William Keogh (1817-78)


Life
[William Nicholas Keogh; Rt. Hon.;] b. 7 Dec., Galway; ed. Mountjoy School, Dublin, and TCD; bar 1840; Conservative MP Athlone, 1847-56, and sole Irish Catholic at Westminster; QC, 1849; co-fnd. Catholic Defence Association with John Sadleir and George Henry Moore; joined the Irish Independent Party, 1852; seconded William Sharman Crawford’s Tenant Right Bill in Westminster, 1852; accepted Liberal office as Solicitor Gen. of Ireland after the Irish party had destroyed the conservative ministry of Lord Derby, 1852; denounced by Charles Gavan Duffy and others; embarrassed by embezzlements of his friend John Sadleir [q.v.], 1856;
 
served as Attorney-General and Judge of Court of Common Pleas, 1856 [var. 1857]; with Justice Fitzgerald, he presided over trial of the Fenian T. C. Luby and the others of The Irish People incl. John O’Leary, Charles Kickham and O’Donovan Rossa whom he sentenced them with noted ferocity, 1865; awarded Hon. DLL (TCD), 1867; his verdict of ‘undue intimidation’ unseated Col. John P. Nolan, Home Ruler in Co. Galway election petitition, with three Roman Catholic bishops and 31 priests being reported to the House for undue influence, 1872; became a life-long object of Home Rule outrage;
 
he wrote, with M. J. Barry, A Treatise on the Practice of the High Court Chancery in Ireland (1840); also Ireland Under Lord Grey (1844), Ireland Imperialised (1863), and An Essay on Milton’s Prose Writings (1863); he was lampooned as “Murrurty” in William O’Brien’s When We Were Boys (1890); d. and bur. in Bonn, after a period of illness; became the object of a malicious rumour to the effect that he lethally attacked his valet at Bingen-am-Rhein and cut his own throat with a razor afterwards - thus joining Sadleir in the list of suicides. ODNB DIB DIH

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Commentary
Thomas Keneally, The Great Shame: A Story of the Irihs in the Old World and the New (Chatto & Windus 1998) - on the trial of the Fenians, 1865: ‘The special commission appointed by Dublin Castle to judge the Fenian in Dublin and Cork was headed by Solicitor-Geaeral William Keogh, of the betrayers of the Tenant Rights Movement, and J. D. Fitzgerald - both Catholics. “To the outside world, especially the countries in sympathy with Ireland,” wrote Kenealy, “this might have seemed fair on the part of the Government.” But [John] Kenealy and the others knew that Billy Keogh had a few years before sent brothers named McCormack to the scaffold in Tipperary, “when it was well known they were innocent of the crime charged”. The government charged the Fenian with Treason-Felony, under the same statute which had been rushed through Parliament in two days for the purpose of convicting John Mitchel in 1848. In Green Street courthouse in Dublin, the approaches blocked off by dragoons at either end of what was a narrow thoroughfare, Thomas Clarke Luby was the first to be placed on trial before judges Keogh and Fitzgerald. He was defended, as the Young Irelanders had been, by Isaac Butt, QC.’ (p.431 & ff.)

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References
Dictionary of National Biography notes that he was denounced by the popular party for accepting office; accepted commission on Fenian trials ... &c.; d. Bingen-am-Rhein; perpetuates the nationalist press’s charge of suicide.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, pp.254; 258 [helped destroy Independent Irish party by breaking pledge not to take office in Lord Aberdeen’s coalition, 1852-55; notorious for ferocity of his remarks and sentences against Fenians when special commissioner at their trials; committed suicide, like Sadlier; bye-words for unsavoury behaviour and treachery]; implied in reference to the Independent Irish Party, in Davitt, 1904 [277 n7].

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Notes
Charles Gavan Duffy gave an account of his Sadleir and Keogh in a speech of resignation for Irish politics, declaring that they had had made their own party within the Independent party and won the ironic title of Pope’s Brass Band by noisy opposition to Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. Duffy’s speech is paraphrased in Ben Kiely, Poor Scholar (Talbot Press 1947; rep. 1972, p.151.)

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Correction of record - Brian Keogh, Esq., writes (The Irish Times, 5 Aug. 2002): ‘[...] In 1878, Keogh was a sick man. That autumn he travelled to London to consult a specialist, who informed him that his liver was hard, his heart was enlarged, and he was in a stressful state, and advised him to take a holiday cure on the continent of Europe. Judge Keogh took the consultant’s advice and went to Germany, where he had friends. He died there on September 30th, 1878 at 17.00 hours. / Here in Ireland, the newspaper owners, who were against Judge Keogh, reported that he had committed suicide by cutting his throat at Bingen on the Rhine. This piece of political history surrounding the place and cause of Keogh’s death has been perpetuated until this day. Having teased out the facts, the writer has discovered that the judge actually died receiving the last rites at Bonn, where he is buried. No mention of suicide. / Judge Keogh and his wife purchased a vault at Glasnevin when their daughter died in 1871, aged 25 years, and intended that they would be laid to rest there in turn - indeed, Keogh made it known in his will that he wanted to be interred in the vault; but because of the hatred that some in Ireland stored for Keogh, his family feared that if his remains were returned to Ireland his coffin would be tipped into the Liffey. Judge Keogh’s widow, with his family’s agreement, purchased a plot at Bonn and a landmark monument is placed at his resting place. It is unusual for Bonn because it is of a Celtic design and bears the inscription: “To the Honourable William Keogh. His friends and all who admire him.” I have received an official death certificate from Bonn verifying the fact that he died there. … &c.].’ (See full letter, attached.)

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Homes & chattels: Keogh lived Bushy Park, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow (owned later by Chris de Burgh); also in Glencairn, Sandyford, Co. Dublin (in Murphystown); a dg. Mary Josephine Keogh m. Justice James Murphy, an older man (obit. 1901); subsequently all the wine ordered by Keogh in shipload consignments, including vintages such as Chateau La Fitte, was removed to Glencairn, which was sold on death of Murphy to Boss Croker; Keogh and his son-in-law were members of an exclusive judges’ club necessitated by the times [i.e., in view of their unpopularity]. (Information of Brian Keogh, Esq.)

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