O'GRADY, Standish (1792-1848), of Mount Prospect, co. Limerick.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1820 - 1826
2 Feb. 1830 - 3 May 1830
1830 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 26 Dec. 1792, 1st s. of Standish O’Grady (later 1st Visct. Guillamore [I]), c.b. exch. [I], of Cahirguillamore and Rockbarton and Katherine, da. of John Thomas Waller of Castletown. educ. Westminster by 1809; Trinity, Dublin 1809. m. 16 Oct. 1828, Gertrude Jane, da. of Hon. Berkeley Paget*, 6s. 4da. suc. fa. as 2nd Visct. Guillamore [I] 21 Apr. 1840. d. 22 July 1848.

Offices Held

Ensign 7 Drag. 1811, lt. 1812, capt. 1815, half-pay 1816; capt. 18 Drag. 1819, half-pay 1821; maj. (half-pay) 1825; maj. 24 Ft. 1827; lt.-col. (half-pay) 1829, col. 1842; a.d.c. to Victoria 1842-d.


O’Grady, whose ancient Irish family had long been resident in county Limerick, was the son and namesake of a Dublin barrister of wit, diligence and superiority, who was called in 1787 and, having come to the attention of his neighbour Lord Clare, the Irish lord chancellor, became a king’s counsel ten years later. In early 1803 he was considered a possibility for the vacant Irish attorney-generalship and Clare’s successor Lord Redesdale wrote to Addington, the prime minister, that he, ‘five or six years hence, would be the man you would wish to place in the post, but [he] has not yet the years, the experience or the weight of character one would wish to find for such an office’. Nevertheless, and despite not being in Parliament, he was chosen and duly led the state prosecutions of Emmet and his fellow rebels that year. In 1805 he succeeded Viscount Avonmore as chief baron of the Irish exchequer and he held this senior judgeship for the following 25 years.1

O’Grady attended Trinity College, Dublin, like his father, but entered the army and served in the last stages of the Napoleonic Wars. He distinguished himself leading the rear troop of the 7th Hussars in their retreat, under constant attack by French lancers, to Genappe, 17 June 1815, when he was warmly praised by his commanding officer Lord Uxbridge†, who was shortly to be created marquess of Anglesey. He fought at Waterloo the following day, afterwards writing to his father that ‘the 7th had an opportunity of showing what they could do if they got fair play. We charged 12 or 14 times, and once cut off a squadron of cuirassiers’.2 He obtained his captaincy on 20 July and, of course, received a Waterloo medal, but he joined the half-pay list in May 1816. This was apparently because his father, who had already clashed with Clare’s family on electoral matters, wished him to stand for county Limerick at the next opportunity.3 In September 1817 O’Grady senior recorded that ‘we have been on the alert and since my return from circuit Standish has registered near 400 new freeholders which must make some sensation in his favour’, and that December he purchased much of Lord Courtenay’s vast estates.4 O’Grady junior duly offered at the general election of 1818, when it was considered curious that he should oppose Richard Fitzgibbon*, whose late father, Clare, had done so much to advance his own father’s career, and that the chief baron should act inappropriately by voting, as a non-resident freeman, for his son-in-law John Vereker* in the city contest. He claimed to be standing on the supposedly independent principles of his uncle John Waller, who had sat for the county, 1790-1802, but trailed throughout the week-long poll, after which he promised to renew the attempt.5 He did not petition, but the parliamentary proceedings which ended in the disgrace of Fitzgibbon’s colleague Windham Henry Wyndham Quin gave him the chance to stand again at the general election of 1820.6 Illness prevented him canvassing and Charles Grant*, the Irish secretary in the Liverpool administration, called him ‘a decided oppositionist’, so he had to suffer another severe contest, during which his brother Waller O’Grady, a barrister, joined him as a candidate. However, he was elected in second place, behind Fitzgibbon, and claimed his victory as a triumph for the independents.7

He voted for Hume’s motion on the civil list, 3 May, against the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May, the aliens bill, 1 June, and for economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. The following day he wrote to Henry Grattan II* to explain that he had not hurried on the Dublin writ following his father’s death the previous month.8 He divided against omitting Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 23 Jan. 1821. He echoed his colleague’s call for the relief of agricultural distress in their county, 19 Feb., and several times that session sided with opposition in favour of reduced expenditure, including on what he called superfluous or unnecessary items in the army estimates, 30 Mar., 6, 30 Apr., 2 May.9 He voted for Catholic claims, 28 Feb., and on 2 Apr. denied that the Catholic priests’ petition from Limerick against securities was representative of Irish opinion. He divided to repeal the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Acts, 8 May, and to reform the Scottish county representation, 10 May. Evidently prepared to defend the charges levelled against the chief baron in the 9th report of the commissioners of inquiry into the Irish courts of justice, 14, 18 June, he made what Henry Grey Bennet* called ‘a good speech’, albeit that he became somewhat emotional, in vindicating his father from the accusations of charging excessive fees which were raised by Thomas Spring Rice, the Limerick Member, 22 June.10 He ‘cheerfully acquiesced’ in the appointment of a select committee on this, to which he was named, 26 June, but called for further inquiry to clear his father’s name on the presentation of its report, 3 July.11 Leaving the 18th Dragoons, which he had joined two years earlier, he again became a half-pay officer in November 1821.

