Curran, John Philpot

John Philpot Curran (1750-1817) was an Irish politician of considerable note between 1790 and 1820. Originally from County Cork, he studied under Nathaniel Boyse, rector at Newmarket, in preparation of a career in the church. He entered Trintity College, Dublin, in June 1767. Upon graduation in 1771, he gave up on the Church and pursued law, entering the Middle Temple, London, in the summer of 1773. He worked hard to overcome his stuttering by attending various debating societies, though he devoted most of his time in London to reading. He finished his work there and in the summer of 1774 returned to Ireland, where he married Sarah Creagh (c. 1750-1844) of Newmarket. He was an advocate of Whig politics at that time, but kept his focus on his family and the law, becoming a member of the Irish bar in 1775. He found success and produced an adequate income for his family, becoming a member of the King’s Counsel in 1782. Previously, in 1779 he had joined the society of the Monks of the Order of St Patrick, along with Henry Grattan. He became an Irish MP in 1783, advocating in the mid-1780s for parliamentary reform. In 1790 he purchased Holly Park, at Rathfarnham, near Dublin, nicknaming it The Priory, remaining there the rest of his life. In 1789 he joined with Grattan in founding the Irish Whig Club, seeking parliamentary reform with renewed vigor and supporting Catholic Relief and emancipation, especially in the wake of the French Revolution, which he strongly supported. As politics drew more contentious, he did not seek reelection in 1797. He served as the lead counsel for the leaders of the United Irishmen in their trial in July 1798, though the verdicts were not rendered in his favor. Among the reformers, however, his defence earned him much acclaim, though he denied he was ever a member of the United Irishmen. Curran reentered the Irish House of Commons in May 1800 for Banagher, in opposition to the proposed Act of Union, though he would lose that issue, causing him to reduce his political activities in favor of legal ones. However, domestic issues were prominent with him as well, for his wife’s infidelity came to light in 1795, with some partially blaming Curran for her problems. His daughter also had an affair of some sort with Robert Emmet, causing Curran further embarrassment. After a stint as Master of the Rolls and a failed attempt at becoming an MP in Westminster in 1812, Curran retired, his health now in decline. He died at his London home in 1817, famous mostly thereafter for his defence of the United Irishmen.