Richard Martin (1754-1834)


Life
[Richard Martin of Dargan; known as ‘Humanity Dick’, formerly ‘Hairtrigger Dick’]; prob. b. Dublin; conformed to Anglican Communion [Church of Ireland]; ed. Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge; bar, 1781; family seat, Ballynahinch Castle, with an estate of 200,000, held to be the largest in Ireland, and also with the longest avenue in Europe; twice married, in 1777 and 1796;
 
Colonel of Galway Volunteers, JP and High Sheriff of Galway County; successfully sued John Petrie of Soho for alienation of his wife’s favours, and received settlement of £10,000 damages, which (acc. to legend) he distributed to the poor of Galway; MP Jamestown, Co. Leitrim 1776-83; Lanesborough, 1798-1800; supported Union; represented Galway in Westminster, 1801-1826;
 
introduced private bill for prevention of cruelty to animals, and fnd. RSPCA, 1824; supported Catholic emancipation and opposed the death penalty for forgery; sought to ensure legal counsel for prisoners charged with capital crimes; retired to Boulogne in 1827 on loss of seat to James Staunton Lambert, following a bitterly fought election and a petition, resulting in the erasure of his name;
 
f. of Thomas Martin, who died of famine fever contracted visiting his tenants, and gf. of Mary Letitia Martin; he is the subject of Yeats’s late poem “Colonel Martin”; reputedly styled “Humanity Dick” by his friend King George IV. ODNB DIB DIH

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Criticism
Shevaun Lynam, Humanity Dick: A Biography of Richard Martin MP, 1854-1834 (London: Hamilton 1975), and Do. [reiss. as] Humanity Dick Martin: “King of Connemara” 1754-1834 (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1989), xvii, 300pp., ill. [16pp. of ps.]; Peter Phillips, Humanity Dick, The Eccentric Member for Galway: The Story of Richard Martin, Animal Rights Pioneer, 1754-1834 (Kent: Parapress 2003), 208pp.

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Commentary
Chevalier de Latocnaye: ‘I have never in my life been the house of a rich man who appeared to care so little for the things of this world as Richard Martin.’ (Quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.236.)

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T. Colville Scott, Diary for 1853, issued as ‘Connemara after the Famine: Journal of a Survey of the Martin Estate’ (ed. Tim Robinson; Dublin 1995), gives details of the family property, an estate comprising 196,540 acres which was offered for sale in 1849 on the basis that the ‘contain[s] within itself’ everything necessary to render it ideal for development ‘but capital’; reaching from Lough Corrib to the western seaboard, its extended from Oughterard to Roundstone and from Carna to Moycullen, as well as incorporating Lough Inagh and outlying sections at Bunowen and adjacent to the Clifden peninsula; the Martins were prominent among the Norman families who dispossessed the O’Flahertys; ‘not for nothing was the head of the Martin family a lawyer known as Nimble Dick’; by adroit dealing the Martins bobbed to the surface, after fifty years of religious strife [after Cromwellian times], as the largest landowners in either Britain or Ireland.’ Further, ‘The outside world, lifting its eyes from the pages of Sir Walter Scott, found the idea of the Martin kingdom immensely appealing, with its high-spirited defiance of civil law, the devotion of its wild clansmen to their master, its fabled hospitality floated on a sea of smuggled brandy, and its backdrop of trackless wastes and stormy skies. Lever used Ballynahinch as the setting of a novel, and Maria Edgeworth and Thackeray were among those who visited Richard’s son Thomas Martin in the days when he was called the King of Connemara and his daughter Mary its Princess. […] This veil of romance was torn away by the Great Famine, revealing a death’s-head landscape.’ (p.13.) Estate put up for sale and purchase cheaply by Law Life Insurance Society of London, 1849, and later taken by Richard Berridge, a London brewer, for £230,000. (See History Ireland (Summer 1996), pp.12-16.)

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A. M. Sullivan testifies to the humanity of Dick Martin, ‘prince of Connemara … who caught fever while acting as a magistrate.’ (Sullivan, New Ireland, 1877, q.p.; see also Edith Somerville’s Irish Memories, London: Longmans, Green 1917).

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W. B. Yeats: Yeats told a story of Dick Martin’s winning a law suit arising from his wife’s adultery and distributing the proceeds to the poor of Galway in an address printed in Richard Ellmann, The Identity of Yeats (1954; rep. 1983), pp.205-06; copied in A. N. Jeffares , A New Commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats (1984), pp.393-94, citing S. J. Maguire, ‘NotesL Martin v. Petrie’, in The Galway Reader, IV (Winter 1954), pp.122-23; James Berry, Tales of the West. Recollections of Early Boyhood (q.d.) pp.72-74; and ‘Tim O’Harte and Col. Martin’, in Seán Mac Giollarnáth, Annála Beaga o Iorrus Aithneach (1941), pp.197-99; also A. E. S. Martin, Genealogy of the Family of Martin of Ballinahinch Castle (1890). The story is also told in Lady Gregory’s Kiltartan History Book (1926).

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References
Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre (Tralee: The Kerryman 1946), copies a letter from Galway: ‘[…] a few nights ago the tragedy of The Fair Penitent was performed at Mr Richard Martin’s private theatre in this town, before a splendid audience [which] consisted principally of Gentlemen of the Bar … the part assigned for the audience contains about one hundred persons …’ (Hibernian Journal, May 12 1786).

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Notes
A portrait of Richard Martin is included in the keyed engraving of House of Commons of 1790, now preserved in Bank of Ireland (College Green) with copies in the St. Stephen’s Green Club, &c. [as figure No.5 in key].

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Kith & Kin?: John Martin (Cornelius the Irishman), was garrotted by the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico City. Martin was born in Cork, son of a sacristan, and later step-son of a tailer who moved to Padstow in England after great privations; on the death of the latter, Martin led hi blind mother from door to door as a beggar, before himself joinging John Hawkin’s naval expedition of 1567-68 as a cabin-boy. Patrick O’Sullivan writes: ‘Had he betrayed his Irish Catholic faith when he settled in  “Lutherite” England? What the inquisitors wanted to know from John Martin was abject submission expressed in a consistent narrative and this he was unable to supply. He was garrotted and his body burnt at the auto-da-fé in Mexico City on 6 March 1975’. (See Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, ed. W. J. McCormack, 1999, pp.375-76; bibl. incls. P. E. H. Hair, ’An Irishman before the Mexican Inquisition, 1574-75’, in Irish Historical Studies, XVII, 67, March 1971.)

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Kith & Kin?: R. M. Martin issued Ireland Before and after the Union with Great Britain (London 1843), in which he wrote: ‘What enabled these distinguished [Irishmen and women] to inscribe their names to the Scroll of Fame, and to add to the honor and to the welfare of their country? The wide and noble field of British enterprise.’ (p.188; quoted in Rolf Loeber & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2006, p.lviii.)

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