The Chief of the Clans of O’Neill, Portugese nobleman Dom Hugo O’Neill, has donated his private book collection to the Benburb Priory Library & Museum. Dom Hugo is recognised as the present Chief by descent of the O’Neills of Clanaboy, by the Chief Herald of Ireland based at the National Library and by the Clans of Ireland organisation including the Association of O’Neill Clans. He is domiciled in Setubal in Portugal. Dom Hugo’s collection is recognised to be an outstanding private O’Neill collection and includes copies of the Annals, genealogical tracts, articles and books, many of them rare, on the O’Neill dynasty.
The donation of Dom Hugo’s collection to Benburb is a major coup for the Library & Museum which is scheduled to open to the public during the spring of 2017. It will also contain unique Servite and Marian book collections – some books date back to the 16th century, and the complete archives of the Servites in Britain and Ireland over the past 150 years. Dom Hugo’s collection will form part of the Library & Museum’s “O’Neill Collection” which will include local history ranging from pre-and post-Plantation including the history of the estate established originally as a plantation estate by Sir Richard Wingfield (1st Viscount Powerscourt) in 1610. It was purchased by the distiller, James Bruce, in the 19th century. Bruce built the current manor house and stables in which the Library & Museum is housed, and remodelled Benburb village. The Servite Order purchased the estate in 1947 and the Priory opened in 1949.
Fr Colm McGlynn OSM, Benburb Prior, says “ The O’Neill Collection will complement the Servite and Marian Collections and will be an additional attraction and source of interest to visitors to the Priory and its Library & Museum. We are very pleased that this project, which has involved huge efforts over a number of years, is coming to fruition. It represents another important chapter in the development of the Priory”.
Professor Gerry McKenna MRIA, Chairman of the Library & Museum Management Board comments: “We are delighted to receive Dom Hugo O’Neill’s valuable and unique collection which contains many rare books and tracts spanning four centuries. It, and the story of its assemblage by successive O’Neill Chiefs, will be of huge interest to the general public as well as historians and O’Neill scholars. It is highly appropriate that the collection should have found its way to Benburb, the ancestral heartland of the O’Neill Clan”.