Select O'Hara Miscellany

Here are some O'Hara stories and accounts over the years:

The Book of O'Hara

A famous manuscript known as The Book of O'Hara is still in existence and contains a full record of the chiefs of the clan.   The work, entitled Leabhar I Eadhra in Gaelic, has poems on the O’Haras from 1550 to 1700. The modern version, edited by Lambert McKenna from the original manuscripts, contains 458 pages and was published in 1951.  It includes English translations. 

Charles O'Hara's Misfortunes in America and France

Charles O’Hara had been born in Portugal, the illegitimate son of General James O’Hara and his Portuguese mistress.  Despite this handicap, he was able to make his name in the British Army, first during the Seven Years War and then as a General during the American War of Independence.

It was O’Hara who represented the British at the Yorktown surrender in 1781 after General Cornwallis had pleaded illness.  Jerome Greene, the US National Park Service historian, wrote that during the surrender O'Hara had extended Cornwallis's sword.  Washington took the sword, symbolically held it a moment, and then returned it to O'Hara.  Thus this most symbolic of war trophies remained in English hands. 

A few years later, O'Hara was fleeing England for the Continent of Europe to escape his gambling debts. While in Italy he met the writer Mary Berry and began a long relationship with her. 

In 1792 he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar, a post that his father had held.  However, he was defeated by Napoleon a year later at Toulon and had to formally surrender his troops a second time.  He was treated as an "insurrectionist," was imprisoned in the Luxembourg Prison, and was threatened with the guillotine.  In the end he was to spend two years in prison in Paris before returning to Gibraltar.

In the Roland Emmerich film The Patriot starring Mel Gibson, O'Hara was played by Peter Woodward.  This was criticized.  The real O'Hara, despite his Portuguese birth and English education, spoke with an Irish accent rather than the upper-class English voice portrayed in the film.

The O'Haras in Boston

John and Margaret O’Hara and their eldest son Michael came to America from county Derry in the late 1850’s, first stopping off in Pennsylvania and later settling in Boston.  Eight more boys were born to the family in Boston.  They first lived in the North East of Boston and then, by the dint of hard work, were able to buy their own home in Charleston in 1874.  While in the North End, they were next-door neighbors to Rose Fitzgerald who married Joe Kennedy and was the father of JFK.

Michael, the eldest son, became a printer.  William, like his father, worked for the city of Boston.  He also served on the City Council.  Brothers Richard and Bernard started an early milk delivery company in the city, having a contract with the main hospital in town.  The youngest was Edmund who was still living in 2002, at the age of 91, in southern California.

O'Hara Emigration from Cavan

Among others leaving Ireland were the O’Haras from Killinkere parish in county Cavan.  Australia, as can be seen below, was their favored destination. 

This was the record of one of these O’Hara families:

  • The eldest, Thomas, departed with his wife Sarah on the Florentia to Australia in 1853 and settled in the New England tablelands of northern NSW.  They prospered there.  They raised eleven and there were at least eighty one grandchildren.
  • His sister Jane married William Sheils and they followed Thomas to Australia in 1855 two years later. Her husband died in 1859 and she married again.  From her two marriages there were a total of sixteen children and at least fifty six grandchildren.  Another sister Margaret accompanied Jane to Australia and married there.
  • Martha married William Shiels’ brother John and they emigrated to New Zealand in 1866, settling in Lyttleton, South Island.
  • The youngest in age, Joseph, departed in 1867 at the age of 22 for Canada, marrying and settling in Grey county, Ontario where he started his own boot and shoe shop.
Who was left in Ireland of this family?  It seemed only James who died in Ireland, aged 32, in 1882, although no tombstone marks his grave.

Then there were their cousins in the parish who also emigrated:
  • The eldest two in the family were sisters, Margaret and Mary, and they both came to Australia in the 1850’s and married there, Margaret coming after the death of her husband.  Also arriving at that time was three younger sisters – Eliza, Matilda, and Sarah who married her first cousin Thomas O'Hara.
  • Samuel arrived in Australia with his wife on the Truro in 1855.  In the early 1860’s he joined his first cousin Thomas O'Hara and his sister Sarah on the New England tablelands in northern NSW.
  • John arrived in Australia on the John Vanner in 1863 with his wife and five children and four other relatives.  He later sponsored the emigration of his brother William and family in 1880.
There were apparently none of the siblings left in Ireland.

Interestingly, for both of these families, the women seem to have preceded the men in emigration.

John O'Hara and Glasgow Celtic

John O’Hara had left home in Fauchin Vale, county Derry for Glasgow as a young boy at the time of the famine.  There he was very much a self-made man – starting out as a shoemaker and later finding a more prosperous trade, first as a life insurance agent and then as a wine and spirit merchant and running his own public house.

John worked with his brother Walfrid and other Irishmen in Glasgow in the formation of a football club, Celtic FC, in 1888.  He became its first Secretary
and was instrumental in signing its first players, mainly from Edinburgh Hibernians.  He remained on the Board of the club until his death in 1905.  An unmarked grave at St. Peter’s cemetery in Dalbeth was to be his final resting place.

The Scarlett O'Hara Cocktail

A popular drink commemorating the movie Gone With the Wind is the Scarlett O'Hara cocktail. Pour two ounces of Southern Comfort over ice into an eight ounce glass.  Fill with cranberry juice.  Squeeze one wedge of lime into the drink.  Stir, serve and drink a toast to O'Haras everywhere!

The Adventures of Jean O'Hara in Hawaii

Jean O'Hara was a famous prostitute in Honolulu’s vice district during World War Two.  She had been born in Chicago, the only child of strict Catholic parents.  Police records showed that between 1934 and 1938, prior to her arrival in Hawaii, she had already been arrested for prostitution three times.

She violated the rules there by working outside of Chinatown.  This landed her in jail for a period.  She made money by purchasing choice real estate and then selling at a substantial profit. When the neighbors discovered who was moving in they would invariably pitch in to buy her out. She thus made a fortune by openly flouting the rules.

In the end the police started to work with Jean O’Hara.  She was credited with inventing the "bull pen" system where a single prostitute would work three rooms in rotation: In one room a man would be undressing, in a second room the prostitute would be having sex, and in the third room the man would be dressing. With price controls circumventing the laws of supply and demand, O'Hara's system sped up the process and allowed each prostitute to see many more johns every day.

After martial law ended in 1944, O'Hara's book My Life as a Honolulu Prostitute was the straw that broke the camel's back.  It led to the complete shutdown of all brothels in

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