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


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Edward Poynings Appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland

Edward Poynings, best known for his introduction of “Poynings Law,” which prevents the Irish Parliament from meeting without royal permission and approval of its agenda, is appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland under King Henry VII of England on September 13, 1494.

Poynings is the only son of Sir Robert Poynings, second son of the 5th Baron Poynings, and Elizabeth Paston, the only daughter of William Paston. He is likely born at his father’s house in Southwark in 1459. His father is a carver and sword-bearer to Jack Cade, and is killed at the Second Battle of St. Albans on February 17, 1461. He is raised by his mother.

Robert Poynings is implicated in Jack Cade’s rebellion, and Edward is himself concerned in a Kentish rising against Richard III, which compels him to escape to Continental Europe. He attaches himself to Henry, Earl of Richmond, afterwards King Henry VII, with whom he returns to England in 1485.

Poynings is employed in the wars on the continent, and in 1493 he is made governor of Calais. In the following year he goes to Ireland as Lord Deputy under the viceroyalty of Prince Henry, afterwards King Henry VIII. He immediately sets about anglicizing the government of Ireland, which he thoroughly accomplishes, after inflicting punishment on the powerful Irish clans who support the imposture of Perkin Warbeck.

Poynings then summons the celebrated parliament of Drogheda, which meets in December 1494 and enacts the “Statutes of Drogheda,” famous in Irish history as “Poynings’s law,” which make the Irish legislature subordinate to, and completely dependent on, that of England, until its repeal in 1782.

After defeating Perkin Warbeck at Waterford and driving him out of Ireland, he returns to England in 1496, and is appointed warden of the Cinque Ports. He is employed both in military commands and in diplomatic missions abroad by Henry VII, and later by Henry VIII, his most important achievement being the successful negotiation of the “holy league” between England, Spain, the emperor, and the pope, in 1513. In 1520 Poynings is present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in the arrangement of which he has taken an active part. He is also present at Henry’s meeting with Emperor Charles V at Gravelines on July 10.

Poynings dies at Westenhanger in October 1521. By his wife, Elizabeth Scot, he leaves no surviving issue, and his estates pass through a collateral female line to the Earl of Northumberland. He has several illegitimate children, one of whom, Thomas Poynings, is created Baron Poynings in 1545, but dies in the same year without heirs.


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Death of Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March

Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and jure uxoris Earl of Ulster, is killed at Cork on December 27, 1381. His sudden death leaves the colony without effective leadership and prompts a military crisis.

Mortimer, the son of Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March, by his wife Philippa, daughter of William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Catherine Grandison, is born on February 1, 1352. An infant at the death of his father, as a ward of the crown he is placed by Edward III of England under the care of William of Wykeham and Richard FitzAlan, 3rd Earl of Arundel. The position of the young earl, powerful on account of his possessions and hereditary influence in the Welsh marches, is rendered still more important by his marriage on August 24, 1369 at the age of 17 to the 14-year-old Philippa, the only child of the late Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, the second son of Edward III.

Lionel’s late wife, Elizabeth, had been daughter and heiress of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, and Lionel had himself been created Earl of Ulster before his marriage. Mortimer inherits the title Earl of Ulster on Lionel’s death. Therefore, the Earl of March not only represents one of the chief Anglo-Norman lordships in Ireland in right of his wife Philippa, but Philippa’s line is also the second most senior line of descent in the succession to the crown, after Edward the Black Prince and his son, King Richard II of England. John of Gaunt, younger brother of Prince Edward, had become the 1st Duke of Lancaster and thus the source of the House of Lancaster‘s claim to the throne.

This marriage has, therefore, far-reaching consequences in English history, ultimately giving rise to the claim of the House of York to the crown of England contested in the Wars of the Roses between the Yorks and the Lancasters; Edward IV being descended from the second adult son of Edward III as great-great-grandson of Philippa, countess of March, and in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York and the fourth adult son of Edward III. Mortimer’s son, Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, becomes heir presumptive to the English crown during the reign of Richard II.

Mortimer, now styled Earl of March and Ulster, becomes Earl Marshal of England in 1369, and is employed in various diplomatic missions during the following years. He is a member of the committee appointed by the Peers to confer with the Commons in 1373, the first instance of such a joint conference since the institution of representative parliaments on the question of granting supplies for John of Gaunt’s war in France.

