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


09 April-Isamabard Kingdom Brunel

‘Brunel’s Folly’ on the railway line near Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland and Brunel University based in Uxbridge, London, England are named after 19th century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel University describes as its mission ‘to combine academic rigour with the practical, entrepreneurial and imaginative approach pioneered by our namesake Isambard Kingdom Brunel’. It was awarded a Royal Charter in 1966 allowing it to become Brunel University.

Brunel, whose father was French and whose mother was English was born in Portsmouth, England in 1806. During his lifetime he was responsible for the design of many tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships. One of his most famous undertakings was the construction of the railway line from London to Bristol which he began in 1833.

Brunel attended the opening of the Dalkey railway line in in Dublin in 1844. He announced that he intended to extend the London to Bristol railway into South Wales. His ambition was to start a new sea route from Fishguard to Rosslare, to link with a railway line from Dublin to the Wexford port.

The Dublin and Kingstown railway which had been built by Carlow man William Dargan was opened in December 1834. It was decided to extend this railway southwards. Brunel was appointed as consulting engineer for the line to Greystones.

The construction of the single line was very expensive. The route runs along the cliff edge east of Bray Head. It has four tunnels and is one of the most spectacular train journeys in Ireland. It was in its day a major feat of engineering but its upkeep was so expensive that it became known as Brunel’s Folly.

The railway line eventually reached Wexford in 1872. Rosslare railway station opened in 1906, the same year as the Fishguard to Rosslare service was officially opened. During his lifetime Brunel became a celebrated engineer and he remains a popular figure to this day. A hard worker and heavy smoker he died of a stroke on September 15th 1859 at the age of 53.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born at Portsmouth England in the year 1806 On This Day.

Bray Head railway line photo

Bray Station Co Wicklow: Murals and Mosaics

Photo by infomatique