Place of migration
Stayed in Ireland

In the early 19th century, John Keogh Esq. of Mount Jerome, near Dublin was the proprietor of a number of townlands in the parish of Killukin, Boyle, County Roscommon. He was a wealthy merchant and well known campaigner for Catholic emancipation. He had an estate in counties Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim, managed by his agent, Francis O'Byrne.  By the time of the Griffith's valuation (1858) Thomas Keogh was the landlord in the townlands of Ballindrehid (51 acres), Ballyculleen (175 acres), Deerpark (69 acres), Drumercool (163 acres), Lodge (203 acres), Mullaghmore (180 acres), Rock (25 acres) and Tawlaght (84 acres) in the Parish of Killukin.  

From 'A Compedium of Irish Biography'  

Keogh, John, the prominent Catholic leader, a Dublin merchant, was born in 1740. In his own words, he "devoted near thirty years of his life for the purpose of breaking the chains of his countrymen;" and his mansion at Mount Jerome was long the rallying point for discussion and organization upon all questions relating to Emancipation. Although he did not involve himself in the revolutionary plots of the United Irishmen, he was the ardent friend and confidant of many of them. Tone thus writes: "I can scarcely promise myself ever to see him again, and I can sincerely say that one of the greatest pleasures which I anticipated in case of our success was the society of Mount Jerome, where I have spent many happy days, and some of them serviceable to the country. It was there that he and I used to frame our papers and manifestoes. It was there we drew up the petition and vindication of the Catholics which produced such powerful effects both in England and Ireland."

Henry Grattan, Junior, says: "He was the ablest man of the Catholic body; he had a powerful understanding, and few men of that class were superior in intellect, or even equal to him. His mind was strong and his head was clear; he possessed judgment and discretion, and had the art to unite and bring men forward on a hazardous enterprise, and at a critical moment. He did more for the Roman Catholics than any other individual of that body. To his exertions the meeting of the Convention [held at the Tailors' Hall, Back-lane, 2nd December 1792] was principally owing, and their success in procuring the elective franchise. He had the merit of raising a party, and bringing out the Catholic people. Before his time they were nothing; their bishops were servile, and Dr. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin, though an excellent man, was under the influence of the Castle... At the outset of life he [Keogh] had been in business, and began as an humble tradesman. He contrived to get into the Catholic Committee, and instantly formed a plan to destroy the aristocratic part, and introduce the democratic. He wrote, he published, he harangued, and strove to kindle some spirit among the people... When Keogh went to London [as a delegate of the Catholics in 1792] he was introduced to Mr. Burke, who liked him, and said that he possessed parts that were certain to raise him in the world. The account of that mission afforded Mr. Burke and Mr. Grattan much amusement — seeing Keogh and the other delegates on their journey to London, admitted to the first court in Europe, going in great state, and making a splendid appearance... He was highly delighted with his position, looked very grand and very vain — he seemed to soar above all those he had left in Ireland. But when he returned home he had too much good sense to preserve his grandeur; he laid aside his court wig and his court manner, and only retained his Irish feelings."[154]

The Act of 33 George III. c. 21, passed mainly through his instrumentality and that of the committee emanating from the Catholic Convention of 2nd December 1792, enabled Catholics to vote for members of Parliament; admitted them to the outer Bar; enabled them to vote for municipal officers; permitted them to carry arms, provided they possessed a certain freehold and personal estate, and took oaths, neither of which were necessary for Protestants; allowed them to serve on juries; admitted them, under certain restrictions, to hold military and naval commissions, some of the higher grades being excepted. Most of these privileges were subject to the taking a humiliating oath; and the term "Papist or Roman Catholic" was used all through the Act. The Bill (given in full in Mitchel's History of Ireland) received the royal assent on 9th April 1793. A clause admitting Catholics to sit in Parliament was defeated by 136 to 69. The passage of this Act was, however, followed by the Convention Act (33 George III. c. 29), passed on 29th September, by 128 to 27, which has ever since prevented the holding in Ireland of assemblies such as those of Dungannon, the Rotunda, and the Catholic Convention. John Keogh died in Dublin, 13th November 1817, aged 77, and was buried in St. Kevin's churchyard, under a stone he had erected to his father and mother; and where eight years later his wife was laid.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Keogh, John (1740–1817), campaigner for Roman Catholic rights, was born in humble circumstances to Cornelius Keogh (1708–1774), labourer, and Abigail Keogh (1711–1779) in Dublin. He made his fortune in silk and brewing in Dublin, and from the lease and purchase of land. In addition to his home at Mount Jerome, Harold's Cross, co. Dublin, he acquired property in counties Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon which, with investments, reputedly guaranteed him an annual income of between £5000 and £6000 in the late 1790s. He was a proud man, who ‘boasted of his Milesian ancestry’ (Wall, 164), and his economic achievements served to highlight how unjust it was that Catholics in Ireland had to live their lives under the shadow of the penal laws. He successfully stood for election to the Catholic committee for Enniscorthy in January 1781, and he subsequently represented St Andrew's parish, Dublin, and co. Leitrim. He attended few meetings in 1781 and 1782, but he voted with the majority on 11 November 1783 when the committee controversially asserted that it was the voice of Irish Catholics and effectively invited the volunteer grand national convention to include Catholic enfranchisement in its plan of reform. This did not come to pass, but in 1784 Keogh and a small number of Catholic activists supported the alliance of Dublin and Ulster radicals who advocated a plan of parliamentary reform that promised limited Catholic enfranchisement. This was not popular with the mainstream Catholic leadership, but the committee was able to avoid a split.

