The O’Gorman Mahon
Duellist, Politician, Soldier and Adventurer

James Patrick Mahon was born in Mill Street (now number 40 Parnell Street), Ennis, on 17 March 1802. Educated at Trinity College, he later went on to become a barrister but never practised. He joined the Catholic Association and was the driving force behind O’Connell’s 1828 victory in the Clare election.

Mahon was elected M.P. for Clare in 1830 but was unseated following a charge of bribery. He contested the 1831 election but was defeated by the O’Connell backed candidate. This led to a rift between himself and O’Connell which never healed.

In 1835, he set out on foreign travel touring most of Europe, in particular France, where he
worked as a journalist and moved in most influential circles. He also travelled to Africa, to
east and south America. He returned to Ireland in 1847 for the general election but was defeated by 13 votes. He then returned to his foreign travel.

It was at this point that his outstanding career as a soldier began. The Czar of Russia appointed him lieutenant in his international bodyguard, a position above many of his generals. He held the rank of captain or general under most of the flags of Europe and colonel in the French army under Napoleon III.
In the 1860s, he was a general on the side of the Uruguayan government in their civil war and fought in the American civil war on the side of the North. He returned to Ireland in 1871 and joined Parnell’s Home Rule party. He was elected M.P. for Clare in 1879 and again in 1885, and for Carlow in 1887.

Mahon was the most notorious adventurer and duellist of his time. His reputation as a swashbuckling Irishman was as well known in Berlin, Paris and London as it was in Ireland, and his adventures in south America have given rise to legends about him.

James Patrick Mahon created the title “The O’Gorman Mahon” to create the impression that he was the head of the ancient Mahon clan. This was however untrue. His family were landlords in a very small way. However, this combination of his mothers and fathers name is no doubt a fitting title for such ‘a great man’ and he is without doubt one the most colourful, infamous sons of Clare.

This street art piece by Joe Kelly was commissioned by the Memory Lane Group through the PRISM scheme whose members comprised of

  • Larry Brennan, local historian
  • Cllr. Mary Howard
  • Cormac McCarthy: Chair Tidy Towns Ennis
  • John Kerin Brooks: PRO, The Clare Association (Dublin)
  • Margaret O’Brien: CEO, Ennis Chamber