Massey, Eyre (DNB00)

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MASSEY, EYRE, first Baron Clarina (1719–1804), general, born on 24 May 1719, was fifth son of Colonel Hugh Massey of Duntryleague, co. Limerick, and his wife Elizabeth, fourth daughter of the Right Hon. George Evans, father of George, first baron Carbery. His eldest brother was Hugh, first lord Massey. In a memorial of his services (Home Office Papers, Ireland, vol. ccccxl.) he states that he 'purchased a pair of colours' in the 27th foot in 1739, and went with the regiment to the West Indies as lieutenant of the grenadiers. The 27th foot, of which General William Blakeney (afterwards Lord Blakeney [q. v.]) was colonel, was at Porto Bello, with Admiral Vernon, in 1739, and the few survivors returned home in December 1740. The English military records show the dates of Massey's commissions in the 27th foot as ensign, 25 Jan. 1741; hitherto 3 Nov. 1741 (Home Office Mil. Entry Book, xviii. 47, 243). Massey served with his regiment in Scotland in 1745-1746, and was made captain-lieutenant, and captain in the regiment by the Duke of Cumberland, apparently in 1747 (ib.), captain 24 May 1751, and major 10 Dec. 1755. In 1757 he went out to North America as a major 46th foot, of which he became lieutenant-colonel in 1758, and the year after commanded the regiment in the expedition to Niagara, succeeding to the command of the king's troops when Brigadier-general Prideaux was killed. Massey states (Memorial, ut supra) that as Sir William Johnson [q. v.] was in command of a large body of Indians, who were lukewarm in our cause, he waived the chief command in favour of Johnson. Massey commanded in the action at La Belle Famille, where with five hundred of the 46th and some Indians he routed eighteen hundred French regulars and Canadians, together with five hundred Indians, taking all the French officers but one prisoners. This action took place in view of Fort Niagara, which surrendered immediately afterwards, leaving the whole region of the Upper Ohio in possession of the English (Parkman, ii. 247). This was the first time at which Indians, according to Massey, were beaten in this war (Memorial, ut supra). Massey was transferred to his old regiment, the 27th Inniskillings, at his own request, and commanded the grenadiers of the army in the advance on Montreal in 1760. He commanded a battalion of grenadiers at the capture of Martinique in 1761, and at the conquest of Havana in 1762. He was several times severely wounded (ib.) He commanded the 27th—'the Enniskillen Regiment' he styles it in his letters—at New York and Quebec in 1763-9, and afterwards in Ireland. He was appointed colonel of the regiment on 19 Feb. 1773. As a major-general he went out to Nova Scotia in 1776, and commanded the troops at Halifax for four years. Later he held command at Cork. A plan of his for the defence of Cork in 1780 is in British Museum Add. MS. 33178, f. 240.

For many following years he appears to have remained unemployed. In some letters to General Sir John Vaughan about 1793-4 (Egerton MS. 2137, ff. 76, 93, 140), Massey relates his disappointments in not obtaining a command (as lieutenant-general), and his vexations at the appointment by the Marquis of Buckingham, the lord-lieutenant, of 'Popish children' (Master Talbot, aged eight, Master Skerritt, aged nine, and others), to ensigncies in his regiment. 'Indeed, my dear brother grenadier, my heart is broke.' The carrying of the standards taken at Martinique in 1794 in state to St. Paul's appears to have greatly roused his ire. 'We had no such honours paid to our noble and brave commander, General Monckton!' Later in 1794 he writes in quite a jubilant strain, having obtained the Cork command, which he held until his promotion to full general in 1796. The command was a critical one, seeing, among other causes, the difficulties with new regiments, which the government persisted in 'drafting' in defiance of their recruiting engagements. He quelled a mutiny of two thousand of these young troops at Spike Island in 1795, 'which was near being a very serious business, but by General Massey's exertions they laid down their arms' (see Mil. Library, vol. viii.) In a letter to the Duke of Portland, dated 9 Nov. 1800, the Marquis Cornwallis states that Massey had 'most strongly urged upon him' that his wife should be made a peeress in her own right, as a reward for his own 'long and faithful services as a soldier and his zealous loyalty as a subject' (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 301). Massey was raised to the peerage of Ireland on 27 Dec. 1800, under the title of Baron Clarina of Elm Park, co. Limerick. He died a full general, colonel of the 27th Inniskilling foot, marshal of the army in Ireland, and governor of Limerick and of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, on 17 May 1804, aged 85.

Massey married Catherine, sister of Robert Clements, first earl of Leitrim, by whom he had four children. Two of his successors in the title—his second and only surviving son, Nathaniel William, second baron, who died a major-general on the staff in the West Indies in 1810, and his great-grandson, the present and fourth baron, who served in the 95th regiment in the Crimea and the Indian mutiny—have risen to general's rank.

[Burke's and Foster's Peerages, under 'Clarina' and 'Massy;' Lodge's Peerage, vii. 162; Memorial of Services, Home Office Papers, Ireland, vol. ccccxl.; see also Printed Calendars of Home Office Papers from 1770; Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe, London, 1884; Brit. Mil. Library, vol. viii. 1799.]

H. M. C.