in Bulgarias
fate and in 1915 published a series of letters on the policy
of the super powers in the country while after the war he
argued that the country should be spared reparations.
Pierce OMahonys half brother Arthur Vicars,
who worked at Dublin Castle, was blamed for the disappearance
of the Irish Crown Jewels from there in 1907. Though the
mystery of their disappearance was never solved, Vicars
was forced to resign. He retired to the family homestead
in Kilmorna, where he was shot during a raid on the house
When his son Dermot returned from Kenya to live at Grangecon
with his wife in 1921, Pierce OMahony retired to Coolballintaggart.
With the help of Sir Frederick Moore, curator of the Botanical
Gardens, he cultivated many rare plants and trees.
He also showed considerable interest in the affairs of the
local GAA club Ballymanus, putting his house at their disposal
for fund raising céilís, while at Christmas
time he gave a pound of tea and a candle to every local
Originally a member of the Church of Ireland, OMahony
later converted to the Russian Orthodox Church before being
received into the Roman Catholic Church just over a year
before his death. One of his last public appearances was
a function for the Papal Nuncio. Pierce OMahony died
on October 31, 1930 aged 80 and he was buried at Ballynure,
Taken from Royal County