Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woulfe, Stephen

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WOULFE, STEPHEN (1787–1840), Irish judge, born in 1787, was the second son of Stephen Woulfe of Tiermaclane, Ennis, co. Clare, who married Honora, daughter of Michael McNamara of Dublin, sister of Admiral James McNamara, and of Colonel John McNamara of Llangoed Castle, co. Brecon. The Woulfes of Tiermaclane settled in Ireland at Limerick at least as far back as the beginning of the fifteenth century, and had remained staunch Roman catholics. Stephen was educated at Stonyhurst, where Richard Lalor Sheil, Nicholas Ball, and Sir Thomas Wyse were his companions. With them he was one of the earliest Roman catholic students to gain admission to Trinity College, Dublin. He was called to the Irish bar in Trinity term 1814. He was a good advocate and an effective speaker. He took from an early period an active part in Irish politics, engaging in agitation for Roman catholic emancipation. He soon signalised himself by ‘withstanding the tyranny of O'Connell.’ His opposition to O'Connell was mainly in regard to the question of the securities which were demanded as a corollary of catholic emancipation. Woulfe was quite ready to accept the crown veto upon the nomination of catholic bishops, and in 1816 published a tract in defence of the veto, being the substance of a speech delivered at Limerick during the Lent assizes of 1816. On 6 May 1829 he followed O'Connell in subscribing the address to the king on the subject of catholic relief (Wyse, Catholic Association, ii. App.) Woulfe's moderate views and ability recommended him to Plunket, who, upon his appointment as lord chancellor of Ireland in 1830, gave Woulfe the lucrative post of crown counsel for Munster. He was appointed third serjeant on 23 May 1835, and having entered parliament as member for the city of Cashel in September 1835, he was appointed solicitor-general for Ireland on 10 Nov. 1836. He retained his seat in parliament until July 1838, but, owing mainly to ill-health, did not make any figure as a debater. He was appointed attorney-general for Ireland on 3 Feb. 1837, and on 11 July 1838, in succession to Henry Joy (1767–1838), he was made chief baron of the Irish exchequer, being the first Roman catholic to be so appointed. Woulfe accepted the honour with some reluctance, but the selection was admitted to be a happy one. A design was stated to have been on foot to get Woulfe to resign in favour of O'Connell, but ‘this job was defeated by Woulfe's high-spirited firmness.’ He is said to have been careless in his attire, awkward and angular in his movements, but very effective in his utterance; no profound lawyer, but a man of quick and shrewd observation. He died at Baden-Baden on 2 July 1840. He married Frances, daughter of Roger Hamill of Dowth Hall, co. Meath, and left issue Stephen Roland, who succeeded his uncle, Peter Woulfe, in 1865 in the estate of Tiermaclane; and Mary, who married in 1847 Sir Justin Sheil, K.C.B.

[Gent. Mag. 1840, ii. 676; Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland, 1899, p. 491; Times, 10 and 13 July 1840; Sheil's Sketches of the Irish Bar, 1856, ii. 107, 119; Torrens's Memoirs of Melbourne, 1890, pp. 418, 428, 454; Official Return of Members of Parl.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.285
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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65 i 19 Woulfe, Stephen: for 1834 read 1835