Lawless: The Blanket Dynasty

From the Annals of Ardclough 2003

Cloncurry coat of arms

Cloncurry coat of arms

The rise of the Lawless family from landless Wicklow migrants to aristocracy in two generations was not regarded kindly by either aristocracy or the common people.

The Freeman’s Journal reports how Nicholas Lawless was taunted at a 1780s pantomime in Dublin:

  • Cloncurry, Cloncurry
  • Come here in a hurry
  • And tell why you laugh at the squire now
  • although he’s tossed high
  • I defy you deny
  • The blankets have tossed yourself higher.

    Nicholas Lawless first Lord Cloncurry

    Nicholas Lawless first Lord Cloncurry

According to family biographer and Celbridge resident WJ Fitzpatrick, Robert Lawless started life selling turf in Wicklow and came to work as an apprentice to a wool merchant in High St, Dublin. He eventually took over the business, which passed to his son Nicholas.

Nicholas was educated in France and on return to inherit his father’s business married the daughter of a wealthy Dublin brewer and changed his religion to Church of Ireland in 1774 and purchased a seat in the Irish House of Commons in 1776. As reward for supporting the government he was granted a peerage in 1789 as Baron, Lord Cloncurry, after the townland near Carbury.

Valentine Browne Lawless

Valentine Browne Lawless

Valentine Lawless was educated in Portarlington, at Dean Burrowes’ School in Blackrock and graduated at law from Trinity College. He joined the United Irishmen in 1793 and might have been a member of the revolutionary government had the rebellion of 1798 succeeded. He spent two years in the Tower of London, and became an astute player in the politics of the 19th century colonial administration, courting Daniel O’Connell’s reform movement and Dublin Castle simultaneously. He reconstructed Lyons house in magnificent fashoin, taking care to remove the Aylmer headstones from Lyons graveyward.

Former Kill PP Daniel Nowlan’s evaluation of Lawless was immortalised by the man who succeeded Nowlan as PP of Paulstown in 1929, James Maher: “he is like a man rowing a boat. He is looking one way and pulling another.”

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