Perhaps because of the delicate position in which his father was placed by the continuing parliamentary inquiry into his conduct as a judge, O’Grady apparently showed a greater tendency to back ministers in the following two sessions. Speaking from experience, having been involved in attempts to suppress violent unrest in his county, he spoke at length for the Irish insurrection bill, 7 Feb. 1822, although he did hint that day that he would support conciliatory measures and on 4 Mar. he complained that two regiments had been disbanded at Limerick at the height of the disturbances. He divided against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., although he voted to reduce the number of junior lords of the admiralty, 1 Mar. He was named to the select committees on Irish grand jury presentments and Limerick taxation, 23 May. He backed the Irish tithes leasing bill, despite what he saw as its inadequacies, 13 June, but voted for inquiry into tithes on the 19th. The chief baron’s case was put off for that session, 4 July 1822, and it may have been over this that O’Grady apparently fought a duel with James Grattan* early that month.12 He secured a congratulatory address to the lord lieutenant Lord Wellesley at the Limerick county meeting, 6 Jan. 1823, when he was praised for his pro-Catholic stance.13 He divided to take off £2,000,000 of taxes, 3 Mar., but against abolishing the tax on houses under £5, 10 Mar., and the assessed taxes, 18 Mar. He voted for repealing the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and to recommit the silk manufacture bill, 9 June, but against inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. He presented and endorsed the Limerick corporation’s petition against Rice’s bill to regulate the borough, 6 May 1823.14

Rice having again raised the allegations against the chief baron, 12 Feb., O’Grady was appointed on 19 Mar. to another select committee on this, which reported, 16 May 1823.15 With government reluctant to pronounce on the matter, O’Grady agreed to have it postponed, provided this would not detract from his father’s reputation, 13 June, and delivered a substantial speech in justification of his father’s conduct, 17 June, when he claimed that the judge had only been concerned to bring order into the proceedings of his court, had been acting on established legal usage and had merely transgressed, if at all, in the most trivial of cases. His candid declaration of his belief in his father’s innocence was greeted with cheers, and Rice, who attempted to have the chief baron summoned to give evidence, was hindered in his attempt to secure a series of censure motions that day and 2, 3, 8 July. O’Grady, who otherwise confined himself to making minor observations, insisted that the matter should be settled that session, 9 July 1823, when (if he voted at all) he was presumably in the majority of 38 (to 16) for Scarlett’s resolution that, as exchequer fees had recently been abolished, no further proceedings should be taken against the chief baron.16 The affair nearly led to a duel between Waller O’Grady and Rice early the following year. Referring to the reprehensible ‘fee increasing system’ still existing in Ireland, Daniel O’Connell* later condemned O’Grady senior, whom he thought to be entering his dotage, for being ‘distinctly convicted of it by a parliamentary commission [although] the honourable House did of course deal leniently with him’.17

No evidence of parliamentary activity by O’Grady has been traced during the 1824 session. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 25 Feb., and praised the zeal of Limerick magistrates in ending outrages there, 22 Feb. 1825.18 He voted for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and argued for the disfranchisement of the Irish 40s. freeholders in order to give proper weight to the more substantial landowners, 9 May. He sided with ministers for the grant to the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, 6 June. Somewhat inaccurately, one contemporary source wrote of him that year that he ‘attended frequently, and voted in general with the opposition; talks a good deal’.19 During electoral speculation that autumn, when he became a major, he was considered vulnerable to a challenger, Thomas Lloyd*; O’Grady senior applied to Goulburn, the Irish secretary, for government support, but O’Connell gleefully remarked that his son’s impending defeat was widely welcomed because it was ‘terrific to think how the chief baron made the court of exchequer subservient to his county electioneering purposes’.20 He did not sign the requisition for the abortive pro-Catholic county meeting in October 1825, declined to attend the O’Connellite dinner to the friends of civil and religious liberty in Dublin, 2 Feb., and unsuccessfully opposed the petition against the suppression of small Irish bank notes at a county Limerick meeting in April 1826.21 He does not seem to have been present at Westminster that year.

