Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect, author and yachtsman. Conor O'Brien, who was born on 3 November 1880, was the second son of Edward William O'Brien of Cahirmoyle, Co. Limerick, by his second wife, Julia Mary (née Marshall) and a grandson of William Smith O'Brien. After receiving his education at Winchester College, Trinity College, Dublin, and Oxford, he became an architect.  Although only one work by him - the People's Hall at Kilmallock, Co. Limerick (1914) - is recorded in the Irish Builder,(1) he also designed buildings for other rural co-operatives, including the 'Cope Hall' at Dungloe, Co. Limerick.(2)  O'Brien contributed sketches and plans of antiquities in Co. Kilkenny to the first number of a new English quarterly, the Architectural and Topographical Record, which appeared in the early summer of 1908.(3) In 1912 he read a paper on 'The Development of a national style of Gothic architecture in Ireland' to the Architectural Association of Ireland, which was reported in the Irish Builder.(4) In his paper he repudiated the idea that a distinctive national architecture evolved in Ireland in the Romanesque and Gothic periods, contending that the influence of the architecture of the west of England was paramount. RUDOLF MAXIMILIAN BUTLER RUDOLF MAXIMILIAN BUTLER , PATRICK JOSEPH LYNCH  PATRICK JOSEPH LYNCH and WILLIAM ALPHONSUS. SCOTT WILLIAM ALPHONSUS. SCOTT , who were all in the audience, did not agree with his conclusions. In 1910 he was elected a council  member of the Dublin Industrial Development Association, which promoted Irish manufactures.(5)

O'Brien was better known for his sailing exploits than as an architect or antiquary. In 1914 he used his yacht 'Kelpie' to collect a cargo of arms for the Irish Volunteers from a German tug, and in 1923-1925 he sailed round the world in another yacht, 'Saoirse', built to his own design. He recorded the journey in his first book Across Three Oceans (1926). He lived on the 'Saoirse' until 1940, based in Ibiza and Cornwall. During the Second World War he served in the Small Vessels Pool which entailed sailing several small boats from America to Britain.

O'Brien married the artist Kathleen Frances Clausen (1886-1936) in 1928. He died at his sister's house in Foynes, Co. Limerick, on 18 April 1952. ROBERT DONOUGH O'BRIEN  ROBERT DONOUGH O'BRIEN was his uncle.



Information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland (1904), 443-444, from the notice of O'Brien's death in IB 94, 26 Apr 1952, 434, and from www.obrienclan.com.

(1) IB 56, 24 Oct 1914, 602.
(2) Patrick Boner, The Story of the Cope (Templecrone Co-Operative Society, 2009), 185-6.
(3) Building News 94, 5 Jun 1908, 806.
(4) IB 54, 2 Mar 1912, 125; AAI Green Book (1913), 29 (here O'Brien is styled MRIAI, but he does not appear in RIAI membership lists for either 1911 or 1915).
(5) Freeman's Journal, 1 Jun 1910.

2 work entries listed in chronological order for O'BRIEN, EDWARD CONOR MARSHALL

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Date: 1908
Nature: New hall, for Templecrone Co-Operative Society.

Date: 1914
Nature: Tenders invited for erection of same for Co-op Friendly Society.
Refs: IB 56, 24 Oct 1914, 602; B 107, 30 Oct 1914, 414

Author Title Date Details
O'brien, Conor 'A new heaven and a new earth'
1923 Irish Times, 12 Sep 1923.