The Rev. Sir John Robert O’Connell (1868-1943) was a philanthropist with a refined civic sensibility. He qualified as a solicitor in 1889. He was very active in the cultural and social life of Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century.

Educated at Belvedere College he later joined its Board of Governors. He ran the firm of T. F. O’Connell & Son, solicitors in Dublin, which had a very extensive practice. He was active as a committee member of the Arts and Crafts Association and as a member of the senate of the University of Dublin. He was knighted in 1914.

He was ordained a priest following the death of his wife, Mary. O’Connell, a Dublin-based lawyer, who had Cork connections. His aunt Mother Aloysius O’Connell left Rutland St., Cork in 1843 to found a community of the Sisters of Mercy in Oaklea, Sunderland. When John was ordained a priest, following the death of his wife, Mary, he said his first mass in Oaklea. He also endowed the Sisters of Mercy in Green Street, Sunderland with liturgical items.  Personal friendships were at the heart of the commission’s success. Sir John was on good terms with Sir Bertram Windle KSG. In Windle O’Connell found a kindred spirit and an enthusiastic advocate of the Celtic Revival and Arts and Crafts philosophy as his unpublished scrapbook testifies. In 1914 O’Connell, with the support of Windle and the Munster bishops, purchased St. Anthony’s Hall for the lodging of Catholic male students.

He was admitted as a Knight Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre in October, 1926 for services rendered by him to the work and missions of the Latin Patriarchate and in connection with its schools.