Thursday, March 17, 2011

Erin Go Bragh

Happy St. Patrick's Day from all of us here at Andalusia! To commemorate the occasion I decided to write a brief post about Flannery O'Connor's Irish ancestors. Flannery's attitude to her Irish roots is a mixed bag. On the one hand, O'Connor dropped her first name when she went off to the University of Iowa because she said Mary Flannery sounded like an Irish washerwoman. On the other hand, it was from her Irish ancestors that she was handed the Catholic faith that was so important to her. With a name like O'Connor, most people naturally assume that Flannery's Irish lineage came to her from her father's side of the family. While that is true, her maternal ancestors were Irish, too. Flannery's great-grandfather, Hugh Donnelly Treanor, emigrated from county Tipperary in 1824. He settled in Milledgeville and set up a grist mill on the Oconee River. It was in Hugh Treanor's hotel room that mass was first said in Milledgeville. After he died, his widow, Johannah Harty Treanor donated the land on which Sacred Heart Catholic Church was built in 1874. One of their daughters, Kate, married Peter J. Cline, a prosperous dry-goods store owner in Milledgeville who was also Irish. When she died, Cline married her sister, Margaret Ida, and it was from this union that sixteen children were born, including Flannery's mother, Regina. Regina Cline married Edward O'Connor of Savannah in 1922. Like his wife, he had Irish roots. His grandfather emigrated from Ireland in 1851 and established a livery stable on Broughton St. in Savannah. Yet, it is from neither the Cline nor the O'Connor families that Flannery received her name. She was named for her cousin Katie Semmes' mother, Mary Ellen Flannery, the wife of decorated Confederate army officer, John Flannery. The Flannerys were (you guessed it)....Irish! For more genealogical information on the O'Connor family please consult Brad Gooch's fine biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor.
- Mark

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