His vote to suppress the Catholic Association and his failure to attend the Catholics’ provincial meeting in Limerick in October 1825 partly accounted for his unpopularity at the general election of 1826, when he offered on the basis of his parliamentary conduct and stressed that he supported Catholic relief, but was suspected of being ‘illiberal’. He trailed behind Fitzgibbon and Lloyd throughout the ensuing contest and protested that his defeat was caused by the aristocratic interests arrayed against him.22 A petition was lodged on his behalf, but the committee found against him the following year. His name was first in the list of three local gentlemen forwarded to the Castle that autumn, yet he was passed over for the office of sheriff of county Limerick in early 1827. This was probably because he had joined the 24th Foot, which was garrisoned at Limerick, at the beginning of February.23 Unlike Lord Norbury, the decrepit Irish chief justice of common pleas, who received an earldom, O’Grady senior failed in his bid to profit from the legal arrangements entailed by the appointment of Canning’s administration that year; Wellesley reported to the new premier, 12 June 1827, that their negotiation was at an end because the chief baron was ‘unwilling to resign until a peerage could actually be conferred upon him, and also until some very extensive pecuniary demands of his lordship on the government could be adjusted’.24 Late the following year O’Grady married Gertrude Paget, whose father had once served in the 7th Dragoons and had only recently left the Commons and the treasury board. Her uncle was Anglesey, the new lord lieutenant, who thought O’Grady ‘a sharp, useful fellow’.25 He returned to the half-pay list, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in April 1829.

On the death of Lloyd in December 1829 O’Grady offered again as an independent for county Limerick, with the significant endorsement of O’Connell, and fought a severe contest against an aristocratic interloper from Tipperary, James Hewitt Massy Dawson*.26 O’Grady, who was grateful for the backing of Anglesey, though the latter was not viceroy at this time, faced the tacit opposition of the Wellington government and what he described as the ‘banded lords’ of the county on the hustings, 25 Jan. 1830, when he expressed his approval of emancipation and his displeasure at the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders. Despite being ill, he was active during the five-day poll, which he headed by 215 votes, many of which were from tenants who deserted their landlords in his favour.27 His near namesake and, presumably, close relation, Standish Stamer O’Grady, a young barrister, was killed in a duel early that year.28 He took his seat, 2 Mar., and his only major speech that session was in arguing for Irish proprietors to live and spend on their estates as a means of improving the condition of the poor, 9 Mar. He sided with opposition in its renewed campaign for economies, 22, 25, 26 Mar., and voted for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., and to condemn the affair at Terceira, 28 Apr. Massy Dawson’s petition had alleged violence and intimidation by O’Grady’s supporters, but it was the complaint that his Catholic voters had not been properly qualified that led to him being unseated, 3 May 1830. He subsequently issued a defiant address to the county and forced a guarded private apology from Lord Francis Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, for the Irish administration’s having been forced to act publicly against him.29

Perhaps sensing his electoral weakness, Massy Dawson eventually withdrew before the general election of 1830, so allowing O’Grady to be returned unopposed.30 He was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, among the ‘bad doubtfuls’ and ‘opposition’ was annotated against his name. He spoke against repeal of the Union, 9, 19 Nov., 11 Dec., but voted for O’Connell’s motion to repeal the Irish Subletting Act, 11 Nov. Having left the chamber to dine, he was shut out of the division on the civil list, which precipitated Wellington’s resignation, 15 Nov. He defended the Irish church establishment, 18 Nov., the quality of the Irish magistracy, 15 Dec., and his father’s record as a judge, 20 Dec. 1830. Although said to be back ‘at his tricks’, the chief baron retired that month at the request of Anglesey, the reinstated lord lieutenant, and was granted his much coveted Irish peerage, 28 Jan. 1831.31 O’Grady voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. As no one else started, he was again returned unopposed with Fitzgibbon at the ensuing general election, when he clarified that he had been in opposition during the previous decade but now supported the ministerial programme of peace, retrenchment and reform. He was foreman of the grand jury for the Limerick special commission on agrarian rioting late that spring, but was back in London by mid-June 1831.32

He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, at least twice against adjourning proceedings on it on the 12th and steadily for its details. He divided for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug., but for the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., and with government in both divisions on the Dublin election, 23 Aug. He objected to the new Irish lord lieutenants being given the power to appoint county clerks of the peace and urged the creation of an Irish commission of works, 15 Aug. He advocated the introduction of a system of poor laws to Ireland, but declined to support Sadler’s resolution on this as inadequate, 29 Aug. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. Reckoned to be a liberal Member and a tolerably good speaker, his poor attendance record was criticized by the radical William Carpenter that year.33 He evidently missed much of the following session, as he was absent from the second, 17 Dec. 1831, and third readings of the revised reform bill, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, although he is known to have paired for the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. However, he voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May 1832, and commented on the qualification of freeholders in counties, 6 July, and the right of election at Trinity College, 9 July. His only other known vote was with government for the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July.