Mortimer participates in the opposition to Edward III and the court party, which grows in strength towards the end of the reign, taking the popular side and being prominent in the Good Parliament of 1376 among the lords who support the Prince of Wales and oppose the Court Party and John of Gaunt. The Speaker of the House of Commons in this parliament is Mortimer’s steward, Peter de la Mare, who firmly withstands John of Gaunt in stating the grievances of the Commons, in supporting the impeachment of several high court officials, and in procuring the banishment of the king’s mistress, Alice Perrers. Mortimer is a member of the administrative council appointed by the same parliament after the death of Edward, the Black Prince, to attend the king and advise him in all public affairs.

Following the end of the Good Parliament its acts are reversed by John of Gaunt, Mortimer’s steward is jailed, and he himself is ordered to inspect Calais and other remote royal castles as part of his duty as Marshal of England. He instead chooses to resign the post.

On the accession of Richard II in 1377, Mortimer becomes a member of the standing council of government; though as husband of the heir-presumptive to the crown he wisely refrains from claiming any actual administrative office. The richest and most powerful person in the realm is, however, the king’s uncle John of Gaunt, whose jealousy leads Mortimer to accept the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1379. He succeeds in asserting his authority in eastern Ulster, but fails to subdue the O’Neill dynasty farther west. Proceeding to Munster to put down the turbulent southern chieftains, he is killed at Cork on December 27, 1381. He is buried in Wigmore Abbey, of which he had been a benefactor, and where his wife Philippa is also interred.

(Pictured: Coat of Arms of the House of Mortimer)


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Death of William R. Grace, Irish American Politician

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Russell_Grace.jpgWilliam Russell Grace, Irish American politician, the first Roman Catholic mayor of New York City, and the founder of W. R. Grace and Company, dies in New York City on March 21, 1904.

Grace is born on May 10, 1832 in Ireland in Riverstown near the Cove of Cork to James Grace and Eleanor May Russell (née Ellen) while the family is away from home. He is raised on Grace property at Ballylinan in Queens County, now County Laois, near the town of Athy. He is a member of a prominent and well-to-do family. In 1846, he sails for New York against the wishes of his father, and works as a printer’s devil and a shoemaker’s helper before returning to Ireland in 1848.

His nephew, Cecil Grace, attempts a crossing of the English Channel in December 1910 in an airplane, flying from Dover to Calais. However, in coming back he becomes disoriented and over Dover flies northeast over the Goodwin Sands toward the North Sea and is lost.

Grace and his father travel to Callao, Peru, in 1851, seeking to establish an Irish agricultural community. While his father returns home, William remains and begins work with the firm of John Bryce and Co., as a ship chandler. In 1854, the company is renamed Bryce, Grace & Company, in 1865, to Grace Brothers & Co., and ultimately to W. R. Grace and Company.

On September 11, 1859, Grace is married to Lillius Gilchrist, the daughter of George W. Gilchrist, a prominent ship builder of Thomaston, Maine, and Mary Jane (née Smalley) Gilchrest. Together, they have eleven children.

Opposing the famous Tammany Hall, Grace is elected as the first Irish American Catholic mayor of New York City in 1880. He conducts a reform administration attacking police scandals, patronage and organized vice, reduces the tax rate, and breaks up the Louisiana State Lottery Company. Defeated in the following election, he is re-elected in 1884 on an Independent ticket but loses again at the following election. During his second term, he receives the Statue of Liberty as a gift from France.

Grace is a renowned philanthropist and humanitarian, at one point contributing a quarter of the aid delivered to Ireland aboard the steamship Constellation during the Irish Famine of 1879. In 1897, he and his brother, Michael, found the Grace Institute for the education of women, especially immigrants.

William R. Grace dies on March 21, 1904 at his residence, 31 East 79th Street, in New York City. His funeral is held at St. Francis Xavier Church on West 16th Street and he is buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn. At the time of his death his estate is valued at $25,000,000.


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Death of Aeneas Coffey, Inventor & Distiller

Aeneas Coffey, Irish inventor and distiller, dies in England on November 26, 1852. He is born in Calais, France, to Irish parents in 1780. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and enters the excise service around 1799–1800 as a gauger. He marries Susanna Logie in 1808, and they have a son, also named Aeneas, who may have been their only child.

According to British customs and excise records, Coffey is a remarkable man with widespread interests and multiple talents who rises quickly through the excise service ranks. He is appointed sub-commissioner of Inland Excise and Taxes for the district of Drogheda in 1813. He is appointed Surveyor of Excise for Clonmel and Wicklow in 1815. In 1816 he is promoted to the same post at Cork. By 1818 he is Acting Inspector General of Excise for the whole of Ireland and within two years is promoted to Inspector General of Excise in Dublin.

