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History




For some time we have been endeavouring to piece together the history of Finnstown House and Castle. Historian J.A.H.M. (Turtle) Bunbury (www.eneclann.ie) has kindly brought it all together and conducted considerable further research not only into Finnstown but also into the surrounding houses and castles, which were often connected by marriage. Indeed the study is a synopsis of the history of Lucan, Esker, The Liffey Valley and troubled Ireland over the last 500 years.

Thomas Hickey, the artist (1753 – 1816) and his brother, sculptor John Hickey are also featured in the text. Some of Thomas Hickey’s work, (courtesy: National Gallery of Ireland), can be seen hanging on the staircases to the Library at Finnstown, one of his commissions was to paint Robert Emmett in 1796. What follows is the full version of Turtle’s “History of Finnstown House”, an edited copy of which may be had from the hotel reception.

1. "Fyan's Town"

On older maps, Finnstown, located just outside Lucan, County Dublin, is spelled “Fyan’s Town”. This implies that it was once a town belonging to a family called Fyan, whose name derives from the Latin word “paganus” for “countryman” or “peasant”. The Fyans were citizens of high importance in Dublin in the 15th and 16th centuries. They lived along the Dublin Quays at Fishamble Street in a square tower known for many centuries as “Fyan’s Castle” but later renamed Proudfoot’s Castle. John Fyan was Mayor of Dublin in 1472 and 1479, a time that coincided with the War of the Roses in England. Thomas Fyan was one of Henry VIII’s city sheriffs in 1540 and the hospitality of Richard Fyan (Fiand), Mayor in 1549 and 1564, has been extolled by local chroniclers. Shortly after the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, Robert Barnewall, 5th Lord Trimleston, married Anne, only daughter of Richard Fyan, Alderman. In a document dated 1618, Anne’s brother is referred to as "William Fyan, of Dublin city, merchant, aged 40 years."

It would seem that like many successful Dublin merchant families, the Fyans gradually rose to the rank of landed gentry and by the close of the seventeenth century, they appear to have acquired various estates north of the capital city. Amongst these was the townland now know as Finnstown situated close to the River Liffey in the Parish of Esker. The three principle demesnes – or stately homes - within the parish of Esker were Hermitage, Woodville and Finnstown. Hermitage is now a golf club and Woodville has been demolished. Only Finnstown House, located just west of the Lucan - Newcastle road, remains open to the public. There were in addition two ruined castles in the parish – one at Ballyowen and the other at Finnstown. Again, only the Finnstown castle remains, albeit incorporated into the present day Finnstown House.


2. The Parish of Esker

Esker (ie: Eiscir, or the sandy ridge) is so called on account of its lands embracing a glacial ridge of sand and gravel running westwards across Ireland to Esker, County Galway. According to the Irish myths of the 2nd century, Conn of the Hundred Battles and Owen Mor agreed the Eiscir Riada (or Esker Ridge) should be the dividing line between their two kingdoms. In Celtic times, Esker formed one of the four royal manors in County Dublin, the others being Saggart, Newcastle Lyons and Crumlin. At the beginning of the 13th century Esker’s principal buildings were a manor house and a small medieval church dedicated to Saint Finian and dating back to perhaps 1100AD.

In the late 12th century, John, Lord of Ireland (who became King of England) granted Esker’s church to the Church of Saint Patrick (later St. Patrick’s Cathedral). The Royal Manor of Esker was subsequently leased to middlemen, amongst them William FitzGuido, the first Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Others of influence in the Esker parish at this point include Sir Thomas Luttrell, granted Luttrellstown Castle by King John in the early 13th century, and Wirris Peche, descended from an old English family, granted the lands of Lucan by Alard Fitzwilliam in 1204. The Peche family built a salmon weir across the Liffey at Leixlip but, by 1327, their Lucan estate was in the possession of Robert of Nottigham, the Mayor of Dublin and ancestor of Lamerick Nottingham of Finnstown. To envision the landscape at this time, one might consider contemporary names such as King’s Meadow, King’s Mill, St. Finian’s Garden and the Ash Park.

