Category Archives: Powers of the World

John O’Connor Power – MP for Mayo

John O’Connor Power – MP for Mayo 1874-1885 – was one of the most remarkable of the late nineteenth century Irish nationalists. He was born in  1846 in Tulsk, County Roscommon and was the third and youngest son of Patrick Power of Ballinasloe.

john-oconnorIn his childhood he contracted smallpox and spent some time in the Ballinasloe workhouse.  In 1860 he followed his two brothers to England, taking up work as a house painter in a family business and in a flannel mill in the winter months. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was one of the leaders on the aborted raid on Chester Castle and at the ‘Manchester Rescue’. In 1868 he spent six months in Kilmainham Jail.

As a member of the IRB Supreme Council, he collaborated with George Henry Moore, forging an alliance between Fenians and constitutional nationalists – a New Departure. After Moore’s sudden death, he enrolled as a student at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam, continuing his Fenian activities. In 1874, against strong opposition, he won a parliamentary seat, becoming the first man of no property to represent County Mayo. In 1876 he was in Washington for the centennial of American Independence and presented a congratulatory address to the House of Representatives, asking for recognition of Ireland’s claim to independence.

His long campaign for amnesty for Michael Davitt and other political prisoners reached a successful outcome at the end of 1877. He was a prominent obstructionist, and the Spy cartoon, which appeared in Vanity Fair in December 1886, is labelled ‘The brains of Obstruction’. He was the only MP present at the tenant rights meeting in Irishtown, which launched the Land War. In the 1880 general election he topped the poll in Mayo.

He was called to the Bar in 1881 and continued to fight for reform of the prison system. A radical and influential journalist, he wrote on Irish issues in American and English journals and newspapers. In 1885 he moved to the Liberals, believing he would be better placed to promote Home Rule. He worked closely with William O’Brien and Michael Davitt on the formation of the United Irish League. In 1893 he married the widow of a surgeon.

Acknowledged to be one of the great orators of his generation, O’Connor Power’s bestselling ‘The Making of an Orator’ was published in 1906.  He died at home in Putney in February 1919.

Waterford’s Canadian Connections

Waterford and Canada have had an unexpectedly close historical relationship that dates back almost 500 years.

The first record of a ship travelling from South East Ireland to Newfoundland dates as far back as 1534 and by the eighteenth century, boats were making regular journeys to Canada for the fishing routes. While at the beginning they would return home for the winter, later on they would start to “over-winter” in Newfoundland. Emigration to this part of the world peaked in the early 1800s, and as a consequence it is estimated that today over 50% of Newfoundland’s population is of Irish origin. Not surprisingly it has been called “the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland”.

John Palliser picAs landlord of Comeragh House in 1853, John Palliser (seen opposite) had built a strong reputation as a Victorian adventurer from his travels to the Mississippi-Missouri river and across the Western Plains; which interestingly involved sharing a passage with Barnum Bailey Circus and General Tom Thumb.

In 1856, he began to get itchy feet and after garnering support from Dr Livingstone, he left the Comeraghs for a two year expedition to survey and map the Canadian North West. Over two years Palliser and his companions explored the entire region between Lake Superior and the Pacific Coast. They collected 460 species and some 60,000 specimens, some of which can still be found in the Botanical Gardens in London. They “discovered” and named many rivers and mountains such as Palliser’s River in the Rocky Mountains, the Bow River, Kananaski River and Pass, Fairholme Mountain, Palliser Range and most famous of all, Palliser’s Triangle which stretches for hundreds of miles.

The close relationship and cultural similarities of these two coastal communities do not go unacknowledged: with the annual Festival of the Sea held in Newfoundland and Ireland; a number of Trees of Honour were also recently planted in the Anne Valley, in memoriam to our Newfoundland-Irish ancestors and of course the solid presence of Canada Quay.

Michael Power – Bishop of Toronto

Michael Power was born on October 17, 1804 in Halifax, Nova Scotia to Irish immigrant parents. Something of an unsung hero, Bishop Michael Power started the construction of St. Michael’s Cathedral and founded the Archdiocese of Toronto.

bishoppowerShortly after his installation as bishop in 1842, Power called a synod. During this meeting, Bishop Power laid down a number of rules designed to put the new Diocese on a firm footing and get it off to a good start. Pastors were not allowed to wander outside of their assigned parishes. Priests were not allowed to charge a fee for the administration of the sacraments. Churches were also required to erect baptismal fonts and confessionals, as well as to keep detailed baptism, marriage and funeral records. Immigrants who wanted to marry were also thoroughly investigated.

