Briseann an Duchais Trí Súil an Chait, The Maverick DNA of Black Jack Fitzgibbon, (Lord Clare 1749-1801), First Irish Born Attorney-General of the 18th Century, Pioneer of World-wide Metropolitan Policing, his sister Lady Arabella Jeffares, Blarney, Supporter of Tenant farmer and Rightboys, sister Eleanor married to Cork Barrister, Dominic Trant, the insult of Trinity Fellow Patrick Duignan to Father Arthur O’Leary, ‘The Friar with the barbarous Surname’ and an account of the Cork Rightboys in 1785 by Cork Apothecary John Barrett Bennett.
Bennett’s account is reproduced in an article in 1984 JCHAS by James S. Donnelly Junior, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a leading authority of Cork and its Political and land History. He acknowledges his debt to his graduate student Irene Whelan Hehir who laboured for months in deciphering Mr. Bennett’s account written for family consumption in 1785. Donnelly’s introduction sets out the overall backdrop in terms of land tenure, religon and politics. At times Bennet’s account reads like the News of the World, drunken Ministers, the upper Catholic Prelates sculling pints late in the Cork Taverns, marital infidelity etc.
Mrs Amelia Jeffaries is mentioned in Bennett’s memoir as one of the instigators of the Rightboy movement in Co. Cork. She clearly was a woman of charisma as her devoted followers laboured in their thousands without pay in her endeavour to drain the lake in Blarney.
Her sister Eleanor ironically was married to Dominic Trant, a Cork Barrister, who wrote a pamphlet against the Rightboys. He killed Colhurst one of the Rightboy supporters and a major landowner in a duel outside Bray in 1787 and was charged and acquitted of murder. The Trants were an old Catholic Cork family intermarried with the Gallweys who became Church of Ireland, sometime in the 18th century.
Duignan was a fellow of Trinity College and a very successful barrister. Although his father was a Catholic he was virulently anti-Catholic, however is wife was a Catholic with a private chapel and on his death his considerable fortune went to his Catholic nephew.
Father Arthur O’Leary started his Academy at Blackmoor Lane and was a major figure in the late 18th century widely respected. He was highly insulted by Duignan of his surname understandable as ‘mórtas cine’. Many of the Gaelic Aristocracy had fallen on very hard toe in the 18th century being reduced in many circumstances to living as labourers in hovels. However they retained a pride in their origin ad they hope that one day their time would come again.
Jack Fitzgibbon, has enjoyed a very bad press in Irish History as one of the ‘Junta’ who de facto ruled the country for about 15 years towards the end of the 18th century. At that time the Patriot Parliament deliberated, in fact it was devoid of power and while the Lawyer MPS deliberated after a busy day in the 4 Courts then in Hell near Christchurch or came up from their Estates real power resided in Dublin Castle.
Dublin had a chronic crime problem, the limited amount of policing was provided by half pay officers of broken down NCOs all Protestant. This was paid for by a charge on the tithes levied on the parish cess and the property owners were against any increase. Against trenchant Political, Religious opposition Fitzgibbon introduced a Dublin Police Force professionally officered and staffed. Almost immediately here was a dramatic drop in crime. Some years later due to political pressure it was disbanded but within a few years it was the model for a similar force. In turn this was the model for the RIC which was widely admired throughout the English speaking world for it efficiency and honesty. The special circumstances of Ireland condemned it as apart from acting on police duties it was a gendamary charged with protecting the Imperial interest.
Fitzgibbon along with Foster and Beresford managed the county and economy. When you look in detail at their performance it is remarkable. The ushered in the greatest boom ever known in Ireland apart from the Celtic Tiger, they did not cause it but did things or prevented things happening that contributed to its success. Foster and Beresford ushered in balanced budgets and introduced capital budgets financed by borrowing. Major reforms were introduced to support native industry. Later in the 19th century Foster set up and Chaired the Bog Commissioners, taking no salary. It mapped all the bog areas as precursor to their exploitation which in the event did not happen until Born na Móna in the 1930s.