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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of James Patrick Mahon, Journalist, Barrister & Parliamentarian

Charles James Patrick Mahon, Irish nationalist journalist, barrister, parliamentarian and international mercenary, is born into a prominent Roman Catholic family in Ennis, County Clare, on March 17, 1800.

Mahon, the eldest of four children, is the son of Patrick Mahon of New Park, who took part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and Barbara, a considerable heiress and the only daughter of James O’Gorman of Ennis. He studies at Clongowes Wood College, where he is one of the earliest pupils, and at Trinity College Dublin, where he takes his BA in 1822 and his MA in law in 1832. Following his father’s death in 1821, he inherits half the family property and becomes a magistrate for Clare.

In 1830, Mahon marries Christina, the daughter of John O’Brien of Dublin. She is an heiress and has property valued at £60,000 in her own right, which gives him the resources to seek election to parliament. The couple spends little time together, and she dies apart from him in Paris in 1877. They have one son who dies in 1883.

In 1826, Mahon joins the newly formed Catholic Association. He encourages fellow member Daniel O’Connell to stand for election at the 1828 Clare by-election. O’Connell’s election, in which Mahon plays a large role, persuades the British Government to pass the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, which finalises the process of Catholic Emancipation and permitted Roman Catholics to sit in the British Parliament.

As a result, when Mahon is elected for Clare at the 1830 United Kingdom general election, he is entitled to take his seat. However, during the election campaign he quarrels with O’Connell, and after his election he is unseated for bribery. He is subsequently acquitted, and stands again at the 1831 United Kingdom general election, but is defeated by two O’Connell-backed candidates, one of whom is his old schoolfriend Maurice O’Connell, Daniel O’Connell’s son. He gives up on politics, becomes deputy lieutenant of Clare, and captain of the local militia.

Mahon becomes a barrister in 1834, but the following year, he leaves for Paris. There he associates with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, becoming a favourite at Louis Philippe‘s court and working as a journalist. He travels the world, spending time in both Africa, where he befriends Ferdinand de Lesseps, engineer of the Suez Canal, and South America, before returning to Ireland in 1846.

At the 1847 United Kingdom general election, Mahon is elected for Ennis, and declares himself a Whig in favour of Irish Repeal. However, he opposes the Young Irelanders, and narrowly loses his seat at the 1852 United Kingdom general election.

Following his defeat in the 1852 election, Mahon returns to Paris, then travels on to Saint Petersburg, where he serves in the Imperial Bodyguard. During this period, he journeys through lands from Finland to Siberia. He then travels across China, India and Arabia. His finances largely exhausted, he serves as a mercenary in the Ottoman and Austrian armies before returning to England in 1858. Late that year, he leaves for South America, where he attempts to finance the construction of a canal through Central America.

After exploits abroad Mahon returns to Ireland in 1871 and is a founding member of the Home Rule League. Nearly ruined by his ventures, he even ends up at the Old Bailey as a consequence of his dealings, but is acquitted. He is defeated in Ennis at the 1874 United Kingdom general election, and also at the 1877 Clare by-election. Finally, he wins the 1879 Clare by-election and holds the seat at the 1880 United Kingdom general election.

Mahon is a close associate of Charles Stewart Parnell, who he successfully nominates for the leadership of the League in 1880, but is dropped in 1885 as a party candidate because of his age and his tendency to vote with the Liberal Party in Parliament. He is also embroiled in a court case disputing the will of his son.

Parnell personally ensures Mahon is a candidate at the 1887 County Carlow by-election, which he wins at the age of 87 as a Liberal. By this point, he is the oldest MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. He dies at his home in South Kensington, London on June 15, 1891 while still in office.

Mahon had served alongside William O’Shea as an MP, and the two were close friends. He introduced him and Katharine O’Shea, his wife, to Parnell. After Parnell is named in the O’Sheas’ divorce case in 1890, Mahon splits with Parnell, siding with the Irish National Federation. However, Parnell attends Mahon’s funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery a few months later.

(Pictured: Caricature of James Patrick Mahon by Sir Leslie Matthew Ward under the pseudonym “Spy” published in Vanity Fair in 1885)


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Death of Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun

Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun, Irish businessman, politician, and philanthropist, best known for giving St. Stephen’s Green back to the people of Dublin, dies on January 20, 1915.

Guinness is born on November 1, 1840 at St. Anne’s, Raheny, near Dublin, the eldest son of Sir Benjamin Guinness, 1st Baronet, and elder brother of Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh. He is the great-grandson of Arthur Guinness. He is educated at Eton College and Trinity College Dublin and, in 1868, succeeds his father as second Baronet.

In the 1868 United Kingdom general election Guinness is elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Dublin City, a seat he holds for only a year. His election is voided because of his election agent’s unlawful efforts, which the court finds were unknown to him. He is re-elected the following year in the 1874 United Kingdom general election.

A supporter of Benjamin Disraeli‘s one-nation conservatism, Guinness’s politics are typical of “constructive unionism,” the belief that the union between Ireland and Britain should be more beneficial to the people of Ireland after centuries of difficulties. In 1872 he is a sponsor of the “Irish Exhibition” at Earlsfort Terrace in Dublin, which is arranged to promote Irish trade. Correcting a mistake about the exhibition in the Freeman’s Journal leads to a death threat from a religious extremist, which he does not report to the police. In the 1890s he supports the Irish Unionist Alliance.

After withdrawing from the Guinness company in 1876, when he sells his half-share to his brother Edward for £600,000, Guinness is in 1880 raised to the peerage as Baron Ardilaun, of Ashford in County Galway. His home there is at Ashford Castle on Lough Corrib, and his title derives from the Gaelic Ard Oileáin, a ‘high island’ on the lake.

Between 1852 and 1859, Guinness’s father acquires several large Connacht estates that are up for sale. With these purchases, he becomes landlord to 670 tenants. With his father’s death in 1868, Guinness continues in his father’s footsteps, purchasing vast swaths of Galway. When his acquisitions are combined with those of his father, total acreage for the Ashford estate is 33,298 acres, with Guinness owning most of County Galway between Maam (Maum) Bridge and Lough Mask.

Like many in the Guinness family, Guinness is a generous philanthropist, devoting himself to a number of public causes, including the restoration of Marsh’s Library in Dublin and the extension of the city’s Coombe Lying-in Hospital. In buying and keeping intact the estate around Muckross House in 1899, he assists the movement to preserve the lake and mountain landscape around Killarney, now a major tourist destination.

In his best-known achievement, Guinness purchases, landscapes, and donates to the capital, the central public park of St. Stephen’s Green, where his statue commissioned by the city can be seen opposite the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. To do so he sponsors a private bill that is passed as the Saint Stephen’s Green (Dublin) Act 1877, and after the landscaping it is formally opened to the public on July 27, 1880. It has been maintained since then by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, now the Office of Public Works.

Guinness dies on January 20, 1915 at his home at St. Anne’s, Raheny, and is buried at All Saints Church, Raheny, whose construction he had sponsored. Those present at the funeral include representatives of the Royal Dublin Society, of which he is president for many years, the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland, the Irish Unionist Alliance, and the Primrose League. His barony becomes extinct at his death, but the baronetcy devolves upon his nephew Algernon.