CONNOR, GEORGE SKEFFINGTON, farmer, lawyer, politician, and judge; b. 1810 in Dublin (Republic of Ireland), the son of a successful Dublin lawyer; m. in 1830 Eliza Hume, the sister of Catherine Hume*, and they had no children; d. 29 April 1863 at Toronto, Canada West.
George Skeffington Connor entered Trinity College, Dublin, at age 14 and received a law degree in 1830. He and his wife immigrated to Canada in July 1832 in the company of his brother-in-law, William Hume Blake, and also with the Reverend Benjamin Cronyn* and several other relatives and friends. After a long quarantine at Grosse Île because of a cholera epidemic the party separated, Connor settling near Orillia in Oro Township where he tried his hand at farming. In 1834, however, he returned to Ireland and travelled on the Continent.
He received an honorary call to the Irish bar in 1838, a law degree and position at the bar being considered an “honorable” and “liberal” profession for an Irish gentleman of private means who might not intend to practise. After his return to Canada Connor was called to the Upper Canadian bar in 1842; since he had a degree he did not have to article. With William Hume Blake and Joseph Curran Morrison* he then established a legal firm in Toronto. The firm was “very successful,” but after several years Connor withdrew to form a partnership with George Boomer, who later became a Toronto police magistrate.
In September 1848 Connor replaced W. H. Blake as professor of law at King’s College, Toronto, from which he received an annual salary of £250. A student later recalled that “he lectured with great care, and instructed the students in a manner as agreeable to them as it was elegant and useful.” He taught at King’s until it was closed in 1850 and at the University of Toronto until 1853, when all professional faculties were abolished. In 1849 Connor had received an honorary lld from the University of Dublin, and in November of the same year had been elected university solicitor by the King’s College Council, replacing James Edward Small. Connor was the University of Toronto’s solicitor until August 1858 when he resigned to accept political office, but became its chancellor in January, 1863 shortly before his death.
Connor had been appointed a qc in November 1850 and shortly after became a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada. In 1856 he was appointed one of the commissioners for consolidating the statutes of Upper and Lower Canada, and he took particular interest in revising the real property acts. As a defence lawyer he was involved in several cases that received public attention, including the Lawrence W. Mercer trial, which involved the purchase of the office of sheriff in Norfolk County, and the James Fleming murder trial.
From 1843 Connor had been politically associated with the Reformers. In 1844 he was a candidate in Simcoe riding but was defeated by William Benjamin Robinson*. When Robert Baldwin* suggested in 1846 that Connor run in the next election, he declined, maintaining that he lacked the necessary reputation and that it would be unfair to his legal partners. In 1857 Connor was elected by a majority of one vote in the riding of Oxford South, and was appointed solicitor general without an executive council seat in the “Short Administration” of George Brown* and Antoine-Aimé Dorion* in August 1858. In the assembly Connor advocated the incorporation of Ingersoll as a town, but his activities as a member were not noteworthy. He was re-elected in 1861 but resigned early in 1863 when he was appointed a puisne judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench.
At his death from an epileptic seizure in April 1863 the Toronto Globe described him as “an excellent Irish gentleman in speech and manner.” He had a reputation for being more fond of literature than of law and he was “a good French scholar.”
MTCL, Robert Baldwin papers. PAC, RG 1, E1, 82, p.49; RG 5, C1, 604, no.245; 715, no.1389; RG 68, 1, General index, 1841–67. University of Toronto Archives, A-70-005 (Senate), Minutes, book 2, 14 Sept. 1858; March, May 1863; A-70-024 (Board of Governors), King’s College Council minute book (17 Jan.–29 Dec. 1849), 4, p.57; A-72-050 (Office of the Chief Accountant), box 12, package 1c, T. E. Campbell to H. Boys, 13 Sept. 1848; Connor to H. Boys, 16 Sept. 1848. Globe, 30 April 1863. Irish Canadian (Toronto), 6 May 1863. Read, Lives of judges. The University of Toronto and its colleges, 1827–1906, ed. W. J. Alexander (Toronto, 1906). W. S. Wallace, A history of the University of Toronto, 1827–1927 (Toronto, 1927).