For some time we have been endeavoring 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 considerablefurther research not only into Finnstown but also into the surrounding housesand castles, which were often connected by marriage. Indeed the study is asynopsis of the history of Lucan, Esker, The Liffey Valley and troubled Irelandover the last 500 years.
Thomas Hickey, the artist (1753 – 1816) and his brother, sculptor JohnHickey 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 theLibrary at Finnstown, one of his commissions was to paint Robert Emmett in1796. What follows is the full version of Turtle’s “History of FinnstownHouse”, 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, isspelled “Fyan’s Town”. This implies that it was once a town belonging to afamily 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 15thand 16th centuries. They lived along the Dublin Quays at Fishamble Street in asquare tower known for many centuries as “Fyan’s Castle” but later renamedProudfoot’s Castle. John Fyan was Mayor of Dublin in 1472 and 1479, a time thatcoincided with the War of the Roses in England. Thomas Fyan was one of HenryVIII’s city sheriffs in 1540 and the hospitality of Richard Fyan (Fiand), Mayorin 1549 and 1564, has been extolled by local chroniclers. Shortly after theaccession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, Robert Barnewall, 5th Lord Trimleston,married Anne, only daughter of Richard Fyan, Alderman. In a document dated1618, 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, theFyans gradually rose to the rank of landed gentry and by the close of theseventeenth century, they appear to have acquired various estates north of thecapital city. Amongst these was the townland now know as Finnstown situatedclose to the River Liffey in the Parish of Esker. The three principle demesnes– or stately homes - within the parish of Esker were Hermitage, Woodville andFinnstown. Hermitage is now a golf club and Woodville has been demolished. OnlyFinnstown House, located just west of the Lucan - Newcastle road, remains opento the public. There were in addition two ruined castles in the parish – one atBallyowen 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 itslands embracing a glacial ridge of sand and gravel running westwards acrossIreland to Esker, County Galway. According to the Irish myths of the 2ndcentury, Conn of the Hundred Battles and Owen Mor agreed the Eiscir Riada (or EskerRidge) 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 beingSaggart, Newcastle Lyons and Crumlin. At the beginning of the 13th centuryEsker’s principal buildings were a manor house and a small medieval churchdedicated to Saint Finian and dating back to perhaps 1100AD.
In the late 12th century, John, Lord of Ireland (who became King ofEngland) granted Esker’s church to the Church of Saint Patrick (later St.Patrick’s Cathedral). The Royal Manor of Esker was subsequently leased tomiddlemen, amongst them William FitzGuido, the first Dean of St. Patrick’sCathedral. Others of influence in the Esker parish at this point include SirThomas Luttrell, granted Luttrellstown Castle by King John in the early 13thcentury, and Wirris Peche, descended from an old English family, granted thelands of Lucan by Alard Fitzwilliam in 1204. The Peche family built a salmonweir across the Liffey at Leixlip but, by 1327, their Lucan estate was in thepossession of Robert of Nottigham, the Mayor of Dublin and ancestor of LamerickNottingham of Finnstown. To envision the landscape at this time, one mightconsider contemporary names such as King’s Meadow, King’s Mill, St. Finian’sGarden and the Ash Park.
Prior to the Henrician Reformation in the mid-16th century, land rentsfor Esker seem to have been shared between the powerful Fitzgerald family andvarious religious establishments. In 1536, by An Act of the Irish Parliament,the English crown seized all monastic and church lands in Ireland. These landswere subsequently leased to key figures in the Irish system forming acontractual 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-grantedto those deemed worthy of royal patronage by the English administration inDublin Castle. The lands of Esker were leased to private individuals such asGeoffrey Tweddell, a yeoman and soldier who lived at Ballydowd in the 1540s,and Alderman Patrick Browne, a merchant who resided at Kishoge and later builtthe 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 forthe Crown. Native Irish resistance peaked with the rising of Red Hugh O’Donnelland Hugh O’Neill in what became the Nine Years War (1594 – 1603). Ultimatelythe decisive English victory over the Irish forces at the battle of Kinsale in1603 paved the way for the whole-scale colonization of Ireland under the newmonarch, James I (and VI of Scotland). The flight of the Earls in 1607 was thefinal nail in old Ireland’s coffin, with thousands of Irish Catholics fleeingto Europe and resettling in France, Spain and Italy. Their lands were seizedand parcelled out to those who had fought for England or invested in the Crown’sWar Treasury. During James I’s reign, these new Protestant plantersconsolidated their hold of the Irish Parliament and began to graduallydispossess and disenfranchise the Roman Catholics.
