THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES SPENCER

by ehistoryadmin on November 17, 2018

The Life and Times of James Spencer – Agent for the Duke of Leinster in Rathangan and Athy, Captain in the Volunteers and the Yeomanry, and Family Man. James Spencer is largely remembered as a respected local landlord who was piked to death on the stairs of his house in Rathangan in 1798. His final unfinished letter reveals his role in the searches for pikes and guns, and a certain fatalism as to the future. Like Arthur Guinness he was a member of Kildare Friendly Brothers. He served as Mayor or Town Sovereign of Athy in 1762,1786,1796. and had also served as Kildare’s High Sherriff on a number of occasions. During 1778 he was active in efforts to suppress the activities of ‘John the Hougher’ and ‘Peter Burnstacks’ – a secret society attempting to protect tenants by intimidating landlords. Tradition has it that his sister Elizabeth (Coates) refused to leave her bed when the rebels came to burn down her home at Clone, and Billy Bryne had her carried down carefully in her bed and deposited on the lawn. His older brother Samuel served as Magistrate for Athy, and was also Garrison Magistrate for Harristown, County Kildare. While his brother Boyle Spencer, a Lieutenant in the British army, was wounded in the Battle of Minden. He was connected to the Huguenot Community in Portarlington by his marriage to Jane Mercier, and frequently collaborated with Quaker entrepreneurs. His daughters – Esther, Mary-Ann and Anne – all married clergymen. Anne’s husband John Knox – later a Bishop in the Church of Ireland – was a founding member of the Dublin Society, now the RDS.

Rathangan Local History Group, The Old Schoolhouse, Wednesday November 21st at 8.pm

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