One of Bishop Power’s most notable achievements was the foundation of St. Michael’s Cathedral. At that time St. Paul’s parish was serving all of the Catholic population in the city of Toronto. Construction on the Cathedral began in April 1845; however, Bishop Power did not live to see it completed. While ministering to immigrants dying of typhus, he contracted the disease himself and died on October 1, 1847. Bishop Power’s remains were buried in a crypt beneath his unfinished cathedral.

Liverpudlian Rocker John Power

In addition to a flourishing solo career, John Power had the distinction of being a member of two iconic British bands of the 1980s and ’90s, the La’s and Cast.

Born in Liverpool, England, in 1967, Power was 19 years old when he formed a band with fellow Liverpudlian Lee Mavers; that band would become the La’s, one of the most legendary U.K. acts of the ’80s, who released a top-selling album in 1990 but were also fabled for their striking live shows and the eccentricities of Mavers, who was never able to reproduce his grand musical vision in the recording studio.

Leaving Mavers and company and moving from bass to guitar, Power formed Cast; while they lacked the critical acclaim of fellow Britpop bands such as Oasis and Blur, Cast’s powerful, straight-ahead rock approach clicked with audiences, and their 1995 debut, All Change, became the fastest-selling debut album in the history of the venerable Polydor label. Cast’s second and third albums, 1997’s Mother Nature Calls and 1999’s Magic Hour, both went Top Ten in the U.K., but 2001’s Beetroot was a massive commercial disappointment, and in 2002 Power broke up the band.

MI0000735468In 2003, Power released his first solo album, a deeply personal acoustic set called Happening for Love, but the disc attracted few listeners and in 2005 Power rejoined the La’s when Lee Mavers opted to reunite the band for a series of festival appearances. While continuing to work with the La’s, Power resumed his solo career in 2006, releasing an album of hard-stomping folk-rock, Willow She Weeps, in the fall of that year and supporting the set with a tour of the U.K.

Edermine House, County Wexford

Edermine House, which was built by Sir John Power, of Power Distillery fame, in 1838. This impressive collection of buildings has been described as “possibly the most interesting domestic architectural ensemble in County Wexford.”


Edermine House, a fine example of the Greek revival style, is a two-storey, three-bay Italianite villa designed by John B. Keane, with a handsome portico formed by Doric columns. There is a five-bay side elevation with a Venetian window.

Edermine, with it’s chapel And splendid Victorian iron conservatory designed by Richard Turner and James Pierce – an extraordinary curvilinear conservatory with a central semi-dome, flanked by plant houses that once housed a grapery and a peachery. The chapel commissioned by Sir James
Power and his wife, Jane, built in the 1850s. Lady Power was a daughter of Pugin’s Irish patron, John Hyacinth Talbot, and the Power family later intermarried with the Cliffe family of Bellvue.

chapelA plaque on the door and a second inside the chapel has led many to believe that the chapel is too late to have been designed by AWN Pugin, and they have ascribed it to either his son, Edward Welby Pugin, or to JJ McCarthy. However, Pat Doyle has long believed that the chapel is an original work by Pugin and that McCarthy merely supervised its later construction, and many contemporary writers believe the intermarriages between the Talbot and Power families underpin the supposition that the chapel was originally designed by the elder Pugin and that the project was supervised either by his son or by McCarthy.

Words and Photographs copyright to and courtesy of Reverend Patrick Comerford, Wexford and Dublin.  With thanks.

Alderman John Power(s) of Chicago

John Powers (1852-1930), known as “Johnny De Pow” by his constituents, was an Irish born alderman in Chicago, Illinois from 1888-1903 and again from 1904–1927.  He represented the Democratic Party.

Born in Co. Kilkenny, he moved to the USA at 20 years of age and settled in Chicago. He soon began working as an apprentice to a grocer. After later opening his own grocery store, he added a tavern next to it and used his exposure there to begin a political career.  In 1888, Powers ran for alderman of Chicago’s 19th ward and won, after which he closed his grocery but continued to run the saloon, eventually opening a larger saloon which included gambling.

johnpowers2He was famous for buying votes by handing out over a thousand free turkeys each year at Christmas time, and throwing out handfuls of coins to supporters at campaign events. A notorious glad-hander  it is said that he appeared at every funeral and wake in his ward, earning him the nickname “The Mourner”.

