Conmee, John Stephen (1847–1910), Jesuit priest, writer, and educator, was born 25 December 1847 in Glanduff, near Athlone, Co. Westmeath, the son of John N. Conmee, a prosperous farmer. His family later moved to Kingsland, Co. Roscommon, and it was here that he spent his early childhood. He was educated at Castleknock college, Co. Dublin (1861–4) and at Clongowes Wood college, Co. Kildare (1864–7). On 8 October 1867 he entered the Irish province of the Society of Jesus at Milltown Park, Dublin. He continued his studies at Roehampton, London and Stonyhurst college, Lancashire. Returning to Ireland in 1873 he began his teaching career as a master at St Stanislaus college, Tullabeg, King's Co. (Offaly). His superiors soon realised that he was a born schoolmaster, with a talent for inspiring students. Known for his kindness, he was popular with both staff and students, and became involved in all aspects of college life. In 1878 he went to Innsbruck to begin theological studies and took the opportunity to travel around Europe. He was ordained in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, by Archbishop T. W. Croke (qv) in 1881, taking final vows in 1886.
He returned to Clongowes Wood college and served as prefect of studies (1881–5) and rector (1885–91). During his time as rector he oversaw the amalgamation of Tullabeg and Clongowes Wood colleges. He was appointed to the teaching staff of University College, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, first as prefect of studies and then as dean (1898–1904). In 1898 he was also appointed as superior of St Francis Xavier's Church in Gardiner St., Dublin. His teaching career finished with his promotion to provincial of the Irish province in 1905, after which he visited the Australian mission and toured the Holy Land. He retired as provincial because of ill-health in 1909 and was made rector of Milltown college. After a long illness, he died 13 May 1910 in Dublin.
While remembered as an educator, he also wrote poetry and prose. He published Ephesus (1873), Lines for the opening of the debate (1882) and Old times in the barony (1895). The Jesuit archive in Leeson St., Dublin, has a collection of his unpublished writings, including ‘Essays on spirtual subjects’. He is mainly remembered for his connection with James Joyce (qv), who spent three unhappy years at Clongowes while Conmee was in control. He clearly made a strong impression on the young Joyce, appearing as the kindly rector in A portrait of the artist as a young man (1916) and being mentioned more than sixty times in Ulysses (1922).