25 July-John O’Donovan

John O’Donovan, Irish language scholar and topographer, was a native of Co Kilkenny, Ireland. He carried out research on Irish place names for the Ordinance Survey of Ireland when the survey was being conducted during the 1830’s. He published several works including a grammar of the Irish language in 1845.

John O’Donovan was born in Atateenmore near Slieverue in South Kilkenny in July 1806. He grew up on the family farm. In 1817, when he was eleven years old, his father died and John moved to live near his uncle who was an Irish speaker. He was educated at Hunt’s Academy in Waterford City.

O’Donovan moved to Dublin where he taught at a school on Arran Quay. In 1827 he was offered a teaching position at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth which he declined. Instead he accepted a post researching state papers at the Public Records Office. While working there he taught Irish to Thomas Larcom, an engineer from Gosport in Hampshire, England who had been transferred from the Ordinance Survey of England to the Irish Ordinance Survey. Larcom would later become Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

In 1824, the surveyor Thomas Colby, was appointed by Thomas Larcom to carry out the Survey of Ireland. In 1830 O’Donovan was recruited by Colby to research Irish place names for the Ordinance Survey of Ireland. The survey was the most detailed ever undertaken and was completed in 1846. During his time working on the survey O’Donovan travelled all over Ireland researching place names. When a townland was identified it was O’Donovan’s task to give it the correct Irish name. Following this however he Anglicized the name when it was being placed on the map.

Following his work with the Ordinance Survey, John O’Donovan was appointed professor of Celtic Languages at Queen’s University, Belfast. He was called to the bar in 1847. His many works include: Grammar of the Irish Language and a Translation of the Four Masters. He was awarded an honorary LL.D from Trinity College Dublin in 1850. In 1856 he was elected to membership of the Royal Prussian Academy. His election was on the recommendation of Jakob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm who were authors of fairy tales like Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin. John O’Donovan died at his home, 36 Upper Buckingham Street, Dublin, at the age of 55 on December 10th 1861.

John O’Donovan, Irish language scholar and topographer, was born in Atateemore County Kilkenny in the year 1806 On This Day.

John O’Donovan (25 July 1806 – 10 December 1861)[Glasnevin Cemetery]-113434 by infomatique on 2016-03-31 15:39:25

John O’Donovan (25 July 1806 – 10 December 1861)[Glasnevin Cemetery]-113435 by infomatique on 2016-03-31 15:39:59

Image taken from page 13 of ‘Catalogue of the Maps and Plans and other publications of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, to 1st June 1881’ by The British Library on 2013-12-01 05:06:37


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