Prior to the Henrician Reformation in the mid-16th century, land rents for Esker seem to have been shared between the powerful Fitzgerald family and various religious establishments. In 1536, by An Act of the Irish Parliament, the English crown seized all monastic and church lands in Ireland. These lands were subsequently leased to key figures in the Irish system forming a contractual bond with the Royal House of Tudor that could not easily be broken. By 1540, all monasteries had been closed down and the church lands re-granted to those deemed worthy of royal patronage by the English administration in Dublin Castle. The lands of Esker were leased to private individuals such as Geoffrey Tweddell, a yeoman and soldier who lived at Ballydowd in the 1540s, and Alderman Patrick Browne, a merchant who resided at Kishoge and later built the castle at Irishtown in Dublin City.

Over the next sixty years, the Tudor armies of Henry VII’s children – Queen Mary, Edward V and Queen Elizabeth - secured vast tracts of Ireland for the Crown. Native Irish resistance peaked with the rising of Red Hugh O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill in what became the Nine Years War (1594 – 1603). Ultimately the decisive English victory over the Irish forces at the battle of Kinsale in 1603 paved the way for the whole-scale colonization of Ireland under the new monarch, James I (and VI of Scotland). The flight of the Earls in 1607 was the final nail in old Ireland’s coffin, with thousands of Irish Catholics fleeing to Europe and resettling in France, Spain and Italy. Their lands were seized and parcelled out to those who had fought for England or invested in the Crown’s War Treasury. During James I’s reign, these new Protestant planters consolidated their hold of the Irish Parliament and began to gradually dispossess and disenfranchise the Roman Catholics.

Land ownership continued to be the principal bone of contention throughout the 17th century. In 1641 the Irish Catholics rose and the Confederate Wars commenced, pitting a fragile alliance of Irish and Anglo-Norman Catholic against the forces of English Protestant Republicanism. Head-quartered in Kilkenny, the Confederate forces produced many admirable victories, including the conquest of north Kildare, but were ultimately unable to sustain the pressure. Following Cromwell’s brutal suppressions of the garrisons at Drogheda and Wexford, a treaty was signed at Cahir Castle in County Tipperary. The collapse of the Confederacy enabled Cromwell to proceed with the confiscation of all property belonging to Catholics accused of complicity in the “rebellion”. These lands were duly granted to soldiers who had fought in his victorious wars against the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Catholics in Ireland.


3. The Brownes and the Nottinghams

In 1622, Joseph Browne, presumably a kinsman or descendent of Alderman Browne, is described as living at Finnstown, while Ballyowen Castle was in the possession of a gentleman named Christopher Taylor. However, by the 1640s, both Ballyowen and Finnstown were held by a zealous Roman Catholic named Lamerick Nottingham.

The Nottingham family came from England to Dublin in the early years of the Anglo-Norman conquest. By the late 12th century they has established themselves as a family of importance. Robert Nottingham, a highly influential ‘Merchant’ , stood as Mayor of the City for seven years between 1309 and 1322. In 1313, he was asked to contribute finances to King Edward II’s war with Scotland (which culminated in the battle of Bannockburn). In 1317, this same Robert Nottingham, as Mayor of Dublin, attempted to deflect the invading army of Edward the Bruce by setting light to the outer suburbs of the City. The ploy worked in that Bruce’s army about turned for Leixlip but unfortunately the fire subsequently got out of control and burned a substantial part of Dublin’s suburbs, including part of Christ Church Cathedral. Curiously, Robert Nottingham was the one-time owner of Dublin’s Lucan Castle (and the even larger Merrion Castle).

Lamerick Nottingham’s first wife was a sister of William Sarsfield, the enterprising owner of Lucan Castle, and Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan and hero of the Siege of Limerick. Thus the Nottingham fortunes must have at least partially rested with those of the House of Sarsfield.

Lamerick’s second wife was a sister of a prosperous Dublin vintner, Robert Ussher of Crumlin. In his will he makes special provision for the latter lady on account of “her great charge of children”. In all, he left fourteen children. His eldest son and immediate heir, William Nottingham, was living at Ballyowen in 1650. The Nottingham’s lost their Irish lands during the Cromwellian conquest and Ballyowen was leased to a Captain Frances Peasley. However, at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the estate of Ballyowen Castle was restored to Lamerick’s second son, Captain Peter Nottingham, a former Confederate officer in the Duke of Ormonde’s army. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Nottingham’s forfeited Ballyowen to Colonel Thomas Bellew, later MP for Mullingar.


