Who is Hugh O’Conor
There were many Irish in the service of France and Spain during the 18th century. Forced to flee Ireland to avoid persecution, they headed toward Catholic France and Spain, both countries were enemies of England. Many Irish ended up as prominent members of the military and political community. Men such as Alexander O’Rielly, cousin of Hugh O’Conor, was Lieutenant General of the Royal Armies and confidante of King Charles III. John O’Donohue, known by the Spanish as “Juan O’Donoju” was the last Spanish ruler of Mexico.
Hugh O’Conor, born in Dublin and part of the powerful O’Conor’s of Castlerea, sister city of Tucson, left for Spain where he rapidly moved up the ranks. His dedication to duty and aggressive temperament gained him a fiery reputation. Either for this reason or for his prominent red hair he was nicknamed “Captain Red”, a name that was picked up by the Apaches in later exploits.
Eventually, Hugh O’Conor, know as “Hugo Oconor” by his adopted country, was made Colonel and promoted to Commandant Inspector of Interior Provinces of New Spain. His mission was to colonize the wild territory of present day Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. To do this, Hugh set up a series of forts or “presidios” about every 50 miles. In 1776, he established San Augustine de Tucson. This isolated outpost would become the City of Tucson, Arizona.
It is for this history his name was chosen for the Ancient Order of Hibernians Tucson Division and parent organization of the Hugh O’Conor Memorial Pipe Band.
You can learn more about Hugh O’Conor in the book “The Red Captain – The Life of Hugo O’Conor” by historian Mark Santiago, available at the Arizona Pioneer Historical Society in Tucson.