Robert Burrowes

?1756-1841 [var. Burrows]; TCD Schol., 1775; BA 1777; FTCD [Fellow], 1782; MA, 1873; BD and DD, 1790; Dean of Cork [q.d.]; author of popular songs as shown in Stubb’s History of Dublin University; accredited with authorship of “The Night that Larry was Stretched” in Thomas Moore’s Journal (Vol. I), - an attribution shared with William Maher, a Waterford ballad-singer, and sometimes less credibly with Kane O’Hara; shared cell in Newgate with Theophilus Swift in a round of libels and counter-libels; d. 13 Sept. (aetat. 85); an obit. appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine. PI

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Terence de Vere White, intro., The Night Larry was Stretched (Belfast:Blackstaff [q.d.]), ill. Hector McDonnell [ltd. edn. of 500].

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See also his ecclesiastical writings:
  • Twelve Discourses  In Explanation Of  The Liturgy of the Church Of England; Delivered in  the Cathedral of St. Fin-barr, Cork, and Published at the Desire of the Bishop and the Congregation. By the  Very Rev. Robert Burrowes, D.D.  Dean of Cork, and Chaplain to His Excellency  the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Cork:  John Bolster. Patrick-Street, MDCCCXXXIV [1834].
  • A Sermon Preached Before the Association for Discountenancing Vice, and Promoting the Practice of Virtue and Religion, in St. Mary’s Church. Rev. Robert Burrowes and Chaplain to His Excellency The Lord Lieutenant (Dublin: William Watson 1795) 62pp.
  • Observations on the course of science taught at present in Trinity College, Dublin with some improvements suggested therein. By the Rev. Robert Burrowes, […] in (Dublin: George Grierson 1792), 81,[1]pp. [copy in Oxford Univ. Lib.]

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Thomas Moore
Memoirs, Journal, and Correspondence of Thomas Moore, ed. by the Right Honourable Lord John Russell, MP, “Spirat adhuc amor”. Hor. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans 1853), Vol. I [1 of 2]

The tutor under whom I was placed on entering College was the Rev. Burrowes, a man of considerable reputation, as well for classical acquirements as for wit and humour. There are some literary papers of his in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy; and he enjoyed the credit, I believe deservedly, of having been the author, in his youth, of a celebrated flash song, called “The night before Larry was stretched”, i. e. hanged. Of this classical production I remember but two lines, where, on the “Dominie” (or parson) proposing to administer spiritual consolation to the hero,

”Larry tipped him an elegant look,
And pitch’d his big wig to the devil.”

The fame of this song (however Burrowes himself and his brother dominies might regret it) did him no harm, of course, among the younger part of our college community. (pp.31-32.)


It was, I think, towards the end of the second year of ray course, that a crack-brained wit, Theophilus Swift, the same who called out, and was wounded by Col. Lennox, after the duel of the latter with the Duke of York, commenced a furious pamphlet war against the fellows of our university, in consequence of some injustice inflicted, as he thought, by them on his son. The motto to his chief pasquinade was “Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow”; and the most galling part of the attack was his exposure of the shameless manner in which the fellows, most of them, contrived to evade that statute of the university which expressly forbade their marrying. This they effected by the not very seemly expedient of allowing their wives to retain their maiden surnames, and thus living with them as if they were mistresses. The wife of my tutor, Burrowes, for instance, went about with him in society by the name of Mrs. Grierson, she being the daughter of Grierson, the King’s printer. Magee’s wife was called Mrs. Moulson; and so on. One of the points, indeed, enforced coarsely, but bitterly, by Swift was, that none of these ladies were, in the eyes of the law, really married; and that, in case of crim. con., their husbands would not be entitled to damages. In speaking of the lady of Burrowes, Swift commenced a sentence thus: “If I or some more youthful adventurer were to be caught in an amour with Mrs. Letter-press,” &c.