Land ownership continued to be the principal bone of contentionthroughout the 17th century. In 1641 the Irish Catholics rose and theConfederate Wars commenced, pitting a fragile alliance of Irish andAnglo-Norman Catholic against the forces of English Protestant Republicanism.Head-quartered in Kilkenny, the Confederate forces produced many admirablevictories, including the conquest of north Kildare, but were ultimately unableto sustain the pressure. Following Cromwell’s brutal suppressions of thegarrisons at Drogheda and Wexford, a treaty was signed at Cahir Castle inCounty Tipperary. The collapse of the Confederacy enabled Cromwell to proceedwith the confiscation of all property belonging to Catholics accused ofcomplicity in the “rebellion”. These lands were duly granted to soldiers whohad fought in his victorious wars against the Royalist forces of King Charles Iand the Catholics in Ireland.
3. The Brownes and the Nottinghams
In 1622, Joseph Browne, presumably a kinsman or descendent of AldermanBrowne, is described as living at Finnstown, while Ballyowen Castle was in thepossession of a gentleman named Christopher Taylor. However, by the 1640s, bothBallyowen and Finnstown were held by a zealous Roman Catholic named LamerickNottingham.
The Nottingham family came from England to Dublin in the early years ofthe Anglo-Norman conquest. By the late 12th century they has establishedthemselves 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 withScotland (which culminated in the battle of Bannockburn). In 1317, this sameRobert Nottingham, as Mayor of Dublin, attempted to deflect the invading armyof Edward the Bruce by setting light to the outer suburbs of the City. The ployworked in that Bruce’s army about turned for Leixlip but unfortunately the firesubsequently got out of control and burned a substantial part of Dublin’ssuburbs, including part of Christ Church Cathedral. Curiously, RobertNottingham was the one-time owner of Dublin’s Lucan Castle (and the even largerMerrion Castle).
Lamerick Nottingham’s first wife was a sister of William Sarsfield, theenterprising owner of Lucan Castle, and Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan andhero of the Siege of Limerick. Thus the Nottingham fortunes must have at leastpartially 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 latterlady on account of “her great charge of children”. In all, he left fourteenchildren. His eldest son and immediate heir, William Nottingham, was living atBallyowen in 1650. The Nottingham’s lost their Irish lands during theCromwellian conquest and Ballyowen was leased to a Captain Frances Peasley.However, at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the estate of BallyowenCastle was restored to Lamerick’s second son, Captain Peter Nottingham, aformer Confederate officer in the Duke of Ormonde’s army. After the GloriousRevolution of 1688, the Nottingham’s forfeited Ballyowen to Colonel ThomasBellew, later MP for Mullingar.
4. The Kennedys of Finnstown
The Nottingham’s neighbours during these years included the Forsters ofBallydowd Castle and the Kennedys (or O'Ceinneide) of Kishoge. One of the morecelebrated members of the Kennedy family was the Protestant Sir Robert Kennedy,MP for Kildare, Chief Remembrance of the Exchequer and founder ofNewtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow. He appears to have acquired the Kishogeproperty during the 1650s. In 1650, Finnstown Castle was in the possession ofSir Robert Kennedy’s Roman Catholic brother, Alderman Walter Kennedy. TheKennedy brothers appear to have had little time for one another, perhaps owingto their different religions. Following Sir Robert’s death in 1668, his landsat Kishoge (which included two houses with four hearths each) passed to hiseldest surviving son, Sir Richard Kennedy, a successful barrister who was laterappointed second baron of the Irish Exchequer.
Alderman Walter Kennedy died in 1672 and was succeeded in his Finnstownestate by his eldest son, Christopher Kennedy. However, the Kennedy family’sadherence to the doomed cause of the Jacobites proved to be their eventualundoing. The relative peace that existed during Charles II’s reign came asunderwith the accession of his brother, James II, a fervent Roman Catholic. Britainwas once again plunged into civil war – the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - asProtestants mustered around the Dutch Prince William of Orange and Catholicsrallied to the Jacobite cause of King James. Once again Ireland bore the bruntof the violence with the major battles – the Boyne (1689) and Aughrim (1691) –taking place on Irish soil. James was defeated and exiled to France. KingWilliam III and the Protestants now held absolute authority throughout theBritish Isles and, in order to prevent any further outbreak of revolt,initiated a legislative campaign – the Penal Codes - that would effectivelyrender 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 werenot allowed to vote in elections or buy land. Roman Catholicism was outlawedand proposals to castrate all practicing priests were seriously considered inthe Irish House of Parliament. The age of the Protestant Ascendancy had begun.
