Joseph Biggar

Commentary

Life
1828-1890 [Joseph Gillis Biggar]; Irish politician and Belfast provision merchant; joined Butt’s Home Rule Association 1870; MP Cavan, 1874-1890; joined IRB 1875, and expelled 1877; Land League treasurer 1879; opposed Gladstone’s policy, 1880-81; became a Land League proponent; his conduct was investigated in Parnell Commission, 1887; adopted ther policy of parliamentary ‘obstruction’ from 1875 onwards; once had Prince of Wales dismissed from the House by calling ‘I spy, stranger’; he was sued for breach of promise by a Miss Hyland, who was awarded£400, 1882; his son held the chair of Microbiology in Trinity College, Dublin. ODNB DIH FDA OCIL

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Commentary
Sir Dunbar Plunket Barton, Timothy Healy: Memories and Anecdotes (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: Faber & Faber [1933]): ‘[Tim] Healy, after several years training and practice as a pupil of Joe Biggar, succeeded in carrying the fine art of obstruction to a perfection that never has been, and probably never will be, surpassed. For the purposes of this fine art, Biggar framed a set of rules which became the ten commandments of the obstructionist creed. The guiding motives of these rules were the defiance of all governments, and the blocking of all government business. One of the laws in this decalogue was - “Never speak except in government time.” Another was “Never resign anything - get expelled.” The rest of them were of an equally peremptory kind. Healy, having learned these rules by [30] heart, proceeded to enlarge and amplify them, and to surpass their original inventor in the assiduity and success with which he put them into execution. / Joe Biggar, in spite of an ungainly exterior a rasping voice and an angular manner, had some amiable and attractive qualities which endeared him to Healy. When Biggar died, Healy was deeply touched. He wrote to his brother that it was the greatest blow he had yet received, and in subsequent years he often alluded to Biggar with affection and admiration. For example, on one occasion, when he was a guest at the house of an eminent Irish surgeon, Sir Arthur Chance, the conversation turned upon the character and career of Biggar. Healy remained silent until the host turned to him and said, “When did he die, Mr. Healy?” Tim astonished the company by springing to his feet and exclaiming, “Joe Biggar is not dead. That man can never die. His memory will live in the spirit of the nation for ever!”’ (pp.30-31.)

John Horgan, From Parnell to Pearse (1948): Horgan describes Biggar as Ďan uncouth little Ulster tradesman' (p.16).

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