Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shackleton, Abraham

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SHACKLETON, ABRAHAM (1697–1771), schoolmaster, the youngest of six children, was born at Shackleton House, near Bingley in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1697. His parents were quakers. He did not begin Latin till he was twenty, but worked so hard that he attained a good Latin prose style. He became a teacher in the school of David Hall of Skipton, Yorkshire, and married Margaret Wilkinson, a relative of the master. He removed to Ireland, and became a tutor to the children of John Duckett of Duckett’s Grove, co, Carlow, and to those of William Cooper of Cooper Hill in the same district. Both were considerable land owners, and like himself, members of the Society of Friends. At their suggestion he opened a boarding school at Ballytore, co. Kildare, on., 1 March 1726, and continued its headmaster till 1756. During this time he educated four hundred boys of English, Scottish, or French descent, thirty-four of original Irish origin. Dr. Richard Brocklesby (1722-1797) [q. v.] was one of the pupils; but the most distinguished was Edmund Burke, who entered on 26 May 1741. Shackleton recognised his ability, and they continued firm friends, throughout life. In 1769 he went to the yearly meeting of the Society of Friends in London, and afterwards paid Burke a visit at Beaconsfield. His house in Ballytore was called Griesmount, but the present building of that name, though begun in his time, was completed after he had resigned the mastership in 1756. He died on 24 June 1771, and was buried at Ballytore; he left one son, Richard (see below), and one daughter, Elizabeth, who married Maurice Raynor, and had one son, William. Burke says of him: ‘He was indeed a man of singular piety, rectitude, and virtue, and he had, along with these qualities, a native elegance good nature and unaffected simplicity of heart can give.’

Richard Shackleton (1728-1792), a schoolmaster, son of the above, was born at Ballytore, co. Kildare, in 1728. He was educated at his father’s school, where he was a contemporary of Edmund Burke, and they became lifelong friends. He continued his studies at Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1756 succeeded his father as master of Ballytore school. He paid a visit to Burke nearly every year, and sixty-four letters from Burke to him are printed in ‘The Leadbeater Papers.’ Their only difference was in 1770, when a short account of Burke’s family and education, written by Shackleton, accidentally found its way into the newspapers. Burke says: ‘I am sure I have nothing in my family, my circumstances, or my conduct that an honest man ought to be ashamed of. But the more circumstances of all these that are brought out, the more materials are furnished for malice to work upon.’ Shackleton explained how the accident occurred, and how much he regretted the publication. Burke wrote a kind letter in reply, and their friendship was uninterrupted. In 1779 he was succeeded as master by his son Abraham. On 21 Aug. he was taken ill on his way from Ballytore to Mount Mellick, Queen’s County, and there died of fever on 20 Aug. 1792. Burke in a letter written on 8 Sept. 1792, says ‘Indeed we have had a loss. I console myself under it by going over the virtues of my old friend, of which I believe I am one of the earliest witnesses and the most warm admirers and lovers.’ He married, first, Elizabeth Fuller, and had four children, and two years after death married, secondly, Elizabeth Carleton, who also bore children, among them Mary Leadbeater [q. v.] In the latter’s ‘Poems’ are seven short poems by her father. Burke had Shackleton’s portrait painted by Richard Session.

[Poems by Mary Leadbeater, London, 1808; Devonshire House Portraits; Annals of Ballytore, London, 1862; Prior’s Life of Burke.]

N. M.