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Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:56 am
by John Upham
Keen (but not Keene) students of chess history may be interested in new information about the heritage of Alexander McDonnell.

Unpublished research by James O'Fee is referenced below.

https://britishchessnews.com/2020/09/14 ... 5-ix-1835/

No reliable image of the chess playing Alexander McDonnell appears to exist unless you know otherwise.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:34 pm
by Matt Mackenzie
There have, though, been a few times in chess publications when pictures of Rev G A MacDonnell have been claimed as his.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:38 pm
by John Upham
Matt Mackenzie wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:34 pm
There have, though, been a few times in chess publications when pictures of Rev G A MacDonnell have been claimed as his.
Indeed plus images of Dr. Alexander McDonnell who was not his father despite a number of publications asserting as such.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 11:44 pm
by Gerard Killoran
I'm curious why his position as secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants was mentioned, but not that the job was that of a lobbyist on behalf of the slave owners.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:14 am
by John Upham
Gerard Killoran wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 11:44 pm
I'm curious why his position as secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants was mentioned, but not that the job was that of a lobbyist on behalf of the slave owners.
Is it interesting that you mention this. James O'Fee has documented some of this background but not yet published it.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:03 am
by Gerard Killoran
This is a good summary of McDonnell's appalling record, for which he was handsomely rewarded by the slave drivers.

'Alexander McDonnell, a fine chess player, with a fair claim to being a World Champion, but someone who did his utmost on behalf of wealthy and unscrupulous plantation owners to impede the abolition of slavery within the British Empire.'

https://abohemiansportinglife.wordpress ... apologist/

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:47 am
by Tim Harding
Gerard Killoran wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:03 am
This is a good summary of McDonnell's appalling record, for which he was handsomely rewarded by the slave drivers.

'Alexander McDonnell, a fine chess player, with a fair claim to being a World Champion, but someone who did his utmost on behalf of wealthy and unscrupulous plantation owners to impede the abolition of slavery within the British Empire.'

https://abohemiansportinglife.wordpress ... apologist/
Alexander McDonnell's connection with slave traders was mentioned in my 2012 book Eminent Victorian Chess Players but I did not say much about him because he died before the accession of Queen Victoria. In note 31 to the chapter on Captain Evans I said:
Their time spent in the Caribbean would have provided Evans and McDonnell with a talking point apart from chess. Although possibly not a slave-owner himself, McDonnell was certainly a propagandist for them, as a quick search in the British Library’s online catalog reveals. Between 1824 and 1830 he had published at least seven pamphlets about colonial commerce and the slavery question, and one full-length book, Considerations on Negro slavery (1824, 2nd. ed 1825) in which (page x) he says he acted as secretary to the committee of the inhabitants of Demerara. There had been a slave uprising there in 1823. In 1830 McDonnell received an appointment to represent planters’ interests in London.
During research for that book, I did look at McDonnell's book in the British Library but my interest was chiefly in Captain Evans,

Over the past few years I have exchanged a lot of information about McDonnell with James O'Fee but I have left it to him to publish as he has done most of the work and I referred John Upham to him when John asked me about McDonnell. James will, I think, agree that I was the one who found a crucial piece of evidence that contradicted the generally accepted claims about the chess master's paternity. James has since done a huge amount of work on McDonnell which I have not had time to fully examine but he is certainly the number one expert on this subject.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:15 pm
by John Townsend
I believe that proof that the father of Alexander McDonnell was Thomas, a merchant, appeared on Edward Winter's Chess Notes, C.N. 10662, in a contribution from me. It cited, for the first time, I believe, Alumni Dublinenses, which establishes that Thomas was the father of Thomas the barrister, who in turn was Alexander's brother. The article noted, of course, that it was building on earlier research by James O’Fee.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:29 pm
by Tim Harding
John Townsend wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:15 pm
I believe that proof that the father of Alexander McDonnell was Thomas, a merchant, appeared on Edward Winter's Chess Notes, C.N. 10662, in a contribution from me. It cited, for the first time, I believe, Alumni Dublinenses, which establishes that Thomas was the father of Thomas the barrister, who in turn was Alexander's brother. The article noted, of course, that it was building on earlier research by James O’Fee.
Yes that is another proof of the same facts.
The item in Chess Notes was published on 5 December 2017 and it confirms the different proof that I had already sent to James on 25 April 2016, namely a paragraph in the Belfast Commercial Chronicle of Wednesday 7 October 1835 which stated that London papers and even some Belfast papers had erroneously named Dr. McDonnell as the chess master's father. This report correctly named Thomas McDonnell, merchant, as his father and the barrister Thomas as his brother, an identification that James McFee had already made by then.

I did not publish this because I wanted James to see how this fitted in with his researches; McDonnell is "his baby" so far as I am concerned.
He immediately wrote back to say "Many thanks! This is absolutely staggering news!"

I also established for James that the other Alexander McDonnell, son of the doctor, had taken up a position in Dublin around the same time a sthe chess master died.

I haven't for many years contributed to Chess Notes because of Winter's many and unfair attacks on my work, so that's another reason why I didn't follow up your finding. At present TCD library is closed except to current staff and students but it may eventually be possible again to check the MS records on which Alumni Dublinenses was based.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:52 pm
by O.G. Urcan
Tim Harding wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:29 pm
I haven't for many years contributed to Chess Notes because of Winter's many and unfair attacks on my work, so that's another reason why I didn't follow up your finding.
Tim Harding refers to fairness yet makes that attack on Edward Winter without a word of substantiation.

- O.G. Urcan

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:18 pm
by JustinHorton
John Upham wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:56 am
Keen (but not Keene) students of chess history may be interested in new information about the heritage of Alexander McDonnell.

Unpublished research by James O'Fee
Is James not working for Ray any more then?

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 2:50 pm
by Gerard Killoran
JustinHorton wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:18 pm
John Upham wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:56 am
Keen (but not Keene) students of chess history may be interested in new information about the heritage of Alexander McDonnell.

Unpublished research by James O'Fee
Is James not working for Ray any more then?
This James O'Fee?

O'Fee.png
O'Fee.png (73.64 KiB) Viewed 649 times

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:04 pm
by JustinHorton
That's the chap, very much so.

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:05 pm
by Matt Mackenzie
Given his domicile especially, I wonder if he is acquainted with that nice Mr Vance?

Re: Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 7:32 pm
by Paul McKeown
besides chess he was interested in political economy on which he wrote half a dozen books or pamphlets.
That is an interesting form of euphemism. He worked in the Caribbean slave plantations for a short while, before settling in London as a political lobbyist representing the interests of the plantation owners and against manumission.