Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whaley, Thomas

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

WHALEY or WHALLEY, THOMAS (1766–1800), Irish politician and eccentric, sometimes called ‘Buck’ or ‘Jerusalem’ Whaley, was born in 1766, probably in the north of Ireland. His father, Richard Chapel Whaley of Whalley Abbey, co. Wicklow, a staunch protestant, held considerable property in Ulster, and became known as ‘Burn-Chapel’ Whaley owing to his frequent burnings of catholic chapels in 1798. He married a woman considerably younger than himself, by whom he had seven children. Thomas was the eldest son. The eldest daughter, Anne, married John Fitzgibbon (afterwards Earl of Clare) [q. v.] on 1 July 1786.

When Thomas was sixteen years of age he was sent to Paris, and was there placed under a tutor who was unable to control the youth's mania of extravagance. He had an income valued at 10,000l. a year, but resorted to gaming as a means of meeting his heavy expenses. While in Paris, he kept up a town house and a country house, which many of his acquaintances made their home. At length, having lost in one evening 14,000l. at cards, he gave a bill for the amount on his banker, Latouche of Dublin, who dishonoured it, and he had to leave Paris. He next went to London, and thence returned in 1788 to Dublin, where, soon after his arrival, he accepted a curious wager. Some friends of his, hearing of his intention to revisit the continent, happened to ask him where he was going, to which he abruptly replied ‘Jerusalem.’ Upon this they wagered him a sum variously estimated at from 15,000l. to 30,000l. that he would never reach the Holy City. He at once took up the wager, and on 22 Sept. 1788 started on his journey. He returned in June 1789, having duly, as arranged, played ball against the walls of Jerusalem. This wager made him famous. He immediately recommenced his riotous mode of life in Dublin, and indulged in various foolish wagers, which made him notorious. On one occasion, in Daly's Club-house, he wagered he would jump from the drawing-room windows of his palace in Stephen's Green (now the Catholic University building) into the first barouche that passed, and kiss its occupant. This feat he accordingly performed. After further escapades, he again went to Paris, where he witnessed many of the scenes of the Revolution, but was obliged to leave during the height of the ‘Reign of Terror.’ He reappeared in Dublin for a time, and thence retired to the Isle of Man. Whaley was a member of the Irish parliament for years, and took a somewhat erratic part in politics. He was elected member for Newcastle, co. Down, in 1785, before he was of age, and represented the constituency till 1790. From 1797 to 1800 he was M.P. for Enniscorthy, and was bribed first to vote for the union, and afterwards to vote against it (Barrington, Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation).

In 1800, while passing through England on his way to London, he caught a chill, which developed an old complaint—rheumatic fever. He died of it on 2 Nov. at Knutsford in Cheshire. In the previous January, after the death of a mistress by whom he had had several children, he had married Mary Catherine, daughter of Nicholas Lawless, first lord Cloncurry.

So that his career might prove a warning to others, Whaley wrote his memoirs in two large quarto volumes, and left them to be published by his executors, who, however, did not carry out his wish. They were in existence in manuscript as late as 1866, being then in the possession of a firm of London solicitors, but since seem to have disappeared.

[Whaley's Memoirs, ed. Sir E. Sullivan, London, 1906; Fitzpatrick's Ireland before the Union, appendix; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biogr.; Burke's Peerage; Gent. Mag. 1800, ii. 1114, 1209; Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin.]

D. J. O'D.