4. The Kennedys of Finnstown

The Nottingham’s neighbours during these years included the Forsters of Ballydowd Castle and the Kennedys (or O'Ceinneide) of Kishoge. One of the more celebrated members of the Kennedy family was the Protestant Sir Robert Kennedy, MP for Kildare, Chief Remembrance of the Exchequer and founder of Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow. He appears to have acquired the Kishoge property during the 1650s. In 1650, Finnstown Castle was in the possession of Sir Robert Kennedy’s Roman Catholic brother, Alderman Walter Kennedy. The Kennedy brothers appear to have had little time for one another, perhaps owing to their different religions. Following Sir Robert’s death in 1668, his lands at Kishoge (which included two houses with four hearths each) passed to his eldest surviving son, Sir Richard Kennedy, a successful barrister who was later appointed second baron of the Irish Exchequer.

Alderman Walter Kennedy died in 1672 and was succeeded in his Finnstown estate by his eldest son, Christopher Kennedy. However, the Kennedy family’s adherence to the doomed cause of the Jacobites proved to be their eventual undoing. The relative peace that existed during Charles II’s reign came asunder with the accession of his brother, James II, a fervent Roman Catholic. Britain was once again plunged into civil war – the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - as Protestants mustered around the Dutch Prince William of Orange and Catholics rallied to the Jacobite cause of King James. Once again Ireland bore the brunt of the violence with the major battles – the Boyne (1689) and Aughrim (1691) – taking place on Irish soil. James was defeated and exiled to France. King William III and the Protestants now held absolute authority throughout the British Isles and, in order to prevent any further outbreak of revolt, initiated a legislative campaign – the Penal Codes - that would effectively render the Catholic population of Ireland second class citizens for over 130 years. Catholics were forbidden the right to bear a weapon or own a horse. They were not allowed to vote in elections or buy land. Roman Catholicism was outlawed and proposals to castrate all practicing priests were seriously considered in the Irish House of Parliament. The age of the Protestant Ascendancy had begun.

An estimated 450,000 Catholics fled Ireland in the years immediately following the collapse of the Jacobite cause in 1691. Among them was Christopher Kennedy’s son, Colonel Thomas Kennedy, who served as Aide-de-Camp to Richard Talbot, the Catholic Duke of Tyrconnell during the Williamite Wars. After the Duke’s sudden death in 1691, Colonel Kennedy fled to Spain where he commanded a regiment in the service of Philip V. He married Elizabeth, a daughter of Marinus Van Vryberge, the Dutch Ambassador to England in the reign of Queen Anne. After the Colonel’s death in 1718, his son, James Marinus Kennedy, returned to Ireland and settled at the ancient family estate in Clondalkin. Like his father, he was much involved with the Jacobite cause and married a niece of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. For reasons presently unknown, he was murdered at his home in Clondalkin in 1763.


5. Finnstown in the 18th Century

The 18th century proved to be something of a golden age in Irish history. Ireland had been in a state of almost perpetual war since the 1580s. Now it was at peace. Dublin was transformed from a grimy, war-weary Tudor timberland into one of the most glittering cities in Western Europe. Ireland developed as a relatively prosperous economical unit primarily through the industries of textile manufacture and agriculture. As trade links between the colony and the ports of Europe gradually expanded, so too the population of Dublin and its surrounding landscape began to increase. New administrative and judicial buildings were built in the main towns, alongside banks, churches, markets, tholsels and gaols. There was an intellectual and cultural flowering throughout the land, encapsulated in the fiery words and witticisms of Dean Swift, Oliver Goldsmith and Edmund Burke.

Perhaps the most symbolic legacy of this new Golden Age was the so-called Big House, the sumptuous mansions and castles built for the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and landed gentry who effectively ran the country from the King William III’s victory at the Boyne until independence in 1921. By 1750, the area around Finnstown, served by the River Liffey, had become particularly desirable to the Ascendancy. Captain Robert Butler (d. 1763), a brother of the 1st Earl of Lanesborough, was living at Hermitage with his wife, a daughter of Robert Howard, Bishop of Elphin (and ancestor of the Earls of Wicklow). John Hawkins (d. 1758), the Ulster King of Arms, occupied the former Foster stronghold of Ballydowd Castle but, following his death in 1758, the castle was dismantled to make way for a splendid rambling house, Woodville, built for Theophilus Clements, brother of the 1st Earl of Leitrim.

