William Daniel

Published in Early Modern History (1500–1700), Features, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2012), Volume 20

William Daniel was born in Kilkenny around 1570. His mother’s name is unknown but his father was one Nicholas O’Donnell, described in John O’Donovan’s history of east Galway, The tribes and customs of Hy-Many, as a ‘grandson of the earl of Tyrconnell’. It is not clear why this branch of the O’Donnells had settled in Ormond, though Manus Ó Domhnuill (†1564), compiler of the celebrated sixteenth-century Life of St Columcille, had given two of his sons as ‘pledges’ or wards of the state under the terms of his ‘surrender and regrant’ in 1542, raising the possibility that one of these was Daniel’s father. He embraced Protestantism under the influence of Nicholas Walsh, the bishop of Ossory, and was sent at a young age to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, founded in 1584 with the aim of keeping young Puritans within the established church. In 1592 he returned to Ireland, where he became one of the first three fellows of the newly founded Trinity College.


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