28 September 2020

How the Tierney brothers
from Rathkeale became
part of Regency court life

Liscarroll Castle, Co Cork … passed briefly in the 19th century with the Perceval estates to the Tierney family from Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

The fortunes of the Perceval family and the Tierney family became entwined in the Regency period, and following last Friday’s visit to Liscarroll Castle I came across the story of how the vast Perceval estates in north Cork almost passed to the Tierney family who had more humble origins in Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

On the death of George III, on 29 January 1820, the heir to the throne, the Prince Regent, lay seriously ill and his doctors had little hope of his recovery. On the evening of 2 February, his condition suddenly became critical and he was attended by a young doctor from Rathkeale, Matthew Tierney (1776-1845), who had arrived in London from Brighton. George IV recovered and Dr Tierney was credited with saving his life.

Matthew Tierney and his brother Edward (1780–1856) were the sons of John Tierney of Ballyscanlan, near Rathkeale, Co Limerick, a small farmer and weaver, and his wife Mary, daughter of James Gleeson. Matthew was born on 24 November 1776 and Edward was born in June 1780.

As boys, they received a modest education at a local hedge school, and Matthew was apprenticed to a local pharmacist in Rathkeale.

He left for London, swearing never to return to Rathkeale, and found a position as a pharmacist’s assistant. There he attended evening classes at Guy’s Hospital and at Saint Thomas’s Hospital, Southwark studying under Dr Saunders and Dr Babington.

Matthew Tierney became a great friend of Dr Edward Jenner, who had pioneered the vaccine against smallpox. Through Jenner’s influence, Tierney was admitted to study medicine at Glasgow University.

Tierney graduated in medicine in Glasgow in 1802, having selected cowpock as his inaugural essay. In the summer of 1802 he set up his own medical practice in Brighton, where he contributed materially to the formation of a vaccine institution in that town – the first that was established outside London – and he was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1806.

At Brighton, Tierney was introduced by his patron, Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkeley, to the Prince Regent and future King George IV, who soon appointed him physician to his household in Brighton. He was appointed physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales in 1809, and in 1816 he became physician in ordinary to the Prince Regent.

While Tierney was in practise in Brighton, he was credited with saving the life of the Prince Regent. His fame spread, his practice grew, he was much in favour at court, and he was made a baronet on 3 October 1818, with the title of Sir Matthew Tierney and with the designation ‘of Brighthelmstone and of Dover Street.’

Following the accession of King George IV, he was gazetted physician in ordinary to the king, and he continued in the same office with King William IV, who in 1831 made him a knight commander of the Royal Guelphic Order of Hanover.

Meanwhile, Sir Matthew had no sons to succeed to the title of baronet he had received in 1818. He was made a baronet yet again on 5 May 1834, with the same designation but with a provision this time that the title could be inherited by his brother and his brother’s descendants.

Tierney published his Observations on Variola Vaccina, or Cow Pock in 1840.

He died at his residence on the Pavilion Parade, Brighton, on 28 October 1845 and was buried in his family vault at Saint Nicholas’s Rest Garden.

Meanwhile, his brother Edward Tierney, who was born in Limerick in June 1780, was apprenticed to a solicitor in Limerick, was admitted to King’s Inns in 1798, and and was called to the bar ca 1806. When his mother died on 2 February 1809, he was living at 2 Catherine Street, Limerick.

He practised as a solicitor in Dublin and kept in touch with his brother in England.

Sir Matthew Tierney married Harriet Mary Jones, daughter of Henry Jones of Bloomsbury Square, London, in 1808 and in 1812 Edward married her sister, Anna Maria Jones, in Saint George’s Church, Hanover Square, London. By then, Edward Tierney was living in a large house at 48 Thomas Street, Limerick. Each bride had a fortune of more than £20,000.

Sir Matthew’s influence with the King procured for his brother, Edward, the appointment of Crown Solicitor for Ulster with a salary of £10,000 a year. Edward visited his brother on several occasions and in court circles in London and Brighton he was introduced to Bridget Wynn, daughter of Glyn Wynn and Countess of Egmont, the beautiful wife of John Perceval, 4th Earl of Egmont.

When Edward Tierney’s first son was born, Lady Egmont and her son Henry were his sponsors, and he was named Perceval Tierney. Lord Egmont appointed Edward Tierney as his agent at his Irish estates in 1823, including Liscarroll Castle and thousands of acres around Churchtown, Kanturk and Buttevant in north Cork.

Tierney was an able manager and he transformed the estate with great improvements.

