O'Ferrall, Richard (d. 1663), Capuchin friar and author of Commentarius Rinuccinianus, was born Barnabas O'Ferrall in Annaly, Co. Longford. In 1630 he went to Flanders in the company of Father Francis Nugent (qv) of Co. Meath, the founder of the Irish Capuchin mission. He entered the Irish college at Lille, which had been founded by Nugent in 1609 for the education of students from Leinster. He later studied at Douai and in 1634 he was admitted to the Capuchin order at Charleville in France. He was ordained in Poitiers and in early 1644 he was sent to Ireland. Accompanied by La Monerie, the French envoy to the Irish confederates, he landed at Waterford on 13 January 1644. He spent some months in Dublin assisting a fellow Capuchin, Barnabas Barnwall, before proceeding to Galway at the end of the summer of 1644. When the papal nuncio, Rinuccini (qv), arrived in Galway in June 1648, O'Ferrall was by then superior of the Capuchin community in the city and a staunch supporter of the nuncio.
In November 1648, together with Rinuccini's confessor Joseph Arcamoni, O'Ferrall was sent to Rome to present the nuncio's case and uphold the validity of the ecclesiastical censures imposed by Rinuccini on supporters of the truce with Inchiquin (qv). On his arrival in Rome in March 1649, he was appointed consultor of the special congregation for Irish affairs. Rinuccini left Ireland in 1649 and returned to Italy. In 1650 he wrote to O'Ferrall, who was still acting as his agent in Rome, asking him to come to Fermo to assist him in writing a history of Irish affairs. The project was postponed, however, due to Rinuccini's failing health and his death in 1653. Meanwhile, O'Ferrall remained in Rome, where he became greatly disillusioned with the Anglo-Irish faction, whom he came to blame for the Irish situation. On 5 March 1658 he sent a secret memo to Propaganda Fide on the state of Irish affairs, in which he attacked the Old English. The memo, which O'Ferrall claimed was distorted, was leaked and came into the hands of the nuncio's opponents, creating a storm of controversy in England and France. Two formal replies were written to the memo, one of which, ‘Alithinologia’, was written by John Lynch (qv). O'Ferrall lost the confidence of the pope and he moved to Florence in 1659, where documents relating to the Irish nunciature had been brought after Rinuccini's death.
In September 1661 O'Ferrall was joined in Florence by Robert O'Connell, a fellow Capuchin and a native of Munster. Together they began work on Commentarius Rinuccinianus, which was written between 1661 and 1666. The importance of the work lies in the access O’Ferrall had to the nuncio's correspondence, reports and possible memoirs relating to his time in Ireland. The ideas behind the work were those expressed in his 1658 memo. Influenced by his Old Irish heritage, he blamed half-hearted catholicism and Anglo-Irish treachery for the failure of the confederate association. He was primarily responsible for collecting and arranging the material but, as he died in August 1663, most of the actual writing was undertaken by O'Connell, who moderated some of his opinions. O'Ferrall died 13 August 1663 in the Capuchin convent of Montughi, outside Florence. The Commentarius contains a general history of Ireland from 1170 to 1642, with a particularly detailed account of events between 1642 and 1654. The original manuscript, in six folio volumes, was destroyed in Milan in 1943.