Exciting news! I won a Huntington fellowship!

On the 6th of March I learnt I’d been awarded a four-week fellowship by the Huntington Library in California to research the Black family papers. I immediately began planning a four-week stay in Pasadena in April 2021… but it soon became clear that Covid19 would prevent me travelling for some time. Happily, the Huntington has allowed fellowships to be deferred to the next academic year, so I hope to visit in late 2021. As well as the fabulous research opportunity and the amazing surroundings, I am so looking forward to the luxury of being an historian for a whole month with no interruptions.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m currently working on a book proposal based on my PhD thesis. There are some avenues of research that I’m keen to go down to ‘elevate’ my thesis, and one of those is exploring the Black family more broadly. John Black was a Belfast-born slave trader and plantation owner who lived in Grenada and then Trinidad. Rather than framing him as an isolated outpost in the Caribbean, the Huntington letters will enable me to better understand his venture to Grenada in the 1770s within the context of his well-connected Atlantic family. The letters might shed some light on his move to Spanish Trinidad in the 1780s too.

In the meantime, I need to get back to my book proposal. Wish me luck!

2 thoughts on “Exciting news! I won a Huntington fellowship!

  1. Alec Berry

    I read your thesis Irish Lives in the British Caribbean … when trying, unsuccessfully, to identify where Barry O’Meara, Napoleon’s surgeon at St Helena, fits into the O’Meara family tree. In the process I came across some material that may not all be familiar to you, but which may be of some interest.

    First, notwithstanding Hayes, it seems to me that, in all probability, when he emigrated William O’Meara was accompanied by his brother Thady and not by his twin Daniel Joseph.

    Their father, John (or Jean) O’Meara (c1719-1796), was born at Nenagh, co Tipperary, at some point emigrated to France, served in the French army, was married in 1749 at Dunkirk, and died at Péronne in Picardy. He had at least six sons: Thomas (born 1750), Thady (or Thadée) (born 1752), Jean-Baptiste (born 1756), Etienne (born 1758), William (or Guillaume) (born 1764) and Daniel Joseph (twin brother of Guillaume) (born 1764). All served in the French army. Jean O’Meara had a brother Stephen, born at Bawn, co Tipperary, in 1717. As he was also known as ‘Etienne’ it would seem likely that the two brothers went to France together.

    William O’Meara appears to have emigrated on 21 July 1791 at the time of the French Revolution and to have served from 1791 until 1794 first in ‘l’armée des princes dans la companie des anciens officiers du régiment de Berwick’ and subsequently in ‘la légion de Damas au service de la Hollande’. Thady O’Meara also emigrated, and it seems natural to suppose that he accompanied his brother and continued to serve alongside him.

    It is clear that William O’Meara and his brother Thady O’Meara subsequently served together in the 6th Regiment of Foot of the Irish Brigade of the British army as Captains from 1 October 1794 until that Regiment was reduced on 25 December 1797, whereupon they both went on half-pay. William O’Meara exchanged to become a Captain in the 62nd Regiment of Foot from 17 September 1801 until 24 June 1802 when he retired from the British army and returned to France under the amnesty of that year. Thady O’Meara seems to have remained at Dublin, to have married Frances Masterton there in 1795, and to have died there in 1810, all the time on half-pay. He had a daughter, Phillis Henrietta Maria O’Meara (1797- ), and two sons, John Luke (or John Luc) O’Meara (1798- ) and Edward Augustus O’Meara (1800- ). His widow appears to have moved to Paris at some point after 1816. John Luke O’Meara joined the French army in about 1817 and lived at Paris after he retired. Phillis Henrietta Maria O’Meara married at Paris in 1821.

    Second, I used successive Army Lists as the starting point for reconstructing the Irish Daniel O’Meara’s military career.

    Daniel O’Meara served with the 20th Regiment of Foot from 3 March 1776, first as an Ensign and probably joining the Regiment in Ireland shortly before they embarked for North America. This suggests that he would have been born in the first years of the 1760s. He was promoted to Lieutenant in that Regiment on 20 September 1777. The Regiment surrendered after the battle of Saratoga (1777). They became part of the ‘Convention Army’, so-named after the convention that granted them safe passage back to Europe. However, the Continental Congress revoked the convention, and the Convention Army was kept in captivity until the end of the war.

    Daniel O’Meara then joined the 98th Regiment of Foot on 8 November 1781 as a Captain. The 98th was a short-lived infantry regiment raised in England in 1780 for service in India. En route to India by sea the regiment were involved in the indecisive naval battle of Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands, where they had anchored to take on water. After arriving in India in 1781 the regiment took part in the Second Mysore war against the Kingdom of Mysore, but were obliged to surrender to the forces of Tipu Sultan at the Siege of Bednore and were interned until the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784. Following their release, the regiment sailed home to England and were disbanded in 1785.

