John O’Donovan of Slieverue
by Professor Michael Herity

Professor Herity’s lecture dealt with O’Donovan’s life and achievements, with some reference to Galway.

John O’Donovan (1806-61)
JOHN O’DONOVAN was born in July 1806. A man of rare ability, he travelled in the years 1834 to 1841 as place-names officer of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland in every one of the 32 counties except Antrim, Tyrone and Cork, deciding the standard spelling of the names that would appear on the new six-inch map.  His resultant informal letters are marked by rare insight and brilliant wit and have been described as “a rich source of hints about Irish social and economic problems, cultural and religious preoccupations, departmental and scholarly relationships, the texture of life in town and countryside, and the hazards of travel in the 1830s.”  Plagued by disabling attacks of rheumatic fever all his adult life, he suffered a last attack in December 1861 and quietly breathed his last on December 10th.

Professor Herity taught archaeology for over thirty years at University College, Dublin, and was Dean of Celtic Studies there between 1984 and 1990. Past President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and former Editor of its Journal, he served as President of the Royal Irish Academy from 1996 to 1999. Since January 2001 he has edited 14 county volumes of the Ordnance Survey Letters.