Abell, Abraham (1783–1851), antiquary and public figure at Cork, was born 11 April 1783 in Pope's Quay, Cork, son of Richard Abell, a quaker merchant. Abraham Abell too was a merchant, but he is to be remembered for his prominence in voluntary bodies, both cultural and philanthropic, in his native city: he was a founder of the Scientific and Literary Society and of the Cuvierian Society; a manager of the Royal Cork Institution; and treasurer of the Cork Library Society, the Cork Savings Bank, and the Cork Dispensary and Humane Society. Beyond Cork, he belonged to the Irish Archaeological Society, the Camden Society, and (from 1840) the RIA. Abell was an associate of two other Cork antiquaries, Matthew Horgan (qv) and John Windele (qv). Windele's notices of Abell in the Cork Examiner and in the preface to his edition of Horgan's Cahir conri: a metrical legend (privately printed, Cork, 1860) are the main sources of information on him. Abell's particular interests were coins, ogham stones, and magnetism; he had a ‘morbid antipathy to writing’; his sole literary production was ‘Origin of St Patrick's pot’, contributed by him to a local newspaper and reprinted by Windele. He was a great eccentric (in 1848 he burned his collection of books and then started another, leaving 4,500 at his death) and a keen walker (fifty-eight miles on his fifty-eighth birthday). A bachelor, he was ‘an ardent although platonic admirer of the fair sex’. Abell died 12 February 1851 at his home in Academy St., Cork. His portrait was in 1919 in the Cork School of Art. His brother Joshua (qv) was a leading anti-slavery campaigner; another, Richard, was a medical doctor well known as a phrenologist; a sister, Mrs Mary J. Knott, was the author of Two months at Kilkee (1836).
Cork Examiner, 14 Feb. 1851; obit. in RIA Proc., v (1853), 87–8; Matthew Horgan, Cahir conri: a metrical legend, ed. John Windele (1860), pp. xxxiii–xxxviii; John Windele, ‘Notice of the death of Abraham Abell, Esq., M.R.I.A.’, ed. P. G. Lee, Cork Hist. Soc. Jn., xxxv (1919), 63–9; R. S. Harrison, Cork city quakers, 1655–1939 (1991)