Ó Laoghaire, Art (1747–73), soldier, the subject of a famous lament, was probably the son of either Daniel, Cornelius, or Conor Ó Laoghaire, from Ballymurphy, Co. Cork; his paternity is ambiguous. He lived at Raleigh, near Macroom, Co. Cork, and is thought to have received at least part of his education in France. He served as a captain in the Hungarian Hussars. After returning home in 1767, he met and fell in love with Eibhlín Dhubh Ní Chonaill (qv), a widow almost a decade his senior from an affluent noble family of Derrynane, Co. Kerry (which included her nephew Daniel O'Connell (qv), ‘The Liberator’). They eloped in spite of her family's vehement opposition to the match, based on Ó Laoghaire's reputation for unruly behaviour. They had three sons, including Cornelius (who became a barrister-at-law and a captain of the Gardes-Françaises) and Fiach. Eibhlín was pregnant with their third child when Ó Laoghaire, aged 26, was shot dead on 4 May 1773. Although there are varying accounts of the events leading to his death, what is not disputed is the mutual antagonism existing between him and a local magistrate, Abraham Morris (high sheriff of Cork in 1760). Ó Laoghaire conducted himself with reckless self-assurance and flagrant disregard for the discriminatory penal laws, thereby incensing his protestant neighbours. It was speculated at the time that bad feeling between the two men ensued from rivalry over a woman, which would be in keeping with Ó Laoghaire's reputation for licentiousness.
The moment of flashpoint in their feud is uncertain. One source cites a squabble over a glass of water offered to them by an old woman by the spa at Mount Massey which led Ó Laoghaire to strike Morris. Apparently when he was indicted for this misdemeanour he failed to attend his trial and was outlawed. The prevalent version of events, however, maintains that the dispute came about when Morris invoked the penal law by which catholics could be compelled to sell a horse for £5. He demanded Ó Laoghaire's prized mare for this sum, possibly after it had beaten his own horse at the Macroom races; when Ó Laoghaire refused to part with it, he was shot at and injured by one of Morris's servants. Before making off he seized the gun, thus contravening another of the penal laws which prohibited catholics from being in possession of firearms without a licence. Contrary to folklore, he was never officially outlawed, but he had provided his adversary with a reason to prosecute him. Ó Laoghaire placed an advertisement in the Cork Evening Post (19 Aug. 1771) acknowledging the accusations against him and pledging to stand trial at the next assizes, but increasing ambivalence to the penal laws meant that there was a reluctance to proceed against him. For some time he conducted himself freely, and the authorities made no attempt to apprehend him. One of the varying versions of events asserts that in May 1773 he planned to ambush Morris, who was forewarned and arrived with an escort of soldiers who pursued Art to a field in Carraig an Ime (Carriganimmy, Co. Cork) where he was shot dead. Another source claims that it was Ó Laoghaire who was ambushed by soldiers while he rested in the aforementioned field. Soon after his death, his wife Eibhlin composed for him the famous lament, ‘Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire’.
Morris was charged with murder, and in July 1773 was injured in an attempt on his life by one of Ó Laoghaire's brothers, which added weight to his claims that he had lived in fear of his life. ‘Honourably acquitted’, he was supported by members of Cork's ascendancy class, who endorsed his actions against Ó Laoghaire as being in the interest of law and order. He died in 1775.
Ó Laoghaire was buried in Kilnamartra cemetery in May 1773; six months later the interment of his body in a churchyard was disallowed, and the remains were removed to a field outside Kilcrea friary. There they remained for many years before being exhumed and reburied within the grounds of the friary, where the family had acquired burial rights before his death.