Thomas Whaley (politician)

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Thomas Whaley (15 December 1765 – 2 November 1800), commonly known as Buck Whaley or Jerusalem Whaley, was an Irish gambler and member of the Irish House of Commons.

Irish House of Commons lower house of the irish parliament (until 1800)

The Irish House of Commons was the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from 1297 until 1800. The upper house was the House of Lords. The membership of the House of Commons was directly elected, but on a highly restrictive franchise, similar to the Unreformed House of Commons in contemporary England and Great Britain. In counties, forty-shilling freeholders were enfranchised whilst in most boroughs it was either only the members of self-electing corporations or a highly-restricted body of freemen that were able to vote for the borough's representatives. Most notably, Catholics were disqualified from sitting in the Irish parliament from 1691, even though they comprised the vast majority of the Irish population. From 1728 until 1793 they were also disfranchised. Most of the population of all religions had no vote. The vast majority of parliamentary boroughs were pocket boroughs, the private property of an aristocratic patron. When these boroughs were disfranchised under the Act of Union, the patron was awarded £15,000 compensation for each.


Early life

Whaley was born in Dublin in December 1765, the eldest surviving son of the landowner, magistrate and former Member of Parliament Richard Chapell Whaley, referred to as Burn-Chapel Whaley due to his strong anti-Catholic sentiments and actions. [1] Richard Whaley died in 1769, leaving an estate that included a town-house on St Stephen's Green, land in County Wicklow and £60,000. The estate generated an income of £7,000 per annum which became available to the young Whaley when he reached the age of eighteen. [2]

Dublin Capital city of Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it lies within the province of Leinster. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region as of 2016 was 1,347,359. The population of the Greater Dublin Area was 1,904,806 per the 2016 census.

St Stephens Green

St Stephen's Green is a city centre public park in Dublin, Ireland. The current landscape of the park was designed by William Sheppard. It was officially re-opened to the public on Tuesday, 27 July 1880 by Lord Ardilaun. The park is adjacent to one of Dublin's main shopping streets, Grafton Street, and to a shopping centre named for it, while on its surrounding streets are the offices of a number of public bodies as well as a stop on one of Dublin's Luas tram lines. It is often informally called Stephen's Green. At 22 acres (89,000 m2), it is the largest of the parks in Dublin's main Georgian garden squares. Others include nearby Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square.

County Wicklow County in the Republic of Ireland

County Wicklow is a county in Ireland. The last of the traditional 32 counties to be formed, as late as 1606, it is part of the Mid-East Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Wicklow, which derives from the Old Norse name Víkingaló, which means "Vikings' Meadow". Wicklow County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county was 142,425 at the 2016 census.

At the age of sixteen, Whaley was sent to Europe on the Grand tour, accompanied by a tutor and with an allowance of £900, a sum that proved to be inadequate. He settled in Auch for some time and later moved on to Lyon, but was forced to leave Lyon when his cheque for the amount of £14,800, to settle debts accrued in one night of gambling, was refused by his bankers, the La Touche bank. [2]

Following his return to Dublin, Whaley, at the age of nineteen, was elected to the Irish House of Commons in 1785 representing the constituency of Newcastle in County Dublin. [3]

Newcastle was a constituency represented in the Irish House of Commons to 1801.

County Dublin Place in Ireland

County Dublin is one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. Prior to 1994 it was also an administrative county covering the whole county outside of Dublin City Council. In 1994, as part of a reorganisation of local government within Dublin the boundaries of Dublin City were redrawn, Dublin County Council was abolished and three new administrative county councils were established: Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin.

The Jerusalem wager

While dining with William FitzGerald, the Duke of Leinster at Leinster House, in response to a question regarding his future travel plans, Whaley flippantly mentioned Jerusalem. This reply led to wagers totalling £15,000 (i.e. about £1.8 million in 2001) [4] being offered that Whaley could not travel to Jerusalem and back within two years and provide proof of his success. The reasoning of those offering the bets was based on the belief that, as the region was part of the Ottoman Empire and had a reputation for widespread banditry, it would be too dangerous for travellers and it would be unlikely that Whaley could complete the journey. [2]

William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster Irish politician and landowner

William Robert FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, KP, PC (Ire) was an Irish liberal politician and landowner. He was born in London.

Leinster House Building housing the parliament of Ireland

Leinster House is the seat of the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland.

Jerusalem City in the Middle East

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

Whaley embarked from Dublin on 8 October 1788, with a retinue of servants and a "large stock of Madeira wine" to cheers from the large crowd assembled at the Dublin quays. [5] Whaley sailed first to Deal, where he was joined by a companion, a Captain Wilson, for the journey, and then on to Gibraltar where a ball was held for his arrival. In Gibraltar, his party was joined by another military officer, Captain Hugh Moore. The party set sail for the port of Smyrna, although Wilson was prevented from travelling any further by rheumatic fever. [3] The remaining pair made an overland journey from there to Constantinople, arriving in December.

Dublin quays

The Dublin quays refers to the two roadways and quays that run along the north and south banks of the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. The stretches of the two continuous streets have several different names. However, all but three of the names share the same "Quay" designation. The quays have played an important part in Dublin's history.