The Catholic committee was largely inactive until the election in 1790 of a new committee, in which Keogh was to the fore, energized its ranks. Early in 1791 the committee determined to press actively for the repeal of the remaining penal laws but, on meeting with stiff resistance from the Irish administration, Keogh was authorized to travel to England to lay Catholic grievances before ministers. After three months he returned with a favourable answer, but the prospects of relief were undermined by the secession in December 1791 of Lord Kenmare and his conservative allies, following their failure to convince the committee to leave Catholic relief to Dublin Castle. However, instead of acquiescing in the refusal of the Irish parliament in 1792 to respond sympathetically, Keogh intensified the campaign. He drew on his extensive financial resources, on Wolfe Tone who was recruited as secretary to the committee, and on his own formidable determination, and a Catholic convention was assembled in Dublin on 3 December 1792. Guided by Keogh the convention appointed a deputation, of which he was a member, to present to the king a statement of the grievances under which the Catholics of Ireland laboured. The deputation was favourably received, and the Relief Act of 1793, which gave Catholics the vote, followed directly.

The 1793 Relief Act was the great triumph of Keogh's life, though he did not escape criticism because of his refusal to hold out for full emancipation, his failure to divulge all the details of his dealings with British politicians, and his agreement to dissolve the Catholic committee. He was tempted to take a more radical stand when Catholic expectations of emancipation were dashed by the precipitate recall of the lord lieutenant, Earl Fitzwilliam, in 1795. The subsequent Catholic delegation to London, of which Keogh was a member, was accorded a frosty response. As his membership of the United Irishmen in the early 1790s attests, Keogh shared at least some of their aims, and he may have become an active United Irishman for a time in the mid-1790s. However, his instinct for self-preservation was stronger than his desire for political change. He was arrested and his house searched on a number of occasions, but he kept radicalism at a sufficient distance to safeguard himself against prosecution. With the reanimation of Catholic politics in the aftermath of the Union, his renowned vanity allowed him to be tempted back into the limelight. He participated in the discussions of the merits of presenting a Catholic petition in 1804–5, but was uneasy at what he perceived as the élitism of the organizers and withdrew. He subsequently relented, but by 1810 he was soon eclipsed by younger men, such as Daniel O'Connell, who were not prepared to be guided by him.

Keogh died on 13 November 1817 at Mount Jerome, and was buried beside his parents in St Kevin's churchyard in Dublin. Six years later his wife, Mary Keogh (1757–1823), died and was laid in the same spot.


See "John Keogh, the pioneer of Catholic Emancipation" by Denis Gwynn  [Pub:Talbot Press: Dublin & Cork, 1930].

See also


73. Catholic Association of Ireland: Thomas Wyse. 2 vols. London, 1829.

154. Grattan Henry, his Life and Times: Henry Grattan. 5 vols. London, 1839-'46.

173. Ireland, History of, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time. John Mitchel. 2 vols. Dublin, 1869.

173a. Ireland, History of, from the Union to October 1811: Francis Plowden. 3 vols. Dublin, 1813.

323b. Tomb Stones and Monuments.

331. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 4 vols. London, 1858-'60.

Additional Information
Date of Birth 1st Jan 1740 VIEW SOURCE
Date of Death 13th Nov 1817 VIEW SOURCE
Associated Building (s) St Kevins Churchyard  

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