The Wellesley sold Dangan Castle and its estates in the early 1800s to a Colonel Burrows who let out the property.
Roger O’Connor was from Cork and he and his brother Arthur O’Connor, joined the United Irishman. He was imprisoned in Cork, London and Scotland as a result of his views.
Strongly influenced by the French revolution, Roger O’Connor rented Dangan Castle, Summerhill, Co. Meath with the intention of entertaining Napoleon there, following the expected French invasion of Ireland.
In 1809 Dangan was burned shortly after Roger had taken out insurance for £5000 on it. It was a serious fire that destroyed part of the house. Roger’s son, Francisco, wrote in his autobiography 60 years later that he had accidentally started the fire himself when melting lead to create bullets but it was probably purposely set on fire for the insurance. The house and demesne were dismantled of every article that could be converted into money.
Another time he forced his landlord Colonel Burrows or his agent to call to Dangan to pay his rent. In 1813, the agent, Mr. Humphrey Doyle, postmaster of Trim, called to Dangan and received the rent of £750, mostly in one pound notes, from O’Connor. As he left the house with the bag of money he was robbed. What a coincidence? Of course it was thought that Roger had arranged it but it was never proven.
Roger was arrested in 1817 for having headed a band of his retainers in robbing the Galway coach at the turnpike gate at Cappagh Hill, near Cloncurry on 2 October 1812. Some of the mail-bags, and fire-arms, were discovered in Dangan. Ten highway men had attacked and held up the coach. Two notorious characters, named Owen and Waring, were apprehended for a robbery in 1817, tried in Dublin, and found guilty. They received sentence of death, and the day before the execution their lives were spared as they charged Roger with being the leader of the raid on the Galway mail. Roger was arrested and tried in Trim. Roger was acquitted, although there were grounds for believing that he had planned the affair to secure certain letters. The son of O’Connor’s agent later asserted that this raid was made by O’Connor in quest of a packet of love letters written by his friend Sir Francis Burdett, which were likely to be used in evidence against Burdett at the suit of a peer who suspected him of criminal intimacy with his wife.
In 1822 O’Connor published The chronicles of Eri, being the history of the Gael, Sciot Iber, or Irish people: translated from the original manuscripts in the Phoenician dialect of the Scythian language. The book is mainly, if not entirely, the fruit of O’Connor’s imagination. It was fashionable at the time to suggest that the Irish originated in the Middle East, India or the steppes of Russia.
The family no longer felt welcome in the area. Francis and his brother Feargus decided to leave, stealing horses from their brother; Roderic, travelling to London and asking to be taken in by family friend M.P. Francis Burdett.
He had one son by Louisa Strachan – Roderick O’Connor who lived for a time on his Dangan estate, before emigrating to Van Diemen’s Land where the family still have a huge farm, The Queen even stayed there on a visit to Australia in 1954. Today the 17,200ha Connorville property is run by Roderic O’Connor And his family.
Roger married secondly Wilhelmina Bowen and two of his children were Francisco (Francis) O’Connor, the supporter of South American independence movements, General and then Minister of War in Bolivia. and Feargus O’Connor, the Political Activist and Chartist, As a young man Feargus pursued a keen interest in horse-racing at Dangan.
Roger O’Connor died in 1834, and was buried in Kilcrea Abbey.
The already seriously damaged Dangan castle and grounds rapidly fell into a state of irretrievable disrepair after O’Connor’s departure.