Deal, Kent town in Kent, England

Deal is a town in Kent, England, which lies on the border of the North Sea and the English Channel, eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate. It is a former fishing, mining and garrison town. Close to Deal is Walmer, a possible location for Julius Caesar's first arrival in Britain.

Gibraltar British Overseas Territory

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an area of 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) and is bordered to the north by Spain. The landscape is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar at the foot of which is a densely populated town area, home to over 32,000 people, primarily Gibraltarians.

The British ambassador in Constantinople introduced Whaley to the Vizier Hasan Pasha. Taking a liking to Whaley, Hasan Pasha provided him with permits to visit Jerusalem. [5] Whaley's party left Constantinople on 21 January 1789 by ship, and sailed to Acre.

In a meeting reported in Whaley's memoirs later, he encountered the Wāli (governor) (and de facto ruler) of Acre and Galillee, Ahmed al-Jazzar. It was Whaley's twenty-second birthday. Al-Jazzar, notoriously known as "The Butcher" in the region he ruled, took a liking to Mr Whaley; and though he dismissed the documents issued in Constantinople as worthless, he permitted Whaley to continue his journey. During this audience, Whaley said in his memoirs that he interceded with al-Jazzar to stop him breaking the back of a servant with a hammer. He also tells how al-Jazzar then paraded his concubines for the visitors.

Whaley and his companions made their way overland to Jerusalem, arriving on 28 January. During his visit, he stayed at a Franciscan monastery, the Convent of Terra Sancta. It was a signed certificate from the superior of this institution, along with detailed observations of the buildings of Jerusalem, that would provide the proof needed to prove the success of his journey. [2] They stayed for little over a month, before returning to Ireland overland.

Whaley arrived back in Dublin in the summer of 1789 to great celebrations and collected the winnings of the wager. The trip cost him a total of £8,000, leaving him a profit of £7,000. [1]

Later life

Following his Jerusalem exploit, Whaley remained in Dublin for around two years and later spent time in London and travelling in Europe, including Paris during the Revolutionary period.

Due to mounting debts, he was forced to sell much of his estate in the early 1790s and these financial problems also led to his departure from Dublin. Whaley, accompanied by his companion, a Miss Courtney, and their children, left Dublin to take up residence in the Isle of Man, where he had a house built near Douglas. Nicknamed "Whaley's Folly", this house later became the Fort Anne hotel. The house became another part of another story, as it was reported that the house was built on soil imported from Ireland, so Whaley could win a bet that he could "live upon Irish ground without residing in Ireland". A recovery in the state of his finances enabled Whaley to be re-elected to the Irish House of Commons, this time representing the constituency of Enniscorthy from 1798 until his death in 1800. [6] Whaley is said to have accepted bribes for his vote from both sides to support and later oppose the Act of Union.

Miss Courtney died in the late 1790s. [7] A year before his death, Whaley married Mary Lawless, the sister of his friend Valentine Lawless, 2nd Baron Cloncurry.

Whaley died on 2 November 1800 in the Cheshire town of Knutsford, while travelling from Liverpool to London. The cause of death was attributed to rheumatic fever, although a popular story circulated in Ireland that he was stabbed in a jealous rage by one of two sisters, both of whom were objects of his attentions.

Whaley wrote his memoirs in 1797, but these were suppressed by the executors of his estate and remained unpublished until 1906.

A full-length biography of Whaley, Buck Whaley: Ireland's Greatest Adventurer by David Ryan, was published by Merrion Press in February 2019. [8] This book draws on Whaley's memoirs, an unpublished journal that Hugh Moore kept while on the Jerusalem expedition, and many other manuscripts sources including the extensive correspondence of Whaley's land agent Samuel Faulkner.



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  1. 1 2 3 Craig, Maurice (2006) [1952]. Dublin 1660-1860. Liberties Press. pp. 247–248. ISBN   1-905483-11-2.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Somerville-Large, Peter (1975). Irish Eccentrics. Hamish Hamilton. pp. 210–215. ISBN   0-241-89189-2.
  3. 1 2 County Wicklow Heritage Project. "The Last County; The Emergence Of Wicklow As A County 1606-1845". Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  4. Patsy Richards, "Inflation: the value of the pound 1750-2001", House of Commons Library, Research Paper 02/44, 11 July 2001.
  5. 1 2 John Brinton. "The Million Dollar Bet". Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  6. "Irish House of Commons 1692-1800". Leigh Rayment. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  7. "Mrs. Whaley (died 1797/99) John Hoppner". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
  8. David Ryan. "Buck Whaley: Ireland's Greatest Adventurer".
  9. Molumby, Deirdre (2016). "Bóthar Buck". Retrieved 9 November 2018.
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
David La Touche
John La Touche
Member of Parliament for Newcastle
With: John La Touche
Succeeded by
David La Touche
David La Touche
Preceded by
Robert Cornwall
William Congreve Alcock
Member of Parliament for Enniscorthy
1798 – 1801
With: Robert Cornwall 1798–1800
Peter Burrowes Feb–Jun 1800
Thomas Dawson 1800–1801
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom