The manufacture of Killarney Ware developed into an industry in the early 19th Century, when the town, although inaccessible to most, became a tourist attraction for the wealthy and the persevering who wished to see the lakes. During the 1820s bog-oak and bog-yew were dug up and carved into souvenir trinkets such as egg-cups, snuff boxes and card-cases. Arbutus, a shrub of Mediterranean origin, which flourished in the mild damp climate of South West Ireland, was also exploited for the Killarney furniture-making trade in the 1830s. Cabinets, Davenports and Games-tables were elaborately inlaid with local scenes and engravings found in guide-books, as well as the local fauna and flora and of course, the Irish harp (as the present lot). In the 1850s, after the opening of the railway, the Killarney industry established its reputation both in Ireland and abroad and was patronised by members of the Royal Family, such as Queen Victoria who visited in 1861 (B. Austen, 'Killarney Inlaid Furniture, A Forgotten Industry', Killarney Newsletter, Spring/Summer 1998, pp. 6 and 7).
Jeremiah O'Connor of Main Street, Killarney, was one of the leading Killarney manufacturers. He showed his wares in exhibitions in London (1851), Cork (1852) and Dublin (1853) and was still exhibiting in 1882. An almost identical davenport by O'Connor, is illustrated in B. Austen Tunbridge Ware and Related European Decorative Woodwares, London, rev. ed., 1992, fig. 86 and another was offered anonymously, in these Rooms, 29 March 1984, lot 135.