Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parsons, Lawrence (d.1698)

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PARSONS, Sir LAWRENCE (d. 1698), was the eldest son and heir of Sir William Parsons, bart., of Birr Castle, King's County, the second son of Sir Lawrence Parsons, second baron of the Irish exchequer. Sir William Parsons [q. v.], lord justice of Ireland, was his granduncle. His father, William Parsons, had been created governor of Ely O'Carrol and Birr Castle on the outbreak of the rebellion of 1641, and had greatly distinguished himself by his obstinate defence of Birr Castle for nearly fourteen months against the Irish (an account of the siege, written by himself, will be found in the Picture of Parsonstown, Dublin, 1826, attributed to C. Cooke). He eventually surrendered to General Preston on 20 Jan. 1643, and shortly afterwards retired to England. He sided with the parliament, received a commission as colonel of a regiment of foot, and served as quarter-master-general under Major-general Sidenham Poyntz [q. v.] at the battle of Rowton Heath on 24 Sept. 1645 (see A Letter from Colonel Poyntz … with a perfect Narrative of Colonel Parsons, London, 1645). Returning to Ireland, he died in 1653 of a petrifaction in one of his kidneys, which is said to have been converted entirely into stone, and to be still preserved in the museum of Trinity College, Dublin.

Lawrence Parsons was appointed a trustee for the '49 officers under the acts of settlement and explanation, and on 15 Dec. 1677 was created a baronet. He was a staunch protestant, and when Tyrconnel became lord lieutenant, and the state inclined to favour the catholics, he was subjected to a number of petty annoyances, especially from the high sheriff of the county, Colonel Heward Oxburgh, who had formerly acted as his agent. In January 1689 Oxburgh obtained an order to garrison Birr Castle in the interests of James II. To this Parsons demurred, but, being besieged by Oxburgh, he capitulated on 20 Feb., and was placed in strict confinement till 27 March, when he was removed for trial at Philipstown assizes on a charge of high treason. He was found guilty by Sir Henry Lynch, but execution of sentence was deferred by the intervention of his friends. He was attainted by name in the parliament which sat in Dublin in May 1689, and his estate conferred on Colonel Oxburgh. He was liberated after the battle of the Boyne, and was shortly afterwards appointed a commissioner of array and high sheriff of the King's County. Returning to Parsonstown on 8 Aug. 1690, he was nearly killed in a skirmish with the Jacobites. During his temporary absence Birr Castle was attacked by Sarsfield, but soon afterwards relieved by General Douglas. His estate had suffered severely during the war, and he was granted 5,000'l'. compensation by the government, but the money was never paid him. He married Frances, youngest daughter and coheiress of William Savage, esq., of Rheban Castle, co. Kildare; and, dying in 1698, was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir William Parsons, who died on 17 March 1740.

[Cooke's Picture of Parsonstown; Burke's Peerage; King's State of the Protestants of Ireland; The Indictment of . . . Sir L. Parsons and several others at Birr (London, 1689); Luttrell's Brief Relation, ii. 111; Lewis's Topographical Dict.]

R. D.