Whitelaw, James (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

WHITELAW, JAMES (1749–1813), statistician and philanthropist, was a native of county Leitrim, where he was born in 1749. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in July 1766, became a scholar in 1769, and graduated B.A. in 1771. He studied for the church, and after his ordination became tutor to the Earl of Meath, who presented him with the living of St. James's, Dublin. He soon afterwards obtained the more remunerative living of St. Catherine's in the same city. His deep interest in the poor people living in the 'liberties' in his immediate neighbourhoodled him to form several charitable institutions, the most useful of which was the Meath charitable loan, founded in 1808, which proved of immense service to the weavers of the Coombe during very distressing periods. Mainly owing to his strong representationsthe trustees of the Erasmus Smith fund in 1804 allocated 2,000l. to the foundation of a school in the Coombe, at which poor children were given free education. He was appointed one of the governors of the Charter schools of Ireland, and by his energy and unwearied attention to the interests of the poor he was enabled greatly to improve their working.

Perhaps his most important service was his census of the city of Dublin, which he undertook in 1798, and carried through successfully in the face of many difficulties and dangers, publishing the results of his investigation in 1805 in his admirable 'Essay on the Population of Dublin in 1798' (Dublin, 8vo). Epidemic diseases were then frequent in Dublin, but, undeterred by the fear of infection, he personally inspected every house in the city and questioned nearly every inhabitant. Hitherto the extent of the population had been only vaguely conjectured. He found in one house alone 108 people. The government ordered the results of his inquiry to be printed, while the original papers were deposited in Dublin Castle. In 1805 he was made one of the members of the commission to inquire into the conduct of the paving board of Dublin. He received from John Law (1745-1810) [q. v.], bishop of Elphin, the valuable living of Castlereagh, which he was allowed to hold jointly with that of St. Catherine's. He died of a malignant fever, contracted while visiting poor parishioners, on 4 Feb. 1813. The government conferred a pension of 200/. a year upon his widow.

The work with which Whitelaw's name is most frequently associated is the valuable 'History of Dublin,' in which he collaborated with John Warburton, keeper of the records in Dublin Castle. Warburton did the more ancient portion of the work; Whitelaw undertook the modern part. Both Whitelaw and Warburton died, however, before it was published, and it was completed by Robert Walsh [q. v.] It was published in 1818 in two large quarto volumes. Whitelaw's other works are 'Parental Solicitude' (Dublin, 1800?, 12mo); ' A System of Geography,' of which the maps only (engraved by himself) were published; and 'An Essay on the best method of ascertaining Areas of Countries of any considerable Extent' ('Transactions of Royal Irish Academy,' vol. vi.)

[Whitelaw and Walsh's Hist. of Dublin, vol. i.; Allibone's Dict. of Lit.; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin; Register of Trinity College, Dublin.]

D. J. O'D.