Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa
Death Date : 29th June 1915

Co. Cork


Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa family history & genealogy

Jeremiah was a son of Denis Donovan and Ellen Driscoll whose ancestors include Teige Mac Teige, Dermot Mac Teige MacEneslis ( - 1688), Donal O'Donovan Rossa (Teige) who married Joanna Reagh, and Joseph O'Donovan Rossa.

He was born in Rosscarbery, Co. Cork on 4th September 1831 and baptised, Jerh, in that Parish on that day with Sponsors Jer Shanahan and Margt Driscol.  

As a teenager Jeremiah experience the Great Famine of 1846 - 1847 in Ireland as a result of the failure of the potato crop because of blight.  This resulted in thousands of tenants being evicted since they could not pay rent to landlords.  This left him with a hatred of the British and their unscrupulous landlords.  His own father died on the road to Glandore while working on a road which was being repaired under a Famine Relief Scheme.

He got his first job with his aunt and her husband, Stephen Barry, in Skibbereen.  In 1856 he founded the Phoenix National & Literary Society, with its aim to remove the British from Ireland.

Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was married three times and had eighteen children.


His first wife was Nora (Honora) Eager (Egar) from Skibbereen, but she was a native of Killarney.  They married in Skibbereen Parish on 5th June 1853.  Witnesses were Jacobus Stack and Eugenius Savage. They had four sons:-

Denis baptised in Skibbereen on 6 Apr 1854. Sponsors: Stephen Barry, Fanny Davis

John baptised in Skibbereen on 5 Aug 1855.  Sponsors: Dl Mahony, Mary Brian

Jeremiah baptised in Skibbereen on 18 Jan 1857.  Sponsors: Wm O'Brian, Margt Sullivan

Cornelius baptised in Skibbereen on 9 Mar 1858.  Sponsors: Dan Mcartie, M. McAuliffe

Nora died tragically in 1860.

Jeremiah and Cornelius went to the United States c. 1871. They did not marry.


In 1861 he married a young girl of eighteen, Ellen Buckley from Gortbrack, Castlehaven.  She married Rossa against the wishes of her parents.  They had a son:-

Stevens Florence  (He is sometimes referred to as Timothy Francis).  He was baptised on 5 April 1863 in the Parish of Skibbereen.  Again a tragic end, as Ellen died in July 1863, aged only 20 years.  Jeremiah was in America, unaware of his wife's death.


On 22 October 1864 he married Mary Jane (Molly) Irwin in Clonakilty Parish.  The Witnesses were Maxwell Irwin and Margaret Keohane.  This marriage lasted until his death on June 29, 1915.  Mary Jane died in 1916. They had thirteen children:-

James Maxwell (b. 6 May 1866, Clonakilty). Sponsors: Denis Donovan Ross, Ellen Keohane.  Died 22 Nov 1893 as a result of injuries he received some months earlier following an explosion in a boiler aboard the U.S.S. "Seward".

Kate Ellen - 28 Dec 1871 and died 1871

Francis Daniel - 26 Jan 1873.  Died 1873

Maurice - 6 May 1874 and died 1874

Sheila Mary - 29 Feb 1876.  Died 1951.  married John MacIntyre

Eileen Ellen - 8 Apr 1878.  Died early 1960's.  married John F. McGowan

Amelia - 1879.  Died 1880

Jeremiah - 29 July 1881.  Died 1956.  married Honorah Murphy & Eleanor O'Sullivan

Isabella - 25 Mar 1883.  Died 1972

Mary Jane - 28 Dec 1884.  Died 1973.  married James Reynolds

Margaret Mary Hamilton - 4 Apr 1887.  Died 1969.  married William Cole

Joseph Ivor - 19 Jan 1889.  Died 1889

Alexander Aeneas - 22 Aug 1890.  Died 1891


Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was an Irish Fenian leader and took over the running of its weekly newspaper, "The Irish People".  He was also a prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He was sometimes called Jeremiah O'Dynamite Rossa !

