James Crowe of Clare and Dublin: a forgotten branch

The early history of the McEnchroe clan (Clann Meic Conchradha) of Thomond, and the genealogy of a prominent lineage of that clan in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, have been addressed in an earlier article.  That branch of the Crowe gentry was descended from Robert Crowe (c.1710-c.1775), a successful Ennis merchant.  He and his descendants were greatly involved in the civic and political affairs of the county up to the late 1800s.  However this page deals with another branch, James Crowe and his descendants.

Fig 1 - The Crowe gentry of County Clare - final version (1)

The Crowe Gentry of County Clare

Research into the life and lineage of James Crowe (c. 1712-1774) of Clare and Dublin uncovered two abstracts of his will.  The version in the Registry of Deeds, Dublin, is more detailed giving the names of his wife and sons, a summary of assets and the names of witnesses.   Betham’s Abstracts has a much briefer account although it includes a notation, ‘brother of Robert C’.  This reference turned out to be a vital clue in establishing that James Crowe and the above mentioned Robert were siblings and that James was the progenitor of a ‘forgotten’ branch of the Crowe gentry of County Clare.  This branch had not been researched and documented prior to this investigation.

James Crowe’s birth pre-dates the records of the Church of Ireland in the parish of Drumcliffe, County Clare.  It is very likely he was born in Clare, probably in Ennis, since entries in the Registry of Deeds when he was a young man identify him as being from Ennis.  Nor do we know the precise date of his birth. We only know he was born on or before 21 November 1712 since he died on that day and month in 1774 aged 62 years.

transcription of headstone in Dublin

Transcription of headstone in Dublin: James Crowe and family

James is buried in St. Kevin’s Old Churchyard of the Church of Ireland, on Camden Row in Dublin, now converted to a public park.  All of the gravestones have been relocated to the perimeter of the park or to the interior of the derelict church building, except for one gravestone – that of the parents of the celebrated poet and songwriter Thomas Moore.  Although the grave of James Crowe, his daughter and his son-in-law is now unmarked, we know it was located just ‘4 yards’ from that of the Moore family – and presumably still is, unless the Moore gravestone too was relocated when the park was landscaped.  Both the Crowe and Moore families had residences in Aungier Street, Dublin.

St Kevin's Park

Saint Kevin’s Park, Camden Row, Dublin

James Crowe was just 21 when he qualified as an attorney.  The first record found of his name as an attorney is on a deed dated 9 October 1733 in which he witnessed a memorial involving Lucius Loghlen and Henry Ievers (shown in the record with the Anglicised spelling Jevers) jointly as one party and Neptune Blood as the other, all from County Clare.  James Crowe is described in this document as ‘Gent of Ennis, Attorney at King’s Bench’.   The special attention given to his status in this instance is evidence of his newly acquired qualification as a practicing attorney.  Identifications on other deeds often have briefer descriptions –for example, just ‘Esq’, or ‘Clerk’ and the like. The Honourable Society of King’s Inn required candidates to be at least 16 years of age and to serve a 5-year apprenticeship (20 terms of the law calendar) with an experienced legal practitioner. James must have been an able student and committed apprentice to qualify at the youngest possible age.

Other entries in the Registry of Deeds and the minutes of the Ennis Corporation show that James continued to practice in Ennis up to at least 1737.  He had probably established his legal practice in Dublin by 1741, the year in which he married Mary Hatch.  Little has been discovered about Mary other than that her will is dated 1783. Unfortunately the will has not survived.  She might have been connected with the Hatch family after whom Hatch Street in Dublin was named in 1759.

James’s move to Dublin did not sever his ties with County Clare.  On 17 June 1744 he purchased ‘Dromconora and seventeen more townlands in the barony of Bunratty, Co. Clare’ for £3,500. These lands had been previously mortgaged in 1721 by Henry O’Brien Esquire of Stonehall (2nd son of Sir Donough O’Brien) to Francis Bernard (1663 -1731), a lawyer and politician.  They were sold by public auction to ‘James Crowe of Ennis, attorney at the Court of King’s Bench in Dublin’ in 1744 by a decree of the Court of Chancery.  As to how James Crowe came to have the financial resources to make this substantial purchase was not discovered.  Perhaps it was an inheritance from his father, or came as a ‘fortune’ (i.e. dowry) with his marriage to Mary Hatch.