An estimated 450,000 Catholics fled Ireland in the years immediatelyfollowing the collapse of the Jacobite cause in 1691. Among them wasChristopher Kennedy’s son, Colonel Thomas Kennedy, who served as Aide-de-Campto 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 hecommanded a regiment in the service of Philip V. He married Elizabeth, a daughterof Marinus Van Vryberge, the Dutch Ambassador to England in the reign of QueenAnne. 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 aniece of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. For reasons presently unknown, he wasmurdered 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 Irishhistory. 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 Tudortimberland into one of the most glittering cities in Western Europe. Irelanddeveloped as a relatively prosperous economical unit primarily through theindustries of textile manufacture and agriculture. As trade links between thecolony and the ports of Europe gradually expanded, so too the population ofDublin and its surrounding landscape began to increase. New administrative andjudicial buildings were built in the main towns, alongside banks, churches,markets, tholsels and gaols. There was an intellectual and cultural floweringthroughout the land, encapsulated in the fiery words and witticisms of DeanSwift, Oliver Goldsmith and Edmund Burke.
Perhaps the most symbolic legacy of this new Golden Age was theso-called Big House, the sumptuous mansions and castles built for theAnglo-Irish aristocracy and landed gentry who effectively ran the country fromthe King William III’s victory at the Boyne until independence in 1921. By1750, the area around Finnstown, served by the River Liffey, had becomeparticularly desirable to the Ascendancy. Captain Robert Butler (d. 1763), abrother 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 ofWicklow). John Hawkins (d. 1758), the Ulster King of Arms, occupied the formerFoster stronghold of Ballydowd Castle but, following his death in 1758, thecastle 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 thesprings at Lucan. Two years later, the celebrated Dr. Rutty of the RoyalSociety published a detailed account of the spa, citing over fifty cases ofvarious diseases which he had personally seen cured by taking its sulphuricwaters. The “petrifying tendency” of water was deemed most effective in thecure of skin diseases such as eczema as well as rheumatism. The Vesey family ofLucan 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 thespa from any potential deluges from the nearby Liffey. A hotel was built tocater to the massive crowds of invalids anxious to bathe in the spa. By the1780s, the Lucan Spa was rivalling those of Tunbridge Wells and Leamington interms of visitors. Concerts and balls were held at the hotel while the Leonardfamily of Brookvale, near Finnstown, hosted annual circuses and carnivals.Every Sunday, thousands of well-to-do Dubliners ventured out from the city onhorses, coach, foot and jaunting cars (and later trams) on the short 8 milejourney to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Liffey Valley. Even one hundredyears ago, a contemporary declared Lucan to contain “the finest inland sceneryin the metropolitan county”. Much of the surrounding land was given to thegrowing of fruit and vegetables that would be taken by barge on the Royal Canalto the Dublin markets.
Lucan continued to blossom as one of Ireland’s most fashionable summerresorts with the building, in 1772, of Lucan House. The Palladian villa wasactually designed by its owner, Agmodisham Vesey, in consultation with SirWilliam Chambers and James Wyatt. Another important house from this era was St.Edmondsbury, built in the 1770s for Edmond Sexton Pery, Speaker of the IrishHouse 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 ofthatched 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. RorkeEsq.”. This is presumably the same John Rourke of Finnstown listed as beingamong 318 Special Jurors appointed to represent County Dublin in 1843. Littleelse is known of John Rourke except that he was a solicitor with offices onDublin’s Upper Temple Street. He was married with at least three daughters. Themarriage of his daughter into the legal family of Mangan brought him intocontact with the enterprising Bourne family who made their fortunes developingIreland’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 ThomasMangan of Piercetown House, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, by his marriage (1818) toHarriet Lombard. Piercetown was built in about 1766 for gentleman farmer JohnMangan and his wife Agnes of Rickardstown, Co. Kildare. The property was leasedfrom 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 ofOld 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 ThomasD'Israel Mangan and Thomas Lombard Mangan – and a daughter, Isabella. Theyounger Thomas died aged 40 on August 12th 1862 at his fathers’ residence,Piercetown, co. Kildare. The Mangans also had a town residence off the NorthCircular 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 wasborn in 1840 in Maryborough (Portlaoise), Queens County (County Laoise), theeldest 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 1891at 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 CompanySecretary 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 MedicalBoard and the Meath Hospital in Dublin. However, this may be a long-shot asthis John Rorke is said to have been an English teacher who wrote a book onastronomy 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 whopurchased the property in about 1860 was a Cork man of perhaps 33 years agenamed Thomas Nash. His wife, Juliet, was a daughter of the great RichardGrainger, the visionary planner responsible for designing the city centre ofNewcastle-upon-Tyne in the 1830s and 1840s. Burke’s Irish Landed Gentry (1912),which states that Thomas James Nash was in possession of Finnstown, suggeststhat he also held lands at Rockfield and Tullig in Co. Cork and at Seamount inHowth.
