Edmond FitzGerald, 20th Knight, Hellfire Club

Shortly after he succeeded as Knight, Edmond made a lease of the farm and lands of Ballygoghlane' (Ballygoghlan) and part of the lands of Barraguogine (Bauragoogeen), these latter lands are in Co. Kerry and were part of the lands claimed by Thomas Snub-Nosed' in his dispute with Trinity and which were then (July 1738) late in the possession of Thomas Culhane and 'the rest of the Tenants of Tullyleige' (96) (Tullyleague). These lands Edmond let to his brother Richard at the nominal yearly rent of £;4 sterling payable 'on the Feast of All Saints' (1st November) and on the 'Feast of St. Philip and Jacob' (1st May) for 31 years. One of the conditions in the deed intimated that Richard should 'preserve the Bounds', in the case of the lands of Bouragoogeen and this probably went beyond the usual legalese of such documents.

Edmond appears to have been frequently in debt; in fact anybody who was anybody in the eighteenth century was always in debt. In December 1739 Edmond made a fee-farm lease (97) of the lands of Killeany to George Studdert which the latter had held under a lease of three lives (then unexpired) at £65 per annum. Edmond 'in consideration of one hundred pounds sterling' to be paid in hand to him by George now changed this lease to a fee farm lease. This was greatly, to the advantage of the Studderts as it was a tenure of lands for which a perpetual fixed rent was paid and it was file of any service to the head land lord. The Studderts could now pass on these lands to their heirs, without limitation to any particular class of heirs, whether male or female. Daniel Huleatt (98) witnessed the deed and one can only guess that Edmond must have been hard strapped for cash when he made it.

While still a Catholic Edmond was a member of the Masonic order, from as early as December 1739. (99) However this was not then unusual as the papal bull of Clement XII (of 1738) denouncing Masonary was not promulgated in the British Isles. In Ireland, where Masonary was then neither anti-Christian (nor republican until 1797) and until that date many Catholics, even priests, were Masons. At least two Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Ireland - the fourth Lord Kingston (100) and Thomas Nugent had served with the Irish Brigade in France. Freemasonary was also condemned by Pope Clements Xli's successor in 1751 but again was not promulgated in the British Isles.

In England one of the leading Catholics, Lord Petre (9th) was received into the Lodge of Friendship (London) in 1771 and only one year later became Grand Master of the English Freemasons. (101) We know that the 'Knight of the Glin' attended a grand meeting of the 'Free and Accepted Masons' at the Eagle Tavern on Cork- Hill in Dublin in early December 1739 in company with Viscount Mountjoy, Lords Kingston,(102) Nettervil and Kingsland, Sir Redmond Morris and others and drank many "Loyal Healths"

'God bless the King!
God the bless the Faith's Defender!
God bless (no harm in blessing) the Pretender! But who Pretender is, and who is king
God bless us all! That's quite another thing'

After dinner Edmond and his companions went down to Aungier street to the Theatre Royal 'to see the comedy called the "Re-Lapse", or "Vertue in Danger" (104) The report ends: 'There was a prologue and a new Epilogue, and not withstanding the House was greatly crowded, every thing was per formed with great order and decency? Less orderly meetings were then held at the Eagle Tavern which was also the meeting place of the Hell Fire Club:

'This iniquitous assembly held their ordinary meetings in the Eagle Tavern, Cork Hill. But on special and festive occasions they sallied forth from their town residence to hold high revelry in the lonely house on the mountain" (105) the still standing building on Mont Pelier, Rathfarnham. Both Richard and Edmond appear to have been members (c. 1736) of the Limerick Hell Fire Club which met at Askeaton and whose activities have been described in a member's (Dan Hayes) verse:

'But if in endless drinking you delight
Croker will ply you till you sink outright
Croker for swilling floods of wine renowned
Whose matchless Board with various plenty crowned
Eternal scenes of Riot, Mirth and noise
With all the thunder of the Nenagh boys
We laugh, we roar, the ceaseless bumpers fly
Till the sum purples o'er the morning sky
And if unruly Passions chance to rise
A willing Wench the Firgrove still supplies'.