Dromconora House

Dromconora House.  Illustration used by permission of Hugh W. L. Weir of Ballinakella Press.

The property is in the parish of Templemaley, east of Ruan and six kilometres north of Ennis.  Griffith’s Valuation shows the house and lands to be in the possession of Sir Colman O’Loghlen in 1855.  The building has long since been demolished with only remnants surviving today.  Fortunately a detailed description and a faded photograph have survived, and a sketch has been made by Hugh Weir for his publication House of Clare.

The residence was designed by, or in the style of, Francis Bindon (c.1690-1765), and was a:

Three-storey, five bay, hip-roofed ashlar house over a basement with a central one bay, pediment breakfront.  In this, there was a rusticated Venetian doorway, with a window above, and over which there was a low three-light window. The windows and quoins were rusticated, and there was a string course between each floor. In the middle of the central pediment there was a blind oculus. The front door was approached by a flight of some ten steps.  Facing south towards Cloonteen Lough, the house was situated in a fine demesne of parklands. There were extensive yards, buildings and gardens to the rear.

There are three mentions of James Crowe in the minutes of the Ennis Corporation – In 1737 he was paid £1 for translating the Ennis charter into English; in 1750 when he was made a freeman of the borough; and in 1766 he provided legal advice to the Corporation, possibly in connection with an on-going dispute between the Corporation and Richard Griffith about the payment of tolls and customs at the Ennis markets.

James and Mary’s first child Robert was born about 1745. His baptism was not found in the records of the Church of Ireland, parish of Drumcliff, County Clare, or in those of the Church of Ireland in Dublin.  All of Robert’s five siblings were baptised in Dublin.   On 17 May 1764 he was admitted as a barrister, Middle Temple, London and matriculated from Oriel College, Oxford, on 4 December 1767 aged 22 years, thus supporting the estimate of 1745 as his year of birth.   Further, a history of members of the Irish House of Commons records that he died in July 1817 aged 72 years (q.v.), thus born c.1745.

In 1788 a marriage license was issued in Killaloe and Kilfenora diocese in County Limerick to Robert Crowe of Nutfield and Alicia Woulfe (d.1841), eldest daughter of Anthony Woulfe.  A notice of the marriage appeared in Freeman’s Journal on 7 January 1789.   Robert would then have been about 43 years of age.  There is evidence that Robert had at least two children from an earlier marriage, the younger one being William Crowe.  Vere Langford Oliver’s history of the Island of Antigua in the British West Indies provides the evidence:

William Crowe, M.D. [was a] younger son of Robert Crowe of Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland.  He quarrelled with his father and came to Antigua about 1793. . . He was returning to Ireland, when [both he and his wife Rebecca Margaret Blizzard] died of Yellow Fever 28th Janry 1778 (sic) [presumably 1798]. . . Seems to have had money, and spent it, from his Bills on Ireland. His father [Robert Crowe] is spoken of as the Squire, and mentioned as having been in Town, therefore he did not live in Ennis.

The country residence to which Oliver refers would have been Nutfield House (Dromconora).  Somewhat enigmatically, and with the sentence ending in ellipses, Oliver continues, ‘I mention this as I emphatically deny any relationship to Seven Miss Crowes of Ennis . . . .’  The identity of the Seven Miss Crowes has not been discovered.  Also mentioned by Oliver is a William Armstrong against whom William Crowe successfully ‘went to law’ in a property dispute.  Edmond Armstrong of County Clare, probably a relative of William Armstrong and certainly a distant relation of William Crowe, was subject to a rebel ‘outrage’ in the 1798 Rising along with William Crowe’s relative Thomas Crowe.

