Black Jack Fitzgibbon

This Story is:

Black Jack Fitzgibbon, first Earl of Clare, lived at Mountshannon House

Excerpt from Village by Shannon, The Story of Castleconnell and its Hinterland

Joe Carroll & Pat Tuohy, 1991

John Fitzgibbon, or ‘Black Jack’ as he became known, “entered politics in 1780 and soon made his mark rising quickly to the position of Attorney General. In 1789 he was appointed Lord High Chancellor of Ireland. He was knighted in 1795, becoming the first Earl of Clare. But already success had gone to his head and he turned his back on the Irish and became much hated for his opposition to Catholic Emancipation and more so for his part in putting down the rebellion of 1798. His well-recorded saying that he would make the Irish as tame as a mutilated cat evoked more hatred and bitterness towards him and he was in constant danger of being attacked.

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, sledges 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’s final sell-out of his country came when he backed the Act of Union – which brought about the uniting of the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland and came into effect in 1801. His last act of treachery was to oppose the granting of the Civil Liberties to Catholics. Following the Act of Union, Lord Clare, as he was now titled, took his seat in the House of Lords. During a debate there in which Fitzgibbon ranted and raved, the great British statesman, William Pitt, was heard to remark, ‘Good God, did you ever in all your life hear such a rascal’. Pitt’s famous remark is probably the most accurate and apt summing-up of the character of Black Jack Fitzgibbon. He soon found himself out of favour and unwanted even by the British who now saw him for what he was and despised him for his betrayal of his own country.”

“Dejected and disenchanted with the world of politics, Fitzgibbon retired to Mountshannon and busies himself with the running of the estate …. “

“Following a fall from his horse at Mountshannon in the Christmas of 1802 Lord Clare was badly injured and on the advice of his doctors he set out to travel to the Continent for special treatment. He had only reached his Dublin house on the first leg of the journey when his condition deteriorated and he died on 28 January 1802 in his early fifties. He was buried at St Peter’s Church in Dublin where the bitterness and hatred he had once aroused surfaced again with the appearance of the dead cats – thrown on his coffin and grave.”