Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vesey, John
VESEY, JOHN (1638–1716), archbishop of Tuam, born at Coleraine on 10 March 1638, was the only son of Thomas Vesey, sometime presbyterian minister, afterwards rector of Coleraine. His grandfather, William, a scion of the house of De Vescy in Cumberland, was the first of his family to settle in Ireland in the reign of Elizabeth. John was educated at Westminster school and Trinity College, Dublin, where he proceeded M.A. in 1667 and D.D. in 1672. He had already, it is said (Ware, i. 516), before attaining canonical years, been ordained deacon and priest by John Lesly, bishop of Raphoe in the time of the Commonwealth. In 1661 he was appointed chaplain to the House of Commons in Ireland, and on 29 June presented to the rectories of Ighturmurrow and Shandrum in the diocese of Cloyne. Being also vicar of Rathgonil, alias Charleville, in the same diocese, he was instituted archdeacon of Armagh on 16 Oct. 1662; but he held the appointment only for a short time, being succeeded by his father on 9 May 1663 (Cotton, Fasti, iii. 46). On 3 Feb. 1667 he was created dean of Cork and treasurer of Cloyne, and from thence advanced to the joint bishoprics of Limerick, Ardfert, and Aghadoe on 11 Jan. 1673; he was consecrated the following day in Christ Church, Dublin, by Michael Boyle, archbishop of Dublin, assisted by the archbishop of Armagh and the bishops of Killaloe and Ossory. On 18 March 1678 he was translated to the archbishopric of Tuam; but his retention of the ‘quarta pars episcopalis,’ or fourth part of the tithes of most of the parishes in his diocese, in defiance of an arrangement begun by the Earl of Strafford but interrupted by the outbreak of the rebellion and confirmed by the act of settlement (Ware, Works, i. 619), drew forth a petition against it on the part of his clergy; he induced them, however, to withdraw it by promising to surrender the ‘quarta pars’ in exchange for the wardenship of Galway whenever it became vacant. This it shortly afterwards did, but, though Vesey obtained a commendatory grant of the same, he avoided the fulfilment of his promise, and it was indeed not until Edward Synge [q. v.] became archbishop of Tuam in 1716 that the clergy reaped any benefit from Strafford's arrangement.
During the troublesome times that ensued in consequence of the innovations in church and state by Richard Talbot, duke of Tyrconnel [q. v.], Vesey suffered great hardships at the hands of the native Irish, who plundered his cattle, regarding certain improvements he continued to make to his palace, and especially a steeple he erected on his cathedral, ‘wherein he intended to place six bells at his own charge,’ as sure signs of his affection to the cause of William of Orange (Short Sketch of the Methods, &c., p. 17). He was deprived of the wardenship of Galway; but it was only when deeming his life to be in peril that he abandoned his charge, being, with Bishop Richard Tenison [q. v.], the last to quit the province. He sought a retreat with his wife and twelve children in London, where he obtained a small lectureship worth 40l. a year. His name was included in the list of those proscribed by the parliament of James II; but, returning after the revolution to his diocese, he preached before the lord lieutenant and both houses of parliament in Christ Church, Dublin, on 16 Oct. 1692; and six days later moved to present a vote of thanks to King William for the great care he had taken of Ireland in venturing his person for its reduction. He was included in the commission for the government of Ireland during the absence of the lord lieutenant in 1712 and 1714, but in the latter year was incapacitated from acting through sickness. He died on 28 March 1716 at his residence of Holymount, about nine miles from Tuam, a commodious and comfortable house built by himself, at that time ‘one of the pleasantest places in Ireland,’ surrounded by a park and garden in the laying out of which he had taken great delight. He was buried there, and John Wesley, visiting the place in 1755 (Journal, ii. 324–5), copied from a stone pillar in the garden the following inscription adapted from Horace (Odes, ii. 14):
Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens
Uxor, cum numerosa et speciosa prole,
Chara charæ matris sobole;
Neque harum quas colis arborum
Te præter invisam cupressum
Ulla brevem dominum sequetur.
Besides three single sermons, Vesey published ‘The Life of John Bramhall, Archbishop and Primate of all Ireland;’ prefixed to an edition of Bramhall's works, Dublin, 1678.
His eldest son, Sir Thomas Vesey (1668?–1730), born at Cork when his father was dean of the church there, was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and became a fellow of Oriel College. He married Mary, only surviving daughter and heiress of Denny Muschamp, esq., of Horsley, Surrey, and, through her coming into a considerable estate, was on 13 July (patent 28 Sept.) 1698 created a baronet. Taking holy orders, he was on 24 June 1700 ordained priest, and, becoming chaplain to the Duke of Ormonde, was by his influence advanced to the bishopric of Killaloe on 12 June 1713, and the following year translated to that of Ossory. He died on 6 Aug. 1730, and was buried in St. Anne's Church, Dublin. His only son and heir, Sir John Denny Vesey, lord Knapton, was ancestor to William Vesey Fitzgerald, lord Fitzgerald and Vesey [q. v.] Elizabeth Vesey [q. v.] was his daughter.[Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, vi. 33–4; Cotton's Fasti Eccles. Hib. i. 196, 289, 329, 404–5, ii. 283, iii. 46, iv. 15, 16, v. 206; Ware's Works, ed. Harris, i. 516, 618, 621, ii. 270; Mant's Hist. of the Church of Ireland, i. 697, 711, ii. 55, 279, 310; ‘A Short View of the Methods made use of in Ireland for the Subversion and Destruction of the Protestant Religion and Interest in that Kingdom: By a Clergy-Man lately escaped from thence,’ London, 1689, pp. 7, 17; Addit. MS. 28927, f. 81; Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 232, 3rd Rep. pp. 420, 426, 6th Rep. p. 763, 7th Rep. p. 761.]