The Nash family originated in County Limerick where James Nash wasliving at Ballycullen in 1630. James married Anne Harrold and had two sons –James, who succeeded to Ballycullen and was ancestor of the actor, J. CarrollNaish, and Patrick, from whom the Finnstown branch descend. In 1690, Patrickmarried a daughter of Richard Purcell of Cork and settled near Kanturk. Theirson John settled at Rockfield (or Ballyheen) in County Cork and married MaryBarry, daughter and co-heir of Jonas Barry of Cork. On 16th August 1733, Mary’ssister and co-heir, Eliza, married Francis Yelverton and settled in theBlackwater 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 ofDenis O’Callaghan of Glynn, Co. Cork. Her mother Mary was a daughter of RobertO’Callaghan of Clonmeen, Co. Cork and widow of a wealthy Cork landowner, HenryDaunt of Kilcascan Castle. Thomas and Barbara had six sons. The eldest, JohnNash, succeeded to Rockfield and remained an attorney until his death in August1832. The youngest, James Nash, lived at Tullig House in County Cork’s MillStreet 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 probablyin County Cork, where his parents were living. The death of his father, JamesNash, 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 IsabellaGrainger.
Juliet Nash’s father, Richard Grainger (1797 – 1861), was anentrepreneurial master-planner from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and is celebrated fordesigning many of the city’s finest 19th century neo-classical buildings. In1831, determined to halt Newcastle’s steady slide into industrial, diseaseriddled blackness, Grainger invested in a dilapidated 13-acre estate in centralNewcastle and devised a spacious new centre for the city. He had his offices onClayton Street and, for a short time, lived just outside the city in the formerHinde mansion of Elswick Hall, now a nursing home. By 1839, Grainger had builtthe Markets, the Monument, the Theatre Royal, Gret Street, Grainger Street andseveral cross streets. Unfortunately, by 1841, Grainger was bankrupt and itfell to other, less scrupulous individuals to cash in on his courage. Hecontinued to work as a developer and planner until his sudden death at hisClayton Street office at the age of 64 on 4th July 1861. When he died in 1861he owed £128,000 and had only £17,000 assets, although some property had beentransferred to his eldest son, Thomas and it may be imagined that Juliet Nashreceived at least something in the will. Above his grave in Newcastle’s St. John’schurch is this inscription: A citizen of Newcastle needs no reminder of thegenius of Richard Grainger... the principal street in the centre of the city isthe most splendid and enduring monument to that genius. Richard Grainger’swife, Rachel, was a daughter of Joseph Arundel.
It is not known what condition Finnstown was in when the Nash’spurchased the property. The estate is said to have been almost 3000 acres. Itseems likely that Thomas commissioned an architect to redesign the front roomsof 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 acrossEurope in August 1914, the heir apparent to Finnstown House was four-year-oldDick Nash. In October 1917, Dick’s widowed mother married the Rev. CharlesFollis, Rector of Carbery and Canon Of Kildare, by whom she had a daughter. Theyoung Nash family were then dispatched across the Irish Sea to England where theygrew up near Weybridge in Surrey. It would seem that Mrs. Follis arranged thesale 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 publicschool set up at Stowe in Buckinghamshire by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1922. Oneof his exact contemporaries at Stowe was Hollywood’s finest gentleman actor,David Niven. That both boys had lost their fathers when young may have giventhem a common bond although Dick does not feature in Niven’s excellentauto-biography, “The Moon’s a Balloon”. During the 1920s, Dick embarked on acareer as an automobile engineer, taking advatage of the great Brooklands racetrack which lay near his home, Hanger Hill, in Weybridge. On October 24th 1932,Richard G.J. Nash, driving his Frazer Nash, "The Terror", at32.44mph, set the fastest time ever by a car up Brookland’s Test Hill at 7.45seconds. “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 30ft after reaching the summit, a truly hair-raising experience in view of themany trees. Nash’s time of 7.45 seconds has never been beaten."
