Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Needham, Francis Jack
NEEDHAM, FRANCIS JACK, twelfth Viscount and first Earl of Kilmorey (1748–1832), descended from Charles Needham, fourth viscount Kilmorey [q. v.], third son of John, tenth viscount, by Anne, daughter of John Hurleston, esq., of Newton, Cheshire, and widow of Geoffrey Shakerley, esq., of Somerford in the same county, was born in 1748. Entering the army in 1762 as a cornet in the 18th dragoons, he exchanged into the 1st dragoons in 1763, and became lieutenant in that regiment in 1773, and captain in the 17th dragoons in 1774. He served during the whole of the American war of independence, and was taken prisoner at the siege of Yorktown. When peace was proclaimed he was placed on half-pay. Shortly afterwards he purchased a majority in the 80th foot. In 1783 he became lieutenant-colonel in the 104th foot, and in the same year exchanged into the 1st foot-guards. In 1793 he became an aide-de-camp to the king. In the two following years he served in the war with France.
Needham is best known for his action in Ireland during the rebellion of 1798. He commanded the loyalist troops at the decisive battle of Arklow on 9 June of that year; and it was largely owing to his courage and skilful arrangements that a body of rebels, variously estimated at from nineteen thousand to thirty-four thousand, led by Father Michael Murphy [q. v.] (who was killed in the battle), was, after three hours of hard fighting, defeated by a force not more than sixteen hundred strong, and composed chiefly of militia and yeomen. Dublin was thus saved, and the back of the rebellion effectually broken in that part of the country. Needham also commanded one of the five columns which, a little later in the same month, were despatched by General Lake [see Lake, Gerard, first Viscount Lake] to hem in the rebel encampment at Vinegar Hill. Whether from some misunderstanding of orders or with the actual design of tempering judgment with mercy, an opening, afterwards known as ‘Needham's Gap,’ was left by his troops arriving late, so that, when the battle turned against them, numbers of the rebels escaped. Needham became colonel of the 86th foot in 1810, and general in 1812.
In December 1806 Needham entered the House of Commons as member for the borough of Newry, which he continued to represent uninterruptedly during four parliaments. Needham's eldest brother, Thomas, had died unmarried in 1773, and in November 1818, on the death of his second brother Robert, eleventh viscount Kilmorey, he succeeded to the peerage. In February 1822 he was created Earl of Kilmorey and Viscount Newry and Mourne; and, in memory of the event, he restored the Kilmorey chapel in the parish church of Adderley, Shropshire, in which Shavington Hall, the seat of the Needhams since 1438, is situated. He died at Shavington on 21 Nov. 1832, and was buried in Adderley Church, where a monument stands to his memory. He was remembered as a liberal landlord and a kind friend of the poor on his extensive estates.
He married on 20 Feb. 1787 Anne, second daughter of Thomas Fisher of Acton, Middlesex, by whom he had two sons—of whom the eldest, Francis Jack (1787–1880), succeeded to the earldom—and eight daughters.[Case and Pedigree of Robert, Viscount Killmorey, on Claim to vote at Elections of Irish Peers, April 1813; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, iv. 226; Harrod's History of Shavington, 1891, pp. 119 et seq.; Lecky's History of England in the Eighteenth Century, viii. 138 et seq.; Froude's English in Ireland, iii. 419 et seq.; Musgrave's Memoirs of Different Rebellions in Ireland, 2nd ed. pp. 436, 473 et seq.; Plowden's Historical Review of the State of Ireland, vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 739, 754, 764; Journal and Correspondence of William, Lord Auckland, iv. 14 et seq.; Sequel to Teeling's Personal Narrative, p. 114; Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion, pp. 131 et seq.; Gordon's History of the Irish Rebellion, pp. 156 et seq.; information kindly supplied by the present Earl of Kilmorey and Robert Needham Cust, esq.]