Although his identity in the West Indies is given as William Crowe, M.D. (Medical Doctor, or Medicinae Doctor), no record was found of him attending a medical school. However, it was not unusual in those times for people to claim to be medical practitioners on the basis of little or no medical qualifications.  Apothecaries, for example, often represented themselves as doctors.  Robert’s uncle by marriage, Thomas Davenport, and Thomas’s father before him, were apothecaries in Ennis.  Also, the fact that Robert’s new father-in-law, Jonas Langford Blizzard, was a practicing physician in Antigua may have promoted has acceptance there as a medical practitioner.

On 1 November 1776, just two years after the death of his father James Crowe, Robert mortgaged his inheritance to obtain loans from two related parties.  One was from Hon. Grace Freke, daughter of Sir Ralph Freke of Co. Norfolk, England, and Castle Freke, Co. Cork; the other from William Putland (son of John Putland armiger of Dublin) and his wife Ann Evans (descended from George Evans, Lord Carberry of Co. Limerick).  William Putland was later to become executor of Grace Freke’s estate. The securities provided to Grace Freke were ‘the Town and Land of Leaghknock, Noeffe, otherwise Nuaffe, and Carraworahown, situate in the county of Clare or a competent part thereof’; and  those to William Putland and his wife Ann Evans were –

The Towns and Lands of Shally, commonly called and known by the names and subdivisions of Ballyneilan, Crohane, the Castle Park, and Stone Park; together with the Towns and Lands of Nutfield, Raun Roe, Cragavoicross, Stone Park, Cahirneen, Carhunahoun, Ballycasheen, Dromquin, Owan, Nuasse, Cloneashen, Kilkee, Dromgloon, Aghrem and Ross, Gortavalla, Lachaknock . . . Lissiline, Ballywrin, Doughivona, Aghremkelly, and the entire denomination called Roisslivan, all situate in the county of Clare, or a competent part thereof.

The immediate purpose of these loans is unclear. There is no evidence that Robert was in financial difficulties at that time.  He had recently inherited a substantial estate and was well placed to resume and expand his father’s legal practice in Dublin. Perhaps it was the first step in a larger business scheme.

In the following year Robert borrowed a further £30,000 – equivalent to about £4 million in current values — from a consortium of London bankers and other investors.  Nutfield and Robert Crowe’s other lands were again given as security. It is unclear whether the members of the English consortium were aware that these assets were encumbered.  Later events suggest they were not.  The new loan was taken out in partnership with John Parker (descended from one of Cromwell’s officers granted land in Tipperary) and a Scotsman David Tyrie. The partners relocated to London, and purchased extensive farmlands in Cornwall — in the parishes of Mabe and Gluvias, all in the borough of Penryn.  Later they set up a distillery in Clerkenwell, an area just outside the walls of London which for many years had a ‘colourful’ reputation. Industries located there in the eighteenth century included breweries and distilleries.  An entrepreneur named Alexander Gordon established a distillery in Clerkenwell in 1786, and his product “Gordon’s London Dry Gin’ is well known even today.  The farming and London ventures were probably linked. Wheat, barley, oats and rye were among the crops grown in those parishes, and are all possible ingredients for brewing and the distillation of alcohol. For reasons unknown the venture was unsuccessful.

Nothing further was discovered about John Parker.  David Tyrie on the other hand became an unfortunate footnote in the history of English criminal justice.   Late in 1781 Crowe and Parker disassociated themselves from Tyrie asserting that his debts to the London investors were his responsibility alone.  Tyrie had set himself up as a ‘naval agent’ in Portsmouth.  To help pay his debts, he agreed to supply naval intelligence to a Monsieur Bonnier of Cherbourg, this being during the Anglo-French war of 1778-1783.  When his activities were discovered in 1782, Tyrie was tried and convicted of High Treason and sentenced to death by being hung, drawn and quartered.  The execution provoked such a ‘distasteful’ and ‘brutish response’ from the huge crowd and ‘reflected so poorly on the solemnity of the occasion’ that he has the dubious distinction of being the last person in England to meet this terrible fate.

