Connellan, Owen (1797–1871), Gaelic scholar, royal historiographer, and scribe, was born in Tireragh, Co. Sligo, son of a farmer. He claimed descent from the kings of Ireland through the chieftains of Bunnyconnellan in Mayo, and was most likely related to another nineteenth-century scholar, Thaddeus ‘Thady’ Connellan (qv).
He received his earliest schooling from his father, as well as informal schooling in the locality, before finding work as a young man in the library of the RIA. Strongly influenced by his patron at the RIA, Sir William Betham (qv), most of his work entailed deciphering, copying, and translating ancient manuscripts, editing texts, and producing grammars, annals, and directories, all of which were completed in his distinctive hand. He transcribed the Book of Lecan, compiled early in the fifteenth century, and the late fourteenth-century Book of Ballymote. His Annals of Ireland, translated from the original Irish of the four masters was completed in 1846, but this version of the historic records compiled between the fourteenth and seventeenth century in Irish monasteries was only moderately received, and was almost immediately superseded by the publication of the full text of the annals by John O'Donovan (qv). His most important work was Imtheacht na tromdhaimhe (1860), a text with translation and notes, which relates how ‘Táin bó Cuailgne’, one of the most famous tales of the Irish bards, was recovered in the time of St Ciarán (qv). Among his other publications were Grammatical praxis on the gospel of St Matthew (1830), Grammatical interlineary version of the gospel of St John (1830), Dissertation on Irish grammar (1834), and Practical grammar of the Irish language (1844); he also contributed the ‘Annals of Dublin’ in Pettigrew and Oulton's Directory (1835) and wrote several articles, including ‘On the rivers of Ireland’ (1869).
In the early 1830s he was appointed Irish historiographer to the king by William IV, while he had earlier translated George IV's Letter to the Irish people into Irish. In 1849 he was appointed professor of Celtic languages and literature at the newly founded QCC. Within two years his tenure of that chair attained notoriety in the city when the college president, Sir Robert Kane (qv), complained that he had never discharged any of his duties. Connellan claimed that the delivery of public lectures produced a nervous affliction that threatened his life, and offered – and almost instantly withdrew – his resignation. Only the intervention of the chief secretary's office, Dublin Castle, brought a resolution of sorts, with Connellan retaining the chair till 1863 as an effective sinecure, rarely teaching more than two students in an academic year.
He was a founder-member and vice-president of the short-lived Ossianic Society, established in 1853 to preserve and publish manuscripts relating to the Fenian cycle in early Irish literature. Genial, humorous, and generous, he lived for many years at 2 Burlington Rd, Leeson St., Dublin, and died there on 4 August 1871.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).