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  • Beautiful Limerick Buildings

'Black Jack' Fitzgibbon


John 'Black Jack' FitzGibbon was the first Earl of Clare (c.1749-1802). FitzGibbon's father had converted to Protestantism to become a lawyer. FitzGibbon senior achieved much success and amassed a fortune, buying Mountshannon. When he died, his son - later known as Black Jack - inherited Mountshannon.

Black Jack FitzGibbon was educated at Trinity College and called to the bar. He entered politics in 1780 and soon made his mark, rising to the position of Attorney General by 1783. In 1789 he was appointed Lord High Chancellor of Ireland. He was knighted in 1795, becoming the first Earl of Clare.

Throughout his life, FitzGibbon became increasingly hated for his opposition to Catholic Emancipation and his part in putting down the 1798 Rebellion. His well-recorded saying that he would make the Irish 'as tame as a mutilated cat' evoked bitterness towards him and he was in constant danger of attack.

On one occasion, when returning to his Dublin house in Ely Place, a dead cat was thrown into his carriage, which was surrounded by a mob of several hundred, armed with clubs, forks and other implements. Luckily for FitzGibbon, the mob dispersed on hearing of the approaching military, but not before his carriage was stoned and he received several head injuries. Following this escapade, Black Jack had an iron fortress erected around his Dublin home. Even in Mountshannon, he lived in constant fear and there was a further attempt made on his life when the mansion was attacked and one of his servants killed while defending the place.

FitzGibbon backed the 1801 Act of Union, which united the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland, and was involved in its elaboration. Following the Act of Union Lord Clare, as he was now titled, took his seat in the House of Lords. He soon found himself out of favour even with the British.

The pity was that FitzGibbon did not use his high position and influential status for the benefit of his fellow countrymen and women. Due to blind ambition, he rejected his nationality and lost sight of his integrity. His shameless pandering to gain favour with the British proved to be his eventual downfall, and he was unsuccessful at Westminster.

Although FitzGibbon performed various acts of mercy throughout his career, including sparing the lives of several United Irishmen, he was generally regarded as a traitor. The unsavoury aspects to his career were part of a larger pattern of a lifelong quest for power, and these few acts of mercy do little to mitigate his reputation.

Dejected and disenchanted with the world of politics, FitzGibbon retired to Mountshannon. He was an excellent farmer and innovative agricultural methods were initiated and used by him, including his ingenious Liquid Manuring Scheme. These skills that were to be copied and used by many generations of farmers. However, there are many tales of his cruel treatment of the workers and tenants on his farm. One morning, after he had wined and dined to excess the night before, he did not arise at his customary time to oversee the start of work, despite the appeals of his servants, who informed him that the women workers were growing restless. In a rage, he ordered his servants to set the dogs on the workers and drive them off the estate. His orders were carried out and many women were savaged by the animals. One in particular was badly torn about the face.

FitzGibbon died in 1802 after a fall from a horse. He was buried at St. Peter's Church in Dublin where the loathing he had once aroused surfaced again with the appearance of the dead cats, which were thrown on his coffin and grave. It was an ignominious finale for FitzGibbon, who in his relatively short life had attained so much conventional success, yet lost so much in terms of the esteem of his fellow countrymen.

Cardinal Rinuccini


Giovanni Battista Rinuccini (1592-1653) was a Roman Catholic Archbishop, and later Cardinal, in the seventeenth century. He was a noted scholar, obtaining a doctorate from the University of Pisa at the age of 22. He became a distinguished adovcate in the ecclesiastical courts and later became Archbishop of Fermo in Italy.

He was sent to Ireland as Papal Nuncio in 1645 by Pope Innocent X to help the Irish Confederate Catholics in their war against British Protestant rule. Rinuccini brought with him arms, ammunition and money to finance the Irish Catholic war effort.

Apart from some military successes, such as the battle of Benburb, the Confederate's attempts to drive the remaining English armies from Ireland met with disaster.

Samuel Lewis


Samuel Lewis was the editor and publisher of topographical dictionaries and maps of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Lewis published his book, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837. He relied on the information provided by local contributors and earlier works.

The Treaty Stone

The Treaty of Limerick ended the Williamite War in Ireland between the Jacobites and the supporters of William of Orange. It concluded the Siege of Limerick.

Reputedly, the Treaty was signed on the Treaty Stone, an irregular block of limestone that once served as a mounting block for horses. This stone is now displayed on a pedestal in Limerick city. Because of its history, Limerick is sometimes known as the Treaty City.