In 1758, the first rumours emerged about the medicinal qualities of the springs at Lucan. Two years later, the celebrated Dr. Rutty of the Royal Society published a detailed account of the spa, citing over fifty cases of various diseases which he had personally seen cured by taking its sulphuric waters. The “petrifying tendency” of water was deemed most effective in the cure of skin diseases such as eczema as well as rheumatism. The Vesey family of Lucan were quick to capitalize on the discovery of the so-called “Lucan Spa”, making it available to the public and erecting an enclosing wall to protect the spa from any potential deluges from the nearby Liffey. A hotel was built to cater to the massive crowds of invalids anxious to bathe in the spa. By the 1780s, the Lucan Spa was rivalling those of Tunbridge Wells and Leamington in terms of visitors. Concerts and balls were held at the hotel while the Leonard family of Brookvale, near Finnstown, hosted annual circuses and carnivals. Every Sunday, thousands of well-to-do Dubliners ventured out from the city on horses, coach, foot and jaunting cars (and later trams) on the short 8 mile journey to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Liffey Valley. Even one hundred years ago, a contemporary declared Lucan to contain “the finest inland scenery in the metropolitan county”. Much of the surrounding land was given to the growing of fruit and vegetables that would be taken by barge on the Royal Canal to the Dublin markets.

Lucan continued to blossom as one of Ireland’s most fashionable summer resorts with the building, in 1772, of Lucan House. The Palladian villa was actually designed by its owner, Agmodisham Vesey, in consultation with Sir William Chambers and James Wyatt. Another important house from this era was St. Edmondsbury, built in the 1770s for Edmond Sexton Pery, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Most of the present day houses in Lucan’s Main Street, including The Mall, were built between 1800 and 1830, replacing a number of thatched cottages that stood here previously. A new chapel, St. Mary’s Church, was built in the late 1830s.


6. John Rorke of Finnstown

In 1837 Finnstown House is listed as being the property of “J. Rorke Esq.”. This is presumably the same John Rourke of Finnstown listed as being among 318 Special Jurors appointed to represent County Dublin in 1843. Little else is known of John Rourke except that he was a solicitor with offices on Dublin’s Upper Temple Street. He was married with at least three daughters. The marriage of his daughter into the legal family of Mangan brought him into contact with the enterprising Bourne family who made their fortunes developing Ireland’s transport system in the early 19th century.

On 4th January 1845, John Rorke’s third daughter Christina Mary, married a lawyer, Thomas Lombard Mangan. Mangan was the second son of Thomas Mangan of Piercetown House, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, by his marriage (1818) to Harriet Lombard. Piercetown was built in about 1766 for gentleman farmer John Mangan and his wife Agnes of Rickardstown, Co. Kildare. The property was leased from the Earl of Mornington, father of the Iron Duke of Wellington. In 1781, John’s son, Thomas Mangan, married Elizabeth Odlum, daughter of Henry Odlum of Old Connell and Kilmury in the Kings’ County. In 1818, their only son and heir, another Thomas Mangan, married Harriet Lombard and had two sons – George Thomas D'Israel Mangan and Thomas Lombard Mangan – and a daughter, Isabella. The younger Thomas died aged 40 on August 12th 1862 at his fathers’ residence, Piercetown, co. Kildare. The Mangans also had a town residence off the North Circular Road at No. 50 Summerhill.

Another of John Rorke’s daughters may have been Anne Alicia Rorke, who, on 6th June 1862, married James Turpin Vanston at St. Peter’s Dublin. James was born in 1840 in Maryborough (Portlaoise), Queens County (County Laoise), the eldest son of James Maurice Vanston (d. 1884) and his wife, Sarah Turpin (1812 – 1891). He migrated to the United States and died in Chicago on 24th June 1891 at the age of 51. Born in June 1835, Anne Alicia died aged 68 in Mesquite, Dallas County, Texas on 10 Oct 1903.