John, 4th Earl of Egmont died on 31 December 1835 and was succeeded by his only son, Henry, who was godfather to Edward Tierney’s first son. Henry Perceval (1796-1841), 5th Earl of Egmont, was known for his drunkenness and loose living. He had no heir and when he died in 1841, he left all his estates in England and Ireland to his agent, Edward Tierney, while the family titles passed to his distant cousin, George Perceval (1794-1874), 3rd Lord Arden, who became 6th Earl of Egmont without receiving one penny from his ancestral estates.

Sir Edward Tierney succeeded to his brother’s second title in 1845, and died on 4 June 1856 at the age of 76. The title of baronet passed to his son, Sir Matthew Edward Tierney (1818-1860), as third baronet, but he left his estates to his son-in-law, the Revd Sir Lionel Darell (1817-1883).

The sixth earl went to court against Darrell to recover the estates in a remarkable case before the Summer Assizes at Cork in 1863. After four days, the case was settled. Egmont recovered Liscarroll Castle and his and his ancestral estates, but Darell was awarded £125,000 and costs.

Egmont died on 2 August 1874 and was succeeded by his nephew, Charles George Perceval (1845-1897), 7th Earl of Egmont, who sold the Perceval estates in Co Cork, totalling 62,500 acres, to the tenants under the Ashbourne Land Act in 1895.

Sir Matthew Tierney (1776-1845) and his brother Sir Edward Tierney (1780–1856) were born in Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘These things do I remember
and my heart is grieved! How the
arrogant have devoured our people!’

Day of Atonement (ca 1907) by Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a day a fasting and prayer, when Jews ask for forgiveness for their sins over the past year as well as being a time for reflection and thinking of others.

Yom Kippur officially started with Kol Nidre at sundown last night, and ends at sundown this evening (28 September). Yom Kippur concludes the Ten Days of Awe, which began on Rosh Hashanah.

The greetings exchanged during Yom Kippur include גמר חתימה טובה (G’mar Hatimah Tovah), ‘May you be sealed for a good year [in the Book of Life]’, or צוֹם קַל (Tzom Kal), ‘Have an easy fast.’

Rabbi Dovid Rosenfield says, ‘Yom Kippur is not about personal resolutions and private reflection. It is about standing up and talking to God. It is about apologising, about re-establishing our connection with our Creator. We must tell God who we are, where we are holding in life, and what we know needs improvement.’

This is a day of repentance, fasting and solemn reflection, and its liturgy includes a tribute to ancient sages who died under Roman rule. Many people mark Yom Kippur with a recitation of the martyrdom of 10 ancient Jewish sages. In recent decades, similar liturgies and poems have been written to commemorate victims of pogroms in Europe and of the Holocaust.

Many synagogues in the US today will also be commemorating 11 new martyrs, who were murdered two years ago on Yom Kippur, 27 October 2018, when a gunman killed 11 worshipers from three congregations as they gathered for worship and Torah study at the Tree of Life or Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.

They were from three congregations — Dor Hadash, New Light and Tree of Life. Some were saying a prayer of thanksgiving and praise known as the Kaddish d’Rabbanan, others were opening the siddur or prayer book.

It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, and in the weeks before the US presidential election it remains a reminder of how racism and anti-semitism have seen exponential increases in Trump’s America.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, of New Light Congregation, who survived the Pittsburgh attack, paid tribute to the 11 murdered victims by writing a new poem last year, ‘Eileh Ezkarah for Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Perlman wrote the poem in Hebrew and in English, with help from other rabbis and Hebrew experts, Tamar Elad-Applebaum, Martin Cohen and Tovi Admon. The Hebrew title comes from the opening words, ‘These things do I remember’:

These things do I remember and my heart is grieved!
How the arrogant have devoured our people!
Who would believe that in our day there would be no intervention
For the eleven slaughtered from our holy community?

What occurred in our Holy Sanctuary that day
As the enemy came to tread upon our holy space
His wielding sword to break apart our memories from that place
The sanctified recalled a few that remained —

Among some their faces turned to one another before ‘Kaddish d’Rabbanan’
Among some their faces turned toward the door to welcome new faces
Among some they quickly assisted their friends in finding
their place in the Siddur
Among some those engaged in Torah Study
And among some who were in the kitchen preparing the next meal.

And to the eleven, God spoke in a whisper
‘The time has arrived to sanctify My Name in public ...’
For in the future their children and congregations would remember
That we are Sanctifiers of Life who come to live.
We buried our bodies
And upon them we wept
And even so, this did not break us.

As long as this breath is within us
We ponder the world you created for us
And evening and morning, each and every day,
We gather and we cry out as one:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.