Daniel (Ó Domhnuill, O'Donnell), William (1570–1628), Church of Ireland archbishop of Tuam and translator of the New Testament into Irish, was a son of Nicholas Daniel of Kilkenny; nothing is known of his mother. During his youth he became a protestant, probably under the influence of the energetic Church of Ireland bishop of Ossory, Nicholas Walsh (qv), who appointed him prebend of Tascoffin in his diocese in 1584. This post was designed to support him in his studies to become a minister. He matriculated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in Easter 1586, having been nominated as a scholar by the founders of the newly established and strongly puritan college and went on to graduate BA (1590) and MA (1593). He was still a layman in 1591, but was probably ordained shortly after. His name appears in the patent for the foundation of TCD (3 March 1592) as one of three youths nominated to scholarships, and he was elected a junior fellow in the summer of 1593. Trinity opened in 1594, during which year he began to exercise his duties as a fellow. Thereafter, he graduated MA (1595) and was made DD at the first commencement (24 February 1602). As the only Irish-speaking fellow, he was a valuable addition to the fledgling institution. He was also fluent in ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.
On returning to Ireland c.1593–4, he became involved in renewed efforts to translate the New Testament into Irish for the first time, this project having been commenced by his former patron Nicholas Walsh during the 1570s. He was aided by fellow Irish-speaker Nehemias Donellan (qv), who was also his brother-in-law, and Maoílin Óg Mac Bruaideadha (qv), a bard from Clare. Enjoying the support of both the government and TCD, they made considerable progress during 1594–5. A printing press was established in Trinity, and by 1595 parts of the translated New Testament were being printed. By 1597 at the latest, and possibly as early as summer 1595, the gospels up to the sixth chapter of Luke had been printed in Irish and the gospel of St John was translated in manuscript form.
During 1596–7 the project stalled and nearly foundered owing to Trinity's financial problems, to a loss of personnel, and to a dispute with the printer of the translation, William Kearney. In August 1595 Daniel accompanied another Trinity fellow, Luke Challoner (qv), to London to request that the college receive a sufficient endowment of land. They returned to Dublin in October, bearing a letter from the English privy council commending their cause, but the Dublin administration dragged its heels. In late 1596 or early 1597 Kearney, probably exasperated by Trinity's failure to pay his salary, removed all his printing equipment and the printed material from the college, and refused to return them. Meanwhile, the Church of Ireland urgently needed Gaelic-speaking clergy to evangelise the Irish. In 1595 Donellan's promotion to the archbishopric of Tuam had deprived Daniel of one of his collaborators. Then in late 1595 Daniel himself was persuaded by the government to take up a post as preacher in Galway city.
He arrived in Galway in January 1596 and, setting aside his regret at leaving his scholarly labours unfinished, threw himself into his role as protestant missionary. Although he had some initial success in persuading locals to attend Church of Ireland services, the catholic clergy were far more numerous in the city and retained the loyalty of the overwhelming majority there. Indeed, shortly before September 1596, local catholics stoned his residence. For his part, he wrote bitterly and scathingly of the catholic clergy and urged the government to adopt repressive measures against them. In practice, his flock was composed solely of the English royal garrison based in the city, which often clashed with the catholic civilians under their charge. During one particularly bitter dispute (1600), he was among a number of local notables who signed a letter taking the side of the royal commander in his quarrel with the mayor of Galway. Compensating for his unpopularity was his annual salary of £40 a year for his position as preacher, and about £90 a year for his position as army chaplain. The latter role seems to have led him to spend much of his time away from Galway ministering to the protestant members of various royal garrisons throughout Ireland. By December 1602, he has established a protestant congragation at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim.