A third daughter may have been Charlotte Elizabeth Rorke who, in 1873, married Dalkey-born George Wilson Stanley (b. 1843). George was Company Secretary to Guinness before leaving Ireland in about 1916 to live in Croydon, England, where he died. His father, Edward Stanley, was a member of the Medical Board and the Meath Hospital in Dublin. However, this may be a long-shot as this John Rorke is said to have been an English teacher who wrote a book on astronomy and a poem of over 3500 lines, published in 1864.


7. Origins of the Nash Family

Why John Rorke was obliged to sell his home is unknown but the man who purchased the property in about 1860 was a Cork man of perhaps 33 years age named Thomas Nash. His wife, Juliet, was a daughter of the great Richard Grainger, the visionary planner responsible for designing the city centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 1830s and 1840s. Burke’s Irish Landed Gentry (1912), which states that Thomas James Nash was in possession of Finnstown, suggests that he also held lands at Rockfield and Tullig in Co. Cork and at Seamount in Howth.

The Nash family originated in County Limerick where James Nash was living at Ballycullen in 1630. James married Anne Harrold and had two sons – James, who succeeded to Ballycullen and was ancestor of the actor, J. Carroll Naish, and Patrick, from whom the Finnstown branch descend. In 1690, Patrick married a daughter of Richard Purcell of Cork and settled near Kanturk. Their son John settled at Rockfield (or Ballyheen) in County Cork and married Mary Barry, daughter and co-heir of Jonas Barry of Cork. On 16th August 1733, Mary’s sister and co-heir, Eliza, married Francis Yelverton and settled in the Blackwater Valley.

John and Mary Nash’s second son was Thomas Nash of Rockfield, Kanturk, County Cork. On 21st January 1777, he married Barbara O’Callaghan, daughter of Denis O’Callaghan of Glynn, Co. Cork. Her mother Mary was a daughter of Robert O’Callaghan of Clonmeen, Co. Cork and widow of a wealthy Cork landowner, Henry Daunt of Kilcascan Castle. Thomas and Barbara had six sons. The eldest, John Nash, succeeded to Rockfield and remained an attorney until his death in August 1832. The youngest, James Nash, lived at Tullig House in County Cork’s Mill Street and, on 29th July 1826, married Anne Cudmore, daughter of Christopher Cudmore.


8. Thomas Nash of Finnstown

James and Anne Nash’s eldest son was Thomas James Nash who, in Burke’s, is described as being “of Rockfield (or Ballyheen), Tullig House, Seamount, Howth and Finnstown, co. Dublin”. He was born on 8th June 1825, most probably in County Cork, where his parents were living. The death of his father, James Nash, on 23rd August 1849 left Thomas a wealthy landowner at the age of 24. Seven years later, on 8th July 1856 Thomas Nash married Juliet Isabella Grainger.

Juliet Nash’s father, Richard Grainger (1797 – 1861), was an entrepreneurial master-planner from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and is celebrated for designing many of the city’s finest 19th century neo-classical buildings. In 1831, determined to halt Newcastle’s steady slide into industrial, disease riddled blackness, Grainger invested in a dilapidated 13-acre estate in central Newcastle and devised a spacious new centre for the city. He had his offices on Clayton Street and, for a short time, lived just outside the city in the former Hinde mansion of Elswick Hall, now a nursing home. By 1839, Grainger had built the Markets, the Monument, the Theatre Royal, Gret Street, Grainger Street and several cross streets. Unfortunately, by 1841, Grainger was bankrupt and it fell to other, less scrupulous individuals to cash in on his courage. He continued to work as a developer and planner until his sudden death at his Clayton Street office at the age of 64 on 4th July 1861. When he died in 1861 he owed £128,000 and had only £17,000 assets, although some property had been transferred to his eldest son, Thomas and it may be imagined that Juliet Nash received at least something in the will. Above his grave in Newcastle’s St. John’s church is this inscription: A citizen of Newcastle needs no reminder of the genius of Richard Grainger... the principal street in the centre of the city is the most splendid and enduring monument to that genius. Richard Grainger’s wife, Rachel, was a daughter of Joseph Arundel.