In March 1863 Jeremiah O’ Donovan Rossa organised a march in Skibbereen town in support of a Polish uprising against Russia. Over 6,000 people participated and they carried Polish banners and blazing torches, and he gave a fiery speech to the crowd in support of the freedom of all small nations.  The event was re enacted in 2015 in Skibbereen.

He was charged with plotting a Fenian rising in 1865 and he was put on trial for high treason.  He was sentenced to penal servitude for life due to his previous convictions in 1858 when he was imprisoned without trial.  He served his time in Pentonville, Portland and Chatham prisons in England.
In a by-election in 1869 he was returned to the British House of Commons for the Tipperary constituency.  He defeated the Liberal Catholic Denis Caulfield Heron by 1054 to 898 votes.  However, the election was declared invalid because Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was a convicted felon.
He was released as part of the Fenian Amnesty of 1870 having agreed that he would leave Ireland and not return.  He went to live in New York.
He wrote two books, viz. "Prison Life: Six Years in English Prisons" which was republished in 1882 under the title of "Irish Rebels in English Prisons".  His second book was Recollections: 1838 to 1898", which was published in 1898.
U.S. Census 1892:
In 1904 he was allowed a visit to Ireland and he was made a "Freeman of the City of Cork".
The following address was approved and directed to be read by the Town Clerk of Bantry Town Commissioners:-
“Address from the Town Commissioners of Bantry to Mr Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa on the occasion of his visit to Bantry on 4th Dec 1904. Dear Sir, on behalf of the people of Bantry whom I represent we bid you a hearty welcome to our town, and we feel certain in so doing we are voicing the sentiments of all true nationalists in it. Your life long devotion to the cause you have at heart – the cause of your country, the sufferings you have endured in British dungeons in furtherance of that cause mark your name for a foremost place in the roll of Irishmen who fought and suffered for Ireland.
The methods of righting the wrongs of your country which led to your incarceration in British dungeons differ from the methods of today but it is now clearly admitted, and by distinguished Irishmen that it was the unselfish patriotism of you and your colleagues that cleared the way for the present constitutional movement which we trust will result in the overthrow and downfall of Landlordism in this country and the restoration of a native Parliament.
We beg to tender to you our congratulations on the excellent health you enjoy at your advanced age despite your prison treatment and the efforts of your British friends to wreck it and we hope that for many years you will be spared to serve the land you love so well, the land that gave you birth but from which you were so long an enforced exile.
Signed on behalf of the Board
                           Daniel Donovan Chairman
                           John O’Callaghan Town Clerk"
U.S. Census 1910:


He died in hospital on 29 June 1915 in Staten Island, N.Y.  He was buried in St Peter's Cemetery, Staten Island. However, he was exhumed when it was realised that he had expressed a wish to be buried in Ireland and he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on 1 Aug 1915.  About half a million people lined the streets of Dublin that day for his funeral.  The famous graveside oration was given by Pádraig Pearse, himself to be a martyr in 1916.

Memorials to Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa stand in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin and Richmond Bridge built 1813-1816 over the River Liffey near the Four Courts was renamed "O'Donovan Rossa Bridge" in his honour.  In Cork "O'Donovan Rossa Road" near the University bears his name, as does "O'Donovan Rossa Street" in Thurles, Co. Tipperary.  A park in Skibbereen, "Rossa Park", is named after him as is the local GAA football team - "O'Donovan Rossa GAA".  A memorial to O'Donovan Rossa stands in Reenascreena, Rosscarbery.  Other GAA teams throughout Ireland have also been named after Jeremiah and these include Ard Bó Uí Dhonnabhain Rossa in Tyrone, O'Donovan Rossa GAC in Belfast, Ó Donnabháin Rosa Machaire Fíolta in Derry and Uí Donnabháin Rosa Mullach Breac in Armagh. 


Grave of ꝹlARMUIꝹ Ó ꝹOnnAḃÁln ROSA in Glasnevin Cemetery


Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa


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