Robert Crowe and partners were declared bankrupt in September 1778 and ordered to appear at Guildhall, London, for examination of their assets and for creditors to submit their claims.  The matter was not fully resolved for many years. They may have spent some time in the London Marshalsea (debtor’s prison) located in St. George the Martyr parish, Southwark. Unfortunately the Marshalsea records for the periods of interest have not survived.

Alternatively or in addition, Robert Crowe could have been incarcerated in the London Marshalsea in 1784 as a consequence of an order of the Court of Chancery in London in the case of Nagel et al. v Crowe which found in favour of the appellants.  It seems Robert’s financial situation had become desperate and he was taking out new loans to keep other creditors at bay.  Nagel et al. obtained a court order requiring Robert to purchase bonds to the value of almost £10,000, with interest, ‘so that the plaintiffs could enjoy the mortgaged properties free of the accrued loans’ – that is, to provide alternative collateral to satisfy the demands of other creditors so Nagel et al could take possession of the mortgaged properties.

The later imprisonment of both Robert and his brother George in the Dublin Marshalsea in 1787 confirms that, even though he was not a member of the business syndicate, George Crowe had become embroiled in this ongoing financial drama, but at what stage is unclear.  They could have been imprisoned in the London Marshalsea when Nagel et al. obtained the court order in 1784, or it could have been earlier:

It is possible that Robert and George were both imprisoned as debtors if they had ‘joint and several’ business interests, or if George had entered into an agreement about the bonds with Robert to try and settle Robert’s debts.

There is an entry for George Crowe in the baptism register of  St George the Martyr parish.  It records the birth of William, son of George and Sarah Crowe, born in the parish workhouse on 22 July 1785 and William’s baptism on 7 August 1785.  Evidence presented in a later inheritance dispute (q.v.) supports the conclusion that this George Crowe was the brother of Robert Crowe of Nutfield and that the child’s mother was Sarah O’Brien.  Subsequent events in St. George the Martyr parish connect George Crowe’s descendants and others with that location and provide further evidence of William Crowe’s identity.

Robert and his younger brother George (1750-1808) were also involved in a dispute in the Irish courts with their Putland creditors.    As a consequence Robert and George were  confined to the Four Courts Marshalsea in Dublin in 1787 and 1788.

In July 1819 George’s third son James (1790-1844) initiated a case in the Ennis Spring Assizes claiming he was George’s eldest son and therefore the legitimate heir of his estate.  James was at that time a Lieutenant on half pay having been invalided out of the military in 1817.  His legal representative was Daniel O’Connell – a famous figure in modern Irish history sometimes known as ‘The Liberator’.  Despite being so well represented, the hearing lasted only one day and found in favour of Robert James Fleming Crowe (elsewhere Crowe Fleming), the eldest son of James Crowe’s only surviving child, Elizabeth (1760-1794) and her husband William Fleming (c. 1747-1795).

Three years later, Lieut. James Crowe successfully applied for a new trial on the grounds that he had several new witnesses and other additional evidence to present.  Because a small part of George Crowe’s estate was situated in the city of Limerick both parties agreed that the re-trial should be held in Dublin. The estate at issue was substantial and was said to produce an income of £3,000 per annum.  Surprisingly, Daniel O’Connell represented the opposition at the re-trial.  This created some controversy within the legal profession, prompting O’Connell to have a letter published in Freeman’s Journal arguing that, since he hadn’t been engaged by Lieutenant James Crowe, he saw no ethical impediment to representing the other side.

Evidence was given at the trial that while he was in the Dublin Marshalsea, George Crowe had a ‘servant maid’, Sarah O’Brien, ‘the daughter of a farmer residing in Loughlin’s Town’, who was accompanied by a child. The William Crowe born in the London Marshalsea would then have been about 2 years of age in 1787.  Having a servant while in debtors’ prison was not unusual.  Prisoners could enjoy fine food, comfortable furniture, and other luxuries if they or their families could afford them.  Along with these privileges, you might meet some of the ‘best’ people in debtors’ prison.  Fellow prisoners in 1787 and 1788 included Sir Ralph Gore and Rev Dr Hoskinson (father of Francis Hoskinson, Vice Provost of Trinity College, Dublin).