It is not known what condition Finnstown was in when the Nash’s purchased the property. The estate is said to have been almost 3000 acres. It seems likely that Thomas commissioned an architect to redesign the front rooms of the house shortly after the purchase.


10. Richard Grainger Jeune Nash

Richard Grainger Jeune NashRichard and Caroline Nash had one son, Richard Grainger Jeune Nash, born on 17th January 1910, and a daughter, Juliet, born on May 13th 1913. On 17th May 1914, just over a year after Juliet’s birth, Richard Grainger Nash died aged 54. Thus, when the Great War broke out across Europe in August 1914, the heir apparent to Finnstown House was four-year-old Dick Nash. In October 1917, Dick’s widowed mother married the Rev. Charles Follis, Rector of Carbery and Canon Of Kildare, by whom she had a daughter. The young Nash family were then dispatched across the Irish Sea to England where they grew up near Weybridge in Surrey. It would seem that Mrs. Follis arranged the sale of Finnstown House in about 1918. The Rev. Follis died in February 1925.

Young Dick was amongst the first pupils to enrol in the new public school set up at Stowe in Buckinghamshire by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1922. One of his exact contemporaries at Stowe was Hollywood’s finest gentleman actor, David Niven. That both boys had lost their fathers when young may have given them a common bond although Dick does not feature in Niven’s excellent auto-biography, “The Moon’s a Balloon”. During the 1920s, Dick embarked on a career as an automobile engineer, taking advatage of the great Brooklands race track which lay near his home, Hanger Hill, in Weybridge. On October 24th 1932, Richard G.J. Nash, driving his Frazer Nash, "The Terror", at 32.44mph, set the fastest time ever by a car up Brookland’s Test Hill at 7.45 seconds. “It was estimated that Nash’s car, which used twin rear tyres, breasted the hill at some 50mph, and certainly, it was air-bourne for about 30 ft after reaching the summit, a truly hair-raising experience in view of the many trees. Nash’s time of 7.45 seconds has never been beaten."

On 10th February 1938, Dick married Gladys Spencer, eldest daughter of George Spencer of Maydor, Park Avenue, Bromley, Kent. The couple had a son Richard, born on 31st December 1947 and, like his father, educated at Stowe. His last known address was given as The Beeches, 69 Hangar Hill, Weybridge, Surrey. Dick died on 18th December 1966 aged 56. His mother, Mrs. Follis, died four months later on 26th April 1967 aged 88.

Dick’s younger sister, Juliet, was married on 6th November 1943 to Stafford Mannion, son of Thomas Mannion of Park cottage, Bebbington, Cheshire. Stafford died on 1st September 1951. Juliet Nash returned to visit Finnstown House in 1988 for which occasion the Hickeys kindly threw a small party.


1918 – 2007 at Finnstown

The 1920’s and 30’s were troubled times in Ireland for both agriculture and big houses. Finnstown was owned by the Waldron family and was also, like many other big houses, rented out for a period. After the Second World War, Finnstown was purchased by the Crowley family who still farm the land today. Crowleys sold Finnstown House and the immediate grounds and fields to Christopher Keogh and his family. During the 1960’s, the Keoghs hosted several hunt balls for the South County Dublin Hunt and many of Finnstown’s visitors today have fond memories of these occasions. In 1986 the Keoghs sold to Eoin and Nora Hickey, residents of Lucan, who on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 opened up as Finnstown Country House Hotel. In 2007, the hotel was purchased by The Mansfield Group.


The Hickey Brothers

The former owner of Finnstown house, Eoin Hickey, hails from a family that produced two of the greatest artists of the late 18th century. Thomas Hickey, the artist, and John Hickey, the sculptor, were the sons of a Capel Street confectioner.