Having apparently satisfactorily resolved the dispute with Kearney, he resumed his translation of the New Testament while in Galway, this time having only the help of a scribe, Domhnall Óg hUiginn. During the second half of 1601 he relinquished his post in Galway to become treasurer of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin, and more pertinently to complete and print his New Testament in Dublin. The work was finished in 1602 and the remaining material was printed that year, with the costs being borne by the government and by William Ussher, clerk of the Irish privy council. In February 1603 Daniel went to London to present a copy to Queen Elizabeth I. As she died in March 1603, it is uncertain whether he ever provided her with tangible evidence of the belated culmination of a project she had first authorised as far back as the 1560s. Although the sheets had been printed in 1602, they had not been bound, enabling him to insert a dedication in English to the newly crowned James I. In total 500 copies were printed. Tiomna Nuadha was based on an examination of the original Greek as well as the Latin Vulgate of St Jerome and the English Geneva Bible (1557). As well as completing the translation, Daniel also revised the work carried out by his predecessors. It has been admired as a meticulously faithful translation in lucid, idiomatic Irish, and it continued to be printed in Ireland and Scotland, used chiefly by protestants but to some extent by catholics.
In late 1605 the Irish government authorised Daniel to translate the Book of Common Prayer (the Psalms excepted) into Irish. Immediately he returned to Connacht to seek the assistance of Irish-speakers there. Although Daniel made no acknowledgement of his assistance, his main collaborator on this project appears to have been Murtagh King (qv), who would later help Bishop William Bedell (qv) translate the Old Testament into Irish. Daniel's work was completed in 1608, but does not appear to have been published till autumn 1609. His Leabhar na nUrnaightheadh gComhchoidchiond has also been praised by religious and linguistic scholars, particularly for not adhering too slavishly to the original English. He based this translation mainly on the 1604 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, but he had been able to view extracts of the King James Bible, then in preparation in England, for the Old Testament epistles.
Partly in acknowledgement of his work, he was appointed archbishop of Tuam in succession to his brother-in-law Nehemias Donellan, being consecrated in August 1609. In January 1611 he became a member of the Irish privy council. Doubtless, the government envisaged that he would prove a doughty and vigorous champion of protestantism in a hostile environment. Indeed, in recommending his promotion to Tuam the lord deputy Sir Arthur Chichester (qv) noted that Daniel was both respected and feared in Connacht. Despite being Irish, he was militantly anti-catholic and had often bemoaned the government's unofficial policy of tolerance. He regarded the pope as the anti-Christ and in 1615 he attended the Irish clerical convocation, which adopted strongly Calvinist articles for the Church of Ireland. His theological biases are laid bare in his translations, where ‘priest’ is translated as minisdir (minister) and ‘catholic’ as comhchoidchionn (universal). The manner in which he slightly altered the meaning or emphasis of certain passages from the original Book of Common Prayer suggests that he disliked the concessions to traditional religious observances entailed in the Elizabethan church settlement.
However, as in his previous stint in Connacht his mission was undermined by the paucity of the Church of Ireland's resources there; his salary was so meagre that he was allowed to retain his treasurership of St Patrick's to supplement it. Tuam cathedral lay in ruins, leading to proposals in 1611 to transfer his seat as archbishop to the collegiate church in Galway. Nothing came of this and he eventually oversaw the rebuilding of Tuam cathedral. This was to prove a rare success during his tenure as archbishop. Stymied by a lack of capable protestant clergy, and by powerful catholic landowners who rode roughshod over the established church's property rights and who maintained and protected the catholic clergy, he secured virtually no converts from catholicism. Very few British protestants settled in Connacht, depriving him of an alternate source of income and political sustenance.
In his later years Daniel became deeply disillusioned and, according to Sir James Ware (qv), sought solace in drink and tobacco. Remarkably, his attitude towards his spiritual rivals appears to have mellowed considerably. He enjoyed cordial relations with Francis Kirwan (qv), catholic vicar general of the diocese of Tuam from 1620, apparently releasing him after he had been arrested. In November 1626, he was one of the few Church of Ireland bishops to decline signing a protest at the government's toleration of catholicism. Kirwan's seventeenth-century biographer portrayed Daniel's protestantism as the result of youthful folly and implies that later in life he harboured private sympathies for catholicism. This seems fanciful: his changed attitude probably stems more from a realisation that he was overmatched and from an ensuing desire to settle for a quiet life.
He died 11 July 1628 at Tuam, and is buried there in the tomb of his predecessor Nehemias Donellan. He was survived by his wife Mary (maiden name and date of marriage unknown) and his daughter Catelin.