Most people believe that the major figures in the history of the southwestern United States are Spanish. They are correct in thinking that they served the Spanish, but not all of them WERE Spanish. One of the most important figures in that history, was an Irishman, Hugh O’Conor, born in Dublin in 1734. He is considered the founder of the Arizona city of Tucson, based on his establishment of a presidio there in 1775.
In the long tradition of “The Wild Geese,” O’Conor left Ireland when he was 16. Though many went to France, others, like O’Conor, joined the army of Spain, Europe's other Catholic power. There, renamed “Hugo” O’Conor, he began a steady rise in the Spanish army. By 1775, he was the inspector general of outposts of New Spain. That year he decided to move the presidio of Tubac, in what is Arizona today, northward on the Santa Cruz river to the location of present-day Tucson.
Becoming acquainted with O'Conor as he led Spanish forces against them, the region's Apaches dubbed the red-haired O’Conor “The Red Captain.” Now this dashing historical figure of the early southwestern American frontier is to be the focus of a play written by an Irishwoman, Caroílin Callery, an actress and playwright from Roscommon. Caroílin heard the story of O’Conor from her cousin Patrick Lavin, an Irish immigrant who lives in Tucson. Thus began the germination process for her play.
Callery is now in Arizona, doing research for the play, which she plans to write after returning home. She will be giving a talk on O’Conor and her project at the behest of the Tucson Roscommon Sister Cities organization, 6 p.m. Friday.
The venue is The Manning House, 450 W. Paseo Redondo, Tucson. There will be a dinner as well. Tickets are $35. For information, phone (locally) 770-0714 or visit manninghouse.com
Hugo O’Conor: The Play
The Red Captain: The Life of Hugo O'Conor
The Defenses of Northern New Spain
The Presidio Trail – Tucson
The Handbook of Texas Online: Hugo O'Conor