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Lisburn's 17th Century Parliamentary Representatives



In their proceedings of November 10, 1662, the Irish House of Commons referred the motion that a Writ be issued for the town of Lisburne, alias Lisnegarvy, in the county of Antrim, lately made a Corporation by virtue of Letters Patent from his majesty, Charles II to the Committee of Privileges for consideration thereof the large tract of land created by Patent January 3, 1627, the Manor of Killultagh - Coill Ultach - wood of Ulster - of which the town (Lisnegarvie) was the administrative head, had been in possession of the Conway family, then represented by Edward, 3rd Viscount Conway and Killultagh for a little over half a century, that they were true to their trust and had been "vigorous and improving planters" was all too evident.

A month later the Commons in their deliberations of December 15, 1662, ordered "upon request that a warrant be forthwith drawn up and signed by the Speakers of the House directing the Clerk of the Crown to issue out a writ for electing and returning two Burgesses for the Corporation of Lisburne in this present Parliament; by this was fulfilled that part of the Charter of Lisburne proceeding thus "whereas we retain a sense of the many losses which the inhabitants of the said town of Lisburne, alias Lisnagarvie, have sustained for their allegiance towards us and our royal father of glorious memory: Know ye therefore, that we, of our special grace, certain knowledge, and were notice for us our heirs and successors, do give and grant to the dwellers and inhabitants of the said town of Lisburne, alias Lisnegarvie, that they and their successors forever hereafter can and may, from time to time, elect and chose two fit and proper persons m be Burgesses to attend and sit in every parliament hereafter to be summoned, appointed and held within our said Kingdom of Ireland.

A short time previously in 1662, an Act had passed through Parliament dealing with claims for land, or landed estates; the controversies which raged around this Act, known as the act of Settlement and the subsequent (1665) Act of Explanation were long and violent and go down to the foundation of the political structure of Ireland in the period immediately following the Restoration.

In implementation of the Act of 1662 six jurists - Sir Richard Rainsford, Winston Churchill (whose daughter, Anabella was to become the mistress of James 11, and son John the 1st Duke of Marlborough), Edward Cooke, Sir Thomas Beverley, Edward Smyth or Smith and Sir Edward Dering, with Henry Coventry - had been named as Commissioners to carry out the Act in Ireland; in terms of partisanship Rainsford, Beverley and Churchill were, we are told for the King - Smith, Dering and Cooke for the English interest.

Possibly with a view to representing the Commission two of their number Sir Edward Dering and Sir Edward Smyth were on January 6 1661, returned as the first two members for Conway's newly created borough of Lisburn, in Charles the Second's Restoration Parliament of 1661-1666.

Edward Dering, only son of Edward Dering, 1st Baronet, antiquary and politician, of Surrenden Dering in Kent, by his 2nd wife, Anne, the 3rd daughter of Sir John Ashburnham of Sussex, born November 8, 1625 at Pluckey, Kent; entered Cambridge University January 30 1639, aged 14, admitted Middle Temple, December 1641, he succeeded him as 2nd Baronet in 1644. Member for the borough of East Retford November 8, 1670; for Hythe 167819 to 1681 in the Parliament of England, and as stated for Lisburn in the Irish Parliament of 1662: Commissioner, Acts of Settlement 1662/7, when he succeeded Sir James Ware as Auditor-General for Ireland, and in 1669 one of the Lords Commissioners of the Privy Seal, and for the Treasury 167984. He married April 5, 1648, Mary, daughter of Daniel Harvey of Combe, Surrey, brother of the William Harvey whose medical achievements were distinguished by his discovery of the circulation of the blood, by whom he had three sons and four daughters. Of undoubted saxon origin, an origin confirmed not only by tradition, but by authentic family records, Dering early in fife displayed many of the qualities attributed to his father, a most accomplished scholar and learned antiquary. The library which they formed at Surrenden Dering, and the collection of early charters testified to their literary pursuits. In the correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, many of whose letters are dated from Lisburn, to whom he was related by marriage, and Henry More the Cambridge Platonist he appears in the role of adviser and confident of the powerful Finch family of that period.

Though he found time to compose the epilogue to a play "Pompey" by Catherine Phillips, written for the performance given to the Kings soldiers in Dublin in 1663, he filled, we are told, his judicial position "with the greatest probity and attention to duty" - his minutes, contained in a large number of parchment bound volumes, of the trials or cases in which he had been engaged, and of his duties as Commissioner under the Settlements Acts had remained undisturbed in his library at Surrenden Dering for close on 260 years when this disappeared in 1918, shortly before the military authorities had vacated the house they had occupied during the 1914-18 war.

He has left little on record of his parliamentary duties or of his interest in the town of Lisburn; and dying June 24, 1684 is buried at Pluckley in Kent.

