John O’Donohoe, barrister-at-law, and ex-member of the Dominion Parliament, justly occupies a prominent place in the foremost rank of those Irishmen, who, adopting Canada as their home, and closely identifying themselves with her manifold interests, have, through the exercise of industry, perseverance, and personal integrity, attained to considerable and well deserved eminence.
He is fourth son of the late Malachy O’Donohoe and Margaret O’Neill, and was born at Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, in June, 1824. The family on the paternal side are a branch of the ancient family of the name known as O’Donohoe of the Glen, having their chief seat at Glenflesk, in County Kerry, but the branch of the family mentioned, settled some generations ago, in County Galway. Our subject was educated at St. Jarlath’s College, in his native county, and in 1839, came to Canada, and has resided in Toronto ever since. For many years he was engaged in commercial pursuits in connection with his brother, who had come to this country some years previously. But finding this business uncongenial to his tastes, he took up the study of law in the office of the late Dr. Skeffington Connor, afterwards a Justice of one of the Superior Courts of Ontario; called to the Bar, Ontario, in Hilary Term, 1869, and since that time has practiced law in Toronto, as head of several law firms in succession.
Mr. O’Donohoe has always taken a great interest in political, municipal, and social affairs, and in fact in all matters affecting the public weal. In 1867, and again in 1869, he was a member of Toronto city council, from St. David’s,Ward, and during the latter year was chairman of the Finance committee, and represented the Corporation on the Board of Trustees of the General Hospital; was Secretary of St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society during the Presidency of the late Hon. Robert Baldwin, and was that gentleman’s successor in the office, holding the position for many years; in 1871, on its formation, was elected President of the “Ontario Catholic League,” an office which he still holds. Mr. O’Donohoe has taken a leading part in this association since its formation, and has used his best endeavors since he initiated it to further its objects and elevate its standing. In the dedication of a pamphlet on “The Political Standing of Irish Catholics in Canada,” published in 1872, Mr. J. L. P. O’Hanly, thus speaks of Mr. O’Donohoe’s connection with the “Catholic League:” “As the architect of this good edifice,” as the artificer of this noble structure, accept this slight tribute of esteem from one who has “watched your zeal, devotion and patriotism, from one who is glad to be able to bear testimony” to your worth, to your abnegation of self, and your numerous sacrifices for the good object of “promoting the amelioration of your race in this colony, and elevating them to that position” to which their numbers and intelligence so justly entitle them.”He conducted the criminal business as Crown Counsel on Circuit for several years, and was Crown Attorney for the County of York and city of Toronto, from 1872 until January, 1874, when he resigned the office to become a candidate for Parliament, and at the general elections of this year he was elected to the Commons to represent the constituency of East Toronto. In 1871, for East Peterborough in the local elections, and in 1872, for East Toronto in the Dominion elections, he was an unsuccessful contestant. For many years Mr. O’Donohoe has taken an active part in politics, in the interests of the Reform party, and while in Parliament was an earnest and pronounced supporter of Mr. Mackenzie’s Government; but at the general elections in Sept., 1878, he was compelled to support the Conservative cause, being a conscientious advocate of the ” National
Policy,” or a qualified protection to Canadian industries. In addressing a political meeting, or indeed any other assemblage, few men surpass Mr. O’Donohoe, either in style or effect; earnest and eloquent in manner, persuasive and conciliatory, though sound and logical in argument, he possesses the power of the true orator, to win, and hold when won, not only the attention, but the hearts of an audience.
In addition to his many other public services, he has been interested in militia matters, holding a Captaincy in the active Volunteer force at one time, and retaining his rank when he resigned; was also Solicitor for the Toronto Savings Bank for many years, and held that position at the time when the law relating to Savings Banks was so changed as to oblige the Trustees to wind up its affairs.
In 1848, our subject was married to Charlotte Josephine, since deceased, eldest daughter of Dr. Bradley, of Toronto. By this union there were four children, only one of whom, Margaret Josephine, the youngest, survives.