On 10th February 1938, Dick married Gladys Spencer, eldest daughter ofGeorge Spencer of Maydor, Park Avenue, Bromley, Kent. The couple had a sonRichard, 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, diedfour months later on 26th April 1967 aged 88.
Dick’s younger sister, Juliet, was married on 6th November 1943 toStafford Mannion, son of Thomas Mannion of Park cottage, Bebbington, Cheshire.Stafford died on 1st September 1951. Juliet Nash returned to visit FinnstownHouse 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 agricultureand big houses. Finnstown was owned by the Waldron family and was also, likemany 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 toChristopher Keogh and his family. During the 1960’s, the Keoghs hosted severalhunt balls for the South County Dublin Hunt and many of Finnstown’s visitorstoday have fond memories of these occasions. In 1986 the Keoghs sold to Eoinand Nora Hickey, residents of Lucan, who on St. Patrick’s Day 1987 opened up asFinnstown Country House Hotel. In 2007, the hotel was purchased by TheMansfield Group.
The Hickey Brothers
The former owner of Finnstown house, Eoin Hickey, hails from a familythat produced two of the greatest artists of the late 18th century. ThomasHickey, the artist, and John Hickey, the sculptor, were the sons of a CapelStreet confectioner.
John Hickey (1751 – 1795), Irish Sculptor
John Hickey was born in Dublin on 7th Nov 1751. As a young boy, heworked under a local carver before moving to England in 1776 and entering theRoyal Academy Schools. From 1777 he exhibited regularly at the Academy. In 1778he won the Academy’s Gold Medal with a relief representing the Massacre of theInnocents (sold London, Christie’s, 15 March 1798). His portrait of SarahSiddons as ‘Cassandra’ is a finely carved 730 millimetre high marble statuette,unusual at the time in England for its small scale. Hickey’s marble portraitbusts include his champion Edmund Burke (1785) and George Thicknesse (1791)Appointed Sculptor to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1786, heproduced for the Grand Staircase at London’s Carlton House (since destroyed) apair of plaster figures of Atlas and Time supporting a clock, the model forwhich (untraced) he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1788. Hickey’s finestwork 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 boundby 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 representingCommerce. His most ambitious work in England, the marble monument to ElizabethHawkins and her Family (1782) follows the fashion of John Bacon. ) Edmund Burkewas enthusiastic in promoting Hickey and secured for him the commission for themonument to David Garrick in Westminster Abbey, London; his second choice wasThomas Banks. Hickey died on 12th January 1795 before work could begin.
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 histime working as official artist to Lord McCartney in the British colony ofIndia. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, there were practically novisual records of the people of India. Those artists who made it to thesub-continent tended to focus on portraits of the rich and famous, or picturesof imperial interest commissioned by the East India Company. However, therewere some, both professional and amateur artists, who applied their talents todepicting 'Indian India' and its exotic people - especially the native women.Thomas Hickey was amongst these few who captured the essence of these women, aswith his charming portrait Jemdanee, the young Bengali Muslim bibi beloved of hiskinsman William Hickey, an attorney and famous socialite of Calcutta in the1790s. About her, William Hickey noted in his memoirs that "she lived withme [and was] respected and admired by all my friends for her extraordinarysprightliness and good humour ...as gentle and affectionately attached a girlas ever man was blessed with".
He joined Lord Macartney's embassy to China from 1792 to 1794, duringwhich he painted several images of the Far East. He returned to Ireland inJanuary 1796, "not overburdened with riches". However, in 1798, hewas drawn back to India and he was the only portrait painter on the spot whenthe Fourth Mysore War ended in 1799. He quickly and prudently planned a relatedseries of seven historical paintings. In preparation, between June 1799 andNovember 1801, he made at least 55 chalk drawings of the principal Indian andBritish participants, including Allan, Beatson, Baird, the young KrishnarajaWadeyar III and Purniya. His subsequent works included portraits of ColonelMackenzie, the diarist William Hickey; Captain William Kirkpatrick; ThomasGraham of Kinross; Tipu's Chief Minister, Purniya; Lt.Col William Kirkpatrickand a wonderful series of portrait drawings of British Officers and the sonsand ministers of Tipu, drawn at Seringapatam and Madras in 1799 and 1800. Fromthese portraits, Hickey intended to paint a series of seven History paintingsrelated to the Mysore campaign, but these were never executed.
Before his return to India in 1798, he was commissioned by Dr. RobertEmmet, 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 Emmetwho gave his life for Ireland in 1803.