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Richard Lalor Sheil

Richard Lalor Sheil (17 August 1791 – 23 May 1851), Irish politician, writer and orator, was born at Drumdowney, Slieverue, County Kilkenny, Ireland. The family were temporarily domiciled at Drumdowney while their new mansion at Bellevue, near Waterford was under construction.


His father was Edward Sheil, who had acquired considerable wealth in Cadiz in southern Spain and owned an estate in Tipperary. His mother was Catherine McCarthy of Springhouse, near Bansha, County Tipperary, a member of the old aristocratic family of MacCarthy Reagh of Springhouse, who in their time were Princes of Carbery and Counts of Toulouse in France. The son was taught French and Latin by the Abbé de Grimeau, a French refugee. He was then sent to a Catholic school in Kensington, London, presided over by a French nobleman, M. de Broglie.[1] For a time he attended the lay college in St Patrick's College, Maynooth.[2] In October 1804 he was removed to Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and in November 1807 entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he specially distinguished himself in the debates of the Historical Society.

After taking his degree in 1811 he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the Irish bar in 1814. In 1816, he married a Miss O’Halloran, niece of Sir William McMahon, master of the rolls. They had one son, who predeceased Sheil. His wife died in January 1822.[3]

His play of Adelaide, or the Emigrants, was played at the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, on 19 February 1814, with success, and on 23 May 1816 it was performed at Covent Garden. The Apostate, produced at the latter theatre on 3 May 1817, established his reputation as a dramatist. His principal other plays are Bellamira (written in 1818), Evadne (1819), Huguenot, produced in 1822, and Montini (1820).

In 1822 he began, along with W. H. Curran, to contribute to the New Monthly Magazine a series of papers entitled Sketches of the Irish Bar. These were edited by Marmion Wilme Savage in 1855 in two volumes, under the title of Sketches Legal and Political. Sheil was one of the founders of the Catholic Association in 1823 and drew up the petition for inquiry into the mode of administering the laws in Ireland, which was presented in that year to both Houses of Parliament.

In 1825 Sheil accompanied O'Connell to London to protest against the suppression of the Catholic Association. The protest was unsuccessful, but, although nominally dissolved, the association continued its propaganda after the defeat of the Catholic Relief Bill in 1825; and Sheil was one of O'Connell's leading supporters in the agitation persistently carried on until Catholic emancipation was granted in 1829. In July 1830 he married Anastasia Lalor Power, a widow. He then added the name Lalor.[3]

In the same year he was returned to Parliament for Milborne Port, and in 1831 for Louth, holding that seat until 1832. He took a prominent part in all the debates relating to Ireland, and although he was greater as a platform orator than as a debater, he gradually won the somewhat reluctant admiration of the House. In August 1839 he became Vice-President of the Board of Trade in Lord Melbourne's ministry.[3]

After the accession of Lord John Russell to power in 1846 he was appointed master of the Mint, and in 1850 he was appointed minister at the court of Tuscany. He died at Florence on 23 May 1851. His remains were conveyed back to Ireland by a British ship-of-war, and interred at Long Orchard, near Templetuohy, County Tipperary.

See Memoirs of Richard Lalor Sheil, by W Torrens McCullagh (2 vols, 1855). His Speeches were edited in 1845 by Thomas McNevin.

George W. E. Russell said of him:

Sheil was very small, and of mean presence; with a singularly fidgety manner, a shrill voice, and a delivery unintelligibly rapid. But in sheer beauty of elaborated diction not O'Connell nor any one else could surpass him.[4]


  1. ^   Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Richard Lalor Sheil" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Eoin O'Brien Conscience and Conflict: Biography of Sir Dominic Corrigan, 1802–80, Glendale Press Dublin 1983
  3. ^ a b c "Sheil, Richard Lalor (1791-1851)", The History of Parliament
  4. ^ G.W.E. Russell, Collections & Recollections (Revised edition, Smith Elder & Co, London, 1899), at page 133.

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Stevens Byng
William Sturges Bourne
Member of Parliament for Milborne Port
With: William Sturges Bourne 1831
George Stevens Byng 1831
Succeeded by
George Stevens Byng
Philip Cecil Crampton
Preceded by
Alexander Dawson
John McClintock
Member of Parliament for County Louth
With: Alexander Dawson 1831
Sir Patrick Bellew, Bt 1831–1832
Succeeded by
Thomas FitzGerald
Richard Bellew
Preceded by
Thomas Wyse
Robert Otway-Cave
Member of Parliament for Tipperary
With: Cornelius O'Callaghan 1832–1835
Robert Otway-Cave 1835–1841
Succeeded by
Robert Otway-Cave
Valentine Maher
Preceded by
Cornelius O'Callaghan
Member of Parliament for Dungarvan
Succeeded by
Charles Ponsonby
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Labouchere
Vice-President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Fox Maule
Preceded by
Sir George Clerk, Bt
Master of the Mint
Succeeded by
Sir John Herschel, Bt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir George Hamilton
British Minister to Tuscany
Succeeded by
James Hudson