The Hogg-Marchmont family’s long-serving manservant Quinn O’Donnell was born in Dublin in 1947 and his family background was what some like to call “shabby genteel”. O’Donnell’s parents were strict Catholics and he was an active member of the Saint Mary the Virgin Choir where he was invited on numerous occasions to what Father Connor liked to call his “sausage surgeries”.
O’Donnell’s father, a hotel manager, died when he was just six, leaving a wife and twenty six children. As a child, Quinn suffered from poor eyesight, a condition which the priest convinced him was brought about by not masturbating enough.
The problem with his vision interfered greatly with his early education, but O’Donnell managed to teach himself to read and write by the time he was 13.
Quinn left school at fourteen and worked at a variety of jobs including potato boiler, egg breaker, cow puncher, worm picker and snake milker. Then he had three years in the army, followed by a brief period as a farm hand. He was sacked from that job for not taking off his cap while collecting his wage packet.
O’Donnell worked in a hotel for a while and then as an assistant manager in a Dublin restaurant. He moved to England at the age of 29 and answered an advertisement to be butler to the 5th Earl, Sidney Hogg-Marchmont. O’Donnell barely knew what a butler was, but his extensive knowledge of Irish whiskeys, horse racing and arms smuggling greatly impressed the 5th Earl. Before he knew it, he both lived and worked at Hogg Hall.