In August 1832 he wrote to one constituent that illness had kept him from the House, but that he hoped to present and endorse the Fedamore petition against Irish tithes before the end of the session (which, he apparently failed to do).34 In November Lord Dunraven, as Wyndham Quin had become, commented that ‘I have no desire to see Col. O’Grady unseated - I have already punished his pocket ever too severely for the run he made to throw me out in 1818’, and, despite an O’Connellite challenge, he was again returned for his county as a Liberal at the general election in December 1832.35 He left the Commons two years later and, having inherited his father’s title and estates in 1840, was appointed one of Queen Victoria’s aides-de-camp in 1842. He died in July 1848, when he was succeeded as third Viscount Guillamore by his eldest son Standish (1832-60), a naval officer, three of whose brothers later came into the peerage.36

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


CP, vi. 219 gives him the middle name ‘Darby’, which was a common one in the family.

  • 1. Later Corresp. Geo. III, iv. 2746, 2748; F.E. Ball, Judges in Ireland, ii. 244, 248-9, 336; Oxford DNB.
  • 2. H.T. Siborne, Hist. War in France and Belgium, 166-7; H.T. Siborne, Waterloo Letters, 130-6; Mq. of Anglesey, One-Leg, 130; DNB.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 667-8.
  • 4. Scully Pprs. ed. B. MacDermot, 583; The Times, 25 Dec. 1817.
  • 5. General Advertiser and Limerick Gazette, 16 June, 3, 7, 10, 14 July; Dublin Evening Post, 23 June, 9, 11 July 1818.
  • 6. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 668.
  • 7. Add. 38458, f. 298; General Advertiser, 15, 29 Feb., 21, 24, 28, 31 Mar., 4, 7 Apr. 1820.
  • 8. NLI, Grattan mss 27805.
  • 9. The Times, 20 Feb., 7 Apr. 1821.
  • 10. Ibid. 15, 19 June 1821; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 101.
  • 11. The Times, 4 July 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 475-6, 499; PP (1821), viii. 465-86.
  • 12. The Times, 6 July 1822.
  • 13. Dublin Evening Post, 11 Jan. 1823.
  • 14. The Times, 7 May 1823.
  • 15. PP (1823), vi. 1-10.
  • 16. CJ, lxxviii. 393, 402, 448, 451, 467, 470.
  • 17. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1092, 1095; viii. 3407, 3433.
  • 18. The Times, 23 Feb. 1825.
  • 19. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 478.
  • 20. Dublin Evening Post, 15, 22 Sept. 1825; Add. 40331, f. 237; O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1253.
  • 21. Dublin Evening Post, 6 Oct. 1825; Limerick Chron. 12 Apr. 1826; O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1278.
  • 22. Limerick Chron. 10, 24, 28 June, 1, 5 July; Dublin Evening Post, 15, 27, 29 June, 4, 8 July 1826.
  • 23. Limerick Chron. 6 Dec. 1826, 20 Jan., 10 Feb. 1827.
  • 24. Canning’s Ministry, 320, 327, 332, 368.
  • 25. Anglesey, 361.
  • 26. Dublin Evening Post, 19, 29, 31 Dec. 1829, 2 Jan.; Limerick Evening Post, 5, 15, 22 Jan. 1830; Add. 40338, f. 21.
  • 27. PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/32A/4/8; Limerick Evening Post, 26, 29 Jan., 2, 5, 12 Feb.; The Times, 2 Feb. 1830.
  • 28. Dublin Evening Post, 20, 23, 25 Mar. 1830.
  • 29. Limerick Evening Post, 7 May; NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. Leveson Gower to O’Grady, 14 May 1830.
  • 30. Limerick Evening Post, 13 July, 3, 6, 10 Aug. 1830.
  • 31. Anglesey mss 29B, pp. 12-15, 23; 33A/78.
  • 32. Limerick Evening Post, 3, 10, 13, 31 May, 17 June 1831.
  • 33. F.B. Hamilton, Picture of Parl. (1831), 71; [W. Carpenter], People’s Bk. (1831), 337.
  • 34. Limerick Herald, 9 Aug. 1832.
  • 35. NLI, Smith O’Brien mss 427/185; Dublin Evening Post, 20, 27 Dec. 1832.
  • 36. Limerick Chron. 26 July 1848; Gent. Mag. (1848), ii. 317; DNB; Oxford DNB (which neglects to mention that he was an MP).