1824 - 1904
Morris, of Blackrock. Judge. Of Gortnamona (or Mount Pleasant), overlooking Pallas Lake near Tullamore. He inherited the estate at Gortnamona through his wife. Issue, 1 son and 5 daus. William O'Connor Morris 1824-1904 Sunday, 27th November The author of the brief biographical note in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), provided us with an over-view of the life of that well-known author and Irish County Court judge and historian who lived at Gortnamona or Mount Pleasant, overlooking Pallas Lake near Tullamore. His beautiful house with its fine library was destroyed during the Civil War, as part of the then process of eliminating the demesne lands of local landlords so as to make it available for a carve-up among the local land-hungry local men. William O'Connor Morris was born in the city of Kilkenny on 26th November 1824 and was the son of Benjamin Morris, sometime Rector of Rincurran in the Diocese of Cork and Cloyne and Elizabeth, youngest daughter and co-heiress of Morris Nugent O'Connor of Gortnamona. Described in the DNB as a delicate boy, he was placed when 10 years of age under the care of a physician at Bromley in Kent. From 1837 to 1841 he was at a private school at Epsom, after 1841 at a school in South Wales, where he studied classics and history. In 1843 he entered Oriel College, Oxford, and in the summer of 1844 he was elected as scholar. Due to straitened circumstances on the family's Irish estate, because of the Great Famine, he was obliged to take 1½ years away from his studies (1846 - 7), but returned in the autumn of 1847 to obtain a second class degree the following year. His father had died in 1846 and Morris, having abandoned an early liking for a military career, raised, three years after leaving Oxford, the necessary fee of £100 to enter the King's Inn, Dublin as a law student. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1854 and choosing the home circuit (which would now include the Midlands), he gradually worked his way upwards and in 1862 he was elected Professor of Common and Criminal Law in the King's Inns. The following year he was appointed a commissioner to investigate the rights of owners of fixed nets for salmon in Ireland but resigned soon afterwards because of a difference between himself and Sir Robert Peel, the Third Baronet, and then Chief Secretary. The County Court judgeship was later given to him and he regarded it as amends for the injustice which he saw perpetrated on himself arising from the circumstances surrounding his retirement as a commissioner. In the meantime he married and established himself at Blackrock and through his wife inherited the estate at Gortnamona. He began about this time to write for the various literary reviews and for The Times, he reviewed books mainly on military history - a favourite subject of study. As a landlord he paid close attention to the conditions of land tenure in Ireland and Morris, at the request of the then editor of The Times, Delane, contributed a series of special articles on the subject to The Times. Travelling through the country, he collected his information at first hand and his letters in The Times (reprinted in 1870 with a map) advised the legal recognition of Ulster tenant right wherever it existed. The Land Act of 1870, though not entirely to his satisfaction, embodied many of his ideas. In 1872 he was appointed County Court Judge to the county of Louth and after six years he was transferred to Co. Kerry where the change did not prove agreeable. He had no sympathy with the Home Rule movement and detested the accompanying agrarian agitation, which was violent in Kerry. In 1880 he moved with his family from Dublin to Gortnamona and was, at his own request, transferred in 1886 to the County Court judgeship of the united counties of Sligo and Roscommon. His position there was easier than it had been in Kerry but his attitude to the de Freyne tenants in 1901 and his wider comments on politicians at that time, drew hostile criticism. Thereafter Morris devoted himself to literary work and published a number of historical treatises on such subjects as Hannibal and Napoleon. The DNB biographer, (possibly Robert Dunlop) said of him that 'he wrote too much and too superficially to become an authority of first rank on either military or Irish history. He had no personal experience of military affairs, and except in the case of Ireland of his own day, his knowledge of Irish history was largely second-hand. His style was that of an accomplished journalist, content for the most part to build on other men's foundations;' He died on 3rd August 1904 at Gortnamona. See DNB Volume 2 pp 2803-4. A brief note on the family will be found in Burke's Landed Gentry 1912 (page 496 - 7). Called to Irish Bar in 1854. Professor of Law at Kings Inns 1862. County Court Judge in Louth 1872. Moved to Gortnamona 1880. Wrote a great deal; his best-known book is the fictional reconstruction of the events leading to the Treaty of Limerick, and all that followed, told through the Memories of Gerald O'Connor 1671-1748). See DNB vol ii, p. 2803. But he wrote too much and too superficially to become an authority of Irish or Military history or Irish History.
|Born: Kilkenny, Ireland 26th Nov 1824 ||Baptised: |
|Died: Gortnamona, Galway, , Ireland 3rd Aug 1904 ||Buried: |