A key issue at the trial was whether George Crowe and Sarah O’Brien were a married couple recognised by civil law.  ‘One witness swore that Mrs Crowe had been married by a Catholic priest. . . This was not denied by the defence’.  The defence would have seen no reason to argue this point because, under the Statute of King George II (19 Geo. 2. C. 13), any marriage between a Popish (Catholic) adherent and a Protestant was null and void.  George had been baptised in a Protestant church, the Church of St Michael The Archangel, Dublin, on 8 March 1750 (Gregorian calendar), and there was no evidence he had later conformed to the Catholic faith.  We do not have evidence of Sarah O’Brien’s baptism, but we can safely assume she was Catholic.  So the question of Lieutenant James Crowe’s claim to be the eldest son of George and Sarah, and therefore the legitimate heir of his grandfather’s estate, was a moot point.

There is an entry in the marriage register of St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church, Dublin, of a marriage between George Crow and Mary (sic) O’Brien on 27 January 1787.

Extract from St Catherine's marriage register

Extract from St Catherine’s Roman Catholic marriage register, 1787. This image is published with permission of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

The date of the marriage entry is of particular significance.  The Putlands published a foreclosure notice in Freeman’s Journal in the issue for 25-27 January 1787.   The 27th January was the date on which Robert and George were confined to the Dublin Marshalsea. Three years later, their son James Crowe was baptised at St. Michan’s Roman Catholic Church, Dublin. His parents’ names shown there are George Crow and Sarah O’Brien.  Despite the discrepancy in the forename of the bride and the anglicised version of George’s surname, there can be little doubt that the marriage entry refers to George Crowe and Sarah O’Brien.

Sarah O’Brien died about five years after George was released from the Dublin Marshalsea:

An old woman (Bridget Rowan) deposed to having attended Mrs Crowe in her last moment when, from some hurt she received in a struggle with Crowe, to force her children from her, she died.  During the few days of her illness Mr Crowe attended her and paid her great attention – and to a question from Mrs Crowe acknowledged himself [to be] her lawful husband.

An entry from the burial register of St James’ Church of Ireland parish, Dublin was read to the court, stating that Mrs. Crowe died at Wood quay on 25 October, 1793 and was buried in the parish churchyard.

On 9 August of the following year George married Sarah Minchin – born c. 1758 so therefore about 36 years of age at the time of the marriage — by Special License at Frederick Street, Dublin.  She came from a wealthy landed family and was said to be ‘cousin-german [i.e. first cousin] to the late Lord Clare’.  Sarah was the youngest child of William Minchin (1725-1759), attorney of Greenhills, Co. Tipperary and Dublin, and Dorothea Grove (d. 1794) of Ballyhemock, Co. Cork.   Evidence was given that the O’Brien children were ‘placed in the family of a cottager in the Co. Wicklow’ soon after the marriage.  George Crowe and Sarah Minchin had only one child – Dorothea (c. 1794-1869).

According to the Minchin entry in Burke’s History of the Landed Gentry, George Crowe was killed in a duel in 1808 with a member of the Minchin family. Although George’s will has not survived, evidence from other sources confirms 1808 was the year of his death.  His death was in retribution for the killing of Charles Minchin of Annagh, Co. Tipperary in a duel with Thomas Crowe of Ennis in 1736.    Details of this incident have been elusive. It was not reported in any of the Irish newspaper or any in England – except, briefly in one local English newspaper, Jackson’s Oxford Journal, on 12 March 1808.  It reads:

Duel – Two gentlemen of College Green, Dublin, near relations, thought it expedient to settle a quarrel by a duel, on Saturday last.  The time chosen was about three or four o’clock in the afternoon of the day.   Nearly 400 people attended the shooting match, among whom happened to be one of the Sheriffs.