Edward Smyth, born c1636, the 2nd son of Edward Smyth of the Middle Temple, was admitted a student of Grays Inn 4 February, 1657, and in due course was called to the Bar. In his appointment as a Commissioner of the Court of Claims as constituted by the Acts of Settlement of 1662 and 1666, he received the honour of Knighthood

Displaying marked ability as a Commissioner, he was at the age of 29 on June 13, 1665 appointed Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the only member of the English Bar appointed to the Irish bench in the reign of Charles II. In addition to the business of his court and circuit Smyth discharged also the duties of Chief Commissioner of the Court of Explanation of 1666. Some three years after his appointment he succeeded to the Smyth baronetcy and having obtained leave to retire went to reside at Hill Hall in Essex, the seat built by his father, Sir Thomas Smyth, Queens Elizabeth's Secretary of State, where he died in 1713 at the age of 77, and was buried in his parish church of Theydon Mount. Having married Jane, daughter of Mr Peter Vandepent of London one son Edward, born in 1685, was the only survivor of a family of six.

Strype, the ecclesiastical historian in his dedication of Sir Thomas Smith's Life of Sir Edward speaks of him as "a useful magistrate, a good churchman, and a gentleman of sobor and regular conversation in a loose and debauched age."

In resigning his seat in the Irish Parliament in 1665, Smyth in a letter dated October 4 from Dublin, to Viscount Conway conveys his thanks "for being made the first burgeas of your new corporation of Lisburne. I am sorry I am now to resign that place in your hands as being incapable of any longer holding it. I have been too busy with doing public duties to do anything else. If you have not thought of any other person to succeed me let me mention a worthy man, Mr Robert Johnston. He is 'of the robe' and but lately come to practice here, of kin to Lord Arlington, whose Lordship has written passionately to me on his behalf I know his lordship would be much your debtor if you appointed him."

On November 17, 1665 Robert Johnston replaced Smyth as member for Lisburn in the parliament of 1661/1666. The eldest son Edward Johnston, an English barrister and bencher of the Inner Temple, he was, in November 1664, admitted a student of his fathers Inn, and, in 1650 called to the bar.

He had accompanied Sir Edward Smyth to Ireland as his secretary and when here began to practice at the Irish bar. On January 31, 1669, again due to Smyth's interest, he was raised to the Bench as a junior Judge of the Common Pleas. Despite ill health he continued to discharge his duties until the death of Charles B (1685): re-appointed by James II, he was removed a year later, but died the following year in 1687, his burial taking place "in ye round of the Temple church".

His eldest son Robert born c1657 was well established as a barrister on his fathers death and having represented the Borough of Trim 1695/99 (second parliament of William III) and for Athboy 1703/13 (Queens Anne's first parliament), he became one of the Barons of the Exchequer.

In May, 1689, the parliament of James II met and was dissolved July 28, 1689. In 1697 an Act was passed declaring all attainders and all other Acts made in this parliament void.

On September 26, 1692 in the Parliament of 1692/3, the first of William III, Edward Harrison and Randal Brice appear as Lisburns representatives. And on August 2 1695, they again represented the Borough in 1695/99, the second of William III.

Randolph or Randal Brice of Castle Chichester (Whitehead), son of Robert, who also resided there who died in November 1676 having amassed much wealth in trading with Scotland. A grandson of the Rev Edward Bryce, who was collated to the Prebend of Kilroot September 3, 1619, and installed in that living on the 17 of the same month was deposed for nonconformity on August 10, 1636. Randal Brice had served in the office of High Sheriff of County Antrim in 1675 and of County Down in 1676 when he died in Dublin in September 1697 and was succeeded as a member for Lisburn by Popham (Seymour) Conway. Popham Conway was the eldest of the six sons of Sir Edward Seymour, fourth Baronet, by his wife, Letitia, daughter of Sir Francis Popham of Littlecote, he had assumed the name of Conway on succeeding to the estates of his cousin, the Earl of Conway, who dying on August 13, 1683, had bequeathed them to him. Popham Conway died in London June 18, 1699, at the age of 24, of a wound to the neck, which he had received two weeks earlier in a duel with Captain George Kirk, of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards. Kirk, charged and found guilty of manslaughter, was sentenced to be burnt in the hand January 29, 1700, he had been commissioned Lieutenant, May 8, 1684 in the Queen's Regiment of Foot, under the command of the notorious Col mercy Kirke, "a rough and brutal soldier of fortune". Known as Kirkes lambs the regiment served at Sedgemoor and was ordered to escort the judges in their circuit, which is known in history as the bloody Assiyes much of the odium which attached itself to Judge Jeffreys has fallen on Kirke and his regiment of lambs. Kirke it may be noted, commanded a body of troops sent to the relief of Deny in May, 1689 and also fought at the Boyne. Captain George Kirke, commissioned Major January 25, 1702, died in January 1704, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.