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John O'Kelly

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Colonel John O'Kelly was responsible for erecting the first Newcomen Engine on the Continent, in 1721.

Born in Galway, Ireland, in December 1672

Died in Brussels in 1753

He became a Captain in the army, took part in the War of Spanish Succession, and travelled widely in Europe. In 1720, he obtained from the prince-bishop of Liège, Joseph-Clément of Bavaria, permission to operate "a machine of his invention" intended to drain the mines. Installed in the hamlet of Mabotte, it operated from the beginning of 1721. He erected several other pumps at coal mines in Liège. He married there, had two children and died in Brussels at the age of 80.

A monument to John O'Kelly was erected at Jemeppe-lez-Liège in 1957.

The above information is condensed from the Connaître la Wallonie website.

O'Kelly carefully planned the work for the mine at Groumet, near Liège, and had the 25" cylinder and other critical components made in England and shipped to Rotterdam in August 1720. O'Kelly arrived in Liège in September 1720. The cylinder and several technicians from England arrived on 4 October. The engine was completed in February 1721, but delays arose due to the failure of his local partners to provide adequate arrangements to dispose of the pumped water. O'Kelly became disillusioned with his partners, and sold his share in the engine to a Mr. Blackmore. In early 1725 he was in Holland, before returning to London, and entered negotiations with the Spanish ambassador there about building engines in the Biscay region.[1]

O'Kelly had some connection with John Theophilus Desaguliers, who was prominent in the Royal Society: in the course of falling out with his Liège partners, O'Kelly was in danger of imprisonment for debt, but was rescued by the intervention of the Duke of Chandos with the secretary of state, Lord Carteret. The Duke of Chandos was the patron of Desguliers.[2]

1725 O'Kelly proposed to construct the first Newcomen engine in Sweden. In January 1728 his plans were submitted to someone who turned out to be his competitor, Marten Triewald. Triewald on the contract, but his 'Dannemora' engine proved to be inferior to O'Kelly's first machine at Liège.[3]

Kelly had two sons: Jean-Charles and Philippe-Hean-Baptiste (1730-1799).

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'A new technology and its diffusion: steam engine construction in Europe 1720 - c.1780 (Part 2) by G. J. Hollister-Short, Industrial Archaeology, Vol 13 No. 2, Summer 1978
  2. [1] 'The Selling of Newton: Science and Technology in Early Eighteenth-Century England' by Larry Stewart. Journal of British Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 178-192
  3. 'Royal Supplications of the Swedish Boards of Trade and Mines on Behalf of Denis O'Brien (1723-26) and John O'Kelly (1725-28)' by Steve Murdoch and Alexia Grosjean: Archivium Hibernicum, Vol. 60 (2006/2007), pp. 436-459. Published by: Catholic Historical Society of Ireland