Although no names are mentioned, the report closely fits the known circumstances of the Crowe/Minchin duel. George was related to the above mentioned Thomas Crowe (either grandson or nephew) and Sarah Minchin was no doubt related to the Minchin duellist.

It is most surprising that any incident with 400 spectators in attendance at a prominent location – especially an incident as dramatic as a duel – would not be reported in the Irish press. College Green is a plaza in the centre of Dublin. On one side is the Bank of Ireland (it was the Irish House of Parliament up to legislative Union in 1801), and Trinity College on another.  The Minchins were a prominent and influential Anglo-Irish family who must have been able to have the story suppressed.  The information in the Oxford Journal presumably came from an informant in Ireland who had witnessed the duel and had connections with Oxford.

Who then could have been the Minchin involved in this duel?  It seems logical that the person was a direct descendant of the unfortunate Charles Minchin.  Through a process of elimination, the finger of suspicion falls on Falkiner Minchin of Annagh, County Tipperary, a grandson of Charles Minchin.  He was a Captain in the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot, and was aged 51 in 1808.  George Crowe was then aged 58.

Captain Minchin appears on the Army List and musters up to 30 December 1789.  On 31 March 1789 he is shown as ‘Prisoner’ but no details are given of the offence for which he was incarcerated.  In any case, he left the army after this period of confinement.  He subsequently experienced a number of family tragedies – his 1-year-old son Richard died in April 1806, his 3-year-old daughter Helena died in June, and his wife Maria (née Gabbett) died in April 1807.  It is understandable that his mental state could have been affected in 1808.  Falkiner Minchin died almost 20 years later.  The Limerick Chronicle wrote that he was ‘deservedly regretted by his most respectable family and connections’ and is eulogised as ‘an exemplary honest man, and the best of husbands and fathers’.

In 1809, the year after George Crowe’s death, both James Crowe and his younger brother Edward (c.1792-1838) joined the Clare Militia – Edward on 1 June and his elder brother James on 23 October.   Both left the Militia on 8 May 1810. James enlisted in the 37th Regiment of Foot, initially as a Private, promoted within a few days to the rank of Sergeant. His experience as a Volunteer in the Clare Militia may have assisted his rapid promotion.  He spent a few month recruiting in Ennis and other places in Ireland.  While serving overseas he transferred to 5th West India Regiment and was commissioned (without purchase) as an Ensign and ultimately promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.  Except for the officers, the 5th West India Regiment was composed entirely of men of African descent recruited mainly in Sierra Leone, as well as some freed slaves from the Caribbean.  Military Commissions were normally purchased, the amount required depending on the prestige of the regiment.  Clearly the 5th West India Regiment had little or no attraction for most potential officers in that era and thus purchase was not required.

Lieutenant James Crowe retired to Ireland on half-pay in 1817 after receiving unspecified injuries incurred ‘while serving on the banks of the Mississippi’ during the American War of 1812. It was then that he launched his first attempt to claim his father’s estate. Edward too joined the military after he left the Clare Militia although details of his military career were not found.

Two events mentioned above seem to have been especially fortuitous in helping the Crowe brothers to retain ownership of Nutfield and the other lands in Clare.   Robert Crowe’s marriage to Alicia Woulfe late in 1788 coincides with Robert and George’s release from the Dublin Marshalsea. It is likely that a dowry came with the marriage, making it possible to repay the Putlands and be released from the Marshalsea.  George’s marriage to Sarah Minchin was probably also accompanied by a dowry, some of which he might have made available to Robert to help keep the London bankers at bay.  Also helpful was the recovery on 26 November 1788 of £1,090, fifteen shillings and four pence from Hon. Thomas Barnewall, Lord Timblestown, owed by him to the estate of Robert and George’s late father James Crowe of which Robert and George were executors.

In that same year, Robert Crowe’s counsel submitted an appeal against a decree of foreclosure granted to the London consortium by the Court of Exchequer. Surprisingly, Robert then petitioned for the appeal to be withdrawn. Perhaps he did not want controversy to jeopardise his pending marriage to Miss Woulfe. However, the petition to withdraw was rejected and the hearing proceeded using the written arguments submitted earlier. The appeal was dismissed.