    Daniel O’Meara next served with 68th Regiment of Foot as a Captain from 11 May 1785 to 17 January 1797, probably joining the Regiment shortly before they sailed for Gibraltar (possibly for ‘seasoning’ prior to a posting to the West Indies). The regiment’s stay in Gibraltar was uneventful. In December 1794 the Regiment were shipped to the West Indies as reinforcements for the British forces there. The Regiment were dispersed to the islands of Martinique, St. Lucia and Grenada, where they fought against Fédon’s rebellion at Grenada which was being supported by the French. The brigands were defeated on 18 June 1796, but the 68th Regiment played no part having been reduced by fighting and especially yellow fever to 61 fit men. After a draft to the 63rd Regiment of Foot, 10 officers and 27 other ranks returned to Britain in September 1796. It seems likely that Captain O’Meara was not one of those officers – see below.

    The next period of Daniel O’Meara’s army career (apart from what might have been a brief nominal attachment to the 17th Regiment of Foot, then stationed at St Domingo) was spent with various West India Regiments (WIR).

    Daniel O’Meara joined the 3rd WIR (Keppel’s), which was formed in 1795, as Major on 17 January 1797. It seems quite likely that Daniel O’Meara remained in the West Indies when the 68th Regiment of Foot returned to England in order to obtain this promotion in regimental rank. He then joined the 6th WIR (Whitelock’s), which was also formed in 1795, as Lieutenant Colonel on 4 October 1797.

    It would seem that Daniel O’Meara transferred to the 17th Regiment of Foot on 17 June 1798 and is shown as gaining ‘the command of a W Ind R of F’ on the same date. Elsewhere he is shown as becoming Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of the 12th WIR on 6 September 1798.

    Daniel O’Meara married in 1798 in Ireland. The 12th WIR were raised in September 1798. The 17th Regiment of Foot returned to England at the end of 1798. Speculatively, perhaps what happened was that Daniel O’Meara was identified as a prospective commanding officer of one of the WIRs to be raised in 1798; that his presence in England was thought necessary when the other officers were being selected for his Regiment (and perhaps while a cadre of English or Irish NCOs were being recruited); that it was operationally and administratively convenient to move him from the 6th WIR, which were still on ‘active service’, and to attach him in some supernumerary capacity to the 17th Regiment of Foot, which were shortly to leave the West Indies; that he returned to England ahead of that Regiment; that he formally assumed command of his Regiment on 6 September 1798; and that not long thereafter, having married, he returned to the West Indies to recruit the men for his Regiment.

    The 12th WIR were disbanded and incorporated into the 7th WIR in 1802. It seems that Daniel O’Meara went on half pay and returned to Ireland, where he acted for some years as ‘inspecting field officer of Limerick district’. He was appointed to the staff at Jamaica, as a Major General, in the latter part of 1810 and served there until the latter part of 1816 or the beginning of 1817. His precise role is not clear, but he was perhaps one of the Major Generals in command of a District or [Jamaica] county.

    There are no indications that Daniel O’Meara ever obtained a commission by purchase. This might suggest that he had no significant private means. That inference is perhaps strengthened by a pattern of moves to Regiments which were on the point of being posted overseas – even to the notoriously unhealthy West Indies – as one avenue available to him to advance his career.

    Lastly, I very much doubt that the Irish Daniel O’Meara was Catholic. I do not question the French O’Mearas being Catholic. But the ‘penal laws’ should have precluded Daniel O’Meara from joining the British Army in 1776 as an officer if he was Catholic. Moreover, his older brother, Morgan O’Meara (1752-1829) inherited a substantial holding of land which the family had managed to retain even through the Cromwellian and Williamite confiscations. It seems to me extremely improbable that that branch of the family would have retained their land if they were Catholic.

    I have not added my detailed sources. If you wish, I can send you a copy of my notes, but you would need to let me have an e-mail address as the file will be quite large.

    I should close with a warning. I am not a historian. Neither am I a trained or experienced researcher. Anything I write should be treated with due caution.

    Regards

    Alec Berry

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. McLarenJen Post author

      Hi Alec, Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a comprehensive note to me, I really appreciate it. I’m very interested in what you’ve managed to find out about Daniel O’Meara. As you’d know from my thesis, I didn’t fine much about him but was intrigued by the reference to ‘O’Meara’s Rangers’ which is what got me started on looking into his career. If you are happy to share your notes, I’d like to read them. My email address is jennifer@mclarenresearch.net

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