Archbishop Nehemias(h) Donnellan
(1560 - 1610)

 

Donellan, Nehemias d. 1609?, archbishop of Tuam, whose name is written in Irish Fearganinm O'Domhnallain, was born in the county of Galway, and is said to have been a son of Melaghlin O'Donellan, by his wife Sisly, daughter of William O'Kelly of Calla. He was sent to the University of Cambridge, and became a sizar of King's College. A grace of 15 Feb. 1578-9 required that the name of every scholar should be entered in a catalogue within six days of his coming to the university and he was entered Nehemiah Daniel on 13 Jan. 1579-80, and shortly afterwards matriculated in the same name. Subsequently he migrated to Catharine Hall, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1581-2.

On his return to his native country he acted for some time as coadjutor to William Mullaly, or Laly, archbishop of Tuam, and afterwards, on the recommendation of Thomas, earl of Ormonde, he was appointed the successor of that prelate, by letters patent dated 17 Aug. 1595. Two days later he received restitution of the temporalities. In the writ of privy seal directing his appointment, it was alleged that he was very fit to communicate with the people in their mother tongue, and a very meet instrument to retain and instruct them in duty and religion; and that he had also taken pains in translating and putting to the press the Communion Book and New Testament in the Irish language, which her majesty greatly approved of. It is asserted by Teige O'Dugan, who drew up a pedigree of the Donellan family, that he was never in holy orders, but probably the genealogist may have been led to make this startling assertion simply by an unwillingness to acknowledge the orders of the reformed church. In addition to his see the archbishop held by dispensation the rectory of Kilmore in the county of Kilkenny, and the vicarages of Castle-doagh in the diocese of Ossory, and of Donard in the diocese of Dublin. He voluntarily resigned his see in 1609, and dying shortly afterwards at Tuam, was buried in the cathedral there.

By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Nicolas O'Donnell, he had issue John; James, who was knighted, and became lord chief justice of the common pleas in Ireland; Edmund, of Killucan in the county of Westmeath; Teigue, of Ballyheague in the county of Kildare; and Murtough, who received holy orders in the Roman catholic church. Donellan was a master of the Irish language, and continued the version of the New Testament which had been commenced by John Kearney and Nicholas Walsh, bishop of Ossory, and which was completed by William O'Donnell or Daniell, who was afterwards raised to the archiepiscopal see of Tuam. It was published in 1602 at Dublin, under the title of 'Tiomna Nuadh ar dtighearna agus ar slanaightheora Iosa Criosd, ar na tarruing gu firinneach as Gréigis gu gaoidheilg. Re Huilliam O Domhnuill.' It was brought out at the expense of the province of Connaught and of Sir William Usher, the clerk of the council in Ireland. Great expectations were formed of this undertaking, and it was confidently believed that it would be the means of destroying the Roman church in Ireland. It is a noteworthy fact that of the four scholars engaged in translating the New Testament into the Irish vernacular, three - Kearney, Walsh, and Donellan - received their education in the university of Cambridge.


Sources
Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. iii. 15; Cotton's Fasti, iv. 12, v. 271;
Gilbert's Dublin, i. 386; Irish and English prefaces to the Irish New
Testament (1602); Mason's Life of Bedell, 284; Murdin's State Papers,
306; O'Donovan's Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many, 171; Ware's Bishops
(Harris), 615; Ware's Writers (Harris), 97.
Contributor
T. C.

published 1888


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