Coffey is a strong, determined upholder of the law, but aware of its shortcomings. He survives many nasty skirmishes with illegal distillers and smugglers, particularly in County Donegal in Ulster and in the west of Ireland, where moonshining is most rife. On several occasions he proposes to the government simple, pragmatic solutions to rules and regulations which have hampered legal distillers. Not all of his ideas are accepted. Between 1820 and 1824 he submits reports and gives evidence to Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry on many aspects of distilling, including formalising the different spellings of Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky. His 1822 report is solidly backed by the Irish distillers. He believes in making it viable to distill legally, and illegal distilling might largely disappear.

He assists the government in the drafting of the 1823 Excise Act which makes it easier to distill legally. It sanctions the distilling of whiskey in return for a licence fee of £10, and a set payment per gallon of proof spirit. It also provides for the appointment of a single Board of Excise, under Treasury control, for the whole of the United Kingdom, replacing the separate excise boards for England, Scotland and Ireland. The 1823 Excise Act also provides for not more than four assistant commissioners of excise to transact current business in Scotland and Ireland, under the control of the board in London. Coffey resigns from government excise service at his own request in 1824.

Between his Dublin education and his work as an excise officer, Coffey has ample opportunity to observe the design and workings of whiskey stills, as Ireland is the world’s leading producer of whiskey in the 19th century, and Dublin is at the center of that global industry. This is how Coffey becomes familiar with a design differing from the traditional copper pot alembic still commonly used in Ireland, the continuous, or column, still. First patented by a Cork County distillery in 1822, the column still remains a relatively inefficient piece of equipment, although it points the way towards a cheaper and more productive way to distill alcohol. It is that last point that captures Coffey’s imagination. He makes his own modifications to existing column still designs, so as to allow a greater portion of the vapors to re-circulate into the still instead of moving into the receiver with the spirit. The result is more efficient, producing a lighter spirit at higher alcohol content. Coffey patents his design in 1830, and it becomes the basis for every column still used ever since.

On his retirement from service, Coffey goes into the Irish distilling business. For a short time he runs the Dodder Bank Distillery, Dublin and Dock Distillery in Grand Canal Street, Dublin, before setting up on his own as Aeneas Coffey Whiskey Company in 1830. The development of the Coffey still makes distillation of his own whiskey much more economical.

Nothing is known of the final years and last resting place of Aeneas Coffey. His only son, also called Aeneas Coffey, emigrates to South Africa and manages a distillery. He marries but his wife dies childless. He returns to England and spends his final years near London.


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Birth of Sir Thomas Molyneux, 1st Baronet FRS

Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Molyneux, 1st Baronet FRS, scientist, archaeologist, physician and Member of Parliament (MP), is born in Dublin on April 14, 1661. Molyneux is the first to assert that the Giant’s Causeway, now a National Nature Reserve of Northern Ireland and a major tourist attraction, is a natural phenomenon. Legend has it that it is the remains of a crossing between two areas of land over an inlet of the sea that has been built by a giant.

Molyneux is the youngest son of Samuel Molyneux of Castle Dillon, County Armagh, Master Gunner of Ireland, and grandson of Daniel Molyneux, Ulster King of Arms. His great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Molyneux, who is originally from Calais, comes to Ireland about 1576, and becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland.

Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Molyneux becomes a doctor with an MA and MB in 1683, at the age of 22. He goes to Europe and continues his medical studies, resulting in gaining the MD degree in 1687. He is admitted a Fellow of the Royal Society on November 3, 1686.

Molyneux practises medicine in Chester sometime before 1690. He returns to Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne. He is elected a Fellow of the Irish College of Physicians 1692 under Cardinal Brandr Beekman-Ellner and becomes the first State Physician in Ireland and also Physician General to the Army in Ireland, with the rank of lieutenant general. Between 1695 and 1699, Molyneux represents Ratoath in the Irish House of Commons. He is Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity College 1717–1733 and becomes a baronet in 1730. Both he and his brother William Molyneux are philosophically minded, and are friends of John Locke.

Molyneux marries twice, first to Margaret, sister of the first Earl of Wicklow, with issue of a son and daughter. It is believed that the son dies in childhood. In 1694 he marries Catherine Howard, daughter of Ralph Howard, at that time Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity College. They have four sons and eight daughters, of whom Daniel and Capel both succeed to the baronetcy.

Thomas Molyneux dies on October 19, 1733 at the age of 72. He is believed to be buried in St. Audoen’s Church, Dublin, however there is a fine monument to him in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh by the sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac, with an elaborate description of his honours and genealogy. His portrait is in Armagh County Museum.