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Peter F Durnin, KC*SG, KM, GCHS, "Rosaire", Moneymore, Drogheda, Co Louth. A92 RF6F



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About me

1825 – 1880. Soldier and gentleman. His parents were William O'Reilly of Knockabbey Castle, Co Louth  (MP for Dundalk) and the daughter of Myles John O'Reilly of Heathhouse, Queens County. When still quite young he travelled abroad with his father and received the sacrament of confirmation in Rome in 1837. At the age of thirteen he went to St. Cuthbert's College. In 1841 he entered Ushaw College in England and graduated with a B.A. from London University in 1843 and was one of the first Catholic graduates of the university. From 1845 - 1847 he studied in Rome, where at the 'Sapunza' the degree of L.L.B. was conferred upon him. On his return to Ireland in 1853 or 1854, he discharged the duties of Deputy Lieutenant, magistrate and grand juror of Louth. He was involved in the foundation of the Catholic University in Dublin. He was also a member of the Louth Rifles militia where he served as a captain, 1853-1856. He married Miss Ida Jermingham, (daughter of Edmund Jermingham of the family of Lord Stafford, one of the oldest Catholic families in England counting amongst her ancestors four English martyrs, Sir Thomas More and Margaret of Salisbury,) on 3 August 1859. In the context of the difficulties being experienced in the papal states, a recruitment committee was set up in Dublin and they approached Major O’Reilly to command the Irish forces in April 1860. At first he was hesitant to accept because of his domestic circumstances – his wife was expecting their first child – but his suitability was pointed out – his familiarity with the languages involved, the respect which he was held in both at home and in Rome and his five years military experience, which included two spells at the Curragh and Aldershot. Mrs. O’Reilly agreed once she was allowed to accompany him, and he arranged to take up command in June 1860. Having formed an Irish Brigade he was appointed as Major under General Pimodan and fought in every engagement until the surrender of Spoleto on 18 September 1860. About 1861 he was residing abroad in Brussels and whilst there acted as intermediary between the authorities of Maynooth and those of Louvain university concerning burses for Maynooth students at the University. From 1862 to 1879 he represented Co. Longford in the British Parliament and was one of those who signed the requisition for the famous Home Rule Conference under Isaac Butt. He also supported Catholic interests and assisted in the movement to obtain Catholic chaplains for the Army. He also contributed to the 'Dublin Review' and other periodicals writing especially in defence of the Holy See and Catholic educational matters. After the death of his wife, he accepted the position of Assistant Commissioner of Intermediate Education for Ireland. He died in Dublin. He was interred at Phillipstown not far from his family residence in Co. Louth. (references "The Irish Battalion in the Papal Army, 1860," by G.F. Berkley (1929) and Vol XXI of the Irish Sword).