About this project
Two High quality, limited-edition offers of this eminently collectable book:
1. A Presentation Edition - Hardback, Full-colour facsimile edition.
2. Modern Format Edition - Black and White, Hardback edition with colour plates.
It is a great privilege to get the opportunity to bring a lost eighteenth century manuscript to the general public for the first time. We are offering the option of a full-colour, facsimile edition of the original manuscript, and a modern format, Black and White edition. Both are highly collectable editions testifying to the eminence and pride of the O'Reilly clan.
That this is possible is a remarkable and mysterious story in itself. The manuscript was discovered, quite by chance, at an auction in Munich in 2008 by Nikolaus Grüger, an orchestral musician and book collector with a passion for all thing Irish. However, the identity of the seller and the history of the manuscript was discreetly, and mysteriously, withheld by the auctioneer.
Nikolaus is a much respected member of the Probus Club, Ballycastle, County Antrim but is sadly suffering problems of ill health. A number of members of the club decided to help him fulfill his ambition to publish an affordable edition of the manuscript. Up to now it has been available only as a very expensive, connoisseur edition.
Now, it is generally available, anyone with connections to the O’Reillys, or linked to the ancient Kingdom of Breifne can explore the thousand year story of this most ancient and significant Irish clan.
Furthermore, for anyone interested in Irish history more generally, it gives a valuable insight into how the exiled Irish nobility viewed themselves, their legal system, their political leadership, particularly as it applied to Ireland’s fraught relationship with its colonising neighbour.
The genealogy was commissioned in 1790 by Count Alexander O'Reilly, who, like many of the exiled Irish nobility, served with distinction in continental Europe, achieving the rank of Field Marshal in the Spanish army. He subsequently served the Spanish crown as a diplomat in Havana and Louisiana, earning himself the title of Conde de O'Reilly.
Mindful of the antiquity of his overthrown family, he commissioned a renown antiquarian and genealogist, Chevalier Thomas O'Gorman, to research and write a genealogy of his noble House.
Available now for the first time is an account of the O'Reillys' contribution to the Church in Ireland, especially through the number of bishops of O'Reilly origin. This section was originally written in Latin and has been translated in this edition for the first time.
Also published for the first time is the translation of a section on the McDowell family. Rosa McDowell of the McDowell de Montagh family was Count Alexander's mother.
O'Gorman himself was a native Irish speaker and fellow exile who had married into French nobility. He was eminently suitable for the task; not only was he regarded highly as a military man, he was also a scholar, and was a founding member of the Royal Irish Academy. Historians can be grateful that he was instrumental in preserving significant Irish historic documents and Annals.
The role and life of Chevalier Thomas O'Gorman has been much neglected despite his contributions to the preservation of some of Ireland's most important documents and the fact that he was person of interest in his own right and lived in very interesting times. A native Irish speaker, he was born in Clare into a prominent family who had occupied the territory of Drumelihy and Cahermurphy in the Burren. Like Count Alexander, he was an exiled Irishman barred from advancement in Ireland by the Penal Laws. He studied medicine in Paris and entered military service in France, earning the Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis, and the title Chevalier.
As a tall, imposingly handsome medical student, he caught the eye of Marguerite Françoise-Victoire d'Éon de Beaumont of Burgundy and they apparently eloped. This is supposed to have so outraged the young woman’s father that, in order to thwart O’Gorman’s possible inheritance of the family estates, he claimed his androgynous younger 'daughter', Charles-Geneviève, was a man, and therefore his heir, and sent him off on a military career.
This was the start of O'Gorman's relationship with Chevalier Charles-Geneviève d'Eon, now an icon of the LGBTcommunity and the subject of many sensationalised biographies. Whatever the truth of stories of the 'elopement', we do know that d'Eon became an important spy and diplomat in the French court where his transgender identity played an important part in international intrigues. It also led him into trouble with his superiors resulting in him having to sign a "Transaction" imposed by Louis XVI declaring he was female, and therefore virtually disqualifying 'him' from professional life. So after a life of intrigue and duplicity d'Eon returned home to Burgundy to join his brother-in-law, O'Gorman, running the family vineyards.
Whatever problems may have arisen over the 'elopement', O'Gorman and his wife had apparently been reconciled to her family and O'Gorman ran the successful family wine business. His connections in Ireland meant he had wealthy clients whom he visited frequently, gathering important Irish historic documents and gaining a reputation as a professional genealogist. Thus when Count O'Reilly approached him to compile the O'Reilly genealogy, O’Gorman was well qualified to do so. He had played a significant role in the foundation of the Royal Irish Academy and was of central importance it its acquisition of at least two of its most significant annals: The Annals of Ballimote and the Book of Lecan. This expertise was valued by the exiled Jacobites who wished to demonstrate their right to preferment and, as in Count O’Reilly's case, to be recognised as exiled nobility in the Catholic Courts of Europe. However, the upheavals of the French Revolution meant connections with the aristocracy became particularly perilous and O'Gorman returned to Ireland where he died in poverty in Dromahilly, County Clare in 1809.
Risks and challenges
We at Clachan specialise in publishing books which are in danger of being lost altogether. Publishing "The Genealogy of the House of Reilly" has been our most ambitious project yet and there has been much to do, such as:
• procuring scans of the original manuscript, which have to be resized, cleaned and sharpened. We are very grateful to Frank Boyd for giving us permission to reproduce these images
• deciphering and typing up the hand-written manuscript
• acquiring the services of a scholar to translate sections of the manuscript written in Medieval Latin; and so making them available for the first time in English
• identifying the ancient source material used by Thomas O’Gorman
• including two introductory pieces - one by historian, Frank Rogers, and the other by Nikolaus Grüger himself
• and finally editing, proof reading and formatting the text
Fortunately I had developed these latter skills over a working lifetime as an educator, researcher and author of academic papers, (including a Doctorate in Education).
The whole enterprise has been undertaken voluntarily by everyone in a spirit of generosity and is now almost complete.
Letting people know about this interesting publication and finding channels of distribution are our main difficulties. We are very grateful to Kickstarter for this service so we can share this remarkable manuscript with you and we hope you in turn will pass on information to anyone you think may be interested.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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