John O'Connor (priest)
The Rt Rev. John Monsignor O'Connor (1870–1952), an Irish Catholic parish priest in Bradford, Yorkshire, was the basis of G. K. Chesterton's fictional detective Father Brown. O'Connor was instrumental in Chesterton's conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1922. Monsignor O'Connor also received the poet and painter David Jones into the Church in 1921, and was associated with Eric Gill and The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling.
Born on 5 December 1870 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland, O'Connor was educated by the Franciscans and Christian Brothers until the age of twelve, at which point he left for Douai in Flanders to study at the English Benedictine College. He later studied theology and philosophy at the English College in Rome. He was ordained at St. John Lateran on 30 March 1895. O'Connor served as curate at St. Joseph's in Bradford, England, and later at St. Marie's, Halifax, West Vale and St. Anne's, Keighley. From 1909 to 1919, the then Father O'Conner was parish priest of Heckmondwike, where he helped build the Church of the Holy Spirit. It was in Keighley that O'Connor met the writer G. K. Chesterton in 1904. He would later receive Chesterton into the Roman Catholic faith in 1922. O'Connor served as parish priest at St. Cuthbert's from 1919 until his death. In 1937 he was made a 'Privy Chamberlain to His Holiness' (a Monsignor). John Monsignor O'Connor died in the Sisters of Mercy Nursing Home at Horsforth on 6 February 1952.
After meeting G. K. Chesterton in 1904, O'Connor became the model for the Father Brown character and the two men maintained a friendship for over 30 years. In addition to Chesterton, O'Connor was also associated with the Catholic authors Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring and the typographer and engraver Eric Gill. O'Connor published poems, book reviews and prose in English Catholic periodicals and news papers, and also translated the work of French poet Paul Claudel (including "The Satin Slipper" and "Ways and Crossways") and the philosopher Jacques Maritain's "Art et Scolastique".
The papers of Monsignor John O'Connor are held at the University of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto. The collection contains hand-written and typed manuscripts, poems, translations and radio transcripts created and accumulated by Monsignor John O'Connor, as well as his correspondence, collected ephemera (including news clippings, Christmas cards, posters, pamphlets, and small press publications) and research notes. The majority of the material relates to O'Connor friendship with the author G. K. Chesterton, although O'Connor also translated Latin religious poetry and composed his own verse and wrote prose pieces on literature, Church history, morality, religion and philosophy.