Peg Plunkett, also known as Margaret Leeson, was born in Co. Westmeath in 1797. Her mother gave birth to a total of 22 children, but only 8, including Peg, survived. After her mother's dead, Peg's father left her brother Christopher in charge of the family home. By all accounts, Christopher was an abusive man and it did not take long for Peg to leave Co. Westmeath for Dublin city. 

Not long after arriving in Dublin, Peg became pregnant. The father of the child continued to take care of them both, providing for them financially, until the child died. After this loss, he left Peg who was then taken into the care of a wine merchant. She had a number of spirited relationships and affairs. When she became involved with a married mad named Leeson, she went so far as to take his name, even though they were never married. This romance ended when Mr Leeson discovered that Peg had been unfaithful to him. She then had a relationship with a Mr Lawless, who was unable to control his jealousy when Peg was the recepient of compliments and looks from other men. The jealousy became too much for the couple and he left her, and Ireland, for good when he set sail for America. 

After losing her Mr Lawless, Peg established a brothel on Drogheda Street in Dublin city. She went into business with a courtesan named Sally Hayes. Their establishment was badly vandalised by the Pinking Dindies gang. Peg took the gang of wealthy men to court and won her case against them, using the money from the settlement to establish a new brothel on Wood Street. She later moved the business one more time to a building on Pitt Street. The site is now occupied by the Westbury Hotel. 

Peg was something of an "it girl" in her time. She was known in Dublin society for her ambitious fashion choices and her great sense of humour. She once famously dressed as Diana, the goddess of virgininty at a masquerade ball. She was brazen in her attitude to the class systems and had no shame in publicly humiliating members of the royal family. 

When Peg eventually decided to retire from her life in the brothel, she decided to call in the debt which her wealthy patrons had accrued over the years. When they refused to pay, Peg found herself in debtors' prison. As a means of generating funds for her release, and also as an exercise of her power, she decided to publish her memoirs. She named and shamed the gentlemen of Dublin society, publishing stories of their encounters in explicit detail. She published 2 volumes of memoirs, but sadly died in 1797 before completing the third volume. 


Additional Information
Date of Birth 1st Jan 1727 (circa)
Date of Death 17th May 1797 (circa)


  • I've no idea if we're related but being bold, brave, sassy, and most definitely rebellious seems to be a Plunkett genetic trait. :) I'm proud to share the same surname with a woman centuries ahead of her time, related or not! To have spent a few hours walking the city and listening to her stories would have been eye opening and life changing. Regardless of how one feels about her profession, I'm glad she's getting the recognition she deserves.

    JL Plunkett

    Thursday 15th December 2022 03:48PM

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