In September of 1920, John Powers had been alderman from the 19th Ward for 32 years but a month before, he had publicly embarrassed his political rival, Mafia underworld figure Tony D’Andrea. So everyone pointed to D’Andrea when a dynamite bomb exploded on the front porch of Powers’ house that day.  The damage was extensive.  Power’s survived and won the subsequent election.  Shortly after the election, D’Andrea was assassinated.   This election was the culmination of the Aldermen’s Wars.

The Story of Power’s Whiskey

whiskeyIn 1791, James Power,  originally a coaching innkeeper of Thomas Street in Dublin, established the “John’s Lane Distillery” at Thomas St. in Dublin.  Originally called “James Powers & Son”, by 1809 the business had become a limited company under the name of “John Power and Son” with the father remaining in charge.

The business continued to grow successfully and by 1823, Power’s distillery boasted a 500 gallon still with an annual output of some 33,000 gallons of whiskey per year!

This success had it benefits for a family that within a generation rose from simple innkeepers to members of Dublin’s high society. John Power was knighted and became High Sheriff of Dublin. Such was his standing that it was he who laid the foundation stone for the O’Connell Monument on O’Connell Street – Dublin’s main thoroughfare.

1809_landBy 1866, John Power & Son began bottling their own whiskey, becoming one of the first distilleries in the world to do so. Until then, distilleries usually sold whiskey by the cask (opposite). A gold label adorned each bottle and it was from these that the whiskey got the name Powers Gold Label.

Check out their website here and have a “small wan” the next time it get’s cold out !  Also you can read more about the fascinating Power’s Whiskey story from this document – an extract from Thom’s Almanac in the late 1800s.

Ned Power – Hurling Revolutionary

Ned Power (1929–2007) was a Munster and All-Ireland winning hurling goalkeeper with the famous Waterford team of the 1950s and 60s.  He also played for and coached with his local clubs Dungarvan and Tallow.

In retirement from hurling, Power maintained a keen interest in coaching. A teacher by profession in Scoil Mhuire in Tallow, his coaching methods saw his club win almost every available county title between 1966 and 1980.

Ned_Power_and_Christy_RingNed died on November 15, 2007 after a long illness. His son, journalist Conor Power, wrote a book on Ned Power’s life, launched in 2009.

Our image, opposite, shows Ned in action against Cork, with the great Christy Ring challenging for the ball.

Samantha Power – Journalist and Author

Samantha Power, originally from Castleknock in Dublin, is now Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs in US President Barack Obama’s administration.  She is also a journalist and a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  Power is also a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.

sampowerAlongside her ardent support for Barack Obama, Power is a tireless worker in her efforts to increase public awareness of genocide and human rights abuses, particularly in the Darfur conflict.  No Irish-born person in recent history has had such influence on a president. Power, now 40, moved to the US from Ireland at aged 10 and there is speculation that she could be the next US Secretary of State.

You can read Samantha’s own blog here and/or check out her White House profile here.

The Legend of the Gunner and the Buttermilk

‘The Legend of the Gunner and the Buttermilk’ is a famous piece of local folklore that is associated with the seat of the Power Clan in Waterford, Ireland.  Nobody really knows the origins of the tale that follows but it is certainly very entertaining to think on it and the events that happened to bring the villain Oliver Cromwell another lot of illgotten loot.

The legend goes that as Cromwell was attacking the castle in 1649, having pillaged his way across the entire country en route to safe havens for the winter, he came across the stout Dunhill Castle, atop a bleak hillside in Co. Waterford.  It was then being defended by the lady of the house – Lady Power.  Her husband was absent, defending another local castle from the Cromwellian forces – that of nearby Kilmeaden.

Cromwell’s men, tired and battle weary, could not take the castle easily, owing to its position and defences.  During the siege, one of Lady Power’s gunners requested some refreshments for an attachment of his men defending the battlements.  Not wanting her men to consume alcohol at the time, or perhaps from being particularly frugal, she is said to have sent the men some buttermilk instead of the beer they would have normally been expecting.  The men were apparently insensed and the afrementioned gunner signalled to Cromwell’s men, and led them into the castle, taking it !

The gunner himself was promptly hanged as a traitor by Cromwell and hung from the castle walls … or so the legend goes !