I forget whether any legal proceedings were taken by any of the fellows against Swift. But Burrowes, my tutor, being tempted to try his wit, in a retort upon his assailant, published a squib in verse, with notes, for which he was prosecuted by Swift, and sentenced to confinement, for about a fortnight, in Newgate [Dublin]. I remember paying him a visit during the time of his imprisonment; and it was undoubtedly a novel incident in academic history for a pupil to visit his reverend preceptor in Newgate. Swift’s son (who had been christened Dean for the honour of the name), joined also in a literary onset with his father, and wrote a poem called the “Monks of Trinity,” which had some smart lines. In one, where Magee (Moore’s professor of Greek at Trinity) was styled a “learned antithesis,” he seems to have prefigured the sort of scrape in which this ambitious priest got involved, some years after, by the use of that same figure of rhetoric. In a famous charge of his, soon after he became archbishop, in speaking of the difficult position of the Irish establishment, between the Catholics on one side and the Dissenters on the other, he describes it as placed “between a Church without a religion and a religion without a Church.”* Of this pithy sentence he was made to feel the rebound pretty sharply; and one of the ablest of Dr. Doyle’s pamphlets was written in answer to Magee’s charge.

[Ftn.] *“A church without what we can properly call a religion, and a religion without what we can properly call a church.” This, if I recollect right, is the correct version of this belligerent antithesis. (pp.37-38.)


My first tutor, Burrowes, having a little before this time retired on a good living the euthanasia of most of the monks of old Trinity, I was placed under a lay fellow of the name of Phipps, a civil and zealous man, though far more collegiate in mind and manners than the destined Dean* whom I had left. Being also, however, a much more warm-hearted person, he took a very kind and active interest in all my concerns ; and showed this interest, by a step which though at the time not a little painful to me, I afterwards learned to appreciate as it deserved. Requesting a few minutes with my father and mother, he advised confidentially and strenuously that I should avoid being seen so much in public with Robert Emmet ; hinting at the same time that our intimacy had been much noticed, and that there were circumstances which rendered it highly imprudent. Though not aware at that time of the extent to which Emmet was implicated in the Irish conspiracy, we knew quite enough to enable us to understand this friendly warning, though if I recollect right, we but in a very slight degree acted upon it.

Burrowes was admitted a Freeman of Cork the entry reads: Burrowes Very Revd. Robert Dean of Cork (1821): “in a Silver Box as a testimony of the high opinion this Board entertain of his Merit”.

[Ftn.] *Burrowes was, some time after, made a Dean.

The above extracts supplied by Frank Callery via Facebook [27.02.2015].

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Ethel Mannin, Two Studies of Integrity (1954), writes that ‘Father Prout “upsets” into scholarly French a famous Irish slang song, “The Night Before Larry was Stretched’” which he outrageously attributes to his friend the Very Reverend Dean Burrowes of St Finbar’s Cathedral, Cork, attributing the translation to l’Abbé de Prout, Curé de Montaux Cressons, près de Cork, and offers the translation as an initiation of the French ‘into the workings of an Irish mind, unfettered by conscientious scruples on the threshold of eternity’. (p.172f.) See also remarks in Barrington’s Recollections [chapter. on ‘Duelling’].

Robert E. & Catherine Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (Washington 1988), writing to J. C. Walker of the Transactions of the RIA received by him in March 1788: ‘Dr Burrows makes objections to some parts of Dr Johnson’s style of writing. The instances he uses are, I think, just; but I can not but think also that the spots which the telescopical eye of criticism discovers in his style are lost in the blaze of his perfections as a phraseologist and a philosopher.’ (p.491-92.) This is presumably the Dean of Cork.

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D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), considers him the most likely author of “The Night That Larry Was Stretched”. Note that O’Donoghue’s identification of Burrowes as the Dean of Cork prob. stems from Fr. Prout’s allegation of authorship, which has been conflated with the dates given in the Dictionary of National Biography for a whig lawyer of the same name (1753-1841; vide supra).

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Sylvester Mahony
[Fr. Prout] made false-translation of “The Night that Larry was Stretched”, by Revd. Robert Burrowes, St. Finbarr’s Cathedral, Cork, as “La Mort de Socrates”, par L’Abbé de Prout, Curé du Mont aux Cresson, prés de Cork: ‘A la veille d’etre pendu / [?] Lavent reçut dans son gîte / Honneur qui lui etait bien dû / de nombreux amis la visite’ (see Charles Kent, ed., Works of Fr. Prout, 1888, Routledge and Sons, p.179f.)

George Grierson: Burrowes was married to Catherine Grierson, daughter of Hugh Boulter Primrose Grierson (1737-71) who succeeded his half-brother as as King's Printer, being the third generation of the Dublin Griersons.

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