In May 1789 the Court of Exchequer ordered that a receiver be appointed to ‘receive the rents and profits of the lands in the pleadings mentioned’.   The amount outstanding at that time was £7,000. Robert refused to comply with the order. He was arrested by the bailiff on Sunday 31 January 1790, and released shortly afterwards on payment of a bond. On 3 July he appealed on the grounds that serving a writ on a Sunday was unconstitutional.  He was represented in this instance by the Attorney-General, Arthur Woulfe.  The Court was unpersuaded by Woulfe’s argument:

The orders of the Court of Exchequer have been resisted by the appellant, for the unwarranted purpose of defrauding the respondents, who are his creditors, of their just debt, and this appeal strikes me to be a mere effort on his part to baffle the process of a court of justice, and to continue the system of fraud upon the respondents which he has already practised with too much success.

The appeal was dismissed with exemplary costs.

How Robert managed to retain the Clare assets over the next few years is unclear.  However a clue is to be found in a Deed of Conveyance dated 17 October 1791 in which Patrick Keane of Nutfield agrees to rent 12 farms and lands, including Nutfield, for a yearly rent of £30 to Thomas Crowe and Hugh Brigdale, both of Ennis, County Clare.  Patrick Keane was Thomas Crowe’s brother-in-law, and Patrick’s wife Anne Crowe was a cousin of Robert Crowe.  Patrick Keane is effectively claiming ownership of Nutfield and these other properties.  He is then putting them further out of the reach of Robert Crowe’s creditors by moving them on to other people who Robert knows will be ‘safe hands’ until his financial difficulties are resolved.  Such strategies for avoiding creditors are sometimes used even today by wealthy individuals facing bankruptcy proceedings.

It is probable that the matter was finally resolved for Robert by a brief foray into politics. In 1797 he and Francis Knox were appointed to represent Philipstown (Daingean) in Kings County (Co. Offaly) in the Irish House of Commons under the patronage of Lord Belvidere (sic). Initially both Crowe and Knox opposed the Act of Union but in 1798 were persuaded to vacate their seats to make way for others who would vote in favour.   Sir John Barrington puts it more bluntly in asserting Robert Crowe and Francis Knox were ‘bribed’ to resign their seats. The British government used a range of inducements to Irish MPs to obtain a majority in favour of dissolving the Irish legislature and uniting with the British parliament.  Depending on their rank and political importance, Irish MPs were offered titles, lands and/or money.  It seems that Crowe and Knox too were offered an incentive, probably a monetary one given their relatively low status in the parliamentary context.

It seems they did not receive as much as they had expected. In a letter to Lord Belvidere dated 4 October 1799 Robert Crowe complained bitterly that Lords Belvidere and Cornwallis were not complying with the ‘splendid expectation’ previously agreed.  But it was too late now for Crowe and Knox to pull out of the agreement.  After withdrawing from political life, Robert lived a quiet retirement until his death at Church Street, Ennis, on 17 July 1817.

Of the four children born to George Crowe and Sarah O’Brien, Lieut. James Crowe was the only one who remained in Ireland. William, Michael George and Edward came to New South Wales as free settlers on the convict ship Earl Spencer in 1813 — the first two as Privates in the 73rd Regiment of Foot accompanied by their families, and Edward as a single man. Michael George and his family resided in New South Wales for just two years before sailing to India on the Cochin in 1815.   With the exception of their daughter Ann, the family remained in India and are buried in the Crowe family plot in Calcutta’s South Park Street Burial Ground.   Both William and Edward remained in New South Wales. William’s second son, also named James (1820-1889), established a substantial grazing property at Gobarralong in southern New South Wales. It seems this James was the beneficiary of an inheritance in the mid-1800s from his distant relative John Crowe (1805-1851) of Bindon Street, Ennis.   These Australian descendants of the Protestant gentry of Co. Clare multiplied and prospered and became one of the significant Catholic families in the early days of the Colony.