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A Description of the Irish in Seville: Merchants of the Eighteenth Century

By Manuel Fernández Chaves and Mercedes Gamero Rojas


Faced with such a critical situation, and needing to deal with the bills arising out their commercial activity, his widow quickened the process of selling off the family inheritance by getting rid of an African slave and collecting money owed for grape harvests from previous years. She was in severe straits, hounded by debt and unable to maintain the citrus farms. She reached agreements to cancel rentals and pay damages; in 1746 she paid 1,300 reales in damages and penalties to a resident of Coria for a pomegranate and orange fruit farm that she had rented (AHPSe, leg. 3785, f. 174). 

The death of her husband in practice represented for Juana Keating the break-up of all his businesses. It appears that the widow’s health deteriorated around this time. She made a will in 1747, in which she declared that her eldest son had already received during his father’s life everything that he was entitled to. She passed the obligation of educating the younger son Felipe O’Conry to Diego Keating, a relative in Lisbon. She stated that she had had to pay her daughter Elena’s dowry at the time of her marriage to Don Guillermo Darwin by using ‘money and goods’ belonging to Patricio O’Conry, adding at his death ‘all the oranges and lemons which have been harvested this year on lands I have rented’. The lack of capital was caused by the non-payment of certain ‘capital from America’ that never arrived - perhaps payment for the books sent to Tierra Firme (coastal Colombia) and Buenos Aires to the value of 46,538 reales. She sold her remaining livestock to pay a debt of 900 reales to her compatriot Tomás Macores, and she left 40 pesos to her relatives Mateo and Ana O’Conry and to their two grandchildren. What was left, 127 pesos and 1,638 reales, was what was to serve for the upkeep of the house. In spite of her miserable situation, Juana Keating kept for herself whatever bits and pieces remained, leaving to Fr David O’Conry, parish priest at Banestram in Waterford, ‘a black velvet skirt and a green gown with a gold floral design for him to divide up to make adornments for the church in that parish’ while to Fr. Juan Fogerti, an Augustinian who served as her confessor she left jewellery ‘for him to distribute according to the dictates of his conscience.’

A study of legal claims and demands for payment shows that the majority of Patricio O'Conry’s customers were from Seville and its surroundings, while the remainder were scattered throughout various places in Spain (Madrid, Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena) and Europe similar to the case of his fellow Irishmen White and Plunkett, who formed a commercial triangle between Seville, America and the cities of northern Europe (Álvarez Pantoja 2000: 34,38). 

Where did Patricio O’Conry’s commercial network fail? The setback he suffered was so serious that neither his alliance with an enterprising son-in-law nor the support of his compatriots could help him. This is material for future research, although we believe that the poor health of O’Conry and his wife aggravated a situation which might otherwise have been resolved. There were also the unpaid accounts for wheat provided to the army - which of course constituted a permanent weight on the Spanish economy - as well as other international factors which cannot be ignored. Among these were the constant bans on trade with England during the various wars between that country and Spain. The intermediary role of Portugal, be it legal or illegal, explains the fluctuating relations with that country, but it continued to be an obstacle to the smooth development of some businesses. Forming marriage links with other groups - French, Flemish, people from Rioja in Northern Spain - was a strategy which did not completely work for the O’Conry/Keating couple. In any case, the situation at the end of the century was in general difficult for all merchants based in Seville. A detailed study of this issue remains to be carried out.


Manuel Fernández Chaves and Mercedes Gamero Rojas
University of Seville, Department of History


Translated by David Barnwell and Carmen Rodríguez Alonso



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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2007

Online published: 6 September 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

Fernández Chaves, Manuel and Mercedes Gamero Rojas, 'Description of the Irish in Seville: Merchants of the Eighteenth Century' in Irish Migration Studies in Latin America, 5:2 (July 2007), pp. 106-111. (www.irlandeses.org), accessed .


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