Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skeffington, John

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SKEFFINGTON, Sir JOHN, second Viscount Massereene (d. 1695), was the eldest son of Sir Richard Skeffington, fourth baronet, of Fisherwick, near Lichfield, by Anne Newdigate (1608–1637). In 1647 he succeeded his father as fifth baronet. In or before 1660 he married Mary, only daughter and heiress of Sir John Clotworthy, first viscount Massereene [q. v.] He was elected M.P. for co. Antrim in 1661. By the death of his father-in-law in 1665, Skeffington became Viscount Massereene. He succeeded to a great Irish estate in his wife's right, and the lately created honour devolved upon him by special remainder. By the act of explanation (1665) he was made a commissioner to receive and administer funds contributed for the defence of their interests by officers serving after 5 June 1649. In 1666 he became custos rotulorum of co. Londonderry, and a commissioner of revenue in 1673. In 1674 he was made a freeman of Belfast (Young, Town Book of Belfast, p. 278). In 1677 he was released from the quit rents imposed by the acts of settlement and explanation upon his estate, and this seems to have been done with the help of his friend the lord-lieutenant, Essex (Essex Letters, 20 March 1674–5). In 1680 Massereene was made captain of Lough Neagh, with command of all boats built or to be built thereon, and a salary of 6s. 8d. a day for himself, with lesser rates of pay for subordinate officers. He was bound to build and maintain a gunboat. This grant, an enlargement of one formerly enjoyed by his father-in-law, was in consideration of his ‘great charges to fortify the town and castle of Antrim, making them much more considerable for the security of those parts.’ He was a conspicuous defender of the protestant interest in Ulster, and particularly anxious to prevent Roman catholics from enlisting in the army or militia (Carte, Ormonde, vol. ii. app. p. 120; Rawdon Papers, pp. 267–73). Recruiting was within his special province as governor of co. Londonderry.

James II and Tyrconnel substituted an Irish army for a protestant militia, but Massereene was nevertheless reappointed to his governorship and sworn of the privy council. The viceroy, Clarendon, thought county governorships had become useless (Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence, i. 240), but he and Massereene were on the most friendly terms (ib. pp. 356, 411, ii. 292). When the citizens of Londonderry determined to stand on their defence, Massereene helped them with a large sum of money. He was one of those to whom the Enniskilleners specially appealed for help (McCormick, Enniskillen). It was at Antrim Castle that the protestants of the county met under Massereene's presidency, and his only surviving son, Clotworthy, was chosen to command them in the field. Massereene himself withdrew to England soon afterwards. In Tyrconnel's proclamation of 7 March 1688–9 both father and son were among the ten persons excepted by name from mercy as ‘principal actors in the rebellion.’ Massereene was in London in November 1689, being one of the Irish committee chosen to confer with William (Clarendon and Rochester Correspondence, ii. 292; Journal of the Rev. Rowland Davies, p. 60). Soon after the ‘break of Dromore’ on 14 March 1688–9, Antrim Castle was sacked, about 4,000l. in money and plate falling into Jacobite hands. He and his son were both included in the great Irish act of attainder in May 1689, his estate being valued at 4,340l. a year (Lodge). Massereene returned to Ireland after the battle of the Boyne, sat in the parliament which met on 5 Oct. 1692, and was active in the business of the House of Lords. He died on 21 June 1695, and was buried at Antrim. His only surviving son, Clotworthy, succeeded him as third viscount, and was ancestor of Clotworthy Skeffington, second earl Massereene [q. v.] Of his three daughters, the youngest, Mary, married Edward Smyth [q. v.], bishop of Down and Connor.

[Lodge's Irish Peerage, ed. Archdall, ii. 377–385; Burke's Peerages; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniæ; Witherow's Derry and Enniskillen; Stebbing Shaw's Hist. of Staffordshire.]

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