An oil painting of The Limerick Hell Fire Club has survived (in The National Gallery of Ireland) (Cf. Fig 5) dated c. 1736 and Richard Fitzgerald is believed to appear as one of the long-nosed seated gentlemen therein. A figure standing (second from right at back) bears a strong resemblance to Philip Hussey's portrait of Edmond at Glin. (107) However all in this painting appear slightly Bacchanialian and one reads into it .what one wants. Edmonds' involvement with both the Masonic order and the revelries of the local Hell-Fire Club was not in character as he was 'quiet and scholarly' (108) and a contemporary has described him as 'very intelligent in the history of our ancient nobility and gentry.' (109)

And now another woman of mystery enters the history of Glin in the form of Anne ('Nancy') Cuffe, who becomes for a short time, wife to Edmond, Knight of Glin. Anne (born February 1721)(110) was the second of seven daughters of Maurice Cuffe of St. Albans, otherwise Killaghy, Co. Kilkenny by his first wife Martha, daughter of John Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe, Co. Cork. (111) Maurice was a brother of the 1st Lord Desart and a M.P. and K.C. Anne who has been described as 'a popular Protestant beauty from Kilkenny' married the still Catholic Knight of Glin in March 1740. (112) In a letter written sometime after the marriage, by her cousin Lady Theodosia Crosbie to her sister, Lady Mary Tighe (nee Bligh) we read: 'if Nancy (Anne) is married to the Knight of the Glin as they say, she (Anne's mother) has disposed of 'em (Anne and her sisters) all very well.' (113) For some reasons unknown (Edmonds' mounting debts, perhaps) this marriage was a failure. They went their separate ways thereafter. Edmond vainly tried to regain possession of Glin after Richard's conversion when he too, turned Protestant in October 1741. (114) In a deed of September 1750, Edmond is referred to as unmarried. (115) His former wife Anne married on the 15th of February 1766 her second cousin, as his second wife, Denny Baker Cuffe of Cuffesborough, Kings' Co. (mod. Offaly) who died 10 years later (116) Anne died shortly there after on the 24th October 1776(117)

Edmond may have been addicted to gambling which was then (as later) in the 18th Century a sort of national mania. Fortunes were won and lost not only overnight but also in a matter of minutes. Nor was betting limited to the turf. Lord Barrymore ran through £300,000 in only four years and once bet the Duke of Bedford that he could produce a man who could eat a cat alive.... And won! (118) We know that Edmond kept a 'string of racehorses' and at the Trim Races (held on 20th October, 1740) he had a victory" 'At The Races of Trim on Wednesday, five started, viz Mr. Walkers black gelding; Mr. Dillon Bollards' Taffy, Sir Marmaduke Wyvills' Chestnut Horse (Sir Marmaduke Wyvill, Bart (d. 1753) 6th Baronet was appointed Postermaster General, Ireland, in February 1736. He had a large string of race-horses); the Knight of the Glyn's Grey Mare, Sister to Mr. Piggot's infant; Mr. Keatings Horse, Mad Tom. Mr. Walkers' black gelding won the first heat, and the Knight of the Glyn's grey mare the last two heats,' (1191)

Perhaps the 'Mr. Walker' mentioned above, was Alderman John Walker of Dublin from whom Edmond borrowed £297 6s 8p between his Trim victory and October 1742. At any rate Edmond drew up an indented deed whereby Richard Maunsell of Limerick and John Hewson of Innismore, Co. Kerry, agreed to pay Walker the money owed and in return were granted the right to 'the woods, underwoods and trees of every kind then standing, growing or being upon the lands of Glin Carbarry on the denominations of Caharagh and Ballydonohoe in the Co. of Limerick', with one exception 'the woods and ornamental trees growing and standing on the Demesne adjoining the dwelling house on the said lands' (120) Maunsell and Hewson had the right to cut down manufacture and carry away the said woods and trees and the timber bark coal and other produce' (121) for a term of 21 years so to raise the money to discharge Edmonds' original debt.

It is clear that Edmond was in serious financial difficulties at this stage as he owed money, not only to Walker (over £297) but also to John Roch(e) of Limerick (£526) Mr. Dominick Creagh (£212) and to Mr. Charles White (£50) totalling over £1,085 as well as the original capital and interest since ~accumulated which George Fitzgerald advanced in 1736 to John and for which, under the terms of John's will, Edmond and his brothers, were responsible. Added to this there was a claim 'for recovery of a large sum of money' by John White (Rathgonan) certainly for money advanced to Edmond and perhaps for money owed on the dowry of his now deceased (and earlier estranged) wife, Ellen, late sister to the four brothers. We know that Edmund's debts amounted to £15,000 in total by December 1750 - an enormous sum then. We also know that his mother had spent, in legal fees alone, £1,600 and upwards, in defence of the suits of White over a period of sixteen years prior to January 1752 (122) While bankruptcy and insolvency may have been a feature of 18th century Anglo Irish gentry the day to day experience of those who lived under such penury must have been horrifying. Edmond was to pay dearly for any high living and gambling habits associated with his horsy shenanigans.