John Hickey (1751 – 1795), Irish Sculptor

John Hickey was born in Dublin on 7th Nov 1751. As a young boy, he worked under a local carver before moving to England in 1776 and entering the Royal Academy Schools. From 1777 he exhibited regularly at the Academy. In 1778 he won the Academy’s Gold Medal with a relief representing the Massacre of the Innocents (sold London, Christie’s, 15 March 1798). His portrait of Sarah Siddons as ‘Cassandra’ is a finely carved 730 millimetre high marble statuette, unusual at the time in England for its small scale. Hickey’s marble portrait busts include his champion Edmund Burke (1785) and George Thicknesse (1791) Appointed Sculptor to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1786, he produced for the Grand Staircase at London’s Carlton House (since destroyed) a pair of plaster figures of Atlas and Time supporting a clock, the model for which (untraced) he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1788. Hickey’s finest work was probably his red and white marble monument to David La Touche of Delgany, Co. Wicklow, a five-figure group comprising three heroic mourning figures bound by swathes of drapery supporting a sarcophagus surmounted by a draped urn. Above, a pediment supports a statue of the deceased in contemporary dress, flanked by a giant cornucopia and reclining female figure representing Commerce. His most ambitious work in England, the marble monument to Elizabeth Hawkins and her Family (1782) follows the fashion of John Bacon. ) Edmund Burke was enthusiastic in promoting Hickey and secured for him the commission for the monument to David Garrick in Westminster Abbey, London; his second choice was Thomas Banks. Hickey died on 12th January 1795 before work could begin.


Thomas Hickey (1753 – 1816)

Indian Bibi Jemdanee by Thomas Hickey, Calcutta, 1787

Thomas Hickey (1753 - 1816)
"Indian bibi Jemdanee" by Thomas Hickey, Calcutta, 1787.
Courtesy: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Between February 1782 and January 1791, Thomas Hickey spent much of his time working as official artist to Lord McCartney in the British colony of India. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, there were practically no visual records of the people of India. Those artists who made it to the sub-continent tended to focus on portraits of the rich and famous, or pictures of imperial interest commissioned by the East India Company. However, there were some, both professional and amateur artists, who applied their talents to depicting 'Indian India' and its exotic people - especially the native women. Thomas Hickey was amongst these few who captured the essence of these women, as with his charming portrait Jemdanee, the young Bengali Muslim bibi beloved of his kinsman William Hickey, an attorney and famous socialite of Calcutta in the 1790s. About her, William Hickey noted in his memoirs that "she lived with me [and was] respected and admired by all my friends for her extraordinary sprightliness and good humour ...as gentle and affectionately attached a girl as ever man was blessed with".

He joined Lord Macartney's embassy to China from 1792 to 1794, during which he painted several images of the Far East. He returned to Ireland in January 1796, "not overburdened with riches". However, in 1798, he was drawn back to India and he was the only portrait painter on the spot when the Fourth Mysore War ended in 1799. He quickly and prudently planned a related series of seven historical paintings. In preparation, between June 1799 and November 1801, he made at least 55 chalk drawings of the principal Indian and British participants, including Allan, Beatson, Baird, the young Krishnaraja Wadeyar III and Purniya. His subsequent works included portraits of Colonel Mackenzie, the diarist William Hickey; Captain William Kirkpatrick; Thomas Graham of Kinross; Tipu's Chief Minister, Purniya; Lt.Col William Kirkpatrick and a wonderful series of portrait drawings of British Officers and the sons and ministers of Tipu, drawn at Seringapatam and Madras in 1799 and 1800. From these portraits, Hickey intended to paint a series of seven History paintings related to the Mysore campaign, but these were never executed.

Before his return to India in 1798, he was commissioned by Dr. Robert Emmet, State Physician for Ireland, to paint a portrait of the doctor's son, Robert, and daughter, Mary. The son went on to become the patriot Robert Emmet who gave his life for Ireland in 1803.

Col. Colin MacKenzie by Thomas Hickey, 1799 Lt. Col. Wm. Kirkpatrick and Assistants, by Thos. Hickey
Col. Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821)
1799, by Thomas Hickey
Lt. Col. William Kirkpatrick with his Assistants
1799-1800, by Thomas Hickey
 
Purniya, Chief Minister of Mysore, by Thos. Hickey, 1801 Robert Emmet, by Thos. Hickey, 1796
Purniya, Chief Minister of Mysore
1801, by Thomas Hickey
Robert Emmet
1796, by Thomas Hickey
 
Capt Peter Rainer by Thos Hickey, 1806 Picture Attributed to Thos Hickey, 1770
Captain Peter Rainier (1784 - 1836)
1806, by Thomas Hickey
Attributed to Thomas Hickey
1770, by Thomas Hickey
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