O’Hanlon is a famous and illustrious name in South Armagh and the Newry area. The O’Hanlons were the most notable Catholic family in Newry in the eighteenth century when Hugh O’Hanlon settled in Mill Street.
He was a direct descendant of the ancient ‘lords’ of Orior and the son of Hugh Ruabh O’Hanlon of Killeavy and also a nephew of the celebrated Bard of Armagh, Dr Patrick Donnelly [D.D. Bishop of Dromore 1679-1716].
This Hugh took a prominent part in the Volunteer Movement and in the affairs of the Catholic Committee of Dublin. He is believed to have helped to establish the Newry Bank. He died in 1808 and is buried in St Mary’s Cemetery where his handsome vault bears an inscription beside the O’Hanlon coat-of-arms.
Hugh’s eldest son was a barrister and got the sobriquet of Counsellor O’Hanlon. He also figured in the Volunteer Movement but he also joined the United Irishman movement. He was a friend and acquaintance of Theobald Wolfe Tone and is mentioned in the latter’s diaries. At the formation of the local branch of that movement O’Hanlon kept the Crown Inn at 106-108 Hill Street where indeed the initial [and several subsequent] meetings took place. A great number of the local United men suffered severely in the reprisals that followed its suppression but like his brother, Hugh escaped the implications and continued thereafter to figure prominently in the 19th century affairs of the town. In 1812 he supported the [unsuccessful] candidature of John Philpot Curran, Master of the Rolls, as M.P. for Newry. At a dinner in Curran’s honour, held in the Whitecross Hotel in Margaret Street, he was much praised for the efforts he had made on behalf of the Patriot-lawyer’s candidature.
During the agitation for Cathloic Emancipation he spoke at many meetings. However four years before the Relief Act became law he departed for a new career in India where he became a leading barrister. Even in exile he continued to take an interest in the affairs of his native town. In 1846 when Famine conditions began to bite here, he forwarded a handsome subscription for the relief of local distress that was collected by a Committee he had organised in Calcutta.
Hugh O’Hanlon, Counsellor O’Hanlon’s eldest son became a barrister in London and was centrally involved in the initial founding of a system of Local Government for Ireland. This at first had related only to Newry – initiating a bill fopr ‘the Better Lighting, Watching, Cleansing and Paving of newry’ that proved so successful that it was applied nationally. Hugh O’Hanlon was shortly after appointed a Law Advisor to Dublin Castle.
Cormac Keenan/Johnson of the Fews …