Sometime after July 1746 (123) Edmond surrendered himself into custody at Limerick in discharge· of his· bail as the act (124) required. He probably chose imprisonment because it offered the debtor protection of his property (125) and from Limerick he was transferred to the Four Courts Marshalsea in Thomas St. Dublin which contained mainly prisoners brought there 'by habeas corpus from other prisons, or (who) have surrendered themselves into custody in discharge of their bail'. (126) Imprisoned debtors, like Edmond, in the mid 18th century Dublin, lived in wretched conditions, Notices, like the following from "Faulkners' Dublin Journal" of 17th September 1743, appeared frequently in the press: 'the poor debtors in the Four Courts Marshalsea (78 of whom are only subsisted by the charitable allowances of 1d. per day in bread) beg leave to inform the public that they are, with their unhappy families in a most miserable and indigent condition and therefore most humbly request the compassion and charity of all well disposed Christians'.

Edmond was later to claim that he had spent 'near 8 years' in the Four Courts Marshalsea, (127) but it is clear from other sources that he exaggerated greatly. We know that he was at liberty in July 1746' when he and a man named James Casey gave evidence before Justice William Massy 'as to outrages committed on the lands of Glin' (128) by the Studderts and their followers and that he was freed from imprisonment by early September 1750, (129) SO his time in confinement cannot have been much more than four years at most. Amongst debtors' prisons the various Marshalsea prisons have been described as 'the worst of the worst' (130) of all. There were three ways of getting out (1) to pay the debt yourself (2) get a relative or friend to pay for you (3) to wait until the Dublin Parliament passed the occasional Insolvent Debtors act to rid the seven Dublin debtors' prisons of inmates - otherwise they would have been much more overcrowded then they already were. Another rare way out (which was not open to Edmond) was to escape; few succeeded but one such was John Fotterrll a Dublin Merchant who got out one cold March night in 1742 'by forcing several iron bars out of the window of his sleeping room in the (Four Courts) Marshalsea and by the help of Hemp a rope (sic) let himself down from three stories high into the street, and hath ever since absconded' (131) but he was a rare exception and a reward was offered by James Dexter (who was Marshal there in Edmonds's time) of forty guineas - Richard Maunsell Esq. in Limerick was mentioned as being one of those who made up the reward money for Fotterells recapture. Nor was the Four Courts Marshalsea a free prison - everything from food, bedding, clothing had to be paid for and paid in advance to the Marshal (who was an unpaid official of the Dublin Corporation, and who therefore charged exorbitantly for all the goods he sold the poor prisoners.) Any one interested in what conditions in Dublin debtors' prisons were like should read the account published in Freemans' Journal May 29-June 2nd, 1764 by 'A Prisoner of the City Marshalsea' or the accounts given by Gilbert. (132) However Edmond was mote fortunate than many other debtors for his mother 'made several remittances to him during his confinement' and did all in her power 'to relieve and extricate him from his misfortune' (133) A contemporary of Edmonds' - one hapless gentleman - James Eccles spent forty years in the Four Courts Marshalsea in 'close imprisonment (134) Edmond's mother and brother Richard eventually made indented articles of agreement with Dexter, the Marshal of the Four Courts Marshalsea to whom Edmond owed £300 for his board and keep - he was, no doubt, overcharged, on the 4th September, 1750. By this agreement Dexter was to receive Mary's interest in her share of 'the manor, town and lands of Glyn... and all such other lands whereof the said Mary is seized,' (135) and Richard demised to Dexter his 'right, title and interest in the town and lands of Clonoughter' for a term of years (unspecified) until Edmonds' prison-debt should be paid in full. Shortly after his release Edmond wrote to Faulkners Dublin Journal a bitter letter in which he accused his mother and brother (Richard) of being 'the principal agents in this scene of Barbarity'(136) but Mary replied with a fine coups-de grace to the same journal (137) in which she showed that far from being the author of Edmonds' own misfortunes she had then as always done everything in her power to help her son in his difficulties. We hear very little of Edmond after his release as the management of the estate was now in the more capable hands of Richard and we can only assume that Edmond lived on in Glin, quietly and scholarly until he died 'of a short illness' (138) on Friday, February 19th, 1773 (139).

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