Daniel Sammon – Lord Edward Fitzgerald

Daniel Sammon lives in Renvyle Co Galway. To date, he is the author of six books including a book of poetry.
He’s a graduate of NUIG where he received a Master’s degree in Writing in 2017. Prior to that, he received Certificates of Distinction in Legal Studies, Self-Employed Accountancy & Taxation, and Creative Writing in the Open College and Kilroy’s College in Dublin. He walked across Ireland from Renvyle to the GPO in Dublin in 2009 to celebrate the defeat of the British Army and the Black & Tans by the IRA in the War of Independence and the eventual Freedom of Ireland or at least the 26 counties.
To find out what it may have been like for St Patrick in 441 AD, he slept overnight on his own under the stars on the summit of Croagh Patrick in 2015 and wrote a book about his experiences.
Today he is a tour driver taking passengers on history, heritage, and scenic tours mainly in Connemara as well as other parts of Ireland wherever people may wish to go.


Lord Edward Fitzgerald

By Daniel Sammon

Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798) was the fifth son of James Fitzgerald 1st Duke of Leinster who was born in Ballsgrove, Drogheda and Emily Mary Lennox. They had 19 children together before she had 4 more after he died in November 1773 aged 51, when she married her children’s tutor Scotchman William Ogilvie in August 1774.

The Fitzgeralds built and lived in Carton House in Maynooth while they were one of the wealthiest families in Ireland.  ‘Where I will go, others will follow’ said the Duke while the Southside of Dublin was marshy ground and undeveloped.  He built Kildare House in 1745 and later renamed it Leinster House in Kildare Street. He was already familiar with Richard Cassels, a German-born architect who had done much work on Carton House before he designed Leinster House.  James Hoban from Callan Co Kilkenny, the architect who designed The White House was so impressed with Cassel’s work he modelled The White House, the official residence of the President of the United States on present-day Dail Eireann. After the British burned it to the ground in August 1814 Hoban was brought back to restore its charred walls and paint it white to obliterate the burnt marks.

Though at that time it was almost regarded as outside Dublin city, about 1752 Merrion Square was laid out. Soon afterwards aristocrats, bishops, writers, MPs, legal eagles, diplomats and many other wealthy people took up residence in the fashionable square.  Among its famous inhabitants were Oscar Wilde and his entire family, Daniel O’Connell, W B Yeats, Henry Grattan, Sheridan Le Fanu and numerous others. Arthur Wellesley, better known as the Duke of Wellington was the only Irish-born Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He was born in the family home in Merrion Street where the Merrion Hotel stands today. Before entering politics he defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He didn’t want to be regarded as an Irishman at all and said ‘just because you’re born in a stable doesn’t mean you’re a horse’. His sister Emily was married to Lord Raglan after whom Raglan Road was immortalised by Patrick Kavanagh.

In the second half of the 18th century Blackrock in Co Dublin was a fashionable seaside resort for the gentry and well-to-do and the Fitzgeralds bought Frescati House there. They then owned Carton House and Leinster House as well as Frescati House, which they enlarged, tripling its size and enhancing it to the tune of £85,000 equivalent to many millions in today’s money (2021). Of all their houses including Kilkea Castle in Co Kildare, Frescati was the favourite residence of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who loved the ambience of its surroundings. In 1793, while not long married, he wrote to his mother: ‘I am enjoying the tranquillity of this delightful Spring day in the little book-room with the windows open listening to the birds singing and with the watered plants and the open door the room smells like a greenhouse – all those pleasant feelings which the fine weather, the pretty place, the singing birds, the pretty wife and Frescati give me’.

Although a titled aristocrat he later became a prominent commander of the United Irishmen during the 1798 Rebellion. The house is now demolished and turned into a shopping centre with a grey-granite stone bearing an inscription stating that Lord Edward Fitzgerald lived in Frescati House. To compensate for this destruction a scholarship in perpetuity to the value of £50,000 was established at University College Dublin to be known as the Lord Edward Fitzgerald Memorial Fund. Frescati was ‘the last building of significance’ connected with the 1798 Rising whose aim was ‘nothing other than the achievement of an Independent Irish Republic’. A meeting held on 24th February 1798 in Frescati House was betrayed by Thomas Reynolds, a ‘friend’ of Fitzgerald and the United Irishmen were soon infiltrated by spies for the British government, among whom was the scoundrel-barrister Leonard McNally who betrayed Robert Emmet while supposedly defending him from hanging. Lord Edward was obliged to go on the run. At his attempted arrest in Thomas Street Dublin on 19th May 1798 he killed one of his attackers and injured another but he also received a gunshot shoulder-wound which resulted in his capture. He died from his untreated injuries in Newgate Prison, Dublin fifteen days later on 4th June. The scabbard of his sword is now on view to the public in the Limerick Museum.

He was loved by all his family especially his sister Charlottte who stated: ‘he was the acknowledged favourite of our hearts. Whenever he came among us it was a universal delight.’ His sister Lucy described him as ‘chatty, witty, charming, a good chess-player, handsome and sensual, endlessly fond of women and relaxed in their company.’ He was an accomplished linguist speaking French as well as Spanish, English and his native Irish language. He adored his mother Emily and the feelings were mutual. She was broken-hearted at her son’s untimely death. He learned to play the uileann pipes, played handball and was a stylish dancer.

He was a loyal and devoted husband to his French-born wife Lady Edward Fitzgerald, Stephanie Caroline Anne Syms who was known as Pamela. They were married on 27th December 1792 after a three-week whirlwind romance and had three children – one son and two daughters. Lady Edward was also an enthusiastic supporter of Irish independence. She remarried the American consul to Hamburg in 1800 but remained passionately devoted to the memory of her first husband. She died in November 1831 in Paris where her picture hangs in the Louvre.  

Lord Edward Fitzgerald was 34 years old when he died. He is buried in the adjoining graveyard of St Werburgh’s Church in Dublin. Even in times of sorrow and bereavement the British authorities showed no sensitivity or empathy. They insisted on his burial taking place in the middle of the night and he was laid to rest at 2 am on the 5th June 1798.

 

 

 

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