John Eyre of Eyrecourt, known as ‘Proud Eyre’, was elected Mayor of Galway for the first time in 1704. He was the son of Colonel John Eyre, the mayor in 1661.
Proud Eyre was born at Clonfert in 1659. On 7 February 1677, he married Margery, daughter of Sir George Preston. This marriage resulted in seven children – three boys they named George, John, Giles, and five girls they named Mary, Elizabeth, Emilia, Margery and Jane.
Through this marriage, John gained rights to the Galway Salmon Fishery. Similar to his father, he succeeded in securing a seat in the Irish Parliament in the 1692 election.
Margery died quite young, leaving John with a rather large family. On 26 February 1694, he married for a second time. His new wife was Anne, daughter of William Hamilton of Liscloony.
When he became mayor in 1704, it was ordered that the mayor’s salary would not exceed £150 per annum until the new Tholsel was completed. When he stood again for election in 1705, Sir George St George challenged his position. Although Eyre gained a majority, the result was insufficient and a second ballot was called. Eyre again secured a majority, but the margin was so close that the opposition demanded another election. Robert Shaw, the Town Clerk, was accused of tampering with the count records and conveniently disappeared with the records, giving John Eyre sufficient time to be re-elected.
In August 1697, a dispute arose between John Eyre and a man named Patrick Fahy, a land agent. Eyre had earlier leased some land from Colonel Thomas Burke of Dublin. He then had sublet the land to other tenants. Because the rent on some tenancies was not forthcoming, Fahy, seized cattle for the unpaid rents, and took by mistake some that belonged to Eyre. Once the mistake was discovered, the cattle were at once returned, but, on the order of Eyre, the agent was arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for a ‘breach of privilege.’
When Fahy was dismissed by his employer Colonel Burke, he sent a petition of appeal to Parliament, stating that Burke, ‘…for this unhappy mistake dismissed the poor petitioner in his service, so as he hath no way left to maintaine himself and his distressed familie. In tender consideration thereof the petitioner most humbly preys the said Coll. Eyre’s pardon and the mercie of this hon. House to be dealt with as to his libertie fees with regard to his poore condition as the Coman will think. – Delivered at the table 1697. Patrick Ffahy.’
As mayor in 1706, Proud Eyre refused to accept the mayor’s salary of £200, instead giving the money towards the building of a new Exchange for Galway. In 1707, a petition accusing Eyre of unjust practises was presented by a number of aldermen, three of whom were former mayors. Although the petition failed, it was enough to force Eyre out of the running for office, thus leaving the post open for Richard Wall who then became mayor. In 1708, as Governor of Galway, he placed the town in a state of defence. It was feared that there might be an invasion by the Old Pretender, James Stuart. He had landed in Scotland in an attempt to regain the British throne for the Stuarts.
‘Burkes Landed Gentry’ records that John Eyre died in 1709. His grandson, John Eyre served as Mayor of Galway in 1749, 1750 and 1764.
Edward Eyre was elected Mayor of Galway for two terms in 1710 and 1711. He was the son of Edward Eyre, who was mayor in 1663. Edward junior was born in Galway in 1663 and eventually inherited the house at Eyre Square. He became a successful member of the legal profession. Edward served as a member of parliament for Galway in 1703 and had his father’s desire for amassing property. In 1710, he obtained the rights to the Galway Salmon Fishery. That same year, he purchased the land on which the old Cromwellian fortifications at Bohermore were situated. Part of this site has survived and is located just off Sean Mulvoy Road today. In 1720, he acquired Mutton Island and other lands in the Liberties of Galway. Edward married Jane Maynard, daughter of Sir William Maynard and they had three sons and four daughters.
In 1711, Edward received instructions to have all priests in Galway arrested. He carried out his duties so well that the Government thanked him for his efforts in banishing ‘…those enemies of our constitution’.
On 12 May 1712, he officially presented the open ground (Eyre Square) in front of his house to the corporation as an amenity for the town. As already mentioned, his father had ‘acquired’ the land in 1670, so in a sense he was simply returning the property to the city. It seems that it was Thomas Simcockes, a member of the corporation, who had put the motion forward to have the open area in front of ‘Williams Gate’ secured and ‘free of building development for the life of the corporation, town and inhabitants’.
Eyre also presented Galway with the beautiful ornamental silver Queen Anne mace in 1712. In 1727, he was attached to the Connacht Circuit and continued to play a part in the corporation, holding the post of Recorder in 1738. When he died in November 1739, his three sons and one of his daughters had already predeceased him. He was buried in the Collegiate Church St Nicholas, where he had erected a monument to his father and mother.
There are other monuments in the church dedicated to the Eyre family. It seems that his wife, Jane, was a very kind and gentle lady who cared for the needy. A monument was erected to this Jane Eyre after her death. At the time she left £300 to the poor of Galway. According to local tradition, she may have inspired the Bronte novel, Jane Eyre.
Samuel Eyre was sworn in as Mayor of Galway on 27 September 1712 for the first of two terms, being elected mayor again in 1713. He was the son of Colonel John Eyre, mayor in 1661.
Samuel was born in 1651 and joined the military as a young man. He became a colonel in the Williamite army and took part in the siege of Limerick in 1690. It is believed that he also fought at the battle of Aughrim in 1691. He became High Sheriff in 1696 and was MP for Galway in 1713. He married his cousin, Jane, daughter of Edward Eyre (Senior). They had one son, John, who also entered the military service. After the death of his first wife, Samuel Eyre married for the second time. She was, Anne, daughter of Robert Stratford of Ballinglass and they had five children – Stratford, Thomas, Anne, Mary and Frances. Samuel Eyre died on 19 August 1728.
Events of note: Best wishes to Pat Burke of Shantalla, who has just come home from hospital. Pat has fantastic knowledge of Galway. He has seen many changes in over 90 years as a Galwegian. Recently someone was complaining about the recession. Pat’s reaction was classic, saying he had seen many recessions, the real ones being when you cut the top off a boiled egg and wonder who to give it to. Good health to you Pat and your good wife Maureen.
The St Bridget’s Terrace Residents Association are organising a Christmas party for 14 December at 8pm in the Western Hotel, Prospect Hill. (Sit-down meal €15) It is part of the 100-year anniversary celebrations. Tickets are available from Brian Kennedy on 